In the last entry we showed you how to disassemble the front suspension on the S10 chassis that sits under Project Pile House. Once we had it all apart we began fitting the front air suspension. Air bags will allow the truck to drop all the way to the ground and lift to almost stock ride height. This will give us the looks AND function I want out of the truck.
A warning for anyone starting an air ride build--it will NOT be a bolt-on job! It can be nearly "bolt" on with some of the expensive kits out there, but most won't get you much lower than a set of drop spindles and some lowering springs/drop blocks. To get the "slammed" or "laying frame/body" look that many want, you will need to cut, weld, and fabricate. But for me, that's the fun of building a custom car or truck!
I started with a cheap eBay S10 "bolt-in" front air ride kit with the larger 2600 bags. They really use the term "bolt-in" loosely, as the lower mounting plate for the lower control arms were completely wrong and I binned the idea of using them pretty quickly! Regardless of 2500 or 2600 series front bags, you will need to cut the spring pocket to make room for the bag when deflated. If you don't cut the pocket the bag can rub the opening and put a hole in it quickly, not something you'd want to happen on the highway! I set the bag and upper mount (which mounts through the OE shock hole) into the truck to get an idea what needed to be cut. I then pulled out the Eastwood Versa Cut Plasma Cutter and made quick work of the frame notch.
Once I found that the cut around the spring pocket was large enough to tuck the air bag inside, I moved on to fitting the bag to the lower control arm. This is where it was evident that the lower bag mount plate wasn't going to work and I decided to plate the control arm myself. I first outlined the bag so I had an idea of the minimum area I had to plate to support the bag. Next I cut out the "humps" in the control arm with the Versa Cut (mini truck guys call it "dehumping") and welded in a plate to make the top of the lower control arm more flat. A plate was then added to cover the top of the lower control arm and welded it in with the Eastwood MIG 175. Lastly I drilled a hole in the plate to mount the bag to the lower control arm. The final outcome is now a bolt-on job.
With the hard fabrication work done, I moved on to removing the old tired steering components. These were just as bad as the suspension components! Pile House will never be a daily driver, but I plan to take it on long drives and it may even double as a tow vehicle once in a while. For this reason I want the suspension and steering components to stand up to a lot of abuse and function well with the lowered stance and added power it's getting. I decided to call up the folks at ProForged Severe Duty Chassis Parts and see what they had to offer. Zack and crew came back with just what I needed; severe duty replacement steering components, drilled and slotted rotors to help stop the truck better, and my favorite, extended travel ball joints. These ball joints are right up my alley, they were designed to eliminate ball joint binding when a GM chassis is lowered. Ball Joint binding can happen on vehicles that are lowered (even with small drops!) when they hit a bump and the suspension compresses (lowers) and the stock ball joints go past their optimum point of travel and bind. All of this GREATLY decreases the life of the parts and can cause them to fail prematurely. Best of all ProForged offers a Million-Mile Warranty on all of their parts!
From here we test fit all of the parts and made sure the truck was sitting how I wanted when dropped. I did have to cut the height of the upper bag mounts to get the truck to sit flat on the ground in the front, but only a minor job compared to the all the other work that's been done thus far! Now that all of the major fabrication was done, we could move on to installing the ProForged parts and begin cleaning and detailing the front suspension. Stay tuned for the next entry where we detail and assemble it all.