Ol’ Blue ’71 Chevy – New front suspension with leaf spring sliders


I had been kicking this idea around for a long time about building “Leaf Spring Sliders”. Not many people do it, and there isn’t a whole lot of information online about it. I was finally at a point where I was good enough at fabrication and had enough time to take it on. So here is how I created a Leaf Spring Slider suspension setup from scratch in my two car garage.

Leaf Spring Sliders

Ol’ Blue had almost no suspension travel in the front for a couple of reasons explained below, and it was lifted so high that the drive-shaft joints were binding while at ride height (I’m sure that is good on parts). So without further ado, how I turned the front suspension on this old truck from non-functional show truck to fully operational and off road ready.

Leaf Spring Sliders

This is the leaf spring setup that came with Ol’ Blue. A set of super stiff lifted leaf springs with swing shackles that were too short which caused the leaf spring to bottom out on the frame creating a very harsh ride. Time for an upgrade.

Leaf Spring Sliders

Did some prep work before I tore Ol’ Blue apart. Prepped the leaf pack that I had taken from the rear of Ol’ Blue when I upgraded the rear suspension.

Leaf Spring Sliders

Leaf springs ready to go. These are 52″ long leaf springs from the rear of the ’80’s square body style Chevy trucks.

Leaf Spring Sliders

Pulled in on roller tires so it would fit through the door. After the suspension modifications it should be ~3″ lower and drive right in on the 37″ tires.

Leaf Spring Sliders

Committed now…. Removed old leafs and old D44 axle. Both soon to be upgraded with 52″ leafs and a locked D60.

After cutting off the old leaf spring bushings and brackets, I rolled the Dana 60 under the truck with the 52" leaf springs so I could start measuring.

After cutting off the old leaf spring bushings and brackets, I rolled the Dana 60 under the truck with the 52″ leaf springs so I could start measuring.

Leaf Spring Sliders

Made and tacked in place the front leaf spring hangers. I made them adjustable with 3 holes for some adjustment.

Leaf Spring Slider

Tacked the leaf spring slider boxes at the rear and bolted up the leaf spring for testing.

Leaf Spring Slider

As you can see here, I set it up so at the springs longest point, it is just short of bottoming out in the shackle box. My thought on this is that if I wanted to move the spring forward by one hole in the front spring hanger in the future, I could without modifying the slider.

I built these leaf spring sliders from scratch. Check out my post on How to build leaf spring sliders.

Leaf Spring Slider

Tire on flex test

Leaf Spring Slider

Other side.

Leaf Spring Slider

After flex testing and seeing that the setup worked, I reassembled with the rest of the leaf spring pack.

Gotta be smart if you want to be lazy. I was not about to sit there and tighten my u-bolts with a box wrench but didn't have a socket deep enough. This is only one of the many benefits of having a welder in the garage.

Gotta be smart if you want to be lazy. I was not about to sit there and tighten my u-bolts with a box wrench but didn’t have a socket deep enough. This is only one of the many benefits of having a welder in the garage.

Mocking up the shocks. I am planning on using the factory D60 shock mount. The upper mount shown here I bought from the Ford dealership, they are from the front of an F250 and are more affordable than you might think.

Mocking up the shocks. I am planning on using the factory D60 shock mount. The upper mount shown here I bought from the Ford dealership, they are from the front of an F250 and are more affordable than you might think.

Mocking up a core support mount since I had to cut the last one off.

Mocking up a core support mount since I had to cut the last one off.

Mocked up on the truck.

Mocked up on the truck.

Welded on. It also acts as a Gusset for the front leaf mount.

Welded on. It also acts as a Gusset for the front leaf mount.

Setting up the bump stops. These rubber bump stops are from the rear of 2000 or newer S10's that can be had for cheap/free from junkyards. I don't even think he charged me for these because nobody usually wants them.

Setting up the bump stops. These rubber bump stops are from the rear of 2000 or newer S10’s that can be had for cheap/free from junkyards. I don’t even think he charged me for these because nobody usually wants them.

Home made suspension limit straps. Get an appropriate length trailer axle strap. Wrap the nylon part in multiple layers of aluminum foil. Weld two washers or one thick washer into the loop for a bolt. Total investment ~$10 each.

Home made suspension limit straps. Get an appropriate length trailer axle strap. Wrap the nylon part in multiple layers of aluminum foil. Weld two washers or one thick washer into the loop for a bolt. Total investment ~$10 each.

Leaf Spring Slider

Bump stop done, Limit strap mount done, Shock mount done, Spring slider done.

Leaf Spring Slider

Another angle. Painted.

This picture shows everything bolted in and sitting on the ground.

This picture shows everything bolted in and sitting on the ground.

 

Had to cut and turn the flange on the headers to make room for the driveshaft.

Had to cut and turn the flange on the headers to make room for the driveshaft.

Also had to modify the exhaust since I raised the drivetrain and changed some crossmembers at the same time.

Also had to modify the exhaust since I raised the drivetrain and changed some crossmembers at the same time.

Completed exhaust and a view of the new suspension from the rear.

Completed exhaust and a view of the new suspension from the rear.

It was nice outside so we took it around the block and brought 'er back to install the steering stabilizer and double check bolts/nuts.

It was nice outside so we took it around the block and brought ‘er back to install the steering stabilizer and double check bolts/nuts.

Steering stabilizer. Yes the tie rod is a little bent but has been reinforced. I am reusing quite a few old parts from the CrazyBlaze.

Steering stabilizer. Yes the tie rod is a little bent but has been reinforced. I am reusing quite a few old parts from the CrazyBlaze.

New lower stance.

New lower stance.

IMG_2230

Leaf Spring Sliders

Ol Blue 01

IMG_2237Everything drives great so far. No death wobble or other problems. Sometime in the far future it could use some softer shocks, but otherwise rides way better than before. I haven’t gotten a chance to flex it out yet, I’ll try to get pictures of the sliders in action soon.

This picture is quite a bit later but shows the new stance of the front and rear suspension well.

This picture is quite a bit later but shows the new stance of the front and rear suspension well. The front bumper is only mostly attached, it is going to get replaced with another tube bumper soon.

For some more pictures of the leaf spring sliders outside and in action check out the pics in my post: Ol’ Blue Chevy – First Shakedown Run

 

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