As “traditional” muscle car projects get more and more scarce, many enthusiasts have finally begun to look at other, non-traditional platforms to build hot rods. Take for instance the C10 Chevy truck. There is no denying that this once utilitarian mode of conveyance is taking the automotive hobby by storm. Aftermarket parts suppliers are scrambling to develop new products to fit this blossoming interest, and one of those companies is QA1.
I’ve done a handful of upgrades to the ’79 Cheyenne that I use as my daily driver, but one area I have not tackled – yet, is a suspension upgrade. I’m quite analytical about any choices I make, always over-thinking whether or not I should do something. If I do have an interest in diving head first into anything, like you guys, I make sure to do my research beforehand. In that regard, I reached out to Dave Kass, marketing manager at QA1 to get some answers.
The first question I could think of is, why do this? How would my truck benefit by upgrading the suspension? Let’s face it, C10 trucks have a fairly modern independent suspension system for trucks of their era. In fact, the basic A-arm design is still used in the upgraded suspension parts, so, what’s the benefit? The first thing I could think of was ride quality. As delivered from the factory, the C10 trucks sit fairly high and have what could be described as a somewhat spongy suspension. With that said, I realized coupling a set of springs that offer a lower ride height and good ride quality along with performance shock absorbers is an easy upgrade that can provide better-than-stock results. But, would installing a complete coilover suspension – a more involved install – offer even more benefits?
“Regardless of how your truck is driven, the QA1 suspension system for C10 trucks will transform the way you enjoy your vehicle,” said Dave. “It’s not just about getting the right stance. Many truck enthusiasts put that first, sacrificing any considerations around ride quality and overall drivability. Drivability and overall performance were key elements in our early development of this system. Between the feedback from other users and after logging thousands of miles on my own C10 this summer, I can confidently say we nailed it.”
With QA1’s bolt-on front- and rear-suspension systems, not only can you lower your 1967 through 1972 C10, but by upgrading both, you’ll also have ride-height adjustability on all four corners. This adjustability can give you that perfect, level stance, or a muscle-esque rake. The choice is yours. Adjustability options also let you tailor your C10 suspension to create the performance handling desired, so your truck can handle those corners and curves like a sports car – albeit, a heavy one. Currently, QA1 only has the front suspension for the ’73 through ’87 C10 trucks, but we asked Dave about the possibility of a rear unit for them. “Yes, it should be released by SEMA ,” he stated.
It’s a known fact that better handling can be, in part, accomplished with simple changes to the frontend alignment of a vehicle. Unfortunately, factory-design parameters don’t always allow for the desired adjustment range. This, however, is one aspect of our hot rods that seem to get little attention. The folks at QA1 realize there are certain aspects – that when modified – can enhance the driving experience and have designed those ideas into its suspension geometry. In general, factory-alignment specs are a compromise between delivering “acceptable” tire wear and “good” handling characteristics.
This compromise limits some basic geometric principles like camber and caster angles. While a change in one of these angles can improve how your truck feels while driving, too much of a deviation from stock can cause excessive tire wear and poor handling. If your hot rod is a boulevard cruiser, and hard-charging into corners is not a major concern, then the factory settings are close, but still not optimum.
Our classic cars are now, usually outfitted with the latest in radial-tire technology, and other-than-factory suspension specifications can be a huge benefit. But, are those benefits readily noticeable and beneficial to a truck used simply for cruising around town? “Yes,” says Dave enthusiastically. “After the install of our C10 suspension, the way these trucks drive versus how they did when stock, is night and day. One of the biggest factors is the geometry we’ve built into the front suspension. These trucks were designed in the ’60s and ’70s. Not only are tires different today, but these trucks were originally utility-focused vehicles. General Motors probably couldn’t fathom what we’re doing with them today. Not only is the handling improved, but the predictability in how the suspension responds to bumps and corners gives the driver a lot more confidence in the way they drive. Pair the updated suspension with a modern drivetrain, and it no longer feels like you’re in a truck.”
Since modern suspension geometry can facilitate a better handling vehicle – even a truck – QA1 has given the user an additional 7 degrees of possible caster with a complete front-end kit that integrates coilovers with high-travel springs, and tubular control arms. The new rear suspension delivers up to 6 inches of lowering capability by, again, integrating an adjustable coilover system.
The big concern that many will surely have is the installation process. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t have access to much more than a few simple hand tools, a floor jack, and a couple of jack stands. According to QA1, that’s not an issue. “This can easily be done in your home garage,” Dave says. “I even installed the full QA1 system on the floor of my home garage. In our installation videos, we installed the complete system on the shop floor. We had access to lifts and specialized tools, but we opted to do it on the floor to demonstrate how easy it is.”
The installation of the front and rear QA1 system is very straightforward. Depending on where your truck lived most of its life, you might expect to encounter some rusty bolts and hardware, but the QA1 system includes all new fasteners. That means, instead of fighting stubborn bolts, you can cut off the ones that give you trouble. There is no reason to fight a bolt and busting your knuckles if you don’t plan to re-use it. Cut it off and move on with the project.
In a nutshell, installing the front suspension requires removing the shocks, springs, and upper/lower control arms. Do that, and you’re halfway done. The QA1 coilover system uses an upper bracket that reconfigures the pocket where the original coil spring was mounted so it will accept the coilover mount. This bracket replaces a factory plate that has a few rivets and bolts. A cut-off wheel and/or torch will make quick work of that. The complete frontend install, start-to-finish, can easily be done in an afternoon with basic everyday tools.
One thing we need to tell you is that pre-1973 C10s will need either stock spindles and brakes, or an aftermarket spindle/brake system that utilizes stock ’73 through ’87 C10 ball joints. “As with most tubular control arms on the market, you need to run ’73 through ‘87 spindles. This is mostly due to the ball joints,” stated Dave. There were ball joint changes between ’63 through ‘70, ‘71 and ’72, and ‘73 to ’87 trucks. “The early trucks used drum brake setups, and keeping the drums is very unlikely if you’re updating control arms. That buying trend helps support the ’73 to ‘87 spindle requirement” Dave told us.
The rear upgrade is relatively easy to install as well. “We spent a lot of time thinking about ways we can make installation easier for the user,” says Dave. “Removing the truck bed was one of the biggest topics we discussed – this is required with almost every other system on the market.” The QA1 system does not require you to remove the bed. One person can easily install the rear suspension. This again can be done with basic hand tools. A hand full of rivets need to be removed, and the aid of a grinder, air chisel, or torch makes this job easy.
Infusing late-model technology into our older Chevrolets – be it a car or truck – is what this hobby is all about. One upgrade that definitely offers a multitude of benefits is a coilover suspension.
The install of these C10 suspension kits will require a solid weekend’s work – if you’re doing both the front and rear. But, if the thought of a two-ton parts hauler handling corners like a late-model car interests you, QA1’s C10 suspension kits can make your workhorse a true heavyweight racer.