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  • 1958 Front Shock Absorbers......

    I recently received an email from a good friend regarding 1958 Front Shock Absorbers and installing the heavy duty sway bar on the front. This particular 1958 Squarebird is also going through a front end disk brake conversion and in doing so, they found that the caliper hits the shock absorber. In other instances, the shock absorber hits the sway bar! It was thought that this '58 has four shock absorbers on it, one on each A arm, and one inside each coil spring! On this particular '58 it was just confirmed that it only has the 2 shock absorbers on the A arms, and none inside the coil springs! The mechanic will remove the outer shocks and "relocate" them to inside the coil springs. The question came up as to whether or not, if a '58 Squarebird has 4 front shocks, and the A arm shock is hitting the sway bar if the outer one could be taken off to end this problem. The consensus is that yes, you just need the inner two inside the coil spring. However, it was also noted that if you have the OEM AC unit on the car, you might want to upgrade those 2 inner shocks to heavy duty ones or adjustable air shocks.

    Fuz Johnson ~ tmjsong1aolcom is one of the co-authors of the Official Factory Specifications for the Squarebirds. As was our Founder and Webmaster, Alexander Sosiak, when he was alive. Fuz has a number of '58 Squarebirds in his collection and here is what he had to say after looking through them.

    "I went thru the 58's I have. Found 3 with 4 shocks on the front. 1 was a convert. One was a HT and the third was a HT that was a Canadian export. I did not pull the data plate info as only the Canadian export was easy to obtain. Will do some further investigation tomorrow. I also have 3 58's that are bodies only so have no way to know whether they were 2 or 4 shocks,

    The air ride on the 58 was scrapped so they can never be in preparation for air ride. The change to shocks in the springs was never a production in and of itself. The standard install on all 58's was the external shocks.The shocks inside the coils as production were not standard option till 59's. The parts book ending in April 59 only shows the external shocks for 58 and the ones in the springs do (not) appear till 59. They carry a B9S part number and are shown as a new part number. I have not had time to go thru the service bulletins for 58/59 but will in the next couple days.

    Unfortunately what I found only brings up more questions and the subject will need lots of research to determine what is fact. Side bar- we may never know exactly what went on as a lot of 58 info has died with many of the birds. Thanx, Fuz Johnson ~ tmjsong1aolcom."

    Here is a picture in the 1958-1960 VTCI Official Factory Specifications (OFS) showing yellow shocks (wrong color, they should have been black) inside the coil springs. Note that it says that they were "relocated" to within the springs... Apparently, the decision to move the shocks from the A arms to inside the coil springs might have been made by late May 1958. Because this picture states that this is an unrestored late-May '58 hardtop. However, since those are yellow shocks, some previous owner must have replaced the OEM shocks and then might have moved them to inside the coil springs... We may never know..

    1958ShockInsideTheCoil.jpg
    Therein lies the story regarding 2 or 4 front shock '58's! There have been stories for years that the 1958 Squarebird at some point in the production run left the factory with 4 shock absorbers. Some thought just the ones with AC on them, others thought all them, AC or not, left with 4 shocks. It has been reported that no '58 Tbird ever left the factory with 4 front shocks, but that seems not to be true. Because there are reports of OEM '58 Tbirds that DO have 4 front shocks in place. John ~ jopizz has told me that the last '58 Squarebird (of a number he owned and restored) he bought had 4 shocks on it, and they all looked to be OEM. Others have reported the same of '58 Squarebirds that they know are OEM, because they are the original owner of it. Here is what Alexander said back in 2006 about this.

    "They (Ford) nixed the AIR-RIDE for the 1958 Thunderbird at the 11th hour. The car came from the factory with the shocks outside the springs because of the design for the air suspension. Too bad materials were not good enough in that era to make the air ride reliable." In another post he had said that AIR-RIDE was nixed because they had found problems with it in the Big Fords before they started the late 1958 Production run, and cancelled AIR-RIDE on Squarebirds. Not only that he also said this."The Squarebirds were originally slated to have disc brakes. The ultimate bean counter, Robert McNamera, nixed them and forced the designers to use the standard Ford brakes even though the Squarebird was heavier. That's why they stop so poorly. Rack and pinion steering, disc brakes and an aluminum engine were all slated for the 1958 Thunderbird. Imagine what a car that would have been."

    Here is 1958 Squarebird Production information. Production was late because Wixom was re-tooling from the 2 seater Babybird to the 4 seater Squarebird, and for other reasons. Normally production starts in August or September, but for 1958, it was not until December, and even then there were no Convertibles being made until later in production.

    TOTAL PRODUCTION 37,892
    63A - Hardtop 35,758 ($3,630)
    76A - Convertible 2,134* ($3,914) 1958 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop in Raven Black
    1958 Thunderbird Hardtop shown in Raven Black
    INTRODUCTION DATE February 13, 1958
    Production Started December 20, 1957
    Production Ended September 16, 1958
    *Production of the 1958 Convertible models was delayed due to various reasons, and the Convertible wasn't officially introduced to the public until June, 1958. This, in part, accounts for the very low production numbers of the 1958 Convertibles.

