Wayne Cook
August 1, 2001

Step By Step

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At the top of our parts parade are new control arms. These units are brand new—not rebuilt—and feature new ball joints and bushings. On the upper arms, the cross-shaft assemblies are brand new, as well as the ball joints and bushings.
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New coil springs will restore the correct ride height, and these new springs will rest on new spring perches. The perches are often among the most beat-up components on a vintage Ford suspension job.
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New rear leaf springs were desperately needed on the Ranchero, as the back end was sagging big time. Any load in the bed would have had us down on the bumpers.
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Dearborn Classics now offers this exclusive under-engine brace for Falcons and Rancheros. The Falcon platform did not come equipped with such a brace, which is found on Mustangs and Fairlanes. Seen at the bottom of our photo, this brace will really stiffen things up when combined with the “Monte Carlo” bar shown at the top. When the shock towers are boxed in with these two components, the added rigidity will mean more precise steering and handling.
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To flatten things out in the turns, Dearborn Classics included a 1-inch-diameter antisway bar for the front end of our Ranchero. As you can see, new links and bushings are part of the deal.
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These shock absorbers are a new design from the experts at KYB. As the latest introduction from KYB, the GR-2 gas shocks offer the best possible combination of ride and performance for vintage cars.
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We begin our job with the front strut rods, which lead from the front of the vehicle to the lower control arms. Loosen the front nut first while the rod is anchored at the arm.
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With the removal of the two fasteners at the lower control arm, the strut rod can now be removed from the vehicle. These strut rods also incorporate the steering stops, so don’t get the two parts reversed.
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The super-skinny stock antisway bar came away from the Ranchero after the links and mounting brackets were removed.
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Getting the ball-joint stud to come out of the spindle can be a difficult task. We installed this two-jawed puller onto the spindle and now we pre-load the tool with a fair amount of force. This is a nice tool, worth about $100. It has side-load bolts, which can be tightened to allow a firm grip of the spindle eye, and it fits the task perfectly. We’re not super-tight on the tool, but we’re pressing down on the ball-joint stud firmly.
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With the tool in place as described, we now apply heat to the spindle eye where it surrounds the stud. It doesn’t take too much heat to make the spindle come loose with a satisfying pop.
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After we removed the pivot bolt at the small end of the lower control arm, we were able to remove the arm from the car. The lower-arm inner bushings were so shot that it would have been impossible to align the car.
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The new lower arms are now prepared for installation. We have already installed our grease fittings at the ball joint, and now the new grease boot goes into place over the stud.
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With the new lower arm prepared, it can now be installed. Attach the arm at the small end, then wrestle the spindle-and-drum assembly into position to accept the new ball-joint stud.
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Once the new arm is in position, install the new castle nut and tighten to seat. Install the cotter key to prevent the nut from ever coming loose. Install the key right away or you’re liable to forget.
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New bushings and brackets are provided for the heavy 1-inch-diameter bar. Because the new bushings are rubber, we didn’t grease them. On polyurethane bushings, you may wish to use grease to prevent squeaking.
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The new link kits are installed. These connect the sway bar to the lower control arm. You may wish to raise the lower arm a bit with a jack to make completing the link assembly easier.
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Before we leave the lower part of our suspension job, we want to install the under-engine brace provided by Dearborn Classics. Remove the six nuts from the bolts that attach the motor-mount castings to the bottom of the tower. There are three on each side, and leave the bolts in position.
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The brace is set into position. This is a high-quality part, and will fit over the six bolt ends precisely.
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The six nuts are reinstalled and tightened down. Here’s the lower brace in position. We’d consider this part to be a good addition to any Falcon or Ranchero project.
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To begin on the upper portion of our suspension rebuild, we disconnected the spindle from the upper control arm, using the same pressure and heat method. We also disconnected the lower end of the shock from the control arm at this time.
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Up top, the shock bushings are removed. The shock-tower upper bracket is then removed, and the three retaining studs used to retain the bracket are set aside for safekeeping. The shock is then removed.
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With the shock absorber gone, the spring compressor can now be lowered into position. Once in place, the compressor is tightened enough to draw the spring up off the seat on the upper arm. The spring is drawn up even further to the extent that the arm can come off without any interference from the spring.
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With the tension off the control arm, the nuts are removed from attachment studs that retain the arm.
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The upper arm comes clear of the vehicle. Notice how far we have the spring drawn up into the tower.
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The tension on the old spring is gradually released and the old coil is removed. The new spring is then held in the correct position while the spring compressor is reinstalled. We see the compressor being tightened to draw the new spring up far enough to allow installation of the new arm.
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The new upper control arms are now prepared. We’ve already installed right-angle grease fittings at the end of the shafts. The attachment of the spring perch to the arm is shown here. Our grease boot for the ball joint is in place. You may have noticed that some very resourceful soul in the distant past decided the best way to grease the shafts was to cut holes in the shock tower with a blowtorch. This handiwork will have to be repaired with welded patches. It will take considerable work to get the towers to look right.
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Once the new arm is attached to the tower, the upper eye of the spindle is attached and the new spring is lowered into position. The spring is carefully guided to seat so that the coil end rests up against the positioning tab on the perch. With the spring compressor tool gone, the new KYB GR-2 shock goes into place.
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Out back, the first step is to disconnect the rear shock bottoms from the spring plate.
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Next, the shackle at the rear of the leaf spring is taken apart. The spring can still hang in position until we’re ready to remove it.
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You may wish to soak every fastener with WD-40 or a similar material before starting on this part of the job. After we removed the four nuts from the U-bolts, the spring plate was removed.
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Here’s our new front end completed. It looks good and we really like the new Dearborn Classics under-engine brace.
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The large bolt at the front of the spring is a tough customer. Once the nut has been removed, you’ll need to knock the bolt out of position and through the spring with a hammer and drift. At this point, the axle is supported by a screw jack.
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With all attachment components gone, the rear spring is carefully lowered away from the Ranchero while the jack supports the axle.
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The new rear leaf springs come with the bushing at the large end already installed, but we must put the bushings for the small end in place before the spring goes up.
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The new spring is now put into place, reusing the old hardware at the front. The Ford bolt was cleaned up on a wire wheel and the threads were also cleared before going together. Next, the springs are reattached to the axle with the U-bolts and spring plates.
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We’re in the load bed of the Ranchero now and the bed floor panel has been removed to allow access to the upper end of the shocks.
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The new KYB GR-2 shocks are then installed and secured at both ends.
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s This is the finished job out back. It looks like pretty basic stuff, and it is; but we weren’t going anywhere with that old hardware in place. We now have a good, solid foundation to build on.

