1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F100 (F-100) Rear Suspension
Choosing the right 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 rear suspension for your Ford F100 is really up to you and the kind of truck you want to build. Some considerations to ponder: Daily driver or show truck, high horsepower or cruiser, tire width, quality of ride. There are pretty much 3 general choices when choosing a 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 rear suspension.
1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100) Stock Rear Suspension
We'll start with the stock set-up with leaf springs.This system is fine and all you have to do is make sure all of your parts are in good working condition. Inspect the leaf eye bushings and pins to make sure they're in good shape. These are often neglected of grease and wear the frame bracket and the spring eye out of round, so inspect them and rebuild as necessary.
Easy 9 inch Ford Rear End Swap For the 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100)
One of the easiest upgrades you can make to your 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 Ford F-100 (F100) is the rear end/axle. Finding a donor 9 inch Ford rear end for my 53 F100 was pretty easy and inexpensive. It turns out that a 67 Ford F-100 has a rear end housing almost identical to the stock F-100 in terms of how it mounts to the springs and shocks. It is literally a dead on fit to install it in the 53-56 F-100. Leaf spring width, spring perch placement - all matched up. Drum to drum width was nearly identical as well. Stock 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 rims still fit because the 5 bolt wheel pattern is the same for most F-100's for many decades. Make sure you measure if you choose to go this route because it's possible that only certain 67 F-100's had this rear end. I'm not sure. I would assume that some of the 68 to 71 F-100's would be the same as well. I measured a 72 F-100, but the leaf springs were 1/4 inch wider which makes the spring perches too wide for stock 53 F-100 leaf springs. The 9 inch that I found in the 67 F100 was a 28 spline, but worked great for my 302!
Four Link Suspension Systems & Ladder Bars
I consider the ladder bar system fundamentally the same in concept as the four link or four bar suspension system. Four bar systems usually take less room to install than the four link, but are typically not as strong as a four link. Four links are superior for ride and adjustability as well as strength (usually), so we'll focus on those. Four link suspension systems come in many configurations, but all are based on the same idea. A crossmember is typically added to the frame to act as a connection point for four bars. These 4 bars (2 on each side) connect to the rear axle. Keeping side to side movement in check is a bar called a panhard bar, or it's also called a track locator. Several companies offer systems and they vary in a number of ways. 4 bar tube diameter, rod end size and quality of components basically determine how much abuse the suspension system can take. For example, 1-3/8 inch diameter 4 bars typically take more abuse than 1-1/8 inch diameter versions (material quality being the same). A strong crossmember is critical because everything is attached to it. Quality spherical rod ends are equally critical because these can easily be a weak point in the system. The spherical rod ends may have to endure a lot of abusive torque. Mild-steel rod ends will work in lower horsepower applications while chromemoly rod ends should be used for high horsepower applications. It's also important to note that the lower bar on each side of a four link puts a lot of stress on the front mounting point when you launch your F-100. The rear end (pinion) torques upward and pushes the lower bars forward on the mount. The mount should be reinforced if you're running big horsepower.
Some rear suspension systems for the 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 F-100's mount to each frame rail and don't rely on a crossmember for connection. They basically are installed where the original leaf springs are. They typically bolt to the frame and are fairly simple to install. You will most likely have to weld the connection between the rear end to the brackets that attach to the 4 bars. These are fine systems, but limit tire width, similar to a stock leaf spring set-up.
If you are pro streeting your truck with fat tires, you might as well buy a "fit anything" four-link suspension system as the street rodders do. There's not much reason to buy a system built specifically for your 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 F-100. You still have to take into consideration how tough the system has to be to handle your right foot launches.
There are many spring options available for 4 link suspensions. Integrated coil-overs with shocks are the most common. Spring rates are important and companies who sell springs can help you with the correct rate and length of spring. Coil overs usually bolt to a crossmember on top and to brackets that are welded to the rear end. Some mounts come with several holes to adjust ride height by using different sets of holes. Now, companies like Air-Ride Technologies have brought air bag suspensions to the forefront of street rodding. Air bags can usually be substituted in place of coil overs. When set up correctly, air bag suspensions are great performers - never thought of your F100 as a track truck? Air bag suspensions also allow you to lower your truck at a show and raise it up to drive it home.
Corvette Independent Rear Suspension For 53, 54, 55, 56 F100 (F-100)
There is nothing better than an independent rear suspension in your 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 Ford F-100 F100. It's by far the best ride and looks the coolest! It's also the most technical, difficult to install and takes more to set-up. In the past, people have adapted Jaguar and Corvette independent rear suspensions on their own. Now bolt-in kits are available to set-up a corvette independent rear suspension on your 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 F100. Yes the crossmember and all mounts bolt right in - easier than you might think. Then just take a Corvette Independent Rear Suspension out of a Vette and install it in you truck.
See how to install a Corvette independent rear suspension in a story on the Classic Trucks magazine website.
Flat Out Engineering has Corvette Independent Suspension Kits. Contact them at 714-639-2623
A few companies offer after-market independent rear suspensions for 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 F-100's. One version has a 9 inch Ford center section. Internal 9 inch gears and parts match up. Disc brakes are mounted next to the housing rather than on the hub. If you're building a show truck, this system is impressive. It can be purchased with polished billet options, chrome half shafts (you name it) and it is stunning under an F-100.