    Despite its late introduction date, and the fact that 1958 was not a good year for automobile manufacturers, the Thunderbird was one of only 2 automobiles to show a production and sales increase for the year. Although the introduction of a four seat Thunderbird was widely panned by many, the fact remains that this was a prudent decision by Ford, and the beginning of a new era: the personal luxury car.

    http://automotivemileposts.com/prod1958tbird.html#wixom

    I learned something else regarding Tbird production and that is that they did NOT build our Tbirds by the serial number consecutively, as I thought they had. Number 100001, then 100002, 3, etc... They scrambled the serial number run and built the cars on body style, I gather. At Wixom, Tbirds were built on the Lincoln production line, so you would have a mixture of Lincolns and Tbirds of various body styles coming down the line at ya! Something else that I learned today was that the original factory window stickers with all the details of the car on it, were not put on 1958 Tbirds or Fords until 1959. So said Lance Herrington of Tbirds Southwest. He said that the government came out in 1959 and mandated that to be done. So starting in 1959 the car companies starting pasting them on the passenger side window. I have mine for my 2017 Mustang in my glove box!

    I know that we have a good number of 1958 Squarebird owners on this Forum. I would like to know how many of you own one that has all 4 front shocks on it, one on each A arm and 1 inside each coil spring or just 2 shocks and where are they installed. If so, do you know that is an OEM setup from the factory? If you do, please post some pix of your front end setup! I would also like to know if you have found your Rot/Build Sheet what it shows on the form under the SH Shock block. Is there a code number in it, and if so, what number? In 1959, and 1960 Rot/Build sheets, that block is blank because by then Ford was only putting front shocks inside the coil springs. "Fuz" Johnson is one who would like to know, because he has an interest in this, being one of the co-writers of the VTCI OFS for Squarebirds.. Others, like myself, also. Here is a sample of a 1960 Squarebird Rot/Build Sheet. You can see that block is blank. I do not have a copy of one for a 1958 Squarebird. If you found yours, I would love to have one for the record, and you can post it here for all to see or send it to me. Also, if you have ever had a problem with something hitting your sway bar, especially the heavy duty one you may have installed, I would like to know about that also... And post pix!

    1960ROT_Sheet.jpg
    Last edited by YellowRose; September 16th, 2020, 10:50 PM.

    Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
    The Terminator..... VTCI #11178
    Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or Call (Cell) 210-875-1411

    https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

  • #2
    Ford made many 'mistakes' in 1958 Squarebirds that were remedied in 1959. Air Ride was a program that spread across Edsel, Lincoln and Squarebird models. The entire program was dropped across ALL lines, not because it didn't work but because it cost too much. So, 1958 Squarebirds had shock brackets welded to the 'A' arms in anticipation to accommodate air bags and exterior shocks. ALL Squarebirds were fitted with front coil springs and those brackets disappeared in '59. When Product Engineering and Development change a part, it is normally done at the 'half year' mark. In other words, if 'exterior shocks' were fitted, the change to put them inside the spring perch would have happened in 1958-1/2.
    '58 Squarebirds have two front brake hoses on each side that quickly became one hose in '59 and '60.
    '58 Squarebirds have different electrical schemes that changed in '59 and again in 1960.
    '58 Squarebirds have rear coil springs that Ford quickly changed to leaf springs in subsequent years. The '58 rear spring setup was badly engineered by Budd but approved by Ford so it went into production.

    When Wixom's Scheduling Dept. received orders from the district sales offices, they were indeed set in numerical order. The Production Dept., changed the order to fit their manufacturing methods. For example, Assemblers cannot tolerate two consecutive convertibles because the line would need to stop. Stopping the line is a fireable offense. So, Scheduling sent a 'tray' of vin plates to the Body Shop to be 'picked' in any order. In 1958 Squarebirds' case, the body was already welded at Budd and they came to Wixom NOT in order. The Body Shop then chose the type of body mix they can tolerate, like a convertible every fourth car or so and the build continued.

    An aluminum engine? I highly doubt that. Ford didn't produce an aluminum engine until 1980 and even then, just the heads were aluminum from our Sheffield, Alabama Foundry. Aluminum blocks (on a production scale) didn't happen until Romeo Engine produced the 4.6-L modular engine for Cobra and Continental car lines. Thunderbirds got cast iron Romeo engines. - Dave
    My latest project:
    CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

    "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
    --Lee Iacocca

    From: Royal Oak, Michigan

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    • #3
      Dave, on the'58 rear coil springs, were they designed in because of the air-ride system in mind? Any thoughts on this?

