We’ve often touted the benefits of leaf-spring suspensions. Sure, they are simple. Sure, it’s a technology that could be almost 300 years old, and sure, leaf springs aren’t terribly fancy. But hey, they work and they work well, especially off-road. Leaf springs were also ubiquitous until the introduction of the ’66 Ford Bronco. The first Jeeps, Toyota 4x4s, IH Scout 4x4s, Land Rover 4x4s, Chevy Blazers and trucks, early Ford 4x4s, and more were purely leaf-sprung until the introduction of the Bronco. We’ve built all kinds of custom 4x4s, ranging from simple aftermarket lift kit installs to fully custom link suspensions, but it’s still easy to head back to what’s simple and what works. Leaf springs do just that.
So, when we decided to rebuild a rusty, battered, abused, and forgotten ’62 CJ-5 as a kind of cheater rig—one that works, but doesn’t look like much—we knew narrow, old-school leaf springs had to be part of the formula. Of course, because we are cheating, why should we leave things as they would be from the factory? Here’s how we hung some cheater leaf springs on our cheater CJ-5 using some subtle, yet cheater methods. These basics can be applied to almost any leaf-spring-equipped 4x4. We’ll follow this story up with some more simple, yet non-factory suspension ideas as the project get closer to being driveable. Then we’ll get to see how well it works—or doesn’t.
1 We started with a new replacement shackle and spring hangers for our CJ-5. They mimic the factory design and are available from a few different companies. Starting in the extreme rear, we used the rearmost rivet holes in the frame to locate the front hole of each new shackle pivot using a bolt. We will fully weld these parts in place and might weld a nut inside the frame before the Jeep is done. For now, we’re just using heavy tack-welds in case we need to move something later. Our plans also include tying these shackle mounts into some sort of rear cross member or bumper.
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