How To Square A ‘52 Chevy Truck Frame

Part 2: Prepping For a Corvette Independent Front Suspension Install

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography by the Author

In the Aug. ’23 issue of Classic Truck Performance we began the installation of C4 Corvette front and rear suspension under Paul Wilson’s ’52 Chevy pickup with components from Don McNeil’s Flat Out Engineering. We planned on installing a small block Chevy for power, and while there was a certain appeal to keeping our hauler all Bowtie from end to end, there was a more practical reason for Corvette suspension than brand loyalty. We knew the C4 Corvette suspension would provide excellent ride and handling characteristics and McNeil’s installation kits would make our truck’s transformation quick and easy. The one thing we didn’t anticipate was a problem with the factory frame.

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Part One: CORVETTE SUSPENSION FOR CHEVY ADVANCE DESIGN TRUCKS

02 Flat Out Engineering crossmember installed level on a leveled frame with a 2 degree nose down rake
This is where we left off in our last installment: The frame was leveled side to side, set at a nose-down 2-degree rake, and the Flat Out Engineering crossmember was installed level with the ground.

The Importance Of A Square Frame

McNeil has decades of experience building award-winning vehicles of all descriptions—drag racers, Bonneville competitors, show winners, and street machines. As an avid hot rodder and astute businessman, McNeil knows full well how important it is to establish the reputation for offering chassis parts that fit and work as intended, which he has done. He also knows that if you start off with a frame that is out of square the end result will be a chassis that will not work as it should. That’s why McNeil stresses that checking the frame for dimensional accuracy is the first step to installing his suspension kits. In our case, the frame was out of square 5/16 inch, the max should be 1/8 inch. It took some effort, but with the frame square we installed the Flat Out Engineering front crossmember—which is where we left off last time.

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Read More: Coyote-Swapped 1955 Ford F100

03 Measurement of the front frame rails droop before notching the frame for steering rack clearance
Prior to notching the frame for steering rack clearance, the “droop” of the front frame rails was measured and recorded.

Notching The Frame Rails

With the crossmember in place the next steps were to notch the frame rails to clear the rack-and-pinion steering, install the C-notch supports, and install the Flat Out Engineering boxing plates. The trick here is to make sure the frame horns and, as a result, the front crossmember that mounts the core support, remain in the proper position relative to the tops of the frame rails. In this case, Wilson elected to install a pair of tubing braces from the stock front crossmember to the Flat Out Engineering crossmember. They served to maintain the stock crossmember’s position while the C-notches were cut and add some support to it as well.

Read More: Freshen Up Your OE OBS Brakes

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04 Verification of the C notch location using a piece of tubing and Flat Out Engineering measurements
In addition to the measurements supplied by Flat Out Engineering, a piece of tubing was used to simulate the location of the steering rack and verify the location of the C-notch.

Steering & Suspension Components

Once the front of the frame modifications were complete it was then time to turn our attention to the Corvette steering and suspension components. Wilson had come across a bargain on a complete ’86 Corvette as a parts donor, but despite the desirable components, like any car its age, time and mileage had taken their toll, so some replacement parts were needed. The power rack-and-pinion steering showed signs of leaking and one of the inner tie-rod ends was loose, so the entire assembly was replaced with a rebuild unit along with the outer tie-rod ends. Likewise all the rubber control arm bushings were weathered and cracked so replacements from Prothane were installed in the aluminum control arms. Finally, new ball joints were installed in the upper and lower control arms. One of the last steps to finishing the front suspension will be the installation of the sway bar, however, that will have to wait until the core support is in place to determine if the sway bar goes above or below the frame rails.

05 Drilling of pilot holes in frame rails for the U shaped C notch reinforcement from the Flat Out Engineering kit
The U-shaped C-notch reinforcement is part of the Flat Out Engineering kit. After marking the center of the cuts to be made for the notches, pilot holes were drilled in the frame rails.

Next time we’ll show how the C4 independent rear suspension is installed and how to properly assemble and adjust the Aldan coilovers. It’s more of our independent thinking.

06 Initial cuts in the frame rails using a hole saw and an abrasive wheel to create an inverted C notch
By registering in the pilot holes, a hole saw was used to make the initial cuts in the frame rails—an abrasive wheel was used to trim the holes and make them an inverted C-notch.
07 Completed C notches and added front Flat Out Engineering boxing plates on the left frame rail
Here the notches have had the C-notches filled in and the front Flat Out Engineering boxing plates have been added, as can be seen on the left frame rail (arrow 1). Note the added reinforcements (arrows 2) to support the front crossmember.
08 Finished C notch in the left frame rail viewed from the outside
This is the finished C-notch in the left frame rail from the outside. The lower control arm mount (arrow) isn’t as close to the bottom of the frame as it appeared.
09 Replacement of the rack and pinion with a rebuilt unit from Flat Out Engineering in an 86 Corvette donor car
Our ’86 Corvette donor car had some miles on it. As a result, we replaced the rack-and-pinion with a rebuilt unit; they’re available from Flat Out Engineering.
10 Installation of the rack and pinion unit on a new crossmember bracket
The rack-and-pinion unit bolts into the bracket on the new crossmember on the driver side and uses the original Corvette retainer on the right to hold it in place.
11 Freshened C4 Corvette suspension with replaced control arm bushings
To freshen the C4 Corvette suspension all the control arm bushings were replaced. The lower control arm bushings were pressed in place with a vise.
12 New polyurethane bushings with lubricated grooves rotating on the steel inner sleeve
The new polyurethane bushings rotate on the steel inner sleeve. Tiny grooves in the bushings are filled with lubricant before assembly.
13 Long shafts from the Flat Out Engineering suspension kit holding the lower control arms in place
Included in the Flat Out Engineering suspension kit are two long shafts that holds the lower control arms in place.
14 Aluminum C4 lower control arms installed on the vehicle
Here the aluminum C4 lower control arms are in place—be aware there are left- and right-side control arms.
15 Installation of new ball joints while the suspension is apart
While the suspension was apart we elected to install new ball joints. The originals are riveted in place.
16 New MOOG ball joints secured with supplied Grade 8 cap screws and lock nuts
The new MOOG ball joints are held in place by the supplied Grade 8 cap screws and lock nuts.
17 One of the concave washers used the Corvette s upper control arm cross shafts
This is one of the eight concave washers that are used with the Corvette’s upper control arm cross shafts.
18 Fitting of the concave portion of the washers against the raised convex areas around the cross shaft attachment holes
The concave portion of the washers fit against the raised convex areas around the cross shaft attachment holes.
19 Alignment of the front suspension with shims between the upper control arm cross shaft and the mount on the Flat Out Engineering crossmember
Aligning the front suspension is done with shims between the upper control arm cross shaft and the mount on the Flat Out Engineering crossmember.
20 Attachment of the lower coilover shock mount to the lower control arms
The lower coilover shock mount attaches to the lower control arms after the holes are drilled to 3/8 inch.
21 Attachment of the lower coilover shock mount to the lower control arms
Here the lower brackets have been attached to the control arm with the provided hardware. When the Aldan coilovers are installed they will be attached to the bracket then the assembly will be installed as a unit.
22 Attachment of the optional Flat Out Engineering sway bar bracket to the factory hole in the front of the control arms
The optional Flat Out Engineering sway bar bracket attaches to the factory hole in the front of the control arms after they are drilled to 3/8 inch.
23 Installation of the C4 aluminum uprights and cartridge spindles with new outer tie rod ends
With the control arms in place the C4 aluminum uprights and cartridge spindles were installed. While we were replacing parts we opted for new outer tie-rod ends.
24 Completed installation of the suspension providing a smooth ride and outstanding handling
The completed installation is not only clean looking but will provide the smooth ride and outstanding handling these suspensions are known for. Note the temporary struts that hold the suspension at ride height.
25 Flat Out Engineering sway bar bracket attached to the lower control arms
This is one of the Flat Out Engineering sway bar brackets that attach to the lower control arms.
26 Adjustable links bolted to the control arm brackets for the stock Corvette sway bar mounting
Adjustable links bolt to the control arm brackets to allow the stock Corvette sway bar to be mounted above or below the frame rails.
27 Mock up of mounting the sway bar above the frame rails by Paul Willis and Wilson
Paul Willis (left) and Wilson mock up mounting the sway bar above the frame rails. Its final position will be determined when the radiator core support is in place.

Sources

Aldan American
(310) 834-7478
aldanamerican.com

Flat Out Engineering
(714) 639-2623
flatout-engineering.com

Prothane Suspension Parts
(888) 406-2330
prothanesuspensionparts.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of How to Square a ’52 Chevy Truck Frame.

ctp september 2023

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