Driveshaft surprises are part of every hydraulics project. A classic Chevrolet car or truck has a driveshaft that’s as much as 40 years old, so everything from vibrations to ring and pinion gear problems can occur. However, thanks to the driveline specialists at Inland Empire Driveline (IED) in Ontario, California, you can eliminate driveshaft and rearend gear problems.
For more than two-decades, IED has produced a line of top-quality driveshafts for most vehicles including telescoping shafts for ’58 to ’64 Chevrolets. Their two-piece telescoping driveshaft includes a new transmission yoke, front shaft, telescoping rear shaft and their exclusive Big Foot bearing support, all balanced together for smooth running. The result is a driveshaft that works with the changing pinion gear angles that occur when you lift and lay your lowrider.
We recently visited Robert De Dios, Armando Elias and Jeff Gilroy at IED’s manufacturing plant to take a closer look at their products, and to get some expert information for keeping the shaft in your car working when it’s time to hit the boulevard. (Special thanks to IED owner Greg Frick for his help with this article.)
When you run your system from slammed to full rise, the distance from the transmission to the rearend changes. In cars and trucks with ladder frames and lots of room, allowing for this change is about all there is to do. A driveshaft can be made to fit by measuring from the end of the transmission shaft to the face of the pinion yoke twice. One measurement is taken at full slam and another at full rise. (See illustration 1 and 2) If necessary for travel, longer transmission yokes can be used with the Power Glide, TH 350, 700 R4, TH 400 and 4L80 transmissions. The result will be a shaft that will neither fall out nor mash into the transmission case. These one-piece shafts can usually not be longer than 54 inches.
The case of the ’58 to ’64 Chevrolet is not as simple. These cars have an “X” frame and the rearend is higher than the X. Everyone knows that the factory shafts are a source of endless repairs and embarrassment. There are two choices, put in a one-piece shaft or make the two-piece work. A one-piece shaft is not the answer. A single shaft from the transmission to the rearend will run into the frame, even on a stock cruiser. Cutting away the frame for clearance is a really bad idea. It will allow the whole body to sag and flex while just sitting there parked. The results are that the doors will be hard to open and the windshield may even break. On top of this, a one-piece shaft would be too long for its diameter and could fly out of the car at routine highway speeds (as shown in the illustrations). Making the two-piece shaft work is a much easier and safer decision.
The problems of the two-piece Chevy shafts are caused by the factory design. All of the rearend motion is transferred to the transmission slip yoke through a soft center bearing rubber. This rubber is held by a stamped sheet metal housing which has a habit of breaking. A stronger center support and different slipping arrangement are needed for the hydros, like IED’s Big Foot center support.
Stronger supports have been developed over several years. The Big Foot center support, for instance, has a very solid 7075 T6 aluminum housing to handle even big block power. It also has a polyurethane cushion to keep gear noise from getting into the car. In all cases whether simply lowered with springs or juiced, a new telescoping rear shaft will take care of the rearend motion much better than the original design.
Recently the manufacturer of the parts used to build these two-piece Chevy shafts stopped production of a critical part. So, IED stepped up and they’re now making these parts. Consequently, the owner of a ’58 to ’64 Chevy will continue to have safe and serviceable shaft design options for his lowrider. Check out the photos to learn more about IED’s production techniques and products. Also watch for their booth at the 2003 Lowrider Legends Tour stop in Fontana, California, where you can talk to the experts directly.