It's been said that street rodders will suffer for vanity's sake and put up with a vehicle that is uncomfortable as long as it looks good. While that may be true for some, if you like to see the odometer spin on a regular basis your car's competence, particularly in the area of ride and handling, should be held to a higher standard.

As the team at RideTech explains it, shock absorbers are the brains of the suspension system, and nothing influences ride and handling more. Despite the critical nature of these components, at one time shocks for street rods were selected based on what would fit the space available. Case in point, the rear shocks from 1963-67 Corvettes were often used because they were short—but just because they would fit didn't make them right. Fortunately, we now have shock absorbers designed especially for needs of street rodders.

The name shock absorber is actually somewhat misleading—in Europe they're referred to as dampers, which is a more accurate description of what they do. Basically, a piston in an oil-filled tube is forced up and down as the suspension moves. The oil passes through holes in the piston, which causes resistance to the movement. As these orifices have one-way valves, the resistance on compression and extension can be different. However, in both movements the energy absorbed creates heat that must be dissipated by the shock's body.

Although all contemporary tube shocks operated in a similar fashion, they can be divided into two categories: twin tube and mono tube. As the name implies, twin-tube shocks have two cylinders, one inside another. The inner cylinder, called the working tube (or pressure tube by some manufacturers) is where the piston and shaft move up and down. The outer cylinder, called the reserve tube, serves as a reservoir for the hydraulic fluid. These shocks normally contain Nitrogen gas, either in a bag or mixed with the hydraulic oil, to keep the fluid from foaming.

Twin-tube shocks are used in many OEM applications, usually with soft valving, as passenger comfort is often the main goal. Twin-tube shocks are less expensive to produce than the mono-tube design but can be more susceptible to aerating the fluid in performance applications, which can adversely impact their effectiveness.

Mono-tube shocks, again as the name implies, have a single tube. However, it is divided into two sections: one that contains oil, the other gas. In the fluid chamber, motion of the chassis is transmitted via a rod that moves a piston through the oil. Below the oil is a floating piston and seal that keeps the gas trapped in a separate portion of the tube. During normal operation the piston in the fluid chamber moves up and down and the piston's compression and rebound valving determine resistance. When more aggressive suspension movements occur oil can't flow through the compression valves of the piston fast enough and as a result the floating piston is pushed further into the gas section, which increases damping force.

RideTech's shocks are the mono-tube design and come in two basic configurations. The first we'll look at are the smooth body Q-series 1-1/2-inch-diameter shocks for stand-alone use. They come in a host of lengths, and mounting styles are available to suit virtually any application.

The non-adjustable RQ series is the simplest version of RideTech's mono-tube shocks. There are no external adjustments as the valving is factory calibrated to the vehicle and the driving style of its intended use. For confident handling and stability, and for those who want to install a shock and forget it, these are a great choice.

For those looking for the ability to tune their car's suspension the HQ series shocks have a single adjustment to change the rebound [extension] properties. Adjusting the rebound setting allows the ride quality and handling characteristics to be optimized.

RideTech's second shock series are a 2-inch-diameter threaded body style. They can be used for stand-alone, coilover, and ShockWave applications. Like the smooth-body Q-series, these shocks come in RQ non-adjustable and HQ single-adjustable versions.

For additional suspension-tuning capabilities RideTech offers the triple-adjustable TQ threaded body shocks with a single rebound adjustment and dual-stage [high speed and low speed] compression adjustment. The TQ series uses a remote reservoir that is connected with a 30-inch braided line for easy installation in a variety of applications. The high-speed adjustment allows tuning for impact harshness...potholes, speed bumps, and other harsh road irregularities that might induce a high-speed movement of the piston rod. The low speed adjustment allows tuning of ride quality, as well as the general cornering characteristics of typical road course and racetrack use. While you may not be road racing your street rod, the TQ series offers the ultimate in shock absorber adjustability.