Precision Street Rods & Machines - Building Quality Cars Since 1982
Precision Street Rods & Machines 
"Installing a TCI Econo I.F.S. kit into a 1956 Chevy P/U"   
 
 
Chances are if you’ve been driving a vintage truck for a while, you might have considered updating to an Independent Front Suspension ( I.F.S.) for its advantages. By this, I’m talking about better ride characteristics (helical coil springs verses parallel leaf springs), better steering (rack and pinion verses a standard re-circulating ball steering box), better brakes (disc verses drums), the addition of an anti-sway bar and the list goes on.
 
Follow along as we show you how we install Total Cost Involved Engineering's (TCI) Econo I.F.S. into a 1955-59 Chevrolet truck.
 
 
 INSTRUCTIONS: Roll your mouse over the the photo, left side click to view it in a larger format. Use the manual arrow buttons to proceed in either direction. Use the (X) button to return to the original format. 
 
OPTION: Click on the bottom left arrow to start the automatic slide show in the larger format, Click it again to pause the show.
 
 
 
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Finished!
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Photo 2: Here’s a bird eyes view of the kit we received from TCI Engineering. This is one of their “Econo” Custom IFS kits. It features a power rack and pinion, pre-made crossmember, 3/16-inch frame boxing plates, backing plates with new G.M. or Ford rotors (your choice of wheel bolt patterns), G.M.calipers, custom tubular upper and lower control arms, coil-over shocks, easy to understand instructions and all of the mounting hardware needed.
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Photo 3: We added the optional sway-bar kit to our kit. It also comes with all of the mounting hardware and easy to understand instructions.
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Photo 4: You need to remove the drive-train in order to have proper access to the frame. We found that it is a lot easier to pull the drive-train (engine and transmission) when the sheet metal is removed.
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Photo 8: In order to remove the front suspension safely, you’ll need to jack up and support the frame while taking the load off of the front wheels. We placed our jack stands behind the spring/frame brackets, just under the firewall. This way we can roll out the old suspension without any obstructions.
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Photos 6 & 7: There are two main ways to remove a bracket that has been riveted in place. The first is to drill out the rivets, the second is to use a cutting torch and burn off the rivet heads, then punch the body of the rivet through the holes. We chose the second way.
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Photo 8: We used a pry bar to separate the spring shackles from the frame brackets.
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Photo 9: With everything loose, we simply rolled the old front-end suspension away.
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Photo 10: The next step is to thoroughly clean the frame. We used combination of things, mainly a putty knife and wire wheel attachment in a die-grinder.
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Photo 11: This section of frame is where the old steering box resided. Notice that the frame has a raised lip on top. It doubled as a frame strengthener and provided steering box clearance. We will be removing/flattening the lip for looks as we are changing over to a rack-n-pinion type of steering that mounts in a different place.
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Photos 12 & 13: We used a torch and hammer to do most of the flattening.
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Photo 14: Since there was too much material left after we attempted to flatten the lip (it wouldn’t lie flat), we had to make a series pie cuts in the frame 1/8-inch wide. Next we clamped a piece of box tubing to the inside of the frame in both directions (to back the frame as a dolly would), and then finished flattening the frame with the hammer and torch until it was flat and smooth.
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Photo 15: This is how our frame looked after welding the pie cuts closed. A little grinding and no one will be the wiser.
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Photos 16 & 17: We decided to fill all of the unwanted holes in the frame for looks and a minor amount of strength. We backed the larger holes with a piece of aluminum. This way our welding rod won’t fall through the hole. You see, Aluminum and steel don’t stick together as they are unlike materials. You’ll need to pre clean the metal around the holes being filled. We used a grinder and a rat-tailed file.
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Photos 18 & 19: This is how our frame looked after the holes were welded up. We left the front spring shackle holes alone for the time being. We need it to measure from them when positioning the new suspension crossmember.
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Photo 20: We began the boxing process by placing the 3/16-inch boxing plates on top of the bottom frame rail. We squared the boxing plates to the top frame rail and marked our trim line. The bottom rail has a taper to it and is much larger than the top. By being larger, it won’t allow the new crossmember to fit between the rails.
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Photo 21: We re-marked the trim line 3/16-inches (the thickness of the boxing plate) inside of the line we just drew. We used the outside edge from a piece of masking tape as our guideline; it’s easier to see against the dark frame. We used a 3” cut-off wheel in a die grinder to make our cuts. You could use a cutting torch or plasma cutter instead.
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Photos 22, 23 & 24: We used a 5” pneumatic grinder to bevel all of the welding edges ½ of their original thickness. The reason for this is; we don’t want to grind away the strength from our weld when we smooth out the frame rails. You will still have 100% of penetration if done correctly.
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Photo 25: We used C-clamps to hold the boxing plates to the frame.
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Photo 26: There is a section of frame that tapers inward, just behind the stock front crossmember (top frame rail only). You can fill the gap with weld or do as we did; pull it closer to the frame and weld it.
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Photos 27 & 28: With everything clamped in place, we started tack welding the boxing in place. We placed our tack welds around 4 to 5-inches apart. We moved around; top to bottom & side to side. This helps to dissipate/concentrate the heat from welding and keeps things from warping. None of our tack welds were longer than 3/8-inch.
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Photos 29 & 30: None of our welds were longer than 2-inches at any one time. Again, we moved around while welding. We used a 5-inch grinder with a 36-grit disc to remove the excess welds.
