Hot rods are built for many different reasons; some for show or sport and some to cruise or drive daily. When building a cruiser, it’s important to find the right balance between form and function. The 1955-59 Chevy trucks make a great cruiser in the looks/form department. Classy and elegant trucks that just scream hot rod. However, back in the late ’50s these trucks weren’t intended to be a comfy cozy slush box to show off while cruising down Main Street.
TCI Engineering’s 1955-59 Chevy IFS
Coil Spring IFS – Part # 233-2354-0cp-c3k-1ex
Reinforced 3/16-inch crossmember using one piece lower control arm pin design
Redesigned coil-spring upper towers
1-inch Performance anti-roll bar
10.5-inch vented rotors
New Big-Bore calipers (with 20% more clamping force)
2-inch drop spindle or stock height choices
Manual rack and pinion steering
3/16-inch frame boxing plates
1 x .156w USA DOM steel upper tubular A-arms
Moog K772 upper ball joints
1 1/8 x .156w USA DOM steel lower tubular A-arms
Moog K719 lower ball joints
Greaseable urethane bushings
Rotors, spindles and brakes come assembled with bearings packed with hi-temp grease
Powder coated springs
All mounting hardware included
Detailed instruction manual
These were hard working American-made muscle trucks that helped mold the American dream for many people. But we’ve come to a time now where these trucks are no longer being used as a rough and tumble work truck and the backbone of our economy any longer. They are however, being honored, rebuilt and enjoyed by hot-rodders across the globe. Yet these classic trucks have quite a few short comings that need to be addressed to be a smooth handling cruiser.
The front leaf springs are a strong suspension design of the early years, but unfortunately a harsh ride comes hand in hand. This is where Total Cost Involved Engineering (TCI) of Ontario, California jumps into the mix with their newly upgraded IFS conversion kits. TCI Engineering’s kits offer a reliable, affordable, and feature packed way to modernize your truck while looking great at the same time. You can choose between coil-springs, air bags, or coil-overs to go along with the 3/16-inch thick plate crossmember and plating system.
DOM steel tubular control arms with high-end Moog greaseable ball joints connect the frame to the TCI IFS spindle, “With a stock height spindle on our kit the front end sits three inches lower than the leaf springs do and with our drop spindles a full five inches lower.” Jason Wilcox from TCI Engineering shared with us when we asked about stance and ground clearance.
Manual or power rack and pinion steering options, drilled and slotted 10.5-inch disc rotors, big-bore calipers, a 1-inch Performance anti-roll bar and all the necessary hardware round out this IFS kit for a complete package to take your hot rod or daily cruiser to the next level. With a company moto that says: “To be the leader in the classis and musclecar market,” you can expect nothing less than high-quality and reliability from TCI Engineering’s line of chassis components.
Packed Full of Features
American made product and quality
Limited Lifetime warranty on all TCI Engineering manufactured parts
Easy installation and instructions
The front suspension has been engineered to lower the center of gravity, decrease body roll, and increase handling performance while still allowing plenty of ground clearance
The crossmember is extra thick and uses the one-piece pin design for additional strength
Larger brake calipers and vented rotors dramatically increase braking performance
Drastically increase the comfort and drivability of the vehicle
New coil-spring tower design makes for really easy alignment adjustments
Greater spectrum of alignment adjustments available
Large anti-roll bar for improved handling and control
Heavy duty upper and lower screw-in ball joints for additional strength and durability
Camber gain has been increased to keep the tires flat on the ground for additional grip
Built in anti-dive control for keeping tires flat on the asphalt during aggressive braking
American made steel and fabricated with MIG and TIG welds for strength and durability
Energy Suspension Polyurethane bushings help insulate road noise
This ’55 Chevy truck’s chassis has seen better days. Outdated leaf spring front ends don’t really offer the greatest in ride comfort and handling, let alone rusty ones.
Down To The Install
We got a chance to spend a little time in Walton Fabrication’s Upland, CA hot rod shop and got a closer look as Todd Walton installed a TCI Engineering IFS kit on a ’55 Chevy truck. Todd has been working with Total Cost Involved and their products for nearly three decades giving him plenty of experience to get the job done and show us how to do it right.
Walton explains, preparation is key. Unless you’ve got a truck that has been kept in a hidden temperature controlled room for the last 60 years or has been reconditioned prior, it’s likely that you’ll have a fair amount of rust, grime and only god knows what, on your 60 year old chassis. Welds do not like contamination so the first step is to clean and freshen up the original vintage steel.
60 years can certainly be tough on a truck. Road grime will cake on, rust will creep along. Sanding and grinding will strip away the contaminants and leave a beautiful blank canvas for strong welds.
Modern vehicles utilize a boxed frame to increase their rigidity and strength. Since the frames of these trucks are not already boxed in, plates are added to close off the “C” and ensure it will support the different torsional loads the independent suspension will transfer in.
The boxing plates are precision cut and matched to the location they need to be on the frame straight out of the box, leaving only a bit of trimming needed before being tacked in at each of the corners. In their instructions, TCI recommends welding 6-inch sections at a time, switching between driver and passenger sides of the vehicle to minimize the heat and avoid distortion in the metal.
