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    Results 1 to 19 of 19
    1. #1
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16

      1953 Packard Suspension Upgrade

      I have a 1953 Packard Patrician. It is a 127" wheelbase 4 door car that weighs 4,600 pounds, it isn't 50-50 weight distribution and it will get heavier as time goes on after adding A/C, power seats, windows, locks, etc. The car will be a driver and never see a track, but I want it to handle like a modern car. Obviously the easiest thing to do would be get a custom frame or fab in a multilink rear suspension and a Mustang II front suspension, since there are no suspension upgrade parts for Packards. For the challenge and to work within the bounds of the existing suspension I was looking to do the following and would appreciate any comments or suggestions.

      The stock front suspension:
      Double A -arms with coil springs and oil filled shocks inside the coils.
      3/4" swaybar.
      Kingpins not balljoints.
      shock rate unknown but I think they are 90 LB. coils.
      Tires are 820x15 bias ply 29.5" diameter and 6.25" tread width
      manual steering box with hydraulic ram power steering (4.25 turns lock to lock and a huge steering wheel)


      My plan:
      1.25" swaybar with poly bushings
      Adjustable Coilovers instead of Coils/shocks
      245/55/17 tires (will be whitewalls and want to preserve 50's look)
      Work on eliminating bump steer
      Try for Alignment improvements: 0* Toe / 1.5* Negative Camber / 6*-7* Positive Caster
      No Lowering
      Kingpin disk brake spindles.
      1986-92 Camaro/Firebird Power Steering Box (2.5 turn lock to lock)

      The stock rear suspension:
      Solid axle
      Leaf Springs
      Panhard bar with a shock in it
      Oil filled shocks.
      No sway bar

      My Plan:
      1" swaybar with poly bushings
      245/55/17 tires (will be whitewalls and want to preserve 50's look)
      Remove shock from Panhard bar and switch to poly bushings
      Adjustable coilovers to act as helper springs to leaf springs if needed or just adjustable shocks.
      Poly bushings in leafs.
      Anti-wrap bars if needed.
      No Lowering
      Dana 44 axle with disc brakes.


      Any comments or suggestions appreciated.

      Thanks,
      John


    2. #2
      Join Date
      Apr 2011
      Location
      Rosser Manitoba Canada
      Posts
      191
      Country Flag: Canada
      This has a Crown Vic frame replacement written all over it. That's the easy button for what you want!
      The biggest thing in Motocross!
      My 97 Cougar Transcona, https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...-Dirty-Old-XR7

    3. #3
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      You are right it would be easy but I am looking to stay with the existing frame. I am interested in the challenge of seeing how much I can improve it.
      Thanks,
      John

    4. #4
      Join Date
      Apr 2011
      Location
      Rosser Manitoba Canada
      Posts
      191
      Country Flag: Canada
      Keep us informed!
      The biggest thing in Motocross!
      My 97 Cougar Transcona, https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...-Dirty-Old-XR7

    5. #5
      Join Date
      May 2010
      Location
      kitchener,Ontario,Canada
      Posts
      2,156
      Country Flag: Canada
      I wish you the best of luck, keep in mind that frame was designed around the cars performance and power at that time , it sounds like you're going to basically keep the stock rails and then everything else is custom ? Curious to one thing , why do you not want to lower the car
      Spinnin'my tires in life's fast lane

      Ryan Austin
      On twitter @raustinss
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    6. #6
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      The frame rails also have an x frame too. Good point. I will box the frame when the body comes off. Likely keep most of the stock suspension but add swaybars and coilovers. I could lower it a bit. I am going for the sleeper look. From 10 to 15 feet away I want it to look stock.
      Thanks,
      John

    7. #7
      Join Date
      Apr 2001
      Location
      The City of Fountains
      Posts
      15,576
      Country Flag: United States
      Quote Originally Posted by Packard John View Post
      You are right it would be easy but I am looking to stay with the existing frame. I am interested in the challenge of seeing how much I can improve it.
      I would measure the front frame horn dimensions and consider the Crown Vic front subframe. It is a much better design than the Mustang 2 and was made for a heavy car. This is popular with old Ford truck owners.

      Andrew
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    8. #8
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      I get it. I am trying to do the upgrade a bit at a time and keep the car drivable. But yes a crown vic front suspension would likely out handle improving mine. Hopefully mine will be enough to be enjoyable. Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate it.
      Thanks,
      John

    9. #9
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      Any thoughts about 1.25" front swaybar on this?
      Thanks,
      John

    10. #10
      Join Date
      Apr 2009
      Location
      Michigan
      Posts
      256
      Country Flag: United States
      Hey John,

      Sounds like a cool project. I have never crawled around under a 1953 Packard, but I found some chassis pics here to get an idea of what you're working with: https://bringatrailer.com/listing/19...rd-cavalier-2/

      Given the constraints of sticking with a stock type suspension (which I think is a much better idea than going to a Mustang II setup on this big and heavy of a car), here are my thoughts:
      - I think you're generally on the right track. I think the most important updates will be a good rebuild to tighten things up (new bushings, any other worn hard parts), modern radial tires, thicker sway bars, and modern adjustable shocks.
      - I have no clue what your spring rates are, but your front coils are surely heavier than 90 lb/in.
      - Regarding camber, -1.5 degrees is too much for a street cruiser in my opinion. I'd run closer to -0.5 degrees
      - I wouldn't recommend coilovers on this car. Seems like a lot of extra engineering and expense for no benefit - it's not like you're going to be corner balancing this car for optimum track performance.
      - I'd run new rubber bushings where ever you can. I'm not a fan of poly, especially in cruisers.
      - Running a "regular" rear panhard bar is a good idea. Make sure it's level at ride height and as long as practical. I've never seen one with a shock in it - not sure why they'd do that.
      - I'd try to stay away from anti-wrap bars unless they're really necessary. What kind of power are you thinking?