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Photo 31: Here is a look at how our frame looked at this point. It is boxed with no visible welds showing and ready for the next step. If done correctly, you should have a measurement of 29-inches between the inside frame rails.
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Photo 32: We temporally placed the new crossmember (with the steering rack mounted to it) in its approximate position. Now we can see our clearances between the steering rack and the old crossmember; it hits. The arrows show where we need to end up. We marked our trim lines onto the stock front crossmember with masking tape. When we were happy with the shape, we used soapstone to re-mark our cut lines. The tape will burn off when using a cutting torch where as the soapstone won’t.
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Photos 33 & 34: We trimmed the topside of the crossmember first; trimming the crossmember bottom bracing followed this. This ended up being 1/3rd of the original crossmember thickness or around 3-inches.
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Photos 35 & 36: We made a cardboard template the size of our cut out. This template will be transferred onto and cut from a piece of 3/16-inch steel plate.
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Photos 37 & 38: Just as we did with the side boxing plates, we beveled the welding edges ½ of the metal thickness.
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Photo 39: Again we tacked our boxing plate in place with no welds being longer than 3/8-inches long. Joining the tack welds together with no welds being longer than 2-inches (moving all around, not a continuous weld) followed this.
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Photo 40: As before, we ground the welds smooth using a 5-inch air grinder.
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Photo 41: This is the piece that we remover from the original crossmember.
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Photo 42: This is how our patch looked like after we ground it smooth. At this point, we decided to primer the frame & suspension parts.
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Photo 43: The first thing on the agenda is to measure straight back from the center of the old spring shackle hole 20 7/8-inches and mark the frame. Using a T-square from the top, finish transferring your mark to the top of the frame rails
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Photo 44: Find the center of the new crossmember where it resides on top of the frame and mark it. Again, use a T-square to transfer your mark.
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Photo 45: Now that we have our two reference marks, we can align them. At this point, we double-checked our measurements to see if we were square, level and parallel to the ground at the ride height we desire. We were.
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Photo 46: We tack welded the crossmember to the frame next. Just as before, we jumped around not making any welds longer than 3/8-inches long.
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Photo 47: This is how our crossmember looked after it was installed. Now we can start the assembly part of the kit.
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Photo 48: We started off by installing the lower control arms first. The long shaft/bolt mounts from the front while the tapered side of the control arm faces the rear. Thus putting the ball joint in the middle of the crossmember.
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Photos 49 & 50: The upper control arm eccentric shaft mounts next. It also comes in from the front with the adjusting holes toward the rear. Two Allen setscrews found on top of the crossmember secure it.
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Photo 51
Photo 51: As we did with the lower control arms, we slid the upper shaft/bolt from the front, through the upper control arm and crossmember. Then we tightened the end bolt. For a little extra working room for the next few steps, we rolled the upper control arm toward the inside of the chassis.
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Photo 52: Next we installed the coil-over shock to the crossmember. It too has a through bolt that mounts from the front. The ride damping selector knob faces inward on the bottom.
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Photo 53
Photo 53: The lower coil-over shock mounting shaft/bolt comes in from the rear. It captures the shock end (as does the top) between two tabs. There is a tube spacer that slides over the shaft/bolt on the front side of the control arm. It maintains the proper spacing for the anti-sway bar links.
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Photo 54: The anti-sway bar links are made up from a male & female Heim joint being screwed together. Be sure that you install the jam nut in the middle.
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Photo 55: The anti-sway bar link mounts to the shock shaft/bolt next.
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Photo 56: We installed the spindles from the top onto the lower control arm ball joint. The steering arms face forward and the brake caliper is on top toward the rear.
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Photo 57: We rolled the upper control arm back into position and fastened it to the spindle. It mounts from the top. If done correctly, both of the spindle nuts will be facing each other.
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Photo 58: Now we can start the rack-n-pinion installation. The kit comes with two new rubber bushings. They install from the front (bushing shoulder toward the front).
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Photo 59: When installing the steering rack to the crossmember, there is a spacer that goes in between. The mounting bolts come in from the front.
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Photos 60 & 61: Now we can install the steering tie-rod ends to the rack and the spindles. They come up from the bottom.
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Photo 62: The last thing to get installed is the anti-sway bar. It is mounted via aluminum blocks. These blocks have nylon bushings between the aluminum block and the sway bar. There is a locking retainer that keeps the sway bar centered. It can go either on the inside or outside of the mounting blocks, as long as it is the same on the other side. The bushing shoulders sandwich between the retainer and the mounting blocks.
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Photo 63: There are tapped holes in the backside of the crossmember that locate and mount the anti-sway. The mounting blocks were installed next.
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Photo 64: We made sure that the sway bar was centered side to side; then tightened the retainer rings.
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Photo 65: The links are the last thing to be installed. The end of the anti-sway bar is tapped
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Photos 66 & 67: Finished! Remember that clearance we needed for the steering rack in the beginning (Caption #32)? As you can see, we have ample room now. All we need to do now is re-install the rest of the truck.
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Finished!
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