[CA-US][1957][F100] Time to address the suspension

OzzLpZ

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Hey everyone,

As the title says, I'm tackling the suspension. The literal original suspension has served me well these past 20'ish years. But its starting to give way. I've been looking at options for years now, but unable to come to a decision. I'm looking to "modernize" the suspension (better handling, disc brakes, safety, etc), but yet retain the utility of a truck. Yes, I still use my truck as a truck. I've noticed that all the aftermarket suspensions (front and rear), tends to drop the truck 4+ inches 😬 Which would be fine if I was looking to turn it into a daily driver street performer, but like I mentioned, I still want to use my truck as a truck time to time. So I've been stuck towards keeping the stock setup, but overhauling it with new hardware, and a full disc conversion.

But before I pull the trigger. Does anyone have any input, experience, etc of suspension options that is the best of both worlds of better road handling, and withstand the abuse of carrying a load?

Thank you
 

bubba22349

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Hi Ozzl.pz, and welcome to the Ford Six forum, and congrats on keeping your 1957 pick up all of these years they are great trucks. The stock front suspension is very tough and can certainly be rebuilt back to its factory specs again to handle the regular truck use, I have done lots of them over the years the parts should still be easy to get yet. There are also some ways to get the stock springs to ride a lot better I have done this on numerous trucks like the 1956 F-100's that I have had & built quite a few of for other customers too (would really like to get another one again), if you decide you want to tackle that job if you stay withe rebuilding the stock suspension let me know it's mostly just some extra labor time and very little additional cost. You could even replace the springs with some custom made progressive units to maybe improve the ride a little bit more and still handle a load. Or you could even convert the suspension system some by using only the main leaf then use some air springs / ride, this would give you a decent ride for regular driving then add more air for those times you need to haul a load or tow with your 1957 truck this maybe the best way to accomplish both your goals. And as for installing disk brakes that is fairly easy to do job onto the stock front axle and or stock rear axle if it's the 9 inch too if you wanted. Steering would be another thing you could improve if you wanted I installed a power assist system on one the 56 F-100's there are probably some better steering boxes now too. I was once thinking of adapting one of the 1965 / 1966 steering box'es into my 56 F-350 to help it steer better at slow speeds.

As for the custom front suspensions there are a couple good ones and the ride, handling, steering, &braking, is comparable to that of the much newer cars and trucks. Yes your correct in that they are going to lower the truck some, these two that would still allow you to use the truck for some hauling or towing so I guess how hard do you still use your truck is it an F-100 or bigger truck? Best of luck
 

OzzLpZ

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Hi Ozzl.pz, and welcome to the Ford Six forum, and congrats on keeping your 1957 pick up all these years they are great trucks. The stock front suspention is very tough and can certainly be rebuilt back to factory specs again to handle the truck use, I have done lots of them over the years the parts should still be easy to get yet. There are also some ways to get the stock springs to ride a lot better I have done this on numorious trucks like the 1956 F100's that I have had & built quite a few of for customers too (would really like to have another one again), if you decide you want to tackle that job if you stay withe rebuilding the stock suspention let me know it's mostly just some extra labor time and very little additional cost. You could even replace the springs with some custom made progressive units to maybe improve the ride a little bit more and still handle a load. Or you could even convert the suspention system some by using only the main leaf then use some air springs / ride, this would give you a decent ride for regular driving then add more air for the times you need to haul a load or tow with your 1957 truck this maybe the best way to acomlish both your goals. And as for installing disk brakes that is fairly easy to do job onto the stock front axle and or stock rear axle if it's the 9 inch too if you wanted.

