Jim Smart
November 19, 2010

One thing we've never really done before in Modified Mustangs & Fords is an air bag suspension system, which enables you to do things with an old Ford you've never done before. Air bag suspensions improve ride and handling, and allow you to position and show the car anyway you'd like-nose high, rear high, flat on the ground for showing off or up in the air to let the sun shine through. Did you know air bag systems are available for just about every Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln imaginable from compact all the way up to fullsize, including trucks?

Why install an air bag suspension system from RideTech? Because it gives you versatility like you've never had before in a suspension system. You can dial in ride quality, height, and firmness from the driver seat. Want it flat on the ground at a cruise-in? All you have to do is deflate the air bags from the driver seat.

To demonstrate how to install an air bag suspension and show you just what it can do, we got together with Mike O'Brien whose '62 Galaxie convertible sports slippery top-down comfort and 390 FE big-block-power. Mike runs the full service restoration shop at Mustangs Etc. in Van Nuys, California, and has been building street rods and customs for most of his life. His craftsmanship is unbeatable and worth checking out if you happen to be in the area. We're going to show you how to install a complete RideTech Level 1 air bag system on a '60-'64 fullsize Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln and get it in proper tune. Although this is a '60-'64 Ford, the basic principles are the same for other fullsize '57-'59 and '65-up Fords.

In front, we have two air springs dampened by hydraulic gas shocks. In back, a complete subframe setup with air shocks and a four-link system, which replaces leaf springs entirely. This month, we're going to focus on the front end and air compression system. Next month, we will wrap up with the rear suspension.

RideTech offers three levels of air bag systems for vintage Galaxies. For about $6,000, you get the complete Level 3 Street Challenge system that gives you the best of everything from RideTech-StrongArms, MuscleBars, and the AirPod control system.

Level 2 retails around $4,800, and gives you more air ride tuning options with the addition of the ShockWave front suspension kit and enhanced RidePro e3 control system. ShockWave is a simple bolt-on system that uses an air spring and hydraulic shock combo that gives your underpinnings a cleaner look. A 4-Link AirBar positions the rear axle and eliminates the instability of a leaf-spring rear suspension. A five-gallon dual compressor air system provides four-way digital control.

Level 1 is the system O'Brien ordered from RideTech for his '62 Galaxie. It is a system bent on doing a good job for less money. The Level 1 system, which tips the scales at approximately $3,900, provides you with the CoolRide system in front, along with a sweet four-link air spring and shock system in back. A three-gallon compressor system tucked neatly in the trunk provides pressure via a four-way independent control with analog instruments.

Installing the ARF11500 front suspension system is straightforward. Air springs take the place of your Ford's coil springs. Shocks are moved from where the coil springs originally were to a new location in front of the control arms, which involves welding new shock mounts to the framerails and lower control arms. We're going to show you how to install it here.

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