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Suspension Modification for 1961 Studebaker Champ Pickup

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  • Suspension Modification for 1961 Studebaker Champ Pickup

    Hi All,

    I'm new to this site, and would like to find out from all of the Studebaker experts whether you know which would be the best suspension to use on my 1961 Studebaker Champ Pickup that I am beginning to restore? I'd like to keep her looking as close to original as possible, but don't want the "hard" pickup ride - instead I'd like to replace with suspension with something more modern that will give her a much smoother/softer ride.

    Would be great to hear any suggestions, or whether someone has done something like this before that could shed some expertise.

    Thanks in advance!
    Kyle
    (Pretoria, South Africa)

  • #2
    Somewhat obviously, you have three options -
    1. Straight axle. I know, you want to dump this one..!
    2. Independent, coil sprung.
    3. Independent, torsion bar.

    All three work, all three can be made harsh, all three can be made to ride softly. Just depends on how you set them up.
    Options 2 and three are easier to get to ride more comfortably, but you still need to do some homework (learning) to set either up well.

    A friend installed a mostly Chrysler (some custom parts) torsion bar front end on his 49 pickup, with a big Chevy engine. It rode fairly nicely. VERY easy to adjust the ride height..!

    Mike

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mike Van Veghten View Post
      Somewhat obviously, you have three options -
      1. Straight axle. I know, you want to dump this one..!
      2. Independent, coil sprung.
      3. Independent, torsion bar.

      All three work, all three can be made harsh, all three can be made to ride softly. Just depends on how you set them up.
      Options 2 and three are easier to get to ride more comfortably, but you still need to do some homework (learning) to set either up well.

      A friend installed a mostly Chrysler (some custom parts) torsion bar front end on his 49 pickup, with a big Chevy engine. It rode fairly nicely. VERY easy to adjust the ride height..!

      Mike
      Pretty much sums it up

      ...if you want to keep the straight axle set up try to keep unsprung weight to a minimum, reduce as much friction between the leafs of the springs as you can, build the spring to the duties the truck will see...if you're not actually going to carry huge loads with it, then go to a lighter duty spring, and get adjustable shocks so you can set compression softer than rebound. Others have adapted Mopar Volare/Aspen torsion bar front suspensions to 1/2 ton Champs. just a couple of suggestions. cheers, junior
      sigpic
      1954 C5 Hamilton car.

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      • #4
        Finally - run passenger car tires if you are not going to be carrying loads in the bed. They have softer sidewalls than truck tires, and give a moderately smoother ride. Good luck!
        The only difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

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        • #5
          Torsion Bar suspension

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          I used a 1978 Volare torsion bar under my Champ with Firm Feel tubular a arms, Wilwood brakes and Bilstein shocks. Truck rides and drives fantastic, plus as said above, the adjust ability is great as well. You will need some very good welding skills in order to accomplish this conversion and it is pricey!
          sigpic

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          • #6
            Suspension

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            Another option for front end retro-fit is this "Fatman" subframe with heidt's coil over front suspension that I have under my 37 C.E. I actually prefer the torsion bar suspension due to the softer ride however, performance parts for Mopars are supplied by only one vendor and are expensive---
            Last edited by StudebakerGene; 04-06-2017, 11:06 AM.
            sigpic

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            • #7
              Would else anyone recommend a complete re-frame over just the front suspension? Think better frame, suspension, all new brakes and a higher gear ratio. FWIW, it's been my experience anyone capable of doing a front suspension swap correctly and safely could more easily swap the entire frame and running gear. The other positive about a frame swap is all the critical parts are going to be safe and in the right place. Massaging sheet metal to fit is a pain, but doesn't require the same levels of engineering and welding as a suspension swap.

              And Kyle, no reflection on you personally, but you haven't shared your experience and skills with projects such as a front suspension transplant. Maybe you're completely capable of the professional welding and dimensional accuracy required. However, it's often the case that if one has to ask about what and how to do a major project such as this, usually it's an indication maybe he should reflect long and carefully.

              jack vines
              PackardV8

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              • #8
                Originally posted by PackardV8 View Post
                Would else anyone recommend a complete re-frame over just the front suspension? Think better frame, suspension, all new brakes and a higher gear ratio. FWIW, it's been my experience anyone capable of doing a front suspension swap correctly and safely could more easily swap the entire frame and running gear. The other positive about a frame swap is all the critical parts are going to be safe and in the right place. Massaging sheet metal to fit is a pain, but doesn't require the same levels of engineering and welding as a suspension swap.

                And Kyle, no reflection on you personally, but you haven't shared your experience and skills with projects such as a front suspension transplant. Maybe you're completely capable of the professional welding and dimensional accuracy required. However, it's often the case that if one has to ask about what and how to do a major project such as this, usually it's an indication maybe he should reflect long and carefully.

                jack vines
                Well said Jack!
                sigpic

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                • #9
                  If it is a short bed, you might consider framing over to a Wagonaire frame. That way, still Studebaker, good compatibility, and a sufficient frame to handle light loads. This will give you a softer ride, without having to do 'surgery' or bastardizing the truck frame and all the problems that go with it.
                  Home of the famous Mr. Ed!
                  K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Studebaker!
                  Ron Smith
                  Where the heck is Fawn Lodge, CA?

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                  • #10
                    Thinking back I remember a couple of trucks that used Jaguar suspension.I'm not sure what year or model it lowered stance some but I remember the owners saying it worked great.

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                    • #11
                      Why not just renew the bushings in what you have now and see how it rides? That might be all it takes and is certainly a lot easier than reinventing the wheel... er... suspension design.
                      RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

                      17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
                      10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
                      10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
                      4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
                      5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
                      56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
                      60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible

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                      • #12
                        Thanks all for the suggestions and advice.

                        Just to shed some light, this is my first project car, so I'd most certainly have to do my homework regarding my options before attempting any "open heart surgery". My family (father and grandfather) have significant Studebaker experience, with four Studebakers between them (all having been completely restored by them). This is the first truck in the family, so I'd like to make it a memorable one.

                        Thanks again.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by studeclunker View Post
                          If it is a short bed, you might consider framing over to a Wagonaire frame. That way, still Studebaker, good compatibility, and a sufficient frame to handle light loads. This will give you a softer ride, without having to do 'surgery' or bastardizing the truck frame and all the problems that go with it.
                          Ron, never heard of this frame swap before for a Champ pickup. Can you share more details of how you accomplished this? Also pictures would be great. Especially interested in how you handled the interference between the rear frame kickup on the Wagonaire frame and the bed, without having to raise the bed floor way up to clear.
                          Paul
                          Winston-Salem, NC
                          Visit The Studebaker Skytop Registry website at: www.studebakerskytop.com

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                          • #14
                            I don't know if the Aerostar subframe adapters are still available.
                            Here's an older post about them
                            http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.c...light=aerostar

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                            • #15
                              Thanks all for the suggestions and advice.

                              Just to shed some light, this is my first project car, so I'd most certainly have to do my homework regarding my options before attempting any "open heart surgery". My family (father and grandfather) have significant Studebaker experience, with four Studebakers between them (all having been completely restored by them). This is the first truck in the family, so I'd like to make it a memorable one.

                              Thanks again.
                              With that attitude, you're unlikely to get into trouble.

                              Why not just renew the bushings in what you have now and see how it rides? That might be all it takes and is certainly a lot easier than reinventing the wheel... er... suspension design.
                              Excellent suggestion, Roy. However, it's a slippery slope. Chances are, the front end needs bushings, tie rod ends, shocks, kingpins, wheel bearings and a steering box.

                              Another middle ground option available here in the US is fiberglass front springs and heavy duty shocks. This is how my C-cab w/Packard V8 looks.



                              The stiffer bushings, wider lighter springs and better shock control totally transform the leaf spring solid axle feel.

                              Originally posted by Bordeaux Daytona View Post
                              I don't know if the Aerostar subframe adapters are still available.
                              Here's an older post about them
                              http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.c...light=aerostar
                              FWIW, all those I've seen were designed for the C-cab trucks. How different is the front section of the T-cab frame?

                              jack vines
                              Last edited by PackardV8; 04-07-2017, 02:14 PM.
                              PackardV8

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