As for the custom front suspensions there are a couple good ones and the ride, handleing, steering, &braking, is comparable to that of the much newer cars and trucks. Yes your correct in that they are going to lower the truck some, these two that would still allow you to use the truck for some hauling or towing so I guess how hard do you still use your truck is it an F100 or bigger truck? Best of luck
Thanks for the reply. Not trying to break the bank on this, nor really invest in tools for a one use purpose. If I am able to install "modern" features/upgrades using stock locations or little modding, I open to it. I was toying with the idea of air rides for the rear, as like you mentioned can auto adjusted in relation to load, but I dont know the duty rating of 4 bars, plus I hear they require serious frame and bed modding on trucks. I wasn't aware there was a air system for spring type suspensions. You mentioned a progressive system, I am unfamiliar with what that is. But overall, I am interested in your knowledge on this subject. Please do share. But I am a bit iffy on rolling on a single spring for safety and reliability reasons.

As for the front suspension, I have been eye balling fatman's Mustang II direct fit for my truck. It drops it a min of 2", but seems am able to recover 1.5" by using their raised spindle. However they aren't clear if that raised spindle is for car only, or car and truck applications.


When I bought my truck in high school, back in 2002, never intend to mod it really. But soon realized that OE parts are hard to come by for my generation truck, and the aftermarket has pretty much a huge gap of any support for 57-60 F100's 😕
 

bubba22349

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One of my good friends worked at TCI for years which lately has also been making some nice Mustang II kits I was going to suggest it with the stock stock height Spindles so it wasn't quite so low. Fatman's kit is top notch too and with the higher height spindles would be better to keep the ride height to what your after. With the one kit you solve all the issues of front suspention upgrade is a bit of an investment though and probally well worth it. The other way that gives very good handleing steering and braking is the Crown Vic swap is a bolt in unit that you could set the ride hight up some but it's going to be lower. So the Fatman's still has the edge in keep your trucks ride height close to stock.

For the older school ways I was talking about there are the stock rebuild parts shuch as the King Pins and spring bushings and pivot pins that will bring the front end back in spec. If you springs are still good you can work them over for a better ride by taking the springs apart the radiusing tge ends of the sring leafs on the bottom edge as well as spring corners this reduces the friction between the leaves rubbing against each other you can also use window screen and pack with grease then wrap electrical tape tightly around them to keep it from coming out or you can poly prepolene between the leaves as a friction modifier these techniques make quite a different in the ride so you beed to watch out not to take it beyond your goals. I used to use dropped front axles to lower the trucks down on some of mine, and I would also remove one or two springs to work at tuning the ride and then try it out to see if it gave the ride I was after. If your springs are on the tired side and the truck dosen't set level anymore then they can be rebuilt and rearche'd to give you the ride height that you want. I also use to have the spring eyes reversed to slightly lower the trucks about an inch or so. A good company for this kind of work is in Visalia Calif. called Hellwig they make new springs too and also sway bar kits for lots of applications witch can help your handling too. You could also make or adapt a panard bar to do the same thing sometimes I would even use both types if I wanted to get the handleing just right.

For power Disk brakes on your stock spindles there are severial places but here is one that also carries the new King Pins and spring pivot pins for front and rear. This disk brake kit also keeps the stock 5 X 5 1/2 inch wheel pattern if you want to keep those stock wheels or aftermarket ones you may have. https://www.performanceonline.com/1...sc-Brake-Conversion-Kit-5-x-5.5-Bolt-Pattern/
If you wanted to add a set of rear disk brakes also the Explorer 8.8 and maybe the Ranger pickups too had a set of rear disk brakes that can bolt onto a 9 inch Ford rear axel that your pickup should have stock (first year for that new axle). The drawback to this is that the wheel pattern is the car 5 lug pattern. I used to get custom axles made or redrilled the bolt patterns at a place called Cooks Machine shop think it was in south gate could probally still drive right to it if I was there you could see that shop while driving down the freeway, and on the other side close by was the little convention center that the LA Roadsters used for car shows and swap meets. I haven't been there in many years so not sure if it is still open but it was a great place to get custom work done for a reasonable price. I am sure there are many other places that would do that job like Summer brothers or Curies and there are probably other rear disk brake kits made with the 5 X 5 1/2 inch pattern.

If you wanted to go to with power steering there is a Toyota power steering box that works well if you can find one. Or there's a new power steering box kit with all the parts like this one that uses your stock modded steering column.

