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Question from Brandt (1963):
Can anyone give me a quick lesson on front end suspension for a 1963 Le Baron...What would I do if I wanted to make the handling better? Replace upper control arm bushings? new torsion bar? if replacement of parts is necessary where should I look for the new parts?
If you are going to replace anything, replace everything at the same time. Ultimately, this is the cheapest way to go since you only pay disassembly labor and alignment costs once. Replacing bushings without replacing worn ball joints would not give much increase in handling or ride quality. This is because one worn component in the midst of other new replacements can still cause slack and sloppiness in the entire steering mechanism, and result in less than optimal ride quality.
It is safe to assume the 40 year old rubber in all these components is bad or soon will be. So, to restore the impressive ride and handling your car had when new, you would need to do the following:
Upper ball joints
lower ball joints
upper suspension arm bushings
lower suspension arm bushings
strut rod bushings
sway bar bushings
tie rod ends
idler arm (or idler arm bushing)
KYB shock absorbers, front & rear
(Also, depending on your mileage, your steering box may need adjustment or possibly a rebuild.)
When installed, proper height adjustment of torsion bars, a good alignment, and 235 x 15 radials at 30lbs of pressure will give impressive gains in the quality of ride & handling, plus elimination of harshness and vibration felt through the steering wheel.
I have a '64 Crown Coupe. My experience with this car agrees with what you said. Definitely new control arm bushings. Some new KYB shocks or other brand of HEAVY DUTY gas shock, but KYB's have been best from my experience. Is there ANY play at all with upper and lower ball joints ? How about the tie-rod ends ? Also you need someone or yourself to make sure the torsion bar height is set correctly to factory ride height specs. My car was not correct when I bought it, one side was lower than the other, but after restoration it was set up properly and now rides like a dream and handles much better than a 5600 lb car should handle. I also have radial tires on my car. Another thing that helped make ALL the difference was replacing the original tired leaf springs in the rear with brand new ones from Detroit spring(?) I recall. This helps control the rear actions on turns and keeps the car smooth and tight when making abrubt maneuvers on city and highway driving. My other Imperial, a '66 LeBaron, had old tired rear springs and my front end was found to be good and needed no new parts but the car rode badly. All this car needed was new rear leaf springs installed and it made the car ride and handle just the way I hoped it would.
I got a front end rebuild kit from Performance Suspension Technology, P-S-T, for my '72 Newport. Find them at http://www.p-s-t.com/ and call if you don't see the specific model listed.
I'll 3rd or 4th the KYB shock recommendation. I've had them on several different types of cars, they are a little more firm than other gas charged shocks. And I'll up the ante for the tires, I have a set of Kumho 235/70/15R whitewalls on my Newport. They were inexpensive, comparitively, and have worn well.
In addition to all the things everybody else has said (KYBs [my '62 & '63 had them, and my '69 does now - they're fantastic] , bushings, fix anything worn) I'd suggest you check your leaf springs and replace them if they're sagging (or just tired). This'll likely allow you to get your torsion bars 'turned up' giving more clearance / travel and a bit more 'springiness' ( I think - not sure about the springiness, but it seemed that way with my earlier cars. haven't replaced the leaves on my '69 yet) .
I'm a fan of radials too. I'd want to go a bit wider than 235 on a 70 series if possible though - less speedo error that way. I had 255 / 70 -15s on my '62; they had great roadholding, but at idle and immobile the steering pump was a bit overworked pushing that big contact patch. The wheels would turn, but it wasn't that Imperial one finger dialing operation we all know & love.
KYB shocks are: KG4507 front, KG5511 rear.
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