Front Suspension Alternatives for 1948 - 1960 Ford Trucks, Part Five
GM full-size IFS Clip
Overview Installing the front frame section from a later model GM vehicle (typically a Camaro, Nova, Malibu or a GM clone of these models.) in place of the front frame section of the F-1/F-100 truck is the task here. 1975-76 Camaros, '75-'79 Novas are good donors. They are available in both front and rear steer with the rear steer setup being about four inches narrower than the front steer. The rear steer subframe was available up to about '73 and the front steer after that although this differs depending on which GM subframe you use. You have many options and will find a huge list of potential donors with some research. The front steer is better for trucks as the steering hookup is easier and the steering box won't interfere with a big block Ford engine if you choose that route.
Characteristics of the GM full-size IFS clip
Exceptional handling and respectable ride when installed correctly.
Performance and "Show" option upgrade parts are high quality and easy to find.
Typical GM donors can be high performance cars that are often heavier than an
Power steering and 11 inch disc brakes on most donor candidates.
Motor mounts are included if you run a GM drive train, good clearance for steering shaft and exhaust.
Relatively inexpensive when compared to some of the other IFS alternatives.
Narrow control arms are available (at over $700 set) which make the track width somewhat adjustable for the narrower F-1s.
Installer must be highly skilled for a safe installation. While the donor components are strong, many instances of frame cracking near the graft have been documented. You need to be an excellent welder as considerable bracing and gusseting is necessary.
You must fabricate a new radiator core support and bumper mounts or you must re-graft the front section of the truck frame to retain stock mounting. (See photo)
Correct alignment of the front sheet metal is not an easy task.
It varies from vehicle to vehicle, but you almost always have to set the engine back some. This results in less weight over the suspension, which usually requires softer coil, springs.
It takes a lot of patience and measuring to get it square and you can easily ruin a perfectly good truck frame if you fail.
You end up with a GM 5x4 �" bolt-pattern on the front unless you re-drill the hubs and rotors.
Installation overview- Unlike the other alternatives, the following installation overview is more detailed to enable you to better understand what is involved in a full clip IFS. Draw your own conclusions as to the time required to properly do this set up. The following has some applicability to the Big Ford IFS level of difficulty as well.
The total time required to complete the removal of old front end and install of the '79 Nova on a '54 F-100 was 76 hours.
Remove stock sheet metal
Measure and mock up to stock chassis, then remove stock suspension.
Prior to cutting, give much thought as to where to cut for a good graft, and proper alignment of components such as wheels and engine. You should research the correct methods for a safe graft prior to cutting. Measure accurately and often, have someone check your measurements. Then cut once.
The chassis of the '54 F-100 is narrower than the '79 Nova and a lot of consideration was given to mating the two with respect to the ride height and the stresses that would be encountered when used on the road.
Fabricate all gussets and complete all welding.
Dismantle the donor front suspension, install all new bushings, on control arms and sway bar, replace other steering and brake parts as required.
Reassemble entire front end using old springs. You may need to change coil springs after truck is assembled and ride height can be determined.
Fabricate new motor mounts if you are running a Ford engine. Relocate GM motor mounts forward if required.
Not included in this time quote was the installation of the radiator support. Fabrication of bumper supports, plumbing the brakes, steering shaft "U" joints, and transmission mount were also excluded. However the time needed to install three (3) different sets of springs to get the correct ride height is included. The substantial time used to procure all the parts needed was not included either.
Cost with all new parts, including: rotors, calipers, bearings, seals, brake hoses, lines, lug nuts, power steering hoses, ball joints, tie rods, drag link, shocks, springs, control arm bushings, sway bar bushings, motor mount pads, bump stops, spring pads, steel, welding supplies, paint and primer, was about $650. The '79 Nova sub was $50. Shop charges for bushing installation was $75, alignment $39. Total cost ran around $800.
Tools required- Acetylene torch and an ARC or quality MIG welder.
Skill level required - 4
Ride Height - A drop of 4" to 5" versus stock is normal.