Going 1-Ton On The Most Common Grocery Getter Ever!
With all the '88-to'98 Chevy/GMC trucks out there, we're surprised there's not more aftermarket support for their suspensions. But when these trucks were current, consumer suspension technology had not progressed to the levels it is at today. Besides bolting on an IFS bracket kit, there's not much else you can do but go custom. So why don't companies and shops go back and develop long-travel IFS suspensions for this era truck? It is simple math: Who is going to spend $7,000 on a truck that's only worth $2,000? Most enthusiasts would go buy a reasonably-priced '99-to-'06 Chevy and purchase an already-produced long-travel kit for a few thousand dollars instead. For that reason, "custom" usually means a solid axle swap on the '88-to-'98 era of 4x4s.
A solid axle swap usually involves cutting off the IFS front end and adding hangers to swap for '73-to-'87 Chevy front leaf springs and a Ford front axle. There are coilover-and-link kits available as well, but most guys are still adding leaf springs for the simplicity and cost effectiveness of the swap.
When it came time to get a little more serious with our friend's '98 Tahoe just before going to Moab, Utah, we enlisted the skills of Fabworx to do the solid axle swap and sling some beefy axles under the 4x4. We liked Fabworx's solid axle swap kit because it uses 6-inch-longer leaf springs (than standard '73-to-'87 Chevy leaves), is completely bolt-on, and sells for just $499 for the complete hanger kit. Fabworx can provide Atlas leaf springs and F-O-A shocks as well, but the base kit price obviously goes up.
In true OFF-ROAD magazine fashion, we left Friday morning and headed north towards Santa Rosa, California, planning to do a solid axle swap over the weekend and drive home in time for work on Monday. We gathered all the parts we could in the matter of a week (including a front Ford Dana 60 and rear GM 3/4-ton 14-Bolt axle), and left with what we could, thinking we'd be able to get the rest of the parts on the Tahoe before leaving for Moab the next weekend.
All we had to do was cut off the old IFS, mount the spring hangers, add the front springs and the solid front axle...and all those other little things (driveshafts, brake lines, matching rear axle wheel pattern, getting eight-lug wheels, shock brackets, steering, etc). Okay, so maybe we had high hopes, but we think we would have pulled it off had we not hit all the Friday San Jose/San Francisco traffic on the way north.
Monday at 9:30 p.m. we pulled out of the Fabworx shop and were heading back towards Southern California with a three-quarters-built Tahoe. We were a day behind schedule, but we still had time to pull off the build and make it to Moab!