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Rear Air Shocks Solution for First-Gen Rivs


JanZverina
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If anyone is considering installing rear air shocks in a first-gen Riv, read on. I think this applies to all '63-'65 Rivs unless someone more knowledgeable than me knows if Buick changed the rear shock design for 1965.

Some time ago I started this thread asking if anyone knew who still made rear air shocks for a ’63 to give my car a slight lift in the tail without having to change springs, etc. Johnrex kindly suggested air shocks offered by Kanter, which he said worked well for him. I had several email conversations with a Kanter rep, who to be honest I found less than helpful in reassuring me regarding proper fit, return policies, etc. Plus they were $185 a pair for shocks he said were "custom-made" along with a three-week wait, but he refused to tell me who made them. So taking Ed Raner’s always-useful advice (thanks Ed, again!), I called a tech from Gabriel who was very helpful in finding me a pair of HiJackers that would fit my ’63 with almost no modification. Cross-referencing the extended/compressed lengths as well as the type of top and bottom mounts (it's all coded), he suggested part no. 49311, which the app guide says is fits 1990s-era Toyota, Nissan, and Isuzu smaller SUVs. Ed had told me that some 1980s' Chevy C10s were a close fit, but the Gabriel tech said these are closer. The only modification involved was removing the steel sleeve from the lower bushings of the shocks that were in my Riv, some NAPA-branded ones that had seen better days. While the Gabriel tech could not assure me that this would do the trick - liability issues and lawyers these days - he did say that the steel sleeves keep the shocks from moving up and down in the mounting, and that otherwise I may hear a clunking sound without it and possibly put too much stress on the rubber bushing. So using a circular rasp that I bought at Ace Hardware, and which lasted just long enough for me to slightly widen the bushing holes on the HiJackers before the handle broke off (yes, made in China but no questions asked when I returned it) I pressed the steel sleeves into the bushings using a large vise and a tiny dab of lithium grease. I pressed them in before fully seating them using a larger 3/4" socket. Attaching the air lines and the valve tee was a simple job and I let the car sit for 48 hours while I checked ride height and air pressure. Just make sure the air lines are located away from the exhaust system or any moving rear suspension components – cable ties come in very handy here. I located the fill valve in an existing hole on the most rearward frame cross-member, just below and to the right of the rear license plate/fuel filler area. Attached are some pix, including one showing how the rear sits a tad higher with just ~40 psi added.

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Thanks, Steve. I haven't taken the Riv down a pothole-strafed road yet but it does ride smoother and with a little more poise. I'm experimenting with the air pressure settings related to ride comfort, but I think 45-65 psi is the range. And yes, these were $65 for the pair -- but I charge by the hour for pressing in the steel sleeves!

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a follow up, I had the chance this weekend to take my '63 Riv out on a series of roads (freshly paved and bomb-strafed variety) to evaluate my new air shocks application. I'm happy to report that they (a) ride a lot better than the standard ones, (B) make no strange clunking noises, and © give my Riv a lot more poised look at the tail end w/only 50 psi of air. So if anyone's looking for some lift and added ride comfort w/o getting into the black art of figuring out the correct spring application, etc., this may be a viable solution.

I also ordered five new radial whitewall radials from Summit Racing, see http://www.summitracing.com/parts/MFT-06315 and had them mounted and balanced since we have now have the "six years old? Get rid of 'em" recommendation these days. These whitewalls are slightly narrower than stock, but if you're looking to pay a lot less $$ than what Coker or DiamondBack charge for so called "vintage" tires and you drive your Riv fewer miles per annum than a daily driver, this is a good alternative. Hey Ed (Raner) - a good tip for the Riview, no?

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Guest dwhiteside64
I also ordered five new radial whitewall radials from Summit Racing, see http://www.summitracing.com/parts/MFT-06315 and had them mounted and balanced since we have now have the "six years old? Get rid of 'em" recommendation these days. These whitewalls are slightly narrower than stock, but if you're looking to pay a lot less $$ than what Coker or DiamondBack charge for so called "vintage" tires and you drive your Riv fewer miles per annum than a daily driver, this is a good alternative. Hey Ed (Raner) - a good tip for the Riview, no?

