Way back in 1986, long before custom truck owners ever dreamt of swapping torsion bars and coil springs for air springs, the military, recreational vehicle, and commercial trucking industry were the only ones that benefited from round rubber bellows filled with air. It's true. Airbags were widely used to carry the weight of military vehicles, motorhomes, and especially big rigs, back then. But, a small visionary company adapted this technology to the rear suspension of Chevy's crew cab dualie pickup, the workhorse of the day. The system featured onboard air compressors, air storage tanks, and electric solenoid valves to direct the air to the 'bags. This kit was the first of its kind, and although it didn't receive mass acceptance among custom truck owners, it did usher in a new era of truck customization.
Fast forward six more years and airbags began to show up on sport trucks all over the West Coast, and slowly, the trend made its way eastward. It would be five more years before most everyone ditched their air shocks in favor of the harder-to-install air springs. Eventually, the art of airbag installation would consume every facet of this sport and many other genres of custom vehicle building. Today, there is no shortage of companies ready and willing to supply you with everything from bolt-on 'bag kits that will allow your truck to tuck monster-size wheels, to onboard air compressors powerful enough to make your favorite air tools work from the bed of your truck. It's crazy how far the air suspension industry has come in the last decade and amazing how many new parts have become available each year. Here is just a sample of what's to come.
1. AIM Industries
AIM's new Phoenix 'bags have a cross-threaded nylon lacing for extreme durability, and they also have a 25-strand center ring that doubles as a bumpstop. These heavy duty 'bags feature a thick upper and lower seal ring that is also inner-lined with a steel ring, so you don't have to worry about separation that often plagues air suspension.
For more information, contact: AIM Industries
2. Air Ride Technologies
Developed several years ago by Air Ride Technologies, the CoolRide system still remains one of the more popular systems today. It consists of an air spring, a shock absorber, and all the necessary mounting bracket hardware. Air Ride Technologies also offers a complete line of bolt-in and weld-in link systems for just about any truck. The company's RoadGrater system for the S-10 will set the frame on the ground with 28-inch-tall tires-not bad for a complete bolt-in setup.
For more information, contact: Air Ride Technologies
(812) 481-4787, www.ridetech.com
Air-Zenith (AZ) Fast Air Pump is 200-psi rated, 100-percent duty cycle, moisture- and dust-resistant, engineered for air-ride vehicles. With patented Interchangeable Piston Technology, you can replace the piston ring periodically to extend air pump life. Air-Zenith (AZ) Fast Air Pump is billet aluminum, and it comes with stainless steel braided air hose with inline check valve and sheeted wire for clean installation and a racing-style air filter for the sporty look. It takes less than a minute and a half to fill up a 5-gallon Air Tank from 165 to 200 psi.
For more information, contact: Air Zenith USA Inc.
(702) 270-7988, www.air-zenith.com
4. CanDo Specialties
CanDo Specialties, in a nutshell, is a full-blown machine and fabrication shop that caters to the custom truck market. The bolt-in S-10 forward four-link kit bolts up to the pumpkin, using all 10 of the rearend housing bolts for superior durability. The S-10 forward-mounting four-link can be easily made into a cantilever six-link by adding CanDo's cantilever attachments. Combine the rear with the company's upper and lower control arms and you can lay out your truck on 22s. The arms are constructed from DOM tubing and CNC water-jet-cut parts, then TIG-welded for optimum strength.
For more information, contact: CanDo Specialties
(530) 533-8680, www.candospecialties.com
5. Air Lift
The EasyStreet Division of Air Lift introduces the Auto Pilot Digital Control System for sport trucks. Auto Pilot is a complete, dash-mounted digital air-management system, designed to be a great upgrade for today's custom machine. The system is tuned to automatically learn a vehicle's suspension, and it also features one-touch ride-height adjustment, automatic ride-height on start, individual wheel control, all-inflate/deflate buttons, accurate manifold-mounted transducers, a digital voltmeter, and auto leak detection. It is compatible with Air Lift's digital damping system and is easily installed in the vehicle's dashboard, with just one wire to connect. The system comes with a one-year warranty.
For more information, contact: Air Lift
(800) 248-0892, www.airliftcompany.com
6. Early Classics Enterprises
Want to lower your '65-'72 GM truck and still be able to haul heavy? Early Classic's rear air suspension kit allows the best of both worlds: heavy hauling with a low rear stance and no compromise. This kit is a direct replacement of your stock rear coil springs, and it can be inflated manually or with the optional on-board air compressor system.
For more information, contact: Early Classics Enterprises
(559) 291-1611, www.earlyclassic.com
Firestone Ride-Rite and Sport-Rite air-spring suspension systems provide increased ride comfort and superb handling. Ride-Rite uses double convoluted air springs for leveling and load-carrying capacities between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds per set. Sport-Rite uses a new technology tapered air spring for supporting as much as 3,000 pounds per set. Both styles of systems dramatically improve ride and load-carrying capacities. They mount between the frame and the suspension, and they are easily installed in less than two hours. Applications are available for most vehicles.
For more information, contact: Firestone Industrial Products Co.
(800) 888-0650, www.ride-rite.com