Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Frame, Spring and Shocks -> Air Shocks
Question from Tony (1961):
Does anyone know where I can get a pair of air shocks for my '61 LeBaron? I am delighted with my recent LPG conversion, but two heavy tanks plus up to 130lbs of gas directly over the axle have lowered the rear end by about two inches. I know I could get the springs uprated, but I am worried that if I get the height wrong, I could damage the UJs. Air shocks, being adjustable, should give me a lot more scope.
Unless you need to be able to adjust the height of the rear of your Imperial on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, I personally wouldn't recommend air shocks to solve the sagging problem. Two reasons: 1) leaks in the system can develop and you to may have constantly add air and 2) a line failure can leave you wanting support and your headlights aimed up at the sky. I haven't priced air shocks recently, but a pair of helper springs will do the same without the risks of a "pressure" failure. You can get a pair of bolt-on helper springs for 1000# or 1500# of lift for under $50 shipping included from J.C.Whitney. I put a pair of 1000# springs on the rear of our '66 and not only did it raise the ride height (original reason) and carrying capacity, but it helped reduce body roll as well. The springs are adjustable so you can custom tailor your height and ride to your liking. A floor jack and couple or combo wrenches (and perhaps a torque wrench) are all that is needed for installation.
I have air shocks on my 61 LeBaron. They are the same size as my 69 Dodge Daytona. So, I ordered them for a 69 Charger RT.
Helper springs will, indeed, raise the rear height . They will also alter the characteristics of the spring action and change the ride quality. Some people do not mind, I do. That is not to say I have not used them, I have. My preference is to re-arc the springs, but not too much . We have gone 'round on this subject before, the FSM of almost every year states clearly that a bit of reverse arc is NORMAL and not cause for action. I can attest to that, especially on the 64 5 6 models as we had a 65 when new and it did the same thing.
Question from Mark (1965):
I recently discovered in the trunk of my 65 Crown an air valve similar to those found on tires that I presume are for the air shocks. I have never attempted to add air or press the valve stem to see if air would come out. Call me paranoid!! What is the proper procedure to test it other than what seems to be the obvious??
After having a broken shock mount after putting air shocks on a 64 Riviera, I was always concerned about putting air shocks on cars not specifically designed for them. Mopars in particular, because the rear shocks would be pushing outward at a 45 degree angle. So I looked for a different solution, and inspired by the air suspension offered by Chryslers in 1959, I installed an auxiliary air suspension by Air Lift. It is almost identical in concept to the configuration used in 1959 Imperials. I have a simple schrader valve for adjustment, but Air Lift sells a leveling valve and air compressor for those who want automatic leveling.
This will come in very handy next week when my 66 LeBaron heads to Chicago with 4 people aboard and their luggage!
I used to have air shocks on one of my muscle cars, when I was a kid, and they work just like a tire, you just blow them up to raise the rear end, but be prepared for a very stiff, non dampened ride. To check if the car has air shocks, or it is just an old valve, look under where the valve is. It should have a line going to each shock.
If the back end is sitting low, that's a sign that the leaf springs are tired & need to be researched or replaced. New shocks will do little for the height of the car, unless you put air shocks. I have them in my 69, but not sure that I really like them. They seem to just stiffen the back end & not allow the suspension to do its job.
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