rgauthier

Best way to lower 69 Skylark 2” front & rear?

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I’m thinking the best way to lower the car 2” front and rear is a custom spring kit. Anyone have a good experience with a particular kit manufacturer?  To me quality and ease of installation are more important than cost. 

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Hmmm, there are multiple ways, but "best" will always be a debate. However, if your budget allows it, my personal opinion of the "best" way is coil-over shocks. Case in point:

 

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Fully adjustable with a wrench, from pavement-scraping to 4x4. Improved suspension dynamics that are easy to tune. Lighter than standard springs for less unsprung weight and better performance. Easier than regular springs to install. Coil-over springs can be easily changed to fine-tune ride/handling characteristics. The shocks are typically adjustable as well.

 

This car has a lot of other suspension upgrades,including tubular control arms, NASCAR-style sway bars, and upgraded trailing arms, but the coil-overs can be used with stock suspension parts as well. A bit more expensive, but if you want the ultimate in tunability and handling, there's nothing better.

 

Hope this helps!

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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Matt,  I appreciate your expertise. I can manage the increased cost, but I do have a serious concern. I’m good with tools and have worked on European sports car restorations quite a bit. But, I have no experience with American muscle cars in general and never installed coil overs. Also, I will be working with basic mechanics hand tools, no air tools, no hoist, etc. Assuming I am patient, careful and can follow instructions well, can I do the coil over installation myself?  Thanks again. Ray

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Yep, if you can change a shock absorber, you can install coil-overs. You'll have to remove the factory springs, easy in back but a little more challenging in front, but not a very big deal. Basic nuts and bolts. Rent a spring compressor tool and it's easier and safer. Slide the coil-overs into place and bolt them in place of the original shocks using the original mounts. Using the upgraded A-arms in front and trailing arms in back will add a little more work to the job, but will ultimately make it that much easier since they're all designed to work together as a system. Talk to the manufacturer and see if their system is compatible with stock A-arms and axle mounts to be sure.

 

But no, it's not a big job that requires anything more than basic hand tools. Maybe an alignment later, but if you just change the springs and shocks, an alignment shouldn't be necessary. Good luck!

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Matt,  I’m sold. I’m going to do it. The car is in AZ and I’m in OR for the holidays, but will order parts sent to AZ as soon as I arrive on Jan 4th. I’ll let you know how it turns out. 

Here is the car I recently bought to turn into a really nice driver. It has some rust (nothing major) that is being removed now, so I can get work on everything else. 

EB1FFD8B-BE75-4A5C-BA87-547BF0F50F86.thumb.jpeg.1c953ccb681643623926d05ada38ac61.jpeg

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If you mount coil-overs using the old shock mounting points be aware those mounting points were NOT designed to support the added pressure/weight coil-overs will produce.  The original springs SUPPORT the car, shocks only control the bounce.  

 

Ask any coil-over supplier, they will give you info on how to modify the mounting points, failure to do such is asking for trouble.

 

Dale in Indy 

Edited by smithbrother (see edit history)
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This is helpful to me, thank you. My first goal is cosmetic, get just the right stance. The second is improved handling. 

This car is in the process of becoming a really nice “old mans” nice weather daily driver. Other than an occasional Buick Club event, It is neither a show car nor a performance car. 

Given its use, does anyone have a recommendation for which coil over kit(s) I should consider?  Thanks. 

 

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You mentioned improving the handling......with a little research, you will find that within GM, there were a lot of different sway bars, both front and rear, used  between Chevy, Olds, Pontiac that were bigger/stiffer than the ones on Buick.

sway bars are an easy improvement that do not affect the ride quality but can do wonders for handling.

Start by measuring the diameter of the front and rear bars on the car, then look for ones that are larger in diameter....there is a chance that your car may not have a rear bar.

 

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Thanks for the information. If I’m going to be installing coil overs and have the suspension apart it would make sense to replace the sway bars as well. 

