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Old 05-08-2008, 12:27 PM   #1
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Shocking Thread

Yea, puns are the lowest form of humor, but John Stewart I am not. There are several discussions about shocks for the SMB 4wd Fords scattered here and there. Since there seems a need, perhaps its time for its own thread. In my case, I wish to run Bilstein 7100 series shocks at a minimum. I'm not satisfied with Ranchos and OME shocks. If you are, then great, you don't have this headache. My goal is to set up my SMB so I can install high quality off-road shocks (Bilstein, Fox, King, Radflo, SAW, whatever) and avoid custom builds/valving. However, if a high quality shock is available with our current shock mounts, then that's great too.

As mentioned elsewhere, SMB is going to be offering an ARB spring and shock setup on new builds (and retro-fitting old builds). Not sure of the cost, but something to consider. Slighty increased lift is one result. Those that have taken the Deavers plunge all seem very happy. However, the shock issue remains.

Using my current shocks as a guide, neither of which bottom out or over-extend, it seems the front safe measurements for the SMB 4WD setup are ext 20.750"/Coll 13.625" and rear(stud top) is ext 22.370"/Coll 14.000". I can't tell you how much wiggle room you/we have with these measurements, but from another post here, it appears not much. Finding a really good off-road shock that meets these measurements is proving just about imposible (its not that I need a shock with more travel given the travel limitations of our rigs, but the better shocks usually don't collapse enough to avoid bottoming them out- if they do, then they don't extend enough to avoid over-extending the shock). Bilstein has a 5150 that might work in the front (and rear using a stud conversion kit) but I'm concerend the valving is too light for our heavy beasts. Also, I'd like to move up the shock ladder a bit from the 5150 if possible. Further, e-shocks and Bilstein differ on the lengths of the 5150, so be aware (I'd think Bilstein has the more up-to-date info on their shocks). The front shock mounts on my SMB are pathetic. In a nutshell, a double shear mount was just welded into the stock upper coil housing. Thus the distance between the upper and lower mounts is just too short. To get into a set of good 10" travel shocks, the mount needs to be modified (at a minimum the upper mount needs to be .5" higher, but 2" would open up even more shock options (the 10" short body 7100 Bilsteins are about .5" too long when collapsed to work with my setup and you should have a little wiggle room beyond that to be safe)). So it seems, short of lifting the vehicle even more, the upper mounts need to be modified. There are several dual shock mounts for Ford F-350 trucks, for example, but doubtful it would be a simple plug and play opperation as our frames likely have different bends, curves than the F-series trucks. Not sure that would matter much (slight mods to the F-350 mounts, if any, perhaps?). The dual shock mounts I've looked at are nothing special (shock hoop with a single support in the middle, all bolted into the frame). To install a shock hoop setup (whether a modified F series hoop, or custom), you might have to lop off the burdensome factory coil housing that is welded to the frame (cut it just above the top of the frame, perhaps). You could weld a tab to the new hoop to accomidate the brake line. There is a lot of room to house the upper mount(s) in the wheel well, so no mods to the wheel well are needed. Right now, my SMB is my daily driver, so I can't take the time to do this (I shouldn't be dropping off my 5-year-old at preschool on a motorcycle, although he'd love it). So, just putting this out there as a viable possibility. Not suggesting that I'm going with a double shock setup, its just the aftermarket hoops are generally made for those looking for a double shock setup. If using a pre-built hoop, the hoop could be easiely modified to accept a single shock. These hoops are not much different than the hoops used on the front of off-road buggies (just on a much smaller scale -see below).

The rear is more of a problem due to the upper stud mount and limited room. There are eyelet-to-stud conversions out there, but then the distance between the two mounts would decrease (approx 1" +/-). With that decreased distance, we're back to the difficult task of finding good off-road shocks that would fit. I don't have a good idea how to overcome this problem with the rear shocks, but working on it.

So, if anyone has good intel on shock upgrades (mounts, models that work, etc.), please chime in. My head hurts from banging it against the wall.



F-Series Mount:


Here is a pic of a '66-'77 Bronco mount. Much simpler design that taps into the coil housing. This unit would require alteration of mounting plates and welding a single shock mount in the center (to the outside and centered), but from the looks of it, not much else. Might need to sit lower as the E doesn't have the clearance above the coil housing as pictured. Note the greatly increase upper mount height. Also, might be able to leave the current setup alone (not have to cut off the coil housing). However, there is not as much clearance in our E wheel wells as the custom Bronco wheel well pictured. Guess I'd better finally order up that tubing bender I've been eyeing. Me likes this design:


Ordered-up my new tubing bender and die needed for shock hoops. We'll see how it goes.
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Old 05-09-2008, 07:26 PM   #2
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Check out u-joint clothing's website and look at the Vanaconda link on the left. There is a great pictorial of a van buildup.

http://www.ujointclothing.com/

It uses the 5150 setup via custom fabrication. The guy's name is Chris. His email is cjsho2000@yahoo.com I think he can help you with your suspension.
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Old 05-10-2008, 10:33 AM   #3
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You could contact AJ DeNunzio at Cory Motors in Santa Barbara. 805-965-4581. He is a off-road suspension expert and is a dealer for Fox and King shocks. He has re-shocked several SMB's allready. I plan on going with Deaver springs and King shocks as well. I must add that I am pretty dissapointed wth the SMB 4x4 when you compare cost vs. performance it comes up very short. We really should not have to replace springs and shocks on these vans inorder to get them to be tolerable. For the $$$ they should come with the right stuff "out of the box". The trasfer case and front axel are great. The rest is inadequate IMHO.
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Old 05-11-2008, 08:39 PM   #4
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The ujointclothing website was spot-on. Can't wait for my new bender to arrive. Thanks for that link. If a person didn't want to go crazy, by relocating the lower mount up front to the axle housing, a 1-2" gain is possible (shock body up, shaft down).
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Old 05-12-2008, 09:03 AM   #5
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I've heard back from Fox, King, FOA and Radflo in hopes of finding a plug-n-play shock for our beasts as currently setup. Both Fox and King said they just don't have anything that will work (we already knew this, but worth asking). My buddy associated with FOA is having some short body shocks built for him, but the process is taking a long time. Perhaps once they tool up for short body shocks they will be a resource, but as he said "don't hold your breath". Heard back from Radflo last night. Guy is out of town, but will see what is possible when he returns.