      Hope this helps.
      - Ryan

    11. #11
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      Ryan
      Thanks for the pointers. I appreciate it. The power level is likely to be 350 hp so I doubt I will need anti wrap bars. On the front the shock runs inside the coil between these combo spring cup shock mount pieces. The only reason I thought coilovers was to make it easier to change springs since it seems no one has done a car like this and trial and error seems likely. I plan to make upgrades as time allows and in between events I want to go to so I am trying to keep any one task shorter so the car isn't off the road a long time. At some point I will do paint and interior and that will take it off the road awhile.
      Thanks,
      John

    12. #12
      Join Date
      Apr 2009
      Location
      Michigan
      Posts
      256
      Country Flag: United States
      I like doing things in stages as I drive the car as well. I've learned a lot by evaluating changes one at a time.

      You may find you achieve your goals for the car with only basic changes (replace worn components, tires, shocks, and swaybars). I don't see any glaring issues with the stock suspension configuration for your intended use. A lot times guys will get fancy adapting aftermarket suspension setups without a full understanding of what they're doing and end up making things worse.
      - Ryan

    13. #13
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      Great points. The tires are definitely the weakest link at this point. And once that is under control, a refresh with shocks and swaybars would likely go a long way.
      Thanks,
      John

    14. #14
      Join Date
      Sep 2010
      Location
      Beach Park IL
      Posts
      2,522
      Country Flag: United States
      I put a set of ridetech shocks on an old Checker. This wasn't a taxi, you could buy a Checker as a regular car.

      Set the shocks on kill and mounted new radial tires and the car actually drove quite well. It was still soft but all the wallowing was gone.
      Donny

      Support your local hot rod shop!

    15. #15
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      Thanks! John

    16. #16
      Join Date
      Sep 2007
      Posts
      413
      A lot depends on the OEM suspension geometry. I don't know old Packards. Some 1950s cars are more workable with modern radial tires than others.

      The old bias tires behaved differently. It was more than just the difference in the total amount of grip. They broke loose more gradually than radials with higher slip angles. They needed different wheel alignment settings to grip the road and prevent bad tire wear. Etc.

      Point being, you can throw more stiffness at the spring/shock/bar rates but that alone won't tune it for radials. I'm not trying to discourage you. The same issue applies for pretty much everything designed in the muscle era. We don't act like every 1970 muscle car needs a whole new frame just to be safe and handle well. I'm only saying this is stuff to be aware of.

      Modern radials, whether they are big & grippy or not, require more negative camber and less toe-in than the bias tires. If you keep the 1953 alignment specs then it will probably eat the tire treads prematurely and it won't get all the cornering grip that the tires are offering.

      Old cars generally had little or no caster in the front alignment too. That makes the steering wander like a tricycle when you let go of the steering wheel (while the car is moving). If you want the steering to naturally pull itself back to center like a modern vehicle, that is entirely a suspension alignment issue (it's NOT a matter of improving the steering gearbox). The factory front end adjustments usually don't go far enough to add several degrees of caster more than it was designed for. It's usually more practical to relocate the upper ball joint backwards by half an inch or so (towards the rear of the vehicle). This means aftermarket/custom A-arms.

    17. #17
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      I guess I will need to see what happens. Obviously I can mess around with toe in but since I have king pins and not ball joints caster and camber adjustments will get tricky. Thanks for the suggestions.
      Thanks,
      John

    18. #18
      Join Date
      Sep 2007
      Posts
      413
      You might consider chopping off the ends of the A-arms and replacing them (weld/fabricate) with a newer ball joint deal. Then you could put a newer common spindle on.

      It's a big job and it would take some design efforts to avoid making a mess. But it could be a really cool outcome. You'd keep the car's whole original frame that way and the whole thing would be reversible. (I would scrounge up another set of '53 Packard A-arms to fabricate on. Store the original parts at home.) Once you're moving ball joints around like that, you've got the opportunity to tackle all the alignment changes for modern tires. And you could pick a spindle that has aftermarket support, which means common disc brake kits.

      But if you went this route, I must emphasize again - the suspension geometry really matters. It may be more than you feel comfortable tackling. The safe bet would be to stick close to the OEM Packard part dimensions. Make sure you know the effects any time you vary from it.

      The whole idea may or may not be smart, depending on whether there are any decent later spindles in the ballpark of the Packard setup's kingpins. And don't forget about the steering arms on the spindles.


      This sounds like a weird approach today but it used to be common in stock car type racing. Guys running small or midsize cars would splice on the outer ends of a bigger car's A-arms and upgrade the entire spindle setup in one fell swoop. Dirt track guys needed the bigger ball joints & wheel bearings for durability on bumpy surfaces. Asphalt track guys were going faster and needed large bearings & brakes for heat dissipation.

    19. #19
      Join Date
      Apr 2021
      Location
      Southeast PA
      Posts
      16
      I had never even thought of that. Interesting.
      Thanks,
      John