I have a book that cross references most parts, including suspension, from my ‘69 Skylark to all other GM vehicles. I’ll check sway bars to see what is interchangeable, then all I need to do is see if any are of larger diameter.  I assume there are after market replacements as well. If there are GM interchangeable sway bars but of greater diameter, for a little cleanup I could save some money which can be invested in the car elsewhere. Thanks again. 

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Eaton Detroit spring is what I'd do.  They are a great company to work with for new springs and you will probably have the new springs in a couple days.    I'm a believer in putting coil springs into the stock locations for cars that aren't built to take it.  

 

I used to daily drive a 72' Chevelle with Hotckis springs, swaybars, and urethane bushings.  Fun car but road a little rough.  

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You can drop the front 2 to 3 inches with bolt on dropped spindles fron CPP. You might find that the car has the right “stance” and just leave the back alone. Look at my 53 on the header.

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Boy, that's a pretty '53.  I have a long way to go before my '69 will turn heads like I'm sure your car does.  I had not thought about dropped spindles as a possible solution but I will check it out.  Coil overs, custom springs, dropped spindles, there are many solutions with differing price tags.  I also want to increase wheel size and tire width just a little (go from the stock 14x6 Ralleye wheels to 15x7 Ralleye wheels with tires that increase total wheel diameter only slightly).  I'm thinking that's not enough change to affect any of the potential methods of lowering the car 2".

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Janousek, I just sent an email to Eaton Detroit Spring explaining what I was trying to accomplish and asked for their recommendation on what I would need from them (springs, installation kit, shocks?) to meet my goals.  It will be interesting to see what the total cost is compared to coil overs.  Thanks for the "lead."

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I see mission creep... :D

 

To answer the OP: new springs will do the job.  And while you're in there, check out the other components that you can't access unless the springs are out.  LCA bushings are cheap and fast to change.  You might also make sure your ball joints are good (because you don't want to take this apart twice).  Swapping shocks and sway bars can help your handling, but they can be done later as standalone projects.

 

If you're running radials, you might want to think about the alignment specs that you're using.  Specifically, you may find that using more caster works better.

 

No matter what you elect to do, be sure to loosen the LCA bushing bolts before dropping the arms.  If you don't, you risk tearing the bushings apart. And don't tighten them back up until the suspension is loaded.

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Rgauthier,  I've never been able to use their install kits though.  The front spring donuts are always to thick for me to get them into the upper front pocket.  Just went thought it again on my dad's 68' 442 with new springs all the way around.  Could use the rear rubbers but not the front.  Steele rubbers always fit though.  

 

I've had fantastic results with Kanter's heavy duty shocks.  Every car from the 50's -60's has been a big improvement.  

 

I think Gary at Eaton spring has shocks now.  They never used to so I haven't used what they have.  

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Matt,  I'm sure you noticed the extra gussets on the rear axle that hold the lower coilover.  That is a pretty big modification for a lot of people.  The front lower control arm is custom also where the factory shock mount on a stamped LCA would need a plate welded across it to support the car.  At least I would want that.  Coilovers are cool but most people won't want to swallow the cost unless they are willing to fab their own mounts.  

 

The picture shows my dads 442 before we restored the frame.  The mount where the rear spring mounts to the frame isn't exactly a strong area to hold the car up.  More fab work for safety.  Just some food for thought.   

DSCF2235.JPG

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I really appreciate all the feedback I've received on this subject and am close to making a decision.  I have a quote from CPP for a complete kit for 2" dropped spindles and front disc brake conversion.  I like the front disc brake conversion idea because increased safety is one of my goals for the car.  There cost is $800 and change.  I also have a quote from Eaton Detroit Spring for (4) custom coil springs (2" drop in front and 1" drop in rear) with all the associated installation hardware.  There quote is $499.  I continue to search for an economical coil over kit, but haven't found one I like yet.

 

Since my goal is the "right" stance, my initial thought was the car needed to come down both front and rear.  There have been a couple of comments suggesting that if the front were down 2" I would like the stance and see no need to lower the rear.  I do like some "rake" and one of the things that again draws me to the dropped spindles and disc brake conversion, is I could install that and the wheel and tire change I have in mind and evaluate the stance.  If the rear does need to go down an set of Eaton Detroit custom rear springs would solve that problem.