I will tackle some more of this tomorrow like on the rear suspention work. Best of luck
 

bubba22349

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Sorry wasn't able to work on this yesterday I ended up spending most of the day at the Doctors office. OK then continuing on with the budget type rear suspension mod's. Keeping the stock rear springs if there still in good condition the same mod's as done on the front springs work here too, to reduce friction between the leaves. Also you can remove several leaves to tune the ride to the most comfortable and then use an air bag (these were called Air Lifters way back in the Late 1950's and 1960's) was an over load unit to add more load carrying capacity. Or as i said before on these older trucks that had great suspension parts (when they are in good condition their solid spring mounting bushings and pins so there isn't any sideways movement) so you can use only the main leaf or two or three as the axle locator for on the rear with an air spring / bag to tune the ride or to also carry the extra weight. As for the 4 bar setups (they are pertty much the state of the art for a rear suspension today) these can also work if you want to go that way and everything can be fitted under the truck so that it doesn't go into the pickup bed at all using up the cargo load area. Not like most examples that you would see on some custom built trucks say like on the low riders that are built so can lay the frame on the ground which looks really cool however they are not going to be useful for any kind of work or your stated needs. Truth is these air springs / bags were first designed for use on big rig trucks to help give them a better ride if you ever had the opportunity to drive one of those older rigs they were very hard on your body, the air ride and air suspension seats that newer trucks have are a huge improvement to those old trucks I drove back in the day. So air bag suspensions are used for many other purposes to even on some race cars.

Combined with the 4 bar rear suspension system its great way to get a better ride and the parts can be scaled up some and built very strong to handle the amount of load much higher than a 1/2 ton short bed pick up can legally handle I was able to haul 1500 Lbs. short distances and more pounds on my stock 56 F-100 but I only went slow cause they had poor braking back then. With these modded rear suspensions you would need a Panard Bar or a Watts Link to keep the rear axle and chassis in proper alignment. Just remember that the biggest limiter after springs, tires, and the frame's strength for the amount of weight that you carry is having enough braking power. Speaking of the brakes I forgot one other budget thing you can do to up grade the rear brakes if you don't need or want to go with a set of the rear disk brakes than there are bigger drum brakes that will also bolt on. Look at the mid 1970's to about 1986 (i think is the last year) for the 9 inch pick up rear axle these can have the larger 2 1/2 inch wide rear brake shoes and drums a very good option that will help increase your braking power and still keep the 5 X 5 1,/2 inch wide bolt pattern. I think that the front disk brakes can be bolted onto your front spindles too if you can find a good set those trucks also have power brake units not sure if that will bolt on without some work though.

On the progressive leaf springs these are made to ride nice during the trucks use when not having any weight as weight is added the spring increase in there load carying capacity. Early trucks did this with helper springs on the rear and as the trucks load was increased the helper springs contacted the extra frame pads to engage those helper springs.

One of biggest differences today that really helps the handling of any older cars and trucks is to use a good set of tires and wheels modern Radial Tires and wider wheels will make a great difference to the handling and a smooth ride. Next is set of the modern shocks like the "Gas Charged" ones these also tune the ride a lot. So that's the basics to improve your trucks handling once you decide exactly which way you want to go and figure out your budget and how far you want to mod your truck then we can narrow it all down some more. Good luck Edited
 
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OzzLpZ

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@bubba22349 sorry for the late reply. Hope your doctor's visit went well, and was an intentional visit.

Have thought about your suggestions for suspension options. As much as I would love to go full tilt on this, just can't financially right now. So I think a good start for me is to work with the current setup, and replace the leaf springs and components. I would like to know more about any leads or anything about new leaf springs, shackles, etc. Am interested in the progressive leaf springs that you mentioned. Also any pointers on bags over leaf that you mentioned, just in case I end up having that extra in the budget. The past week I tried searching for components for my truck, but wasn't able to find replacement leafs, or bag kits for my truck year...Do you have any company recommendations for new components for my truck?