Thanks Jan for the tip concerning the tires. I'm looking for descent replacements that won't break the bank. :cool:

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Thanks, Darren. In fact I just received my fifth tire today after holding off before ordering a new spare to replace the one that's not original, but surely past its "sell-by" date. I think that for those of us who don't really desire the concours-level tires -- and that would be bias-ply tires that aren't much fun on the road anyway -- these are perfectly fine for lower annual miles. Whitewalls are going the way of the do-do bird, and I'm guessing that "vintage" tire companies are charging bigger bucks to cover low-volume runs. Looking at your signoff, we are really custodians of our own cars, not just of a registry, right? Here's to hoping the Detroit weather is being kinder to you. That's one thing I don't miss after 19 years in Farmington and Bloomfield Township MI!

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Guest dwhiteside64

I drive my Riv about 500 miles a year so these tires should do nicely. I too can foresee a day when we will only be able to buy our tires from Coker and the like, as your average tire company will not see a market for them anymore. Yes, we all should keep good records of our own cars so this valuable information can be passed on to future generations of owners.

I really envy those who live in warmer climates. The weather here is breaking but nowhere near ideal. I'm hoping to get my car back on the road in a few weeks as it's been a long, long winter....:(

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  • 7 years later...

Hello Forum, I was wondering if anyone has the OEM max and min extension specs for shocks on the the rear of the 63 Riv.  I am replacing a pair of air shocks that previous owner had installed and want to make sure I get compatable to OEM.

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2 hours ago, 63west said:

Hello Forum, I was wondering if anyone has the OEM max and min extension specs for shocks on the the rear of the 63 Riv.  I am replacing a pair of air shocks that previous owner had installed and want to make sure I get compatable to OEM.

Monroe makes an OEM replacement. Part #’s 5760 and 5759. Available through Rock Auto.  No need to look for something compatible.  

Edited by RivNut (see edit history)
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Thanks RivNut but I'm afraid I wasn't clear. I am going to replace the current air shocks with air shocks.  But with the Monroe part #s you gave me I can find compatible air shocks.  I'm hoping they have a product that won't need the sleeve mod that Jan_Zverina did in 2015.

 

Know what the magician said to the the fisherman?  Pick a cod, any cod.

Edited by 63west (see edit history)
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A friend of mine managed an Advance Auto Parts store and used to let me peruse the vendors catalogs.   The computers only display the most common parts requested but the manufacturers make many more parts than are on the computers. Most of the counter people have no idea these catalogs exist. Look for the oldest guy in the store who is the most experienced (might not be the manager.)  In the books from the shock manufactures, ALL of the dimensions for each shock is given.  Type of ends, hole dimensions, spacing, tube length and diameter, AND compressed length and extended length.  Ask around and find a jobber who will let you look through their books. I'm betting you'll find what you're looking for. 

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The installation kit is a #107. It's a sleeve that makes up for the diameter of the bolt. The upper end of the shock uses a 1/2" diameter bolt. Whereas the stock Riv.

is 7/16ths.

 

Tom T.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I called Monroe 800.325.8886 and spoke to a tech there who gave me MA828 ($110) as the closest to the min and max extension specs of the OEM oil shocks that RivNut Ed provided and I verified.  I went with air shocks in the rear because of instead of replacing both coils and shocks I could get the same ride and posture with air shocks.  Replacing the coil springs and oil shocks would have done the same, probably, but the air shocks do it for sure, give a great ride, and cost less. 

 

Installation turned out to be a PIA because the metal sleeve in the top loop was too small to fit over the factory post mount there.  Bottom was fine as you supply the bolt. I had to use heat and a vise with sockets to remove that sleeve and it mounted perfectly. So I ended up doing the opposite of what JanZverina did. It's been almost two weeks and they have lost zero air, the ride is great and no noises.  Another heads up: the MA828 kit that I received did not include a long enough supply of air hose and so I had to reuse some old.

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