The popularity of the Chevrolet C10 pickups has grown exponentially over the last few years. There are several body styles to choose from, as they are solid trucks that have had incredible staying power and there is an abundance of them out there sitting in fields, driveways, and old barns. To meet the growing demand for aftermarket products, manufacturers continue to come up with new ways to modify everything from the ground up on every generation of these Chevy trucks.
Our ’71 Chevrolet C10 Suburban project or 71 BRBN as it’s known to us, is not a truck but shares the C10 moniker with its open-bed brethren. Many of the new parts are interchangeable, making it easy to customize your family cruiser just as simply as you can with the former farm or work trucks that are currently being turned into showstoppers. Maybe you have a C10 truck and you’re not ready to lay it on the ground with air suspension or maybe you just want a new, reliable, custom suspension setup to replace the worn-out parts covered in decades of grime. With the QA1 Complete Coilover Conversion System for ’63-to-’87 Chevrolet pickups, you can get new parts built using today’s technology for performance and stance. The kit is completely bolt-on, with adjustable shocks, and we paired it with Classic Performance Products 2-inch drop spindles for even more drop in the front. We also installed the QA1 front and rear sway bars for better handling as well as reduced body roll when cornering.
| Here is the KP Concepts artwork we shared with you in the January issue as we planned out what this project would like like with its new “guts” under it.
When we announced this project in a Truckin editorial a while back, we had a general idea of what was desired for the Suburban, but that evolved over time as we began to line up the right products for our goals. A few months ago, we gave you a look at the build in our Radical Renderings section with the artwork from KP Concepts. When the parts were all in hand and the time arrived to start the build, we packed everything to the ceiling on the inside and drove it from Southern California to Lowboy Motorsports in Mesa, Arizona. As the crew at Lowboy tore into nearly 50 years of wear and tear under the Chevy, the project continued to evolve. Follow along as we show you the suspension portion of the build, with more to follow in the upcoming issues. Make sure to check out both QA1 and Classic Performance Products online for the parts they offer along with the Lowboy Motorsports website to see all the builds they’re working on.
| BEFORE: With the suspension in need of a major overhaul and modernization, our 71 BRBN gets its last photo before it changes forever—for the better.
| Here is the QA1 Complete Front Coilover Conversion System, including coilovers, upper/lower control arms, upper coilover mounts, bracketry, hardware, and the QA1 front sway bar along with ’73-to-’87 CPP drop spindles.
| The rear setup includes QA1 coil-overs, shock mount brackets, shock mounts, trailing arm adapters, a Panhard bar, brace bar, bracketry, and hardware, as well as the rear sway bar.
| After the wheels were removed, Todd Burton from Lowboy Motorsports began to disassemble the front suspension by unbolting the shocks and removing the spindles, coils, tie rods, and upper/lower arms.
| The front sway bar is the next to go, but it required some extra power to loosen the rusted nuts.
| The old parts piled up quickly and were sent to the scrap pile. None of these parts will be reused with the QA1 system.
| The factory control arm bracket is secured to the frame with bolts and riveted to the top of the crossmember. This piece has to come out, so some cuts were made for ease of access and to remove the bolts that wouldn’t budge. The rivets are removed using an air chisel.
| With the suspension, sway bar, and control arm brackets removed, the installation process could begin. We spent a little time cleaning off rust and road grime. This process can be continued at a later date with more attention to detail.
| Some black spray paint was dusted over the bare metal frame where we scraped off surface rust, and then the new upper control arm bracket was test-fit into place.
| The hole in the crossmember needed to be opened up a little for the new coilover. The bracket is pulled back off and the new hole is cut to the necessary diameter.
| At this point, the upper bracket could be bolted in and the coilover was loaded in from the underside.
| New U-bolts are provided with the QA1 kit to secure the lower control arm to the crossmember, and it bolted easily into place.
| We then swung the arm upward to meet with the coilover and secured it with the provided hardware.
| With the coilover firmly in place, the upper arm slid onto the upper bracket bolts and was held on with lock nuts.
| The CPP spindles were hoisted into place on the lower arm then the upper arm was dropped down into the top spindle mount and secured with castle nuts on the upper/lower ball joints. Although this is a ’71 Chevy, the QA1 kit requires the use of ’73-to-’87 spindles for better fitment, due to the tapering.
| Our front suspension is coming together. Now we do the same on the other side while waiting for new tie rods to arrive that will work with the ’73-to-’87 spindles.
| In order to mount the sway bar, the factory brackets, which are held on with rivets, must be removed. Chad used a grinder with a cutting wheel to slice into the rivet head, making it easier to remove. Once the head was chiseled off, the bracket comes down and an air hammer is used to push the rivet remnants through for removal.
| The new sway bar brackets bolted into the factory mounting locations we just freed up, and the sway bar was mounted to it.
| After the sway bar end links were assembled, they were bolted to the control arms and then the sway bar on each side.
| Our new tie rods that were ordered to work with the ’73-to-’87 spindles arrived and Chad got them assembled.
| While installing the new tie rods to finish up the front, we decided the old pitman arm also needed to be replaced and handled that, too.
| The front suspension was now fully assembled, and all nuts were torqued to manufacturer specs. Then cotter pins were put into place where applicable. All the zerk fittings were fed with grease to make sure everything had the proper lubrication.
| Moving to the rear, Todd began by removing the shock mount from the trailing arm using an impact with socket.
| After removing the factory U-bolts, which were rusted and had several stripped threads, we decided it was better to replace them. We made a quick trip over to Spectrac Suspension, which measured our old U-bolts and custom made a couple new ones for us.
| Back at Lowboy, Todd prepares the trailing arms for the QA1 adapters to fit. Some minor trimming and grinding was needed.
| The adapter was fit over the trailing arm, and the new U-bolts were slid over the axle then tightened to the adapter to secure it. Don’t mind those Baer brakes, you’ll hear all about them next month!
| The rest of the rear end suspension components could then be removed—including the factory Panhard bar, bracket, and coils.
| We ran into a minor issue with the upper bracket fitment. Because this is a Suburban and not a truck, the floor brace was in a position that does not exist on C10 pickups. That section (on the outside of the frame, where it’s already supported) was cut out to allow for the shock bracket clearance.
| As with the front end, the rear bracketry was secured previously by rivets, so a combination of air chisel and air hammer was utilized to remove them.
| There are existing holes in the frame to which to mount the bracket, but a few others had to be drilled to fit the remaining 3/8-inch bolts.
| Todd secured the bracket to the other side of the frame before drilling the holes there.
| Using the hardware provided, the brace bar and pPanhard bar could be mounted to the bottom end of the brackets.
| You can see where the trailing arms were trimmed earlier to fit the brackets and allow room for the hardware.
| The Panhard bar was lifted into place on the bottom end of the shock bracket and bolted together.
| Our rear coilovers go into the top brackets, then the bottom uses these lower shock brackets that mount to the trailing arm adapter.
| With the coilovers in place, the sway bar ends are mounted to the sway bar and the rear drop plate brackets. When assembling these parts, everything is left loosely bolted together so adjustments can be made before tightening everything.
| The sway bar is secured to the rear end using U-bolts.
| The rear drop plate brackets we added to the sway bar are attached to the supplied brackets that fit directly where our old upper shock mounts were previously riveted.
| With our new suspension and sway bars tightened, greased, and ready to go, Todd uses the QA1 Spanner Wrench supplied with the kit to get each coilover to the desired starting height before we make adjustments later.
| As you can see, there have been major changes to the underside of our project, and there are other big plans to come. Check back next month for tech documenting how we plan to stop this thing once it gets rolling again!