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Installing a ’63-’87 C10 GSI Air Ride Frontend Kit

So, you bought an old C10 and you just don’t love the stance? Let me guess—you want it “hammered on the ground, but still enjoyable to drive.” Confidence and driveability in your air suspension are what you need. If you’re looking to put air ride suspension on a classic ’63-’87 C10 but want to make sure you are satisfied after all the time and money spent to get there, consider this GSI Machine and Fabrication C10 frontend suspension kit.

Airbags

The front GSI suspension kit we will be installing fits frames from years ’63-’66 (Part #120-2001), but the company also offers the same kit for ’67-’72 (Part #125-2001A) and ’73-’87 (Part #130-2001A).

A true bolt-in bagged suspension system

This superior geometry specifically designed for a stock C10 chassis with airbags, this kit accepts large-diameter wheels and tires up to 31 inches tall. This kit narrows the track width, making wheel options greater, and brings the cross-member and lower control arm pivots up out of the way so your frame rails lay flat on the ground when aired out. This system also upgrades the steering to a power rack-and-pinion unit and utilizes disc brake spindles, which are all supplied by GSI when you order the complete kit.

Longbed frame

We start with a bare ’64 C10 longbed frame, which is the perfect canvas for our build plan. We will be converting this to a shortbed wheelbase later using a GSI back half. We stripped off all unnecessary suspension components prior to sandblast. With the chassis placed on jack stands, leveled front-to-back and side-to-side, we can begin our install. A frame table isn’t necessary, but a flat surface is.

In this article, we will show you step-by-step how simple it is to achieve all of the above in a few hours’ worth of work.

We grabbed a longbed ’64 stock chassis, stripped it down to its bare bones and had it sandblasted by Matador Powder Coating in Mesa, Arizona. When we got the frame back, we brought it to our fab shop and set it on the frame table. This install can be done without the use of specialty tools. You will need a press for the ball joints and bushings, but otherwise a floor jack, sockets, ratchets, wrenches, a couple of jack stands and a drill will get it done.

With all the parts and hardware set up and ready to go, we will follow the supplied instructions and take you through a step-by-step install. Let’s go!!

Crossmember

Place the GSI crossmember under the chassis. Using a floor jack, lift it up to meet the frame. Using two of the 1/2-inch bolts, locate the crossmember using factory holes from the original crossmember. Run the center bolts in, but don’t tighten them all the way. Once the assembly goes together loosely, we will go over and tighten everything down to spec.

lower and upper control arm

Starting with the driver side, we install the upper hat (which is also the airbag/upper control arm mount) using the top three bolt holes. We need to snug these ones up so we can use the part as a template to mark and drill three more 3/8-inch holes per side. There will be one side hole in the part that matches the frame to ensure proper alignment. Once we mark the hole locations, we will remove the hat and drill the holes out to size.

You might find a raised area in your factory frame on the passenger side; this will get in the way of the passenger side upper hat. If your frame does have this, you can pull it down with a crescent wrench or cut it clean and blend it. Only a small portion of it needs to be flattened out. We went with the crescent wrench method. Use the passenger side upper hat as a guide to see how much you need to move. Once the hat sits flat, you have done enough, and you can drill the side holes.

frame braces

Install the inner frame braces inside the frame rails. We use the three bolts from the upper hat to pass through the hat, the frame and the brace, tying all three together. These combined pieces provide motor mount location and add strength between crossmember and chassis. This is a tight area, so have some patience when installing the hardware on the backside. A 9/16- inch ratchet wrench will be our friend during this step.

motor mounts

Next we will drop the motor mounts in place and bolt them in. These perches can support a variety of different engine configurations with the use of GSI engine adapters for LS, BB and LT. Once the motor mounts are installed, we can go ahead and tighten everything up. Torque specs per bolt size are included in the instruction manual.

Bump stop

GSI has integrated the use of a bump stop to limit the droop at just the right amount of lift, reducing excess ball joint stress while still providing plenty of lift for driving conditions. This feature also protects the suspension if the truck is being worked on while on a two-post lift. The bump stop bolts onto the upper hat in its specified location, one on each side.

upper control arms

Now we install the upper control arms. With the poly bushings, steel crush sleeves and ball joints assembled, slide the arm into the upper hat. These may take a little persuasion but nothing a rubber mallet can’t handle. The upper control arms are the same and there is no designation from right to left.

Now it’s time to install the assembled lower control arms using the GSI custom lower eccentric bolts and washers. The eccentric pivots allow for easy and quick alignment. Be sure to press the ball joints prior to install. The lower arms are passenger/driver specific. An easy way to tell is by looking at the sway bar tabs and shock mounts. Sway bar tabs go to the front of the vehicle, and the shock mount to the rear. Again, if their arms fit snug, a rubber mallet will do the trick.

After the control arms are installed, we move to mounting the AirLift Dominator D2600 airbags to the lower control arms, cycle the arm up to meet the top of the bag to the upper mount and secure with two 3/8-inch bolts. Note: if this is final assembly, use a dab of Loctite on the airbag hardware as specified in the instructions.

