Disclaimer: No airbags, air tanks, compressors, or suspension components were harmed during the filming of this buildup. Kids, don't try this at home without your parents' permission.
Bags come and 'bags go. No, we're not talkin' about old girlfriends. We're talking about airbags and airbag systems. Your girlfriend is a whole other matter, and you should look at another magazine for that advice. KP Components, located in Hilmar, California, has just the answer for your old 'bag woes: a six-link cantilever system that eliminates the 'bag-over-axle kit that everyone has been doing for years. The benefit of using this system is that it moves the 'bags from above the axle in a traditional application, to the link bars, which provides a mechanical advantage, thus requiring less air to lift the rear of your truck. The less air it takes to raise your truck off the ground, the softer the ride will be when you are driving it. The traditional 'bag-over-axle method only offers a 1:1 lift ratio, so if your airbag will extend 6 inches, that's how much lift you'll get and it will take a ton of air pressure to get there. The KP system multiplies that ratio several times for more lift and a softer ride.
If you're not handy with tools or just don't have the time and you want a pro-quality shop to do the install, call a reputable shop like Master Image Customs. MIC, as it is better known, has a new shop in Mission Viejo, California, and is a distributor for KP Components. When the folks at MIC heard about our old-school Silverado buildup, they said "How can we get some of that action?" Adam Diaz and crew proposed the KP six-link system, and we said, "Hell, yeah," because the crew is so well versed in 'bagging Chevys that they can finish the job in less than five working days.
Our project truck is an '02 Chevrolet Silverado, currently sporting a 3/4 drop using drop springs. It looks good and rides decent, but something is missing. We wanted a kit that can lay low and smash rocks, but we also wanted something dependable that we could use and drive on a daily basis.
We know what you're thinking; we want to have our cake and eat it, too. Damn straight, little camper, we do.
Using a combination of the KP six-link kit and MIC's check valves, tanks, switches, and wheeltubs, we were ready to 'bag and drop.
Because of time constraints and because the truck is going to be driven daily, we chose to not cut out the front fenderwells. Granted, this would prevent the truck from laying even lower and complete the look, but that may come at a later time so stay tuned for that.
After the KP Components' kit was installed, we gave it the ultimate test and drove our Silverado over the Ortega highway, which is also known as the 74, a narrow, winding, mountain road going through the Cleveland National Forest that connects Orange County to Riverside County. For those of you who aren't from the SoCal area, get out your atlas and check it out, because you'll be amazed at this two-lane, scary cruise up and down a mountain.
The truck rode and handled like a go-kart. Common sense says you can't lay it low and cruise like a mad man, but you can set a comfortable ride height and enjoy. The truck is driven daily on the mean streets of California. But, it's mainly a freeway hauler presenting no problems with the suspension. In addition to our regular work commute, we also cruised the Silverado all the way to Vegas for a photoshoot and then back to L.A. in a pouring rainstorm. It was no problem. The suspension and 'bag kit even unexpectedly came in handy when we came in contact with high flood water. A flick of the switch and the truck raised a few more inches to safely clear the raging stream. Who says inches don't matter? Other than a little rust on the exposed bolts, the suspension came out unscathed. So, now we can say we made it through hell and high water and survived.
Our project Silverado has a 3/4 drop, using leaf springs in the rear and shortened coils u
MIC used 2,600-pound Firestone air springs, which offer more weight-carrying capability th
Here is the front setup completed. MIC constructed a set of cups to hold the 'bag in place
There have been countless how-to articles on 'bagging a truck, so there's no point in rehashing how to do this install. Instead, we are going to give you a down-and-dirty summary for readers who are new to lowering and wondering what consists of 'bagging a truck.
1. MIC trashed the old leaf springs and hangers to get ready for the step-notch and 'bag k
2. With the bed off the frame, the arm assembly was bolted to the frame, where the old han
3.Here's a top view of the U-bolt-mounted arms with the bumpstop removed.
4. One of the reasons for the excellent ride is the location of the airbag. The cantilever
5. The tailpipe section of the after-cat exhaust had to be cut off slightly to make room f
6. Using the KP Components '99-'04 Chevy step-notch kit will let the Silverado lay down li
7. A once very practical and useful item-the spare tire. But, when you want to be cool, so
8. With the floor of the bed cut out, you can see how the entire axle and step-notched fra
9. MIC's custom bed floor kit was carefully marked for the grooves in the bed for a flush
10. Here, you can see that our project truck is indeed driven daily. After several road tr
11. Here's the finished product, after a quick stop at Inland Empire Arma Coatings in Coro
Watts Linkin' With KP
By Kevin Aguilar
Photography: KP Components & Kevin Whipps
During the time that this truck was getting worked on, KP Components added a new product to its fine line of suspension kits. This Watts Link bolts on to all '88-'06 GM trucks that have the 10-bolt rearend. It works with KP's six-link cantilever kits and is compatible with most other aftermarket four-link kits. It is completely bolt-on, and no welding is required to install it.
The Watts Link will keep the rear axle in alignment as it travels up and down. A Panhard bar is intended to do the same, but it has a flaw of shifting the axle to the side during lateral movement. This alignment is critical on today's airbagged trucks with large wheels that barely tuck inside the fenders. Any side movement can mean scratched wheels or even body damage from wheels hitting the inner fender. Shown here is a diagram of the Watts Link when installed and the truck is aired up (Figure 1).
Once the truck is laid out, the linkage keeps the rearend from shifting during the length of travel that is required for any typical air suspension (Figure 2). When the KP Components six-link cantilever is used in conjunction with the Watts Link kit, the durability and functions of an airbagged suspension are definitely maximized.
Here's what comes in the box. (From top to bottom, left to right) Wraparound differential bracket, driver-side mounting bracket, center link, passenger mounting bracket, Watts Link bars, and a sealed bag of all the required mounting hardware.
The Final Word
Overall, the KP Components six-link is a proven road-warrior package. The ride is good and dependable, and the crew at MIC did a great job in making it all happen. So, give these two aftermarket specialists a call and see what they can do for you.