Fabtech has lower dual rear mounts that might bolt right up to our rear axle housings. If able to come up with a good upper mount location (perhaps off the frame?), then the rear might be relatively easy.

This is becoming something of a stream of conscience thread on my part, so bear with me (no, I'd rather you not "bare" with me as that would be just too weird). The rear conversion is very doable, even with a Transferflow tank. I believe a single clamp-on style shock mount on the rear axle housing that is slightly lower and a little to the outside of the current mount will provide the needed distance to get into the 7100 shortbody shocks. A clamp-on lower mount is key, in my opinion as you can fine tune the distance between mounts as needed. The lower mount would likely be below the axle housing, but not lower than the diff housing (no over-all clearance loss). As far as the stud mount, you can buy a stud-to-eyelet conversion kit for about $25 or you can buy a bolt-on shock mount from A&A mfr (its the same thing) for around $5 (you'll have to buy the two bolts, washers, nuts, of course). By going this route, no welding is requied and just drilling out the stud hole for the stud conversion is the only permenant mod to the rear.

Valving: Using Bilstein valving charts as a guide, I think (for me) that 360/80 shock valving front and rear is the way to go. 360/80 for the rear may be too stiff, but giving the weight of the beast, and the fact that I tow, I think the greater stiffness might come in handy. If I go overboard, its not the end of the world as the 7100 is owner-rebuildable (so could re-valve if needed).
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Old 06-06-2008, 04:25 PM   #6
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Just to update in case missed elsewhere, Greggde came up with a winning Fox combination for his SMB as seen in his gallery.
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Old 06-10-2008, 12:01 PM   #7
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I just posted to the other bilstein string but this is more appropriate....would like to go with Bilsteins when I replace mine but concerned about correct valving, etc so let me know if you go this route what you end up with and what results
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Old 06-10-2008, 12:38 PM   #8
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I'm going to order up Deavers soon. Will wait on the shock choice until the deavers are installed (probably end of July). If there is the added 1" or better of ride height in the rear, then I think I'd be safe with Bilsteins and a shock adapter out back (still looking for Fabtech single lower shock mounts as the current mounts are pretty high so as to accomidate my current Ranchos). The front lower mounts can be easily modded to provide greater distance as the Deaver leaf pack is considerably thicker (allowing room to mod the current leaf plate/lower mount to accept a longer shock). The Fox set up Greggde got is nice though. No major mods required. Guessing no travel issues (6.5" and 8"). However, the Bilstein short body provides roughly 10" of travel in an 8" size shock. 10" isn't needed for my app, but it provides additional buffer room. I am definately flip-flopping back and forth, back and forth (sort of like the current handling of my SMB). Regardless, I already picked up six sets of res clamps (yea, only four needed, but needed two more sets for my buggy anyway).
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Old 07-29-2008, 05:05 PM   #9
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Just got off the phone with Bilstein. Their valving guru was well aware of SMBs. Gave them my weight, etc. They suggested custom valving for my rig. Way heavier valving than I guessed. When reading Bilstein valving charts, you might see a rate of 360/80, for example. These rates take the number out another decimal point, so keep that in mind. Here we go folks.......

Front: 4635/1320

Rear: 5610/1360

I suppose if wanting to buy off-the-shelf you might get by with 400/100, but perhaps not. Again, my rig is approx 10K pounds with just me in it and no serious gear. I also plan on using it and using it hard in Baja. If your vehicle is lighter and/or you don't plan on seeing lots of off-road use, you might be able to save some $ with off the shelf Bilsteins.
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Old 09-10-2008, 11:38 AM   #10
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Well, damnit, went to order up a set of Bilsteins this AM only to discover my wife had my credit card. Guess I'll order them tomorrow. However, I did order up new shock mounts, a ton of bushings, tabs, etc (not all for the SMB). A&A manufacturing has a Dana 60 radiused shock mount that will work well for our application. The current lower rear shock mounts were moved to their present location on our SMBs (up and out of the way to avoid rocks for you rock crawler types). That Ford mount is very long and it shortens the distance between the upper and lower mounts. With a new, shorter, mount, the Bilsteins will fit just fine out back without having to go below the bottom of the axle housing plane much if at all (perhaps will have to move them a bit outside of the mounts current locations). The front is a bit different. the experience of others suggests the upper and lower mounts are approx 1/2" too close for the Bilsteins. With the new springs, there is a lot of extra room between the current lower mount and the front axle housing. Either the spring retainer plate could be modified so as to make the shock mount lower, or a new mount could be welded onto the axle housing itself (keeping in mind the upper knuckle and the need to get a shock bolt through the lower mount, if mounting so the bottom eyelet would be at 90 degrees difference from the top eyelet). Seems butting (welding) new metal to the current spring plates and welding a similar mount, just lower, would be easiest for the front. If wondering, I spoke with Danatrac to make sure it was cool to weld on a used axle housing (was concerned about igniting fluids). No problem, according to them.

Here's the mount for the Dana 60 axle which I'll be using on the lower rear mounts:
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