We raised the Nomad on the...
We raised the Nomad on the chassis lift, note the support stands under the front bumper. When the rear axle is removed, the weight bias will shift forward, potentially allowing the car to fall.
For decades the ’55-57 Chevrolet rear axle housing was the choice for many hot rods. After all, they were plentiful and since they were all parallel leaf spring applications there were only two small brackets to trim off before installing the rearend in the hot rod of your choice.
Measuring about 60 inches from flange to flange, they were a bit wide for early hot rods, which may explain the number of hot rods with some sidewall showing outside the fender in the ’60s and ’70s. However that measurement was spot-on for many postwar cars so these rearends were among hot rodders’ favorite rear axle swaps. At the time you got modern drum brakes, easy-to-find gear sets, and best of all, a price that was approaching free.
Using a transmission jack...
Using a transmission jack and a fabricated fixture that supports both axle tubes and the front of the centersection, the rearend was lifted taking the weight off the springs.
Of course that was 55 years ago, and today things have changed dramatically. The supply of original ’55-56 rearends has dried up and those who are found are, well, 55 years old. Pitted housings, non-limited slip, small axles, bearings, and drum brakes that are no longer modern, are all features you can find on a ’55-57 Chevrolet rear. As a matter of fact, not only have these rear axles fallen out of favor with early street rods, even the Tri-Five bunch is removing them in favor of a more modern unit.
Longtime STREET RODDER reader Don Prieto (all-around hot rodder back to the days when his Cacklefest digger was really a race car!) owns a prime example with his ’56 Nomad. It’s a neat car with ample power and a great look but he wanted to improve the old Chevrolet’s street manners. It was time for improved suspension and brakes along with a limited-slip differential to handle the horsepower under the hood and provide better handling through better traction.
From the rear you can see...
From the rear you can see the stout 2-inch box tubing fixture supports both axle tubes for safe removal of the original rear axle housing.
While the subject of our conversion is a ’56 Chevrolet, it should be noted this swap would be very similar on all Chevrolets from 1934-57 and virtually any other car or truck with parallel leaf springs. And if you are wondering, yes, Strange Engineering also has bolt-in rear axles for later coil spring cars.
To that end, a bulletproof Strange Engineering S60 bolt-in rear axle was ordered, along with performance shock absorbers from Performance Online. The original 1956 parallel leaf springs are still the main components of the rear suspension, but we will have superior brakes and shocks improve driveability, along with a gear set that will handle all the horsepower we can throw at it.
It’s always fun to uncrate...
It’s always fun to uncrate new parts, and it was love at first sight for our Strange Engineering S60 rearend. With the spring’s pads already in place this will be a true bolt-in swap.
The S60 rear was developed by Strange Engineering for extreme street performance, particularly street/strip cars. Back in the day, the 12-bolt rear was king for the GM crowd, but today’s modern motors can easily overpower the old 12-bolt. The S60 incorporates Dana 60 components. The 9.750 ring gear will endure tremendous abuse, equal or better than the 9-inch Ford. The S60 is equipped with strong 35-spline axles so there is no need to upgrade axles and these rearends are available as complete units with no brackets, ready for your fabrication or there is also a long list of bolt-in housing for most popular cars. The very cool aluminum rear cover is the crowning touch to a true performance housing. We ordered the bolt-in variety of the Strange S60 with a 3:54 gear set, this way all the brackets were in place for our ’56 Chevrolet installation. Inside we selected the Trac-lock limited-slip option and on each end of those big 3-inch tubes we have drum brakes but several disc brake options are available too.