When it comes to lowering a lowrider to the pavement, hydraulic suspensions have been installed on mostly all lowriders traditionally now for over 50 years. When that era or history of custom-applied “hydraulic lifts” started out, General Motors was also introducing air suspensions as standard equipment on their ’57 Cadillac Eldorado. The purpose of air suspension, then and now, was to raise and lower a vehicle to provide a smooth and constant quality ride.
Today, air ride suspensions have become more popular as they are customized for every application, be it street rods, trucks, SUVs, bombs, and classic lowriders as well. Air ride suspension systems basically have small electric air compressors (such as VIAIR) that pressurize an on-board air tank/reservoir that stores compressed air to fill up the air springs (bags) in order to lift or lower a vehicle to a specific height.
The installation and configuration of these systems varies for different makes and models, but the underlying principle remains the same. The vehicle’s original metal spring (coil or leaf) is removed, and an airbag, also referred to as an air spring, is inserted or fabricated to fit in place of the factory spring. An adjustable suspension can allow vehicles to sit extremely low, yet be able to elevate at a level high enough to maneuver over obstacles and inconsistencies on paved surfaces. When you release the air through the valves in an air suspension system, the bags decompress, allowing the vehicle’s suspension to be lowered to a certain point depending on where the installer decides the vehicle’s limits can or should go. This alteration allows the user to make adjustments (high or low) by simply pressing an electric button or switch.
In this suspension tech article we are installing a quality air ride suspension system on a 1968 Chevy Impala Super Sport only to demonstrate how these types of systems are basically installed. In this article we don’t actually make comparisons to traditional old-school hydraulic suspensions versus “new school” airbag technology, because If you took the same amount of money to purchase a hydraulic suspension or an air ride suspension there would be no difference in either’s ride comfort.
When hydraulics are applied with front and back shocks and the correctly rated coils they are comparable to the ride comfort of air suspensions. The only difference between both worlds is six batteries versus a couple of 5-gallon air tanks and oil leaks versus air leaks. In the end it really doesn’t matter at all, because they both leak, and yes, one of the systems does become a little messier when it does.
The most important point about altered suspensions is that you must have quality products and the right person to install the system. We all know that there are plenty of installers out there who give both suspension worlds a bad name. When it comes down to it it’s your choice as to which suspension you choose. All that matters is that your ride should achieve maximum ride comfort and also lay down on the ground. Now follow along as we bring out only the best equipment in a bolt-on air suspension install so that this Super Sport locks and lays on a cloud.
VIAIR 480 Dual Pack Chrome 200-PSI compressors
Your only vital air source.
AccuAir VU4 4 Corner Manifold Solenoid Valve
The cleanest most reliable valve on the market with D.O.T.-approved fittings. Eliminates loose wires. 200 psi for millions of cycles.
Sound damping/thermal solutions. Be cool and quiet.
QA1 Shock Absorbers
For every modified suspension needs. Take complete control of your suspension components.
Universal Air Suspension Bolt-on ’58-’68 Impala kits.
The only on-road air suspension system.
Miller Electric Mfg.
The Power of Blue. For all your welding needs.
1. To begin this air ride install, the front and rear rear shocks plus the coil springs are removed from the vehicle so it can be laid out and then measured for the alterations that are needed for brackets and airbag placement.
2. Universal airbags and the mounting brackets shown here were selected because these air springs only go up in height and don’t balloon out and rub you’re A-arms like other bags might. There is also no welding or modifications needed to be done to the frame, as this is a bolt-on kit
3. This is a view of the air spring and bracket mounted along with the installed air fittings.
4. Here we have the view of the rear Universal double convoluted air spring with bracket included, that when fully extended rises to 11 inches and also compresses to a couple of inches too. This makes for a whole lot of play!
5. Dave Engle (Engle Bros Metal Fab) applies his talents to make a special template and bottom A-arm bracket for the front air spring mount. This alteration was needed because the’68 Super Sport has an equipped “RideTech” suspension.
6. In this image we have the result of the bottom A-arm mount custom fitted to accept the level and flat mount to bolt up the bottom air spring.
7-8. Dave sets the front air spring in place and bracket mount to the Super Sport’s front A-arm housing.
9. View of the double convoluted air spring along with its mounting bracket before install.
10-11. Here’s the rear air spring set in place and then mounted to the rearend axle spring saddle.
12. A view of the rear air spring collapsed to allow measurements for the shock absorber mounting bracket specs.
13. Here’s the front modified bracket for front QA1 shock absorber mounts.
14. A shot of the bottom A-arm’s shock mount.
15-16. QA1 shock absorber installed. The very best shock that is a must-use, either for air or hydraulic suspension installs. This is a must for complete ride comfort, stabilizing, and handling support.
17. The complete air suspension setup is shown here. VIAIR 480 dual chrome compressors and the very cool-looking specialty air tank mounted in place on top of Dynamat Xtreme sound deadening sheets applied to the trunk floor. This aluminum-coated, heat-resistant adhesive sheet material keeps the heat and noise away.
18. AccuAir manifold valves for an easy assemble, but quality-built air valve.
19. This trunk is a full wrap!
20. This air suspension install is all laid out!
Special thanks to Engle Brothers Air Install & Metal Fab