The rear end housing sits atop jack stands after leaf spring removal.
Getting Things Together
After installing a new set of leaf springs I have to wonder what has taken me this long to replace the originals. After all, I have owned this car since I was 16. Over the past 5 years especially the OEM leaf springs have begun to show (and feel) their age. The rear end tends to sag whenever I put something in the trunk or when someone rides in the back seat. The shocks are otherwise new, but we all know it is really the leaf springs that handle most of the ride quality. I ordered a set of new springs from McVeigh's Truck Springs built to original 55/56 Ford sedan specifications (or so they were advertised that way), ordered new shackles and bushings from Shoebox Central, purchased rubber pads from Concours Ford in Nevada, and put the car up on jack stands while I picked out the tools I would need. For you that are more wired for video instead of the pictures and text, just scroll to the end of the post to see the video link.
The 55 Ford sits on jack stands, ready for a new set of leaf springs.
While I do go through a list of tools in the video posted below, if you are keeping score you may be interested to know what I used. The head and nut size for the bolts that secure the front eye of each spring to the frame is 5/8". Both the shock nuts and the shackle nuts are 9/16", and the nuts for the U bolts that hold the spring plates to the springs are 3/4". Of course, you will need wrenches and sockets in these sizes. I also used a small pry bar to help remove the shackles, and I also took a wire wheel and/or PB Blaster to various threads to clean them up. A ball peen hammer helped to loosen up the plates, and a small length of rope was also utilized to keep the pinion from rotating the assembly forward. For reassembly you will need a torque wrench and a little grease. I also had anti-seize on hand for some of the bolts.
The new leaf springs from McVeigh's seemed to fit original specifications...mostly.
The new springs were well made and came with bushings; the front eye had a very nice bushing already installed, and there were bushings included for the shackles. Speaking of shackles, I did order a new set. And, wouldn't you know it? They came with bushings too.
New shackles from Shoebox Ford; and the grease was used just a little in the rear eyes.
The one item I ordered late in the game were the rubber pads that go between the leaf springs and the thin plates. You can see in the photo immediately below that they needed to be replaced.
Leaf Spring Removal
Crawling underneath of the car to remove the leaf springs reminds me why I want to install a lift in the next shop I build. The action here though is pretty straightforward; with the frame on jack stands, jack up the rear end assembly to get the weight off the leaf springs. Slide two more jack stands under the housing and lower the housings back onto the stands. This essentially takes the load off the leaf springs, making the removal of the springs from the shackles and frame mounts quite effortless.
Jack stands serve to take the weight of the rear axle housing off the leaf springs.
Tying off the front of the housing may not have been necessary, but it was good insurance.
I did grab some rope to keep the rear axle housing from rotating forward after the leaf springs plates were removed. If the whole assembly moved while sitting free on the jack stands it would not have been the end of the world. However, I just figured it would make a one man operation move along much easier.
I cleaned up the threads on various bolts next, removing the bottom nuts for the shocks and loosening the 3/4" nuts that secured the shock plates. The nuts for the U bolts were loosened in a cross hatch pattern just to keep things moving along without damaging the holes in the plates. As you can see from the photos, they were in very good condition and needed just a simple cleanup.
Unlike some Fords of the 60's, there is plenty of room to remove the front eyebolt from the frame. Even though the shackles showed their age too, the original bushings seemed to be in good shape. I did compare the size and dimensions of the new shackles and bushings with the pair I removed. These were spot on.
I decided to order new rubber pads and reuse the sandwich plates after cleaning them.
The original U bolts were in great shape, and I left them on the housing.
With all of the parts removed, I measured everything to size up the new items and hardware to install. Everything matched except for one small issue. The front bushing for both leaf springs at the eye bolt was roughly 3/16" too wide and would not fit the frame mounts.
The new leaf springs required some judicious grinding in order to fit.
The problem was resolved rather quickly, and before too long I broke out a wire wheel to begin cleaning up the plates. Later that day, I gave each one a fresh coat of Rustoleum paint.
Once the fitment of the front bushings was verified I put just a tiny bit of bearing grease on the shoulder bolts and lined up the front end of each spring. The bolts slid in nicely, and I was sure to keep the nuts just a tick loose. The plan was to wait to torque down all of the hardware until AFTER the full weight of the car was on the new leaf springs.
The front bushings of the new leaf springs fit snugly in the mounts.
All of the plates were painted with Rustoleum and allowed to dry before installation.
The rear of each spring was then swung up to the shackle mount and both shackles installed. Both the upper and lower spring pads were installed with their respective plates, and the U bolts were lined up to the receive the shock mounting plate. Things were going rather well for this one man operation.
The new pads fit tight enough to keep the plates secured while I grabbed the shock mount.
The last piece of the puzzle was to mount the shock plates to the U bolts and secure the four nuts. Because of the shackles and new springs, I had to use a shop jack to raise the height of the springs just a bit there at the stud that joins all the leaves. From there it was just a sequence of tightening the nuts in a cross hatch pattern, waiting for a final torque until the car was down on the garage floor.
The shop jack enabled the leaf spring to rise against shackle tension to mate up to the perch.
The overall height gained with new springs was a little less than an inch.
For the test ride, I did install a GoPro camera under the car just to see the action of the springs in various places along the road. I wish I would have thought of this idea before removing the original leaf springs. It was very evident that take-off and coming to a stop had improved as far as body movement was concerned. Cornering was very good too.
The video includes action clips of leaf spring movement while going over bumps and cornering.
Video of the Removal, Install, and Test Ride
Our family's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, a time when all of us reflect upon God's goodness to us throughout the past year. Moving out to California has made it difficult for the entire family to come together like we usually do, but our oldest daughter, Kayla, was able to join us for a few days. It did feel a little strange with only the three of us, but the girls really laid out the feast with so many homemade goodies. Of course, we spent a lot of time talking on the phone and using Facetime with loved ones.
In spite of the problems we have encountered in making this transition in ministry and setting up shop in California, we believe that the Lord has blessed us. God has certainly put us in a position to spiritually influence many people. Since our arrival, well over 100 people have responded to the gospel during the church services; and my wife and I have personally seen several people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in the months we have been here. Subscribers to this website are added just about every day, and the visits are well over 1,000 each month. It is my privilege to be a help to all of you who are working on your old Ford, but I really hope and pray that each visitor will take time to watch the introductory video and read the page concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ.
May God bless you during this holiday season!
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup