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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Like many things in life, when it comes to automotive repair and restoration, there is always a right way and a wrong way to do things. This has become painfully evident to me, as the previous owners of all my project cars seemed to prefer to do things the wrong way. In any event, is it always so black and white?? What about those “creative solutions” that are functional, reliable and often times way more cost effective than the “right way” ???? I was recently faced with such a dilemma “right way”, “wrong way”, or “creative solution” in dealing with the rear suspension of my 62 Galaxie, and I chose the “creative solution”.



After 47 years of use the leaf springs on my Galaxie left a little something to be desired. The first problem was that they were way to soft and spongy. I discovered this the very first time I took the car out for a real test drive. Every time the car would hit a bump, there would be a loud clunk in the rear end.
Upon further inspection I discovered that when you pushed down on the rear of the car it would easily go down and then slowly come back up. The second problem was that the worn out springs left the car sitting with its front elevated slightly higher than the rear. The look was not horrible but I prefer the look of a slightly raked vehicle with about 1”- 2” more height in the rear.
The obvious solution to this issue would be to fix it the “right way” and either replace the leaf springs or have them re-arched. Under normal circumstances I would have no problem spending the money, especially when it is for the sake of suspension and handling, but my future plans for the car involve installing a Jaguar IRS unit that I already have but have not had time to put in and with that in mind eventually all the suspension parts currently in the car will be removed, so I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it.

Modifying the shackles
Since the “right way” was not an option I wanted to use, I began researching alternatives and found the “wrong way” One of the oldest tricks in the book for raising a rear end on most leaf spring cars to modify the shackles. With many older cars the shackles hang down from the frame and raising the rear is as simple as buying a shackle kit designed to replace the stock shackles with longer ones. If the increase is minimal, say Less than 1.5” than raising the rear end with longer shackles is usually not a problem, but since the increase on ride height is typically half the increase in shackle length, most often shackle increases of more than 1.5” are needed to achieve the desired ride height.
The reason it is a bad idea to install shackles that are more than 1.5” longer than the originals is that over lengthening them puts stress on the springs in ways they were not designed to handle and will often result in a bent or broken leaf. Also even though lengthening the shackles will raise the rear end, it does nothing to stiffen the suspension and consequently has no benefit of improved handling.
In the case of my 62 Galaxie, shackle lengthening was not even an option because the shackles do not hang down from the frame. Instead, the shackles attach to a heavy steel bracket that comes down from the frame and then the shackles go up to the springs.



This means that lengthening the shackles would actually result in lowering the car rather than raising it. Seeing the position of the shackles begged the question, why couldn’t I simply reverse the shackle so that it would hang down rather than up?? That would probably raise the rear of the car several inches but upon further investigation I learned it has the same consequences as over extending “hang down” type shackles. I conversed with several Galaxie owners that had either reversed their shackles on a 61-64 Galaxie or new some one that had, and in all cases the result was bending or breaking a leaf shortly after reversing them.

Air shocks
Another very common solution to a sagging rear end is air shocks. This, in my opinion, can be both a “right way” and a “wrong way” depending on your application and how they are used. The possible issue with air shocks is that by adding air to them and stiffening them some of the cars weight is transferred through the shock directly to the axle, which reduces the load on the springs.
Because of this some cars such as the Mustang should never have air shocks installed because the upper shock mount was not designed with that type of shock in mind and is simply not strong enough to handle the extra weight being transferred from the leaf spring to the shocks. In the case of my Galaxie the upper shock mount attaches to strong steel tube that connects the drivers side and passenger’s side frame rails together. This tube is sufficiently strong enough to handle the increasing load air shocks would put on to it.



The single biggest problem with air shocks is they are often times used on a suspension that is so worn out that its springs really should be researched or replaced. In order for the shocks to compensate for the inadequate springs, the shocks must be aired up to higher pressures than would normally be used with good springs. The higher the air pressures the stiffer and less responsive the shocks become and this results in a much harsher ride.

Finding a leaf
After looking at all the traditional options I came up with a “creative solution”, and as a simple fix decided to add an extra leaf. To add a leaf I acquired a set of used truck helper springs from my brother.



If I had not been able to get the truck helper springs, I could have just as easily disassembled a set of used leaf springs that had been removed from a car I had parted out in the past. Either option will work keeping in mind that cutting the supplement leaf will probably be required.

Before the install
Prior the instillation I had a couple of things I needed to do. First I started by checking the u-bolts and made sure there was an adequate amount of thread sticking out past the nut to allow me to add a leaf. In my situation there was enough threads, but had there not been I would have needed to purchase some new u-bolts.



The second thing I did was spray all the u-bolt ends and nuts with quality penetrating oil and gave the oil time to do its job. After many years of working with old rusted fasteners on the under side of a project car, I have made it a policy to always begin with a liberal dose of penetrating oil and then give it time to do is job. Unless you have a lift working under a car is awkward enough and fighting with stuck fasteners only makes things worse. By planning ahead and using penetrating oil you make disassembly much easier which results in saved time and energy.

Safety first
In order to install the helper spring the rear end of the car had to be jacked up. For the sake of ease I chose to deal with one side at a time. As with any modification or repair of a car that requires you to jack the car up, you need to work safely. And in doing so prior to jacking up the rear I put large blocks of wood in front of and behind the front tires to prevent the car from rolling.
I then placed the jack under the passenger’s side frame and jacked the car up to the point where the tire was sitting about 1” off of the ground. I then placed a jack stand under the frame and lowered the car on to the jack stand. It is never a good idea to work under a car that is being supported only by a jack. If the seals in the jack fail the car could come down on top of you so always use jack stands or other supports designed for this purpose.
With the car up in the air I started by disconnecting the shock from lower mount. I then used a breaker bar to loosen the u-bolt nuts and then a ratchet to remove the nuts.



With the nuts and shock disconnected from the plate I was able to work the plate free of the u-bolts and set the plate aside. With the spring exposed I did a test fit of the helper spring, making sure I had the helper spring correctly indexed, with the alignment stud on the leaf spring correctly inserted in the alignment hole of the helper spring.
In the rear there were no clearance issues, but in the front the steel clip designed to help keep the individual leaves together as a pack was in the way. These clips are important as they prevent lateral shifts of the springs as they flex so I did not want to remove it.



That meant the only solution was to cut about 6” off of the front end of the helper spring. I used a metal chop saw to cut the spring and after doing another test fit to confirm that it was the correct length I cut the other spring to match.



It is important to note that when cutting springs you need to keep heat to a minimum as heat will change the molecular structure of the steel and when the spring is in use, cause it to bend rather then flex and rebound. It is never a good idea to use a cutting torch or plasma cutter when cutting any kind of spring including both leaf springs and coils.

With the helper springs cut to the correct length I used c-clamps to hold and compress the helper spring flush up against the underside of the leaf springs so that I could reinstall the u-bolts and shock plates. After the plate was installed and the c-clamps removed I found that the arch of the helper spring was more aggressive than the arc of the leaf springs and this caused a gap to form between the helper spring and the leaf spring. This gap was a problem as it meant the helper spring would not be used to its full potential. Also the single contact point is more likely to make noise than a contact point that runs the full length of the spring.



The solution to my unequal arch was simply to use some scrap steel to make a couple of plates that could be attached with bots to squeeze the original springs and helper springs together. This unit also had the added benefit of reducing side-to-side motion of the helper spring just as the factory clips do.



With the passengers side helper spring installed I lowered the car down on to the ground and compared the two sides. The passengers side sits about 1” higher than the driver’s side and when I pushed on the back of the car to test the rebound of the springs, the passenger’s side was significantly more responsive.
To install the helper spring on the driver’s side I repeated the installation steps from the passenger’s side with one exception. On the driver’s side the front steel clip was not as far forward as the corresponding clip on the passenger’s side. If I cut the driver’s side helper spring again to compensate the suspension would have been unbalance and I would have needed to remove the helper spring from the passenger’s side and cut it to match.
Not only would that have made more work for me, but it also would have reduced the spring rate being added by the helper springs. A much better option was to use a punch and hammer and lightly tap the clip until it was moved forward to mark the passenger’s side. That is what I did and after that the install was completed with out any other issues.



I am very pleaded with the results, the rear suspension is much stiffer and much more responsive. Not only did it raise the rear end by about a 1" which I wanted to do, but it also totally changed the spring response. When I push on the rear end of the car I gut a much crisper and quicker rebound.
I would still like to raise the rear end another 1” just to get a slight rake. I think a set of air shocks will provide the extra support I am looking for and since I have improved the leaf spring system I will be able to use them with out have to air them up to extremes.



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i think i speak for all of us or maybe some when i say this. i wish ford would have 3 linked or 4 linked the rears of the galaxies. i think it works better and looks better myself.
 

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wow that shackle design sucks lol, Are all "big" ford like that? No wonder the ride is bouncy. Interesting write-up.

my old stang had air shocks and they were the first thing to go in the garbage. My local mechanic advised me this was a fix for sagging rears but it would allow the shocks to punch thru the floor when aired to much. i have no idea if that is really true but 6 years ago I didnt know any better.
 

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About 5 yrs ago, my gal`s rear end was sagging badly.
I went to local spring shop, 8 hrs later extra leafs was installed.
Bill was ca 600 us..
I asked what was height after those leafs, they said, "no idea what it was, but look quite same height than front" So ...
In real world, rear end was more than 1 inch higher than it should.

So, at last 2 weeks ago I installed 2" Mooneyes drop blocks,
so now rear end is about 1" too low.. So, what lookin better :O)
Now front is little bit too high , LOL
 

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Discussion Starter #6
wow that shackle design sucks lol, Are all "big" ford like that? No wonder the ride is bouncy. Interesting write-up.

my old stang had air shocks and they were the first thing to go in the garbage. My local mechanic advised me this was a fix for sagging rears but it would allow the shocks to punch thru the floor when aired to much. i have no idea if that is really true but 6 years ago I didnt know any better.
That shackle design is found on the big fords through 64 and then they went to coil springs in the rear. Interestingly enough, having both a Mustang and A galaxie, and the "backwards shackle actually works a little better. It creates a little smoother spring movement.
I made that mistake and put air shocks on my Mustang (took advice before I knew anything). You can really tweak the upper shock mounts with air shocks, now I campaign against them on a Mustang :)
Put some air in your tires. That should give you the rake you want:)
even with the tires fully aired up the rearend sat lower than the front :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
There is one more option that I did not mention in my post, and that is to use a coil over type shock.

There are lots of units made that have a built in spring that will add a little extra capacity to the suspension. The problem is there are not any listed for our cars. The only solution is to start looking at units until you find one that is eye on the top, stud on the bottom, and the correct length. The units pictured are to long and the eye is in the bottom rather than the top, but it does give you an idea of what you are looking for. The only down side to this compared to adding a leaf and then using air shocks, is with the extra leaf and air shocks you get stiffer suspension and adjustability.
 

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I used coilovers in my wife's '79 T-Bird and it made a huge difference over the air shocks installed by the P.O. I don't have the sagging prob w/ ,my '65 Galaxie. I actually like the way the factory coil sprung rear rides/handles for a big car.
 
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