 

Oh, and KongaMan mentioned Mission Creep.  Here is a picture of an Austin Healey Sprite that I was going to fix up a little 4 or 5 years ago.  I'm trying not to get as carried away with the '69 Buick as I did with the Sprite.

 

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I know this counters my previous suggestion, but if you're changing spindles, etc., you might to do everything but the springs to see how the car sits then.  You may find that you want more (or less) drop than you currently figure on.  CSS (Coil Spring Specialties) says they can make springs to your spec that will put you within ¼" of your target height.

 

You might also check the body mounts while you're at it.  If they're rock hard or deteriorated, they can affect both the stance and handling as well.

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In the picture your car definetly looks sacked out in the back.  You could just drop the front and get the right look.  I wouldn't want the rear any lower than it is.  Of course if your springs are sagging that bad then you get the associated handling/ride problems.  I'd replace all 4 springs.  

 

Most of the time 4 coils do a better job than drop spindles and such.  Your springs are almost 50 years old.  New spindles leaves you with 50 year old springs still.  Disc brake conversions are cheap and everyone makes one so don't let that sway your decision.  

 

For the money of drop spindles you could probably have 4 news springs with the desired bottoming resistance and a disc brake upgrade on the front.  

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First, I want to thank everyone who provided valuable information which I did use in my decision making process.  As a newbie to anything American muscle car let along Buick I have much to learn.  You guys helped, and of course I'll have to make my share of mistakes for things to sink in.

So, here's what I did.  I ordered 4 custom springs from Eaton Detroit.  Two inch from stock drop in the front and one inch drop from stock in the rear.  I'll install the springs and new shocks (the existing ones are shot).  Then find and install a disc brake conversion kit on the front. After that's installed and working well, measure for tire width that will fit.  I want to replace the 14x6 wheels with 15x7 Ralley wheels and red line radial tires to maintain the stock total wheel diameter (26.3") but with additional width.  This should improve both the cosmetics and less tire sidewall improve the handling.  And maybe the new springs and shocks will even improve the ride a little.

I'm thinking this approach doesn't break the bank and still will give me most of what I want; improved stance, improved safety and better "drive level" handling performance.

Thanks again to everyone who shared their experience.

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Glad to help.  Swaybars are the next step.  My chevelle with Hotchkis stuff had a 1.25" front swaybar and a 1" rear.  It cornered like a slot car even though it was a tank.  The ride was never great but thats the tradeoff for cornering.  

 

Kinda pricey but look into the Wilwood disc kits for the front.  They can accomodate the stock wheels but the calipers are so much better than the single pistons stoppers that come with the lower priced kits.  I've installed a couple of those inexpensive kits with single piston calipers and was never that impressed.  A nice oversized caliper with multiple pistons can grab that rotor with so much more force and feel to it.  More like a modern sports car.   It's a must if your building even a mildly performance orientated muscle car.  

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If you're changing the wheels and tires, you'll likely find that changes the height and stance as well.  Point being, you might end up wishing that you'd lowered the car by a different amount.  That is, if you do the other stuff first, you'll know exactly where you want the car to be and which springs will get you there. If you do the springs first, you're kind of flying by the seat of your pants because you don't really know what effect the other work will have.

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I gave serious thought to the order of installing these modifications. I know I want to swap 14” wheels for 15” wheels and I know I can buy tires for the 15” wheels that are wider but with less sidewall that yield stock total wheel diameter, 26.3”. Assuming my research is correct, I can calculate and do the suspension on the stock wheels and tires and the stance won’t change when I swap to 15” wheels with the proper tire size (need a little time to get the cash together). 

Is there anything wrong with my logic?

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I think you will be happy.  2" is a lot of drop on the nose of that car.  It will look tough yet should have enough clearance not to drag over everything.  I used take my floor pots and pull the vehicle down to the stance I liked and never went over 2" on anything because they started getting unusable.   Thats why the TV shows airbag everything so they can look at it in the weeds but still drive it.  

 

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