The boxing plates are tacked in place in multiple spots, keeping them right where they need to be for the final welds. Welds are laid down in a systematic pattern to avoid any distortion or deflection in the steel.
When dealing with suspension components, that “it’s close enough” attitude is a big no-no. Especially if you want your truck to run down the road in a straight line. Before the assembly is started, a very specific center line is marked. Exactly 20-7/8 inches from the center of the original front leaf spring mounting hole. This is the reference point for the new crossmember to be installed at. Then the frame is leveled side to side and set to about 2 degrees to simulate ride height. Each vehicle may be slightly different, though 2 degrees is typical.
Not having the cross-member in the right position can turn a great project into a major fail. TCI Engineering provides detailed instructions so even the at home DIY enthusiast can build it right, the first time.
Grind and fit as needed to slide the new crossmember in place, centering it to the previously marked center line and balanced to 0 degrees. There are always more than one way to attack a goal. Walton likes to clamp the crossmember in place and then loosely bolt on the lower control arms, backwards.
Using the grease fitting of the ball joint, a plumb-bob and a tape measure, he balances the crossmember to the right position. Multiple tack welds are used to secure the crossmember into its final location. Using tack welds for any welding project is a good rule to follow. In the event you need to move the new piece being added in, tack welds are a lot easier to cut and grind than full welds saving potentially hours of wasted time and aggravation.
Utilizing a large clamp and scrap steel to hold the crossmember in place makes the final positioning easier, especially for a lone installer.
Following the same fashion as the crossmember instructions, TCI provides detailed measurements and diagrams to properly place the upper spring towers. Measure, measure, and measure again. Placing the upper coil tower in the exact right location is critical for getting proper alignment out of the front end.
Improper placement can result in a vehicle that can not be aligned properly, potentially making the vehicle unsafe to drive – as always, when dealing with suspension components, don’t just eyeball it – measure three times on each side before making your final welds. The tall portion of the tower going towards the front of the truck allows the built in anti-dive geometry to work as intended. TCI Engineering has specifically designed these kits to have the right amount of anti-dive to take the guess work out of your conversion and reduce the amount of nose dive the vehicle will experience during braking.
Improper placement can result in a vehicle that can not be aligned properly, potentially making the vehicle unsafe to drive – as always, when dealing with suspension components, don’t just eyeball it – measure three times on each side before making your final welds.
After the hats are positioned, tacked and re-measured, the final welds are laid down. Welds are burned in all around and a rosette weld filled in the top of the towers. The original cross-member is then removed. Waiting for the new cross-member to be fully placed before removing the old piece ensures the sides of the frame never lose proper relation to each other. A lopsided frame is not your friend when building a hot rod.
The 1-1/8-inch DOM lower control arms are now installed in proper orientation. Very specific hardware is used for a great and long lasting fit utilizing a one-piece design for added strength and durability without adding weight. And as shown in the video above, this one-piece design makes it a lot easier for the guy tackling this install by himself.
The crossmember and spring towers are ready for their new home and welded into place.
Next, the 1-inch DOM upper control arms are installed to the tower with provided hardware. “This American made product is engineered for easier installation, enhanced drivability and broader range of alignment adjustments. We have re-engineered the upper coil-spring tower to accommodate a traditional shim style alignment adjustment instead t-bolts,” shared Jason Wilcox from TCI Engineering. This is one of the major improvements that also adds a great “convenience factor” to the equation.
With a large amount of adjustment available, this kit can accommodate varying weights and can be dialed in for any specific truck. A generalized starting point for camber and castor is with 0.90-inch thick washers between the tower and control arm for camber and placing the bolt in the center of the slot for castor. These are likely to change when the final alignment is completed.
Round up a coil-spring compressor before you start this job as it will be worth its weight in gold. There are many other ways to install a coil-spring, TCI even gives a few tips in their instructions for other methods, but a coil-spring compressor is the easiest and safest way. After compressing the coil enough, the new loaded spindle is bolted to the Moog ball joints to the specified torque. The pre-installed 10.5-inch rotors with big bore calipers speed up the install and increase braking power exponentially over the OE drum front brakes. The suspension is nearly finalized with the addition of the shock installed through the middle of the coil.
With everything bolted in place, we sure are anxious to get this bad boy running again so we can take it for a spin!
Being able to easily steer your cruiser is a pretty important part of enjoying the drive for most people. With so much conversion going on up front, adding a power rack and pinion is a no brainer. The rack is centered and bolted in place. Keep in mind, if you are using existing steering components, you may need to convert the end of the steering shaft that meets up with the rack from the steering column.
New tie-rod ends connect the new rack and pinion to the spindles. Going on right behind the rack and pinion and cross-member is the 1-inch thick anti-sway bar to provide solid pressure, forcing that truck to stick better through the turns. High quality heim joints are used to secure the bar to the lower control arms which also provide ample adjustment to fine tune the pre-load of the bar.
Attention to detail is extremely important when making a massive change to your vehicle. Total Cost Involved Engineering makes this easy with their instructions combined with precision built components. They understand that pictures, diagrams and detailed explanations eliminate guess work. Stay tuned as we follow along the progress of this build!