Lowering the wagon

Kramer79

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I have been considering lowering the wagon recently…. Maybe steelies or some retro or gold bronze wheel… it seems like the front can be adjusted, at least to lower it a bit. The back I see info on blocks, but I can’t find any online that look to fit? Just wondering if anyone lowered an M body recently….
 

BudW

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There is (or was, at one time) new aftermarket steering knuckles/spindles that gave a 2 inch drop. They require special steering arm bolts that have a tapered head because normal bolts will not fit.
Dropped Spindles.jpg

There are two different "major" versions of the above part. The A, E and older B-body (the above picture) and the FMJ, R and newer B-body version - which the upper ball joint flange is about 1 inch higher. Both versions look the same at first glance but when sitting side by side, you can tell the FMJ, R and newer B-body version is taller.
Both versions "can" interchange but the geometry is slightly different as suspension travels up/down.

I don't have any.
BudW
 

AJ/FormS

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I have been considering lowering the wagon recently…
Yes the t-bars can be adjusted to drop the front, but IMO, this is NOT the best idea. The alignment window on these cars is only about 2 or 2.5 inches. When you get outside the window , you can put an alignment on it and it COULD be fine while driving in a straightline. Could be. But as soon as any one wheel cycles up or down, the camber will change. And when the camber changes, so will the toe-in; those two are intimately tied to eachother. And so, when the toe changes, the car will self steer, and you feel this as a wander. Of course there is just about no road anywhere in North America that is dead flat, and so, you will be wandering from one side of the road to the other, chasing after the changing toe pattern. There is NO alignment that can fix this. Your only defenses against this are; super HD shocks, and tall skinny tires on zero-offset wheels with the tire pressure jacked up.
I'm sure Bud was thinking about this when he posted the proper alternative.

The poor-mans way to lower the front is to install low-profile tires on it.
A 225/75-15 tire is about 28.3 tall whereas a 225/60-14 is 24.6 tall. That's about a 1.8" drop right there. These are common sizes. Just be sure to get to know your new LONGER braking distance with the smaller tires, before you spend time in traffic. There is almost no other downside to the shorter tires
 

Duke5A

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I wouldn't lower the front end without much stronger torsion bars. Way too easy to bottom these cars out as it is. You can get those right now though.
 

Kramer79

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Thanks… so any adjustment from optimal would hurt - makes sense. It is riding really well now so not sure I would go that route… but lower profile may work - at some point if I find some cheap/cool rims… all things with contact patch and weight being equal wouldn’t a smaller tire stop shorter as a taller tire has more “leverage” on the braking force as it rotates? Just curious - not doubting the answer just wondering why… more wheel rotations over the same distance maybe worse for braking?

Yes the t-bars can be adjusted to drop the front, but IMO, this is NOT the best idea. The alignment window on these cars is only about 2 or 2.5 inches. When you get outside the window , you can put an alignment on it and it COULD be fine while driving in a straightline. Could be. But as soon as any one wheel cycles up or down, the camber will change. And when the camber changes, so will the toe-in; those two are intimately tied to eachother. And so, when the toe changes, the car will self steer, and you feel this as a wander. Of course there is just about no road anywhere in North America that is dead flat, and so, you will be wandering from one side of the road to the other, chasing after the changing toe pattern. There is NO alignment that can fix this. Your only defenses against this are; super HD shocks, and tall skinny tires on zero-offset wheels with the tire pressure jacked up.
I'm sure Bud was thinking about this when he posted the proper alternative.

The poor-mans way to lower the front is to install low-profile tires on it.
A 225/75-15 tire is about 28.3 tall whereas a 225/60-14 is 24.6 tall. That's about a 1.8" drop right there. These are common sizes. Just be sure to get to know your new LONGER braking distance with the smaller tires, before you spend time in traffic. There is almost no other downside to the shorter tires
 

BudW

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A few things to think about. It is optimal to have suspension travel in mid position for normal usage - which is why dropped spindles help with that. @AJ/FormS and @Duke5A has mentioned that for bottoming out the car will be more harmful to car (long or short term) than hitting a wall (...maybe).

Another thing to think about is tire size. Shorter diameter tires can do the same thing and can be changed fairly quick (providing you have room somewhere for extra tires). I always like the idea of having taller tires when taking a longer trip somewhere.
Shorter tires also have a side benefit of lowering your differential axle ratio - so if you have to have to be involved in an, um, not quite impromptu timed acceleration contest, a shorter pair of tires might give you the extra umpth you need.
Taller tires does give you taller gears - better for fuel mileage. Worse for timed acceleration contests.
NOTE: changing tire sizes (or gear ratios) will affect your speedometer/odometer!

I haven't noticed any difference on braking, per se - but that doesn't mean there is not a difference.
BudW
 

Aspen500

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If you go a lot taller, braking will be noticeably worse. Basically, a taller tire makes the lever longer so it takes more force to slow it down, if that makes sense. We see these guys that have to put 35" tires on their trucks (along with a lift kit to screw up the geometry) and then come in saying they have to press harder on the pedal than they used to, and it handles poorly too. It all comes down to physics. The added weight also factors in. Heavier flywheel is harder to stop turning. On sizes you'd use on a car, it's pretty much a non-issue though.

Off topic side note: they also put those huge reverse offset 10 or 12" wheels on, and then wonder why the wheel bearings don't last very long, lol.

Anyways, the only good way (JMO) to lower the front end is the drop spindles, provided you have lower ball joint clearance to the wheels.
 

AJ/FormS

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The difference between the tallest tires that you can actually drive/steer , and the shortest you might consider, is about 10%. And that is the speed-o-meter difference as well. That might be close to 3 inches in diameter/ 1.5 in ride height. 10% just happens to also be the approximate difference in rear gear steps from 2.20s to 4.30s; with 3.73s and 4.10s being half-steps.
On a personal note;
But I'm not a fan of the looks of a short tire on a wagon, if it ends up with a huge empty space above the tire. But I do like Big-N-Littles, with only a lil rake.

As for brakes, I was referring to the fact that small tires have small contact-patches that are easy to lock up. And since the front tires are supposed to be doing about 85% of the stopping, once they are skating you can neither steer nor stop, which is a baaaad situation.
For best most reliable repeatable stopping, a long narrow patch is preferred. A same-sized wide patch is heavily dependent on the right rim width, the right air pressure, and the integrity of the braking surface. Not to mention, as soon as they are not pointed in the direction of travel, the tire rolls over and the contact-patch shrinks.
====================
That last one I have had lots of experience with, to the point that whatever car I am driving, when it starts to plow, heading for the curb, my arms are instinctively turning the steering wheel into the direction of the plow, before my foot smashes the brake pedal. The car WILL mount the curb, that's a given. But maybe I can save the wheel and not tear the BJ apart. Then when she hits or just before, I release the pedal and let her roll up and over the curb. If I'm lucky, I'll be driving home. But if not; tires are cheap compared to the rest.
Practice, practice, practice ..........
 
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