Upper shock mount

Install the shocks into the upper shock mount, then cycle the lower arm as needed to bolt the lower shock to the lower shock mount. There are a few shock options available from GSI: the standard gas shock (shown) or the upgraded Ridetech smooth body adjustable shock.

Now it’s time to put on the brandnew power rack-and-pinion unit. GSI makes a solid aluminum bushing set to replace the rubber mounts that come standard with these racks. We will need to remove the rubber bushings prior to install. There are two sizes of aluminum bushings. The thick side goes toward the crossmember and the thin side to the front of the vehicle. There is a captured weld nut on one side of the crossmember, while the opposite side will use a bolt and nyloc nut. There is a window cut into the bottom side of the crossmember giving access to the nyloc nut to be installed.

Thread on the GSI billet tie rod adapter kit. This will connect the rack-and-pinion to the spindle using an aluminum threaded sleeve, FK Heim joint, billet stainless steel misaligns, jam nuts, cotter pins, castle nuts and a custom heat treated GSI taper bolt. This tie rod kit is nice because it requires no modification to the spindle. It also corrects bump steer issues commonly found in air-ride suspension systems.

15Now we will install our CPP drop spindles. We used the company’s new x10 spindle in this application, but GSI designed the frontend around any type of CPP spindle for C10, which you can choose at time of purchase. We drop the spindle onto the lower ball joint, swing the upper control arm down into place, install and tighten the castle nuts, and then, using the GSI taper bolt from the steering kit, we connect the spindle steering arm to the Heim using the misalignment spacers, taper bolt and castle nuts. Your spindle choice is determined by wheel size. GSI’s sales team can advise on what spindles are needed per application.

Here you can see the passenger side is fully assembled. This particular combination will lay the frame on a 31-inch tall tire when paired with a CPP drop spindle and a wheael with a 20-inch or larger diameter.

We successfully completed the install. Spindle to spindle. Ready to hit the ground. All hardware is tight, and work has been double checked. Now we are ready to pull it off the table.

The frontend kit is installed and shown here on a 22- inch wheel with a 265/35/22 tire, laying frame flat on the ground. Improved geometry, power rackand- pinion steering, disc brake spindles, easy install, using all simple hand tools. It doesn’t get any better than that. GSI has the most complete kit on the market that will take you from stock, to slammed in a matter of hours. Stay tuned as we continue this build! Next up will be the GSI ’63- ’72 air-ride back half.

The GSI back half is a fully fabricated and welded-on rear clip, complete with parallel four-link and billet aluminum Watts link. This rear chassis section will lay the frame on a 31-inch tall tire and fit wheels up to 15 inches wide.

First and most importantly, we measure and scribe our cut lines. This is fundamental to ensure proper fit, wheelbase and overall performance of the back half. All measurements are defined in the instructions.

Using a cut-off wheel and electric grinder, we make our cuts.

Now that the rear of the stock chassis has been cut clean, we can remove it and make room for the new back half.

Take a look at the original rear portion of the chassis in comparison to the new GSI air-ride back half.

We took an extra step and added a nice beveled edge to both the stock chassis and the back half prior to welding.

 

A great way to get the new back half to the correct width is to bolt in the supplied carrier bearing crossmember. This will fix both frame rails in the right place before being welded to the original chassis.

Next, we check the chassis to make sure it is square— front to back and side to side in as many places as possible. We take the extra time to be sure everything is right where it needs to be before it gets welded together.

Now it’s time to weld it out. We use a variety of clamps to hold everything together. Once the butt-welded joint is complete, we cover the juncture with the supplied finish plate.

Setting up the axle is important to the performance of the entire system. We had previously stripped and cleaned the factory 12-bolt rearend of all stock brackets, so it’s ready to set up. We like to set the pinion angle at 3 to 4 degrees using an angle finder to get it correct before we weld on the axle mounts. The axle mounts are a multi-function bracket. They hold the airbags, shocks, four-link and Watts link.

Along with the angle, centering the axle mounts is critical. The Watts link mount bar can be used during setup to set the correct width between the two mounts.

Once the axle mounts are placed it is time to weld them on.

With all the welding complete it is time to assemble the bolt on parts. All hardware is labeled and bagged.

Assembly of the four-link, bridge plates, bags and shocks can be done with basic hand tools and only takes a few minutes.

Finishing up the rearend parts will be the install of our billet Watts link. A mount bar connects the Watts link to the axle, two adjustable billet aluminum Watts link arms, and a billet aluminum center Watts link with sealed bearings and stainless-steel hardware. All Heim joints and hardware come with the kit.

rear cab mounts

The last part we bolt to the chassis is the cab mounts. All GSI back-halves come with year specific rear cab mounts.

Here you can see the back half fully assembled. This system will lay the frame on a 31-inch tall tire and can accommodate up to a 15-inch wide wheel.

And that’s a rolling chassis laying frame on big wheels! The next step will be to blow it apart for powdercoating. We will be following along with this build as it keeps going. We will get a peek at the body soon. Stay tuned!

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