As for the wheels, shocks, and bushings, yes, I am definately going to use modern parts to improve the quality. wider wheels, poly or nylon bushings, etc. Is it best for a straight shock, or to use coil overs?
 

bubba22349

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Yes at the doctors visit it went fine was just a 6 month check up to monitor the cancer that was good news with no real change from my last check up. That doctor is a very good one and even helped me find out the info on another couple tests that I had back during the Summer (they were from a different doctor) yet that other Doctor hadn't even told me the results yet, that also turned out to be good news showing no problems with my lungs. Still I have some other Heath issues maybe with my diabetes I have been working hard on that my self. My main troble right now is very high blood pressure and some of my heart functions that am not getting much care on but maybe soon I will figure that out what to do so I can maybe do something about it.

I guess to keep your costs to a minimum you need to determine if your springs are still in good enough usable condition. The minimum repairs are to just replace the spring eye bushings and their pivot pins with the new stock replacement parts tgat I listed in above posts. With those new parts installed that goes a long way to getting the truck back to its factory handing again and though it's a hard job you can do it by just removing one spring at a time to replace those wearable parts without disassembling much of the rest of your truck.

In the case were your springs are not in good shape then you either need to find a good set of used springs, see if yours can be rebuilt, or get a new set. In the past I had Hellwig rebuild the original springs in one of the last 1956 F100's I rebuilt the shop I worked out of was just down the street from their company it's great place. They even gave me a tour of their factory, this was a custom job so you will have to ask them if they still will rebuild or make you a new set of springs if not there are other places to. The last time I used their parts was a few years ago when I got a set of sway bars for my Motorhome, this really improved its handling to were I wanted it from tge sloppy way it handled when I got it. The progressive type springs are what's used on the much newer trucks and they would need to be custom made I don't know what it would cost today. One other way you could do this on a much lower budget is to check out the local junk yards and see if you can find springs on another later model pickup that could be adapted this will likely require a good amount of work in adapting the spring mounts to the chassis. A little longer lenght set of rear leaf springs would make the ride, handling, and load carrying ability better but you will also need to tune the spring pack to work on your truck this is going to be a big job. There are many other spring company's so getting new or custom springs. I will also see below for some other spring companies that list new springs.

Hellwig has bolt on overload springs and sway bars helper spring are easy to install and can add 500 Lbs or more of load carrying capasity. SDS Truck Springs (see below) is also a dealer for there products too.

SDS Truck Springs lists new made to order replacement springs for the 1957 to 1960 F100's and other parts such as Axle U Bolts you could ask about customizing the springs if you wanted too.

SDS Truck Front Springs

SDS Truck Rear Springs

General Spring lists new front and rear leaf springs, new spring shackles, new U Bolts for the 1957 to 1960 F100 here

I would look for a good regular shocks like the heavey duty Gaberels if you can find them that's is if you changing out the springs for new you likely won't need much else. If you keep the springs you have then a shock with a coil spring can work as a overload and bring back some of the stock suspension load carrying ability again. Also the old air shocks can work to bring the loaded truck back up to ride height too.

Air Lift has been in Bussiness since 1949 my dad used a set on his 1956 F100 to help haul heavier loads it worked well on that short bed truck for many years. I don't know if they will still have a listing on their site for your 1957 pick up however these are very simple kits that sould be easily adapted to most any rear axle with leaf springs on a car or truck. These will bring the ride height back up to its stock height when you are carrying a heavy load to improve the ride and handling safety, they can be used with a small compressor system for quicker lifting or a manual air fill system. https://www.airliftcompany.com

The below link is for Air Lifts performance air suspension department if you decide later to go to a full on custom air system. There are also many other companies that have these type parts. As with most all of these your going to be doing a custom install that can require building some of mounting parts to fit. They have a combo shock and air bag that would let you to more easily design your trucks ride height and load carrying ability, again this isn't just a bolt on job and it requires welding and fabricating so this will be getting into the higher dollar build ups.

Performance Air Ride parts
 
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