1981 Ride Height Advice after 5 Years of not Settling

RyboFlavin

Member
Apr 21, 2002
59
South Bend, IN
I’m hoping for some advice to help me address the ride height issue on my 1981. I’ve read through dozens of similar threads, but some are so old that photos are missing and some of the recommended parts are outdated. I would be super grateful to learn the current “go-to” products and some general recommendations and guidance

In 2017 a local hot rod shop (now defunct) did a fairly deep restoration down to the front frame, including all new OEM style front suspension components, body mounts, etc. Now five years later, as you can see in the photos, it continues to sit way too high (especially the front) and I finally have some time to address the issue.

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Prior to the 2017 restoration, my car had the original springs from the days when it was powered by a 229 V6 until 1995 when I installed a 350 V8.

pre.jpg


I would be super happy if it had the same ride height as before the restoration, except with less spongey springs of course. Also, since my tires are very old, I am considering upsizing to 17” wheels. I’m not out racing in this car, so I don’t want a super stiff suspension and I don’t want it slammed low.

Here are some specific details:

Engine
• Cast 350 V8 with aluminum heads
• No A/C or pollution parts
• Original steel hood

Front
• Tires: P235 60 R15
• Floor to Lip: 28.25”
• Spindle to Lip: 16.125”
• Coil Spring Brand: I have no documentation, but I was told they were OEM light duty.
• I verified the spring is clocked correctly in the LCA and seated flatly in the UCA.
• Control arms were tightened with full weight on vehicle.

Rear
• Tires: P255 60 R15
• Floor to Lip: 28.5”
• Spindle to Lip: 16”
• Leaf Spring Model: No documentation, but I was told they were OEM light duty.
• Full tank of gas in photo

Honestly, my head is spinning and I’m not sure where to begin. Should I start with the new wheels and tires, and go from there? Should I trim the front springs a ¼ ring at a time? (I feel like I’ve read enough instructions to be able to do this safely). Should I replace the springs with Moog, Hotchkis, Pro Touring F-Body, etc.? Should I go to adjustable coil overs? I have no knowledge of “spring rates” and don’t know what I would need there. As for the rear springs, I really don’t know what to do there either.

Any thoughts or recommendations are greatly appreciated.
 
Last edited:

CorkyE

Veteran Member
Lifetime Gold Member
Nov 4, 2004
11,737
Ringgold, GA
I've never liked the way stock suspension sat on our 2nd gens. What's your budget? You can do anything from cutting a coil off the front springs and de-arching the rear springs to installing a complete setup from vendors like Custom Works and such.

You said this car has been sitting for five years, so have you put any miles on it? The suspension will settle some after a new install.
 

RyboFlavin

Member
Apr 21, 2002
59
South Bend, IN
I've never liked the way stock suspension sat on our 2nd gens. What's your budget? You can do anything from cutting a coil off the front springs and de-arching the rear springs to installing a complete setup from vendors like Custom Works and such.

You said this car has been sitting for five years, so have you put any miles on it? The suspension will settle some after a new install.
For the budget I would prefer to stay as low as possible of course. Do you think I could get a solid solution under $2k?

It's been driven about a thousand miles in the last five years.
 

Fbird

Veteran Member
Lifetime Gold Member
Feb 12, 2011
6,315
atlanta, ga
For the budget I would prefer to stay as low as possible of course. Do you think I could get a solid solution under $2k?

It's been driven about a thousand miles in the last five years.
2K ....🤣

more like $350-800 and 8 hrs work....
simple stuff but WORK non the less.

1st. ? is the car STIFF now? FIRM? or MUSHY?
STIFF
yes = new front springs (moog XXXXX ..$100)
ALMOST STIFF NO = remove YOUR front springs and zizz wheel 3/4 of a COIL off BOTTOM of spring and re-install. (this SHOULD give you about 11/2" drop...about what you are looking for)

FIRM
yes= remove front coils cut 1 full coil off bottom. This should give you about 1 1/2" drop without needing a mouth piece to ride in it. ;)
NO= new coils needed

MUSHY = new coils.

the AVERAGE front coil has about 10-11 coils by cutting 1 full coil off you have INCREASED the current spring rate by 10% so to go from 450# to 495# is a very little # change in ride comfort but a 1+" drop!!

The rear WILL change when you change the front and vice versa. Work the front first. IIRC the original v8 springs are about 325# so a 450# spring should put you in a nice feel while 600# is going to be a little STIFF. (also note when you go to 35 series tires...it WILL stiffen the ride!)

