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
8. Godfather Customs
Godfather Customs carries a complete line of air suspension parts to get you down, such as this two-link kit by Ekstensive Metalworks. It's a prefabricated cantilever link system designed to slide over the frame for easy welding. It includes all energy suspension bushings, the two-link, upper 'bag mounts, and the Panhard bar. To fill the 'bags, the company recommends the Viair 480 Series Compressor. This 12-volt 200-psi chrome compressor features an oil-free design, a high-performance PTFE piston ring, and a built-in, self-resetting thermal switch.
For more information, contact: Godfather Customs
(800) 231-1101, www.godfathercustoms.com
9. IF Customs
IF Customs, home of the world's lowest trucks, offers a variety of suspension parts for almost any truck from fullsize to minis. Air systems, Oasis compressors, carrier bearing crossmembers, and various air components are all offered. If you want your truck in the weeds, IF Custom is the place to start.
For more information, contact: Iaccino Fabrication and Customs
(818) 837-3000, www.ifcustom.com
10. KP Components
KP Components manufactures direct bolt-on four-link and cantilever suspension systems for today's most popular trucks. Along with the company's link systems, KP also offers a full line of airbag accessories for your ride.
For more information, contact: KP Components
(866) 575-4657, www.kpcomponents.com
11. Mac's Springs
Mac's Spring is proud to offer the new Mac Daddy valves. The Mac Daddy valves have a forged brass body, high-output coil, stainless steel operator, and a new diaphragm material. These valves feature full port body design and resist corrosion from water and other harmful media, while providing an ultra-fast response when triggered. Mac also carries a full line of 'bags like this Conti Triple-Bellow Bag. These suckers collapse down to 7 inches and extend out to 22 inches, giving you 15 inches of working stroke.
For more information, contact: Mac's Spring
(800) 585-5117, www.macsspring.com
12. Master Image Customs
MIC introduced the First Speed-'Bag Kit more than 15 years ago. Since that time, the company has been continuously improving the quality and reliability of the Speed-'Bag Kits to meet today's demanding air-ride applications. Master Image Customs offers a huge inventory of in-stock components for hundreds of applications. MIC offers complete kits, custom installation, and individual components for the do-it-yourself customer. The mounting systems and fabricated brackets are laser-cut and designed on the most advanced CAD program available today.
For more information, contact: Master Image Customs
(714) 970-9488, www.masterimagecustoms.com
13. Oasis Manufacturing
Oasis introduces its '06 XD3000 12-vdc air compressor. This Xtreme Duty monster delivers 200 psi to 8 cfm at 100 psi, with a 200-psi maximum pressure rating for the most demanding air suspension and show vehicle applications. This compressor will fill a 5-gallon tank, from zero to 150 psi in 54 seconds. The performance is attributed to a commercial-duty motor directly coupled to a 10ci twin-cylinder York compressor. The XD3000 has a cooling fan on the motor for extended run-time. The low-voltage cut-off protection allows the compressor to output 200 psi. Built-in smart technology electronics protect the motor with an indicator and automatic low-voltage cutoff.
For more information, contact: Oasis Mfg.
(949) 768-4311, www.oasismfg.com
14. Slam Specialties
Slam Specialties' brand of high-quality, high-performance air springs has four sizes currently available, including 5-, 6-, 7-, and 8-inch diameters, and three pressure models of each. All models are size and bolt pattern compatible with Firestone air springs. Size and bolt pattern is where the similarity ends. Slam Specialties' line of air springs are constructed with steel bead rings within specially designed dual-end closure plates. All plates are permanently bonded, instead of clamped or crimped, to non-ballooning rubber bellows, making it virtually impossible for the plates to separate from the rubber, even unrestrained at maximum pressure.
For more information, contact: Slam Specialties
(888) 352-5225, www.slamspecialties.com
15. Street Beat Customs
Asco Air Suspension Manifold is one of the highest flowing manifolds on the market. With a single pressure inlet and exhaust capability, it minimizes tubing and fitting proliferation. It controls all four wheels from one location and can be installed alone or in groups of two or four with a manifold-ganging kit.
For more information, contact: Street Beat Customs
(800) 771-6908, www.streetbeatcustoms.com
16. Stylin' Concepts
The Stylin' Air High Output Compressor, PN SC4HO, is setting standards for high-output compressors. By using a 3/4hp fan-cooled motor, overheating is a thing of the past. With a 150-psi working pressure, you can fill air tanks and run impact wrenches easily. The Stylin' Air is permanently lubed with sealed bearings, so it can be mounted in any position, making installation much easier. Every Stylin' Air uses thread-locked stainless steel fasteners for a long and trouble-free life in the highest vibration applications.
For more information, contact: Stylin' Concepts
(800) 434-4381, www.stylinconcepts.com
Since 1997, UDS Incorporated has supplied larger companies with all the fitting and parts they need, and now, they are open to the general public-that's you. UDS offers complete kits, upgrades, and components for any truck. The company's large selection of bubble-tight push-in fittings range from 1/8- to 3/4-inch and are 100-percent brass.
For more information, contact: UDS Inc.
(310) 715-1356, www.udshardware.com
Viair is the only air compressor manufacturer in the world that produces as much as five different Continuous Duty 12V Air Compressors engineered specifically for mobile pneumatics applications. This incredible lineup of high-performance compressors consists of the 350C, the 380C, the 450C in 12V or 24V configuration, and the 550C. There is way too much information to go over here, so go to the company's website and check the specifications for yourself.
For more information, contact: Viair Corp.
(949) 582-6868, www.viaircorp.com