1953 - 1956 Ford F100 Front Suspension
Choosing the right 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 front suspension for your Ford F100 (F-100) is really up to you and the kind of truck you want to build. Some front suspension considerations to ponder: Daily driver or show truck, high horsepower or cruiser, quality of ride. There are pretty much 4 general choices when choosing a 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 rear suspension. I'm not considering a frame graft from another car an option at this point because I think there are better, and less intrusive options for the 53-56 F100 (f-100) frame. The Volare is about as intrusive as I can stand.
Stock 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 Suspension and Old School Dropped Axles
Let's face it. If you're looking for original, you will be rebuilding the stock suspension on your Ford F-100 (F100) to make it run straight down the road safely. The stock set-up is fairly simple. You should make sure all of the suspension bushings are in good condition or replace them. Leaf spring eye bushing kits make it easy to replace worn or out of round bushings and pins. Kingpins and their bushings require a reamer to size the bushings to the kingpins. When you install these bushings in the axle, they conform to the shape of the hole in the axle which is by no means a perfect round hole. To keep a tight fit, the bushings are made to ream back into round and fitted to the diameter of the kingpin. Definitely take your time here because reaming too much means you start over with a new set of bushings. Make sure the rubber bump stops are in good shape and are actually there on the frame above the axle.
Ford F100 dropped axles and reverse eye leaf springs are available to drop your truck for a lower stance. There is nothing cooler than a dropped Ford F-100! It is possible to take your stock beam and have someone stretch it to achieve a dropped axle. It's usually expensive to have done, and good luck finding someone who can do it and maintain good geometry. Dropped I-beam axles are available. They will likely be made of seamless tubing, rather than a cast piece like your stock axle. They don't necessarily look all that great, but when your truck is scraping the ground, who can see it?
Better alternatives are out there for a smoother ride and adjustable ride height.
1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100) Mustang II Suspension
Several companies have Mustang II conversions specifically engineered for your 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100). They're fairly easy to install and are cost-effective. Mustang II IFS kits vary in price and parts configuration. The least expensive way to go is to buy a weld-in Mustang II crossmember kit. Then you can purchase the rest of the suspension, brake, and steering components from your favorite parts house or salvage yard. Another option is to buy a complete 53-56 Ford F100 (F-100) Mustang II front suspension kit. The advantages here are these. Stock Mustang II suspension is not generally good enough for the heavier F100's. Companies like Heidts have redesigned certain components to be stronger and will last well on an F100. They are reasonably priced, especially since they do most of the gathering of parts for you. You can add air bag suspension, chrome suspension arms or tubular arms, but it will increase the price.
Remember, your stock suspension was meant to have a flexible frame. If you are going the Mustang II route, you should box the front secton of the frame rails to make the chassis more rigid. You will be welding a substantial crossmember in place and that will help with frame rigidity. Locating this crossmember on the frame accurately is important. You can keep the same centerline as your stock suspension and your wheels will remain spaced toward the back of the fenders as stock is. Or, you can move the crossmember forward on the frame a bit and center your wheels in the fenders better.This system doesn't require cutting or knotching the frame. Line it up accurately and weld it in. Plenty of brake options are available for the Mustang II spindles which is just one great reason to go this way. 13 inch brakes are available from Baer, and possibly even 14 inch brakes can be found. People I've talked to say go 11 inch or bigger with your front brakes. That's a lot of truck to stop and the investment in braking can save reinvestment in paint....
1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100) Volare Suspension
While not considered a show suspension exactly, the Volare suspension is well suited to the 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100). It fits on the frame well, and maintains good geometry. Width is nearly perfect for the Ford F-100 (F100). The donor cars have similar weight as your Ford F-100 (F100), so the suspension components are substantially strong. Ride height has some adjustability and that is attractive to lower your 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100). Be aware that you can reduce the torsion bar pre-load adjustment, but the ride can be too soft at the expense of handling, and probably not what you want. Drop spindles for the Volare suspension are available to lower your truck properly, but are pricey. Finding a donor car is pretty easy. Tons of Chrysler cars used this suspension from the mid 70's to late 80's. You don't necessarily have to find a Volare automobile. This makes this suspension swap inexpensive. The key is finding a good donor that isn't worn out. Benefits include a fantastic IFS ride, power steering and nearly 11 inch diameter power disc brakes. Wheel bolt pattern is 5 on 4 - 1/2 inches which matches up with other Ford bolt patterns. Finding a 9 inch rear end with the same bolt pattern should be easy. Stock 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 Ford F-100 (F100) wheels may not work on this suspension as the hubs are bigger.
Taking the suspension out of a donor car is fairly easy. You simply unbolt the front k-member and suspension from the donor car. Installation involves knotching the existing Ford F-100 (F100) frame to allow clearance, but the frame remains stock otherwise. This install requires some fabrication skill, but is not terribly difficult. A Volare suspension swap is a graft onto the Ford F-100 (F100) frame and should be welded on, not bolted. No Limit Engineering used to have a video that showed this install. Check with them before you install this suspension. Remember, you should box the frame with the Volare suspension. One down side to this system is that the power steering box sometimes gets in the way of engines (headers/exhaust).
Custom Independent Front Suspension (IFS)
If you're building a show truck, this is the way to go. We carry the Heidts Superide II complete custom IFS for your 1953, 1954, 1955 or 1956 Ford F-100 (F100). The advantages to this system are mostly looks and glitz, but they perform extremely well. Mustang II suspensions can work almost as well, but simply don't look as nice. Polished stainless and chrome components are available.
Corvette Independent Front Suspension - IFS
Many will cringe at this idea, but the Corvette IFS fitted to a 53-56 Ford F100 is a great idea! Forget that it's a GM set-up. Big brakes, factory components that are sturdy enough for our trucks...What more could we want? If it were made by Ford, it would be perfect. Think about this : ). Corvettes supposedly weigh a bit more than our 53-56 Ford F100's. That means the suspension and brake components are over-engineered a bit for our trucks. The Corvette has a fantastic suspension set-up, especially in the rear. If you want the IRS in the back of your truck, you can have it. You can easily keep the wheel bolt pattern by installing the Corvette IFS.
We have 2 installation kits:
One is for 1984-1987 Front Corvette suspension components.
and One for 1988-1996 Back/Rear Corvette suspension components.
It's wise to find a donor Corvette and then buy the install kit to match. A good Corvette donor might be a little harder to find when you need it.
There are small differences between the 2 Vette kits. One of the most notable is the diameter of the front brake rotors. The Corvette Front brake rotors are a bit larger on 88-96 Corvettes. Some other minor differences also exist, but that is one of the major ones.