Restoring a truck that has been in existence since the late ’40s or early ’50s is no easy task. Aside from all the normal wear and tear of having been used that long, there’s also the abuse and neglect it’s been through, which can sometimes only be fully apparent after it’s been disassembled. While you may have your work cut out for you with fixing up the body, interior, or engine, one the most daunting tasks for even the most skilled mechanic to deal with is assessing and making any repairs to the truck’s foundation.
Rotted-out bushings, bad shocks, bent metal caused by wrecks and hidden from plain view, and of course rust may just be some of the problems you encounter with a stock frame. Then you may possibly have to reinforce or retrofit portions so you can add more contemporary parts. That may put additional stress on factory metal that is old, brittle, and not originally designed for such upgrades. In other words, attempting to make those changes to a frame that’s 60 to 70 years old may just not be realistic. To be done correctly, it will take countless amounts of labor, time, and money and after figuring the total cost involved, it’ll leave you wondering if the juice is worth the squeeze.
Well that’s a question you have to ask yourself and in all honesty — and in an almost comical way — restoring an older frame is much like an older woman getting plastic surgery. It’ll work, but it just won’t be the same … and you might be worse off than when you started.
But all joking aside, the cost of repairing rust, boxing a frame, replacing worn bushings, and going the full nine yards will add up quickly, which is why the better choice would be going with a fresh frame from the folks over at TCI. These frames are custom crafted in the good ol’ USA and feature main rails with an extended height from 6 to 8 inches for increased rigidity and clearance between upper and lower X-members. They also retain their original profile and their re-engineered upper coil-spring towers accommodate a traditional shim-style alignment adjustment instead of T-bolts.
In addition, Total Cost Involved uses a vertical plate to mount the upper control arm, thus increasing camber gain and anti-dive for better performance. Further enhancements also include a Parabolic leaf spring kit, which has been moved closer to the framerail and makes room for wider wheel and tire packages. Of course, all TCI frames can also be customized to suit your exact needs, so if you’re willing to spend a little more money you can have a bespoke frame designed just for your own unique application.
With all these technological advancements, these frames provide a solid foundation for a good build, but along with that, they were designed to improve ride quality and increase performance. The TCI frames are also more suitable for drivetrain changes and other aftermarket components. Let’s face it, many of us want that vintage feel with more contemporary drivability than what stock frames will allow and they may have to be reinforced to deal with additional stress. Those who’ve tried putting an LS motor in a stock frame where a six-cylinder used to reside will know what we mean.
So how easy is it to slap all the necessary components onto a lowrider-style TCI truck frame? Well this DIY was put together to show you just that. Starting off with a bare TCI frame, it took us four hours to bolt up the tubular control arms, air suspension, Wilwood brakes, and a Currie rearend. Now keep in mind that the frame has no finish, but it’s proof once again about how easy it is to work with because by the time this article goes to print we would have already broken it all back down to get the frame and components chromed, polished, or powdercoated for the right finish.
Be sure to follow this special ground-up build. This is phase one of our Project Fifty Three resto-mod, which will soon have a new LS-X crate engine dropped in.
Features & Benefits:
- Made in the USA.
- Limited lifetime warranty on all TCI Engineering manufactured parts
- Frames are built specifically for ’47-’54 Chevy & GMC Pickups/Suburbans
- All Heli-arc welded for the highest quality and strength
- Frame height is 8 inches, rather than 6 inches for additional strength, yet retains the factory profile for ease of mounting the cab and bed
- Heavy-duty 17-piece 2x.75x.120-inch center section allows plenty of room for even the most extreme exhaust sizes
- The front suspension has been engineered to lower the center of gravity, decrease body roll, and increase handling performance, while allowing plenty of ground clearance
- The front suspension crossmember is extra thick and uses the one-piece pin design for additional strength
- Larger front brake calipers and vented rotors dramatically reduce stopping distance
- Drastically increases the comfort and drivability of the vehicle
- New coil-spring tower design makes alignment adjustments a snap</li
- Greater spectrum of alignment adjustments available
- Large anti-sway bar for greater roll control
- Heavy-duty upper and lower screw-in ball joints for additional strength and durability
- Camber gain has been increased to keep the tires flat on the ground for additional grip
- Built-in anti-dive control for keeping tires flat on the asphalt during aggressive braking
- Rear Parabolic leaf spring suspension creates additional room in the fender for wider tires
- Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings help insulate road noise
- New Currie Sportsman 9-Plus made of 65,000-psi nodular iron third member case is lightweight and strong
- New case features 3.062 carrier bearings for additional strength
- 3-inch O.D. x .188-inch wall 10026 D.O.M. axle tubes to keep them from twisting under high-horsepower applications
- Late/large billet steel 9-Plus bearing ends for strength
- 31-spline 1541 forged-induction heat-treated alloy axles will withstand 600 hp
- 2.80 center register with the common 2.5-inch brake offset
- All axles use U.S.-made tapered roller bearings for strength and durability
- Axles are available with either 1/2- or 7?16-inch wheel studs on 4.5-inch (Ford) or 4.75-inch (Chevy) bolt patterns
- New round back Currie hot rod housing
- 1330 yoke is strong, lightweight, and common so driveshaft options will be plentiful
- Your choice of gears (3.00 to 4.56)
- 60-inch axle flange to axle flange width is standard but custom widths are available
- Complete coil spring front suspension
- Complete leaf spring rear suspension
- Complete 9-inch hot rod Currie housing with your choice of gear set (3.00 to 4.56)
- 31-spline axles and 11-inch drum brakes
- Under-floor pedal assembly with master cylinder and booster (pedal bracket welded to chassis)
- Fully plumbed custom steel brake lines complete with Wilwood residual check valves and proportioning valve
- Stainless braided brake hoses
- Small-block engine brackets mounted
- Automatic transmission crossmember mounted
- Core support crossmember
- Running board brackets
Total Cost Involved ‘s engineer begins the ’47-’54 Lowrider truck frame assembly by mounting the foot brake pedal bracket onto the modern brake booster system.
Once Jeff installed the upper and lower tubular-style A-arms, he began mounting the Firestone double bellow airbags for the smooth and lowered air suspension system that also comes “involved” with this special truck frame package!
TCI’s patented line of high-performance rack-and-pinion components, like the one being installed here, add modern suspension capabilities and handling improvements for your old truck.
TCI pulls out all the stops right here, as a Wilwood disc brake system with larger front calipers and vented rotors come included and installed.
A complete Currie 9 “Hot Rod” rearend takes its place on the modern four-link rear suspension as part of the frame package to support any high-performance engine you want to drop in.
A new rear Corvette-style drum and disc brake assembly is then installed onto the rearend to complete the Wilwood performance stopping power.
Built in the USA, the TCI ’47-’54 Lowrider truck frame is Heli-arc welded and specially assembled with a limited lifetime warranty, and is ready to roll out and find its cab, bed, hood, and fenders.