REAR
Depends on exactly how it is put together. Some use LONG rear hangers which raises the tail..:( If yours is FACTORY LOOKING type assembly you get a couple ways to bring it down.
1st. Herb Adams MOD to the front spring bucket. (remove drill new hole cut bucket open some..re-install) $$$ = 0 (IIRC you get about 1/2" drop)
2nd. rear shackle shorten....^^^ same idea remove redrill hole re-install DO #1 FIRST.... BUT you can only shorten the rear by about 5/8 which means you really should weld up the old hole ;) This IN CONJUCTION with Herb MOD will net you just about 1" rear drop
3rd. Depending on your locals.....have the rear springs DE-ARCHED by XXXX amount to put it where you want..$ unknown
4th. New springs...=$400-500
 

RyboFlavin

Member
Apr 21, 2002
59
South Bend, IN
Fbird, thanks for the detailed response, it was very helpful and I'm truly appreciative.
Fbird:

1st. ? is the car STIFF now? FIRM? or MUSHY?

FIRM
yes= remove front coils cut 1 full coil off bottom. This should give you about 1 1/2" drop without needing a mouth piece to ride in it. ;)
NO= new coils needed
FIRM is the best description. Today, I decided to take the bull by the horns and try your recommendation by cutting off one full coil, which decreased the un-sprung length from 17" to 16". FYI, I didn't see any markings or branding on the springs, so I still have no idea what they are.

IMG_3861.jpg


I'm very happy with the results...the front now sits exactly like it did prior to the 2017 restoration and the ride quality and handling is improved...and certainly not stiff. Comparing tonight's photo (left) to the pre-2017 photo (right), the rear still needs to drop a little bit. I'm thinking approximately 1". Would you agree?
afterfront.jpg
1654402331272.png



Fbird:

REAR
Depends on exactly how it is put together. Some use LONG rear hangers which raises the tail..:( If yours is FACTORY LOOKING type assembly you get a couple ways to bring it down.

I assume that I have the factory shackles but am not sure. Here are some pictures if you wouldn't mind confirming that is the case:
rear1.jpg
rear2.jpg


Fbird:

1st. Herb Adams MOD to the front spring bucket. (remove drill new hole cut bucket open some..re-install) $$$ = 0 (IIRC you get about 1/2" drop)
2nd. rear shackle shorten....^^^ same idea remove redrill hole re-install DO #1 FIRST.... BUT you can only shorten the rear by about 5/8 which means you really should weld up the old hole ;) This IN CONJUCTION with Herb MOD will net you just about 1" rear drop
3rd. Depending on your locals.....have the rear springs DE-ARCHED by XXXX amount to put it where you want..$ unknown
4th. New springs...=$400-500tly

I am leaning toward #4, if I knew what to buy...is there a model that I should look at? Also, what about an option for installing a 1" lowering block?
 

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biker

Veteran Member
Gold Member
Dec 7, 2014
4,855
Canada
Pre-2017 stance looks awesome. Your coil surgery looks like it was a success, good work. It's tough to get much drop out of shackles, the packaging and room back there make it difficult. Fbirds rear mods are bang on. If you want more drop, de-arching or new springs.
New springs are an option too. I qualiify this by first by stating I've never been someone who jumps to buying and bolting-on when I can mod something, but when it comes to my car, I have such a short driving season and such little time with all my "retirement" jobs, that I try to minimize down time as much as possible. That usually means just pulling the trigger on whatever part I want that gets the job done quickly and without unforeseen f%&! ups.

All this to say I bought a set of Hotchkis rear springs that gave me the ride quality and height that I want, and better mounting hardware with them. Not saying Hotchkis are the best, there are a few companies that offer good springs, but these ones did exceed my expectations, and I've yet to get wheel hop from a hard launch or a burnout/donut, and that's where most of my miles are put on. :)
 

berg2695

Veteran Member
Nov 13, 2011
608
I would avoid making the shackles any shorter than factory. I believe shortening them can cause some ride travel geometry problems. Great job on the front!
 

RyboFlavin

Member
Apr 21, 2002
59
South Bend, IN
Thanks everyone! I have one quick update with something interesting I found this evening. Before I go too much further by making changes to the rear springs, I decided to loosen the spring bolt nuts and bounce the rear a few times. To my surprise it immediately dropped about .25" (spindle to lip distance is now 15.75"). I'm guessing the hot rod shop must have tightened them without a full load (gas tank empty, etc.).

I know it's a long-shot but I'll leave them loose this week, make a few laps around the neighborhood, and maybe, just maybe, it will continue to drop to an acceptable level. Ill post an update in a few days.
 

biker

Veteran Member
Gold Member
Dec 7, 2014
4,855
Canada
Thanks everyone! I have one quick update with something interesting I found this evening. Before I go too much further by making changes to the rear springs, I decided to loosen the spring bolt nuts and bounce the rear a few times. To my surprise it immediately dropped about .25" (spindle to lip distance is now 15.75"). I'm guessing the hot rod shop must have tightened them without a full load (gas tank empty, etc.).

I know it's a long-shot but I'll leave them loose this week, make a few laps around the neighborhood, and maybe, just maybe, it will continue to drop to an acceptable level. Ill post an update in a few days.
Good! Yes, they need to be tightened with the weight of the vehicle sitting on the springs. Good catch on that.
 




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