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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

Model A I Beam Front Axle Install

3/6/2018

There is no better day than today to put together one of the most important parts of a hot rod. The front axle! The front axle is usually the first part of the suspension you see. It makes a bold statement about what the car or truck is about and is one of my favorite parts of any Hot Rod. Why do I love the front axle? You guessed it. It’s the history of them!

The beginning of something is sometimes the hardest part of its existence. If it weren’t for the struggle and strife then certain things would not have changed. For better or for worse in the midst of a struggle something is born from it. The front axle like many other parts of early cars especially in hot rodding, need to be changed or modified to perform better. One of the early modifications in hot rodding suspension was to drop the axle. If you lower the axle and you lower the center of gravity you will in turn help the car perform better. However, before the “on the shelf” drop axle was available there were guys using torches, heat and handmade press attachments to drop axles.

I imagine this as an exciting time in hot rodding. I am told the time was around the late 40’s to early 50’s when people were waiting months to get their axle dropped. The process to lower an axle properly was time consuming and there were not a lot of places doing this service. If you sent your axle to a company that specialized in this art form, it could take up to three months to get your axle back! These companies were so overwhelmed with the amount of work they had and could barely keep up with demand.

In the late 40’s early 50’s a company that a lot of us know of, Bell Helmets, was one of the first companies that started making a tube axle with cast ends. This axle was different from the more common I beam axle. Looked a little more finished and was easier to paint and chrome. They would cast ends with as much as a 5” drop and weld them to a straight tube. Even though this helped some hot rodders and customizers out, it did not last long as they stopped making them by the end of the 50’s.

This left some people searching for good used axles in order to get them dropped. Something else was born from this need and that was the Super Bell Axle Company. I read that this company was started in 1975 and they reside in Missouri. I know that a lot of people run their axle and I am pretty excited to own one myself. This Company is known as quality and I have heard nothing but good things about them.

Since I was a kid I've always wanted a Super Bell drop axle. They look amazing and the I-Beam industrial look is what I am into. I was able to score a good 46" Super Bell Axle last week from Speedway, part #7022852, and I am going to show you the install process of our part# 91032110. These are the Deluxe Kingpins with spindles matched together. But first we are going to start from the beginning with the bare axle and go through the whole process of getting the front end set up.

I got all my parts gathered together to get the front axle in order. I always use the Bronze Replacement Shackle Bushings, part# 91033327. First, I pressed those in the spring perches and then in the leaf spring ends. I had previously split a set of Wishbones using part #91645140. I then installed the spring perches through my split wishbones and the axle just enough to get the nut started on the bottom. I slid the shackle into the spring perch and the spring, then tightened the lower perch nut to seat the top of the perch into the wishbone.

Now it is time to set my Model A frame on this front axle setup and figure out the rear wishbone mount. I am thinking of doing a small Z or sweep to the frame to get it lower. I am going to focus on completing the axle assembly from hub to hub first. This will give me time to make up my mind on how low I want this Model A to sit. I plan on running at the very least a hood top, if not a complete hood on this project. I have some considerable planning to do. Next article we will install the spindles and one of my favorite HOP UPS of all time. The 1953-56 Ford F1 front brake upgrade! Stay Tuned.

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