It’s always exciting to find a diamond in the rough. Vintage-car types like us can see beyond the torn interior, faded paint, and sagging springs. We’re able to visualize the finished product in our mind’s eye while all of our friends and loved ones think we’re crazy. We know that if the subject is basically rust-free and hasn’t been hit, the potential for greatness is there.

With a subject meeting these requirements, there should be nothing but green lights on your restoration/modification horizon. Whether it’s a Mustang, a Fairlane, or a Ranchero, we know the finished product will be well worth the effort.

However, any vehicle over 30 years old with original-equipment suspension needs a rebuild. It’s the first major project you should plan on your journey to automotive greatness. Sound underpinnings should be the basis for all of your subsequent upgrades. Stated another way—a great powertrain isn’t going to be any fun if your rig is all over the road. Because the Falcon platform is one of its priorities, Dearborn Classics of Bend, Oregon, was ready to assist with our ’64 Falcon Ranchero. In our case, we decided to do both the front and rear suspension at once; our deck would then be clear for any subsequent upgrades.

Suspension work is among the most difficult and frustrating chores out there, and this is why the labor cost on a rebuilt suspension can be high. It’s a lot of work that will get your hands very dirty. However, it’s something you can do yourself, and if you do, you’ll save a ton of money. You’ll need a good-quality spring compressor to handle the most dangerous aspect of the job, and also a means of separating the ball joints from the spindle. A pickle fork in an air chisel works great, but if you don’t have compressed air at home, a good two-jawed puller and some heat will work wonders.