      Comment


      • #4
        Dave, thank you for the additional information regarding the 1958 Squarebird production. It is an interesting view into how things were done back then when you spent all those years working in the Detroit Ford plants. As was said, there were some great ideas as to what they were considering installing on these Tbirds of ours. But, as is often the case, the "beancounters" got involved and nixed them due to the increase in cost they would incur, which, would also increase the asking price for the car. As usual, the bottom line was often considered and suggested changes and improvements were dropped. Think of what the Squarebird could have been if they had gone through with some of those recommendations! R&P, Disk Brakes up front! There is the picture showing a flip up panel on the drivers side roof that would open up and allow for better access getting in and out of the car. There are pix out there indicating that they were considering putting the Golde Top on the '58. There is the car magazine report of years ago that they had road tested a 1958 Squarebird with the 430MEL engine in it. There are pix indicating a different styling that was being considered, but nixed... Stuff like that. Frank just asked a good question also regarding why they had the rear coil springs on the '58. It will be interesting to see your response. As he asks, it is probably related to the Air-Ride system that was cancelled...

        Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
        The Terminator..... VTCI #11178
        Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or Call (Cell) 210-875-1411

        https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

        Comment


        • #5
          Ford spent huge amounts of money on Product Development through many trials (and errors, but that's another way to learn). They used the 'Pilot Plant' to build specialty cars (mostly). Third party places were also contracted but Ford did most of their trials in-house and on a real 'mock-up' assembly line. I am not surprised to hear about a 430 MEL in a '58 'bird but the engine and the car were too new and not yet ready for production. Disk brakes? Not until MUCH later because Ford didn't make drums or disks, Kelsey and Budd did in their foundries. We had our hands full trying to develop and manufacture FE engines. That's why they too went through so many changes in the early days. Ford cars, Edsel, trucks, marine and construction equipment ALL used FE engines, not just T-bird. The 'demand' numbers are mind boggling.

          Frank, Ford catalogs show the entire setup for Air Ride front and rear suspension in the '58. These projects must happen at least three years 'out' before production is possible. The tooling was engineered and made and I'm sure some components were manufactured but none were ever assembled into a Ford. There are many reasons why projects are dropped. This is a 'change'. Changes are expensive. Ford simply calls everyone (drafting and catalog engineering, build shops, manufacturing plants, etc.), working on the project, and tells them to stop. Ford pays for their effort up to that point but no more. That is commonly done when a product is held up and launch is impossible for on-time production. The project may be picked up at a later time, which is another 'change'. Sometimes brochures advertise a feature or option that was never in the product. Remember, this happened before computers where lead times were in terms of years. It is simply amazing that the car companies kept body styles for three years.

          The Australian 1960 Ford was the N. American 1959 model with the steering wheel on the RH side. Think about that. The dash, firewall, brake and steering components were re-engineered, tools built and parts manufactured for a body that was already done in Dearborn. That got Australia out of the 'shoe box' Ford without spending a fortune. - Dave

          Ausie60.jpg
          My latest project:
          CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

          "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
          --Lee Iacocca

          From: Royal Oak, Michigan

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          • #6
            Thanks,...so, yes... the coils were intended for the Air-ride system? I would like to get my hands on the Ford catalogs you spoke of, you wouldn't know which ones would you? I'd like to hunt one down just to have the info.

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            • #7
              I've got a 58 Passenger Car parts catalog dated March 1958 FORM 7752 that includes the air suspension part numbers as well as a few illustrations. I use it in my work, so it is not available. There may be other copies out there.
              Carl

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              • #8
                Do not have the Parts catalogue but do have the 1958 FordAire suspension Shop manual , form 7749-58 . Have never had a reason to use it . Just an interesting read . Btw. My 58 convertible, built June 15, 1958 had only one set of shocks mounted on the outside . Had a 1958 H'top parts car ,built sept. 8, 1958 , all original from a wrecking yard out of the Mojave desert with only one set of shocks mounted on the outside . Also, as Dave mentioned , two brake hoses on each side and the '58 was restored the same way . ( very hard to find now ) .

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                • #9
                  Thanks for the info..I appreciate it..... I'll do some searching around now that I know what to look for....

                  that was a quick search.... found the 1958 FordAire suspension Shop manual 7749-58 on ebay...it's on it's way. Thanks Martin

                  and Carl, only 58 Passenger Car parts catalog I can find so far is $114.00, so thats out of the question..better guard yours
                  Last edited by frank58; September 18th, 2020, 06:47 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Frank,

                    Here are some diagrams of the front and rear air suspension from the parts manual.

                    John

                    58 air front.jpg 58 air rear.jpg
                    John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

                    Thunderbird Registry #36223
                    jopizz@squarebirds.org 856-779-9695

                    https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by frank58 View Post
                      Thanks,...so, yes... the coils were intended for the Air-ride system?..
                      Frank, suspension either got springs or air bags. Since air bags were cancelled, all the cars got springs.

                      My latest project:
                      CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                      "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                      --Lee Iacocca

                      From: Royal Oak, Michigan

                      Comment

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