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I picked this car up for cheap at a public auction in Chicago. I bought it to make profit selling it, but after taking it home I just couldn't part with it. The color looks factory, but when you really get close to it you can see that it has some gold metallic in it. This causes it to shine a totally different shade of red in the sun. Check out the differences in the above pictures.
This is how it looked when I took it home. Basically a grandpa looking car, it needed some wheels BAD. It wasn't a Northstar as that only came in the Concurs model in 95. Probably a good thing though because those early Northstars had some problems. Last pics when I first got the 20" wheels put on.
I ended up having some bad luck with the transmission after about 8k miles. First the differential gears broke, destroying the housing. Then, a few weeks later the transmission reverse spline expanded causing some serious clicking noise when the car was moved. It was mis-diagnosed as having a bad drive chain, so I changed the chain out but it didn't fix the problem. Here's some pics of the two problems and what I tore apart. It was a pain to do, and it moved after going back together but the noise was still there.
The car needed a new transmission and a new set of struts. So, I decided to bag it at the same time of doing the transmission install since I'd have to take the struts out anyway.
Before committing, I got some Photoshop pics of the car dropped to see how it would turn out. These are fake pics, just as a sneak peek as to how it would turn out.
First, I yanked out the old tranny to take it in to get rebuilt. Let me tell you how fun that wasn't. Basically you have to drop the front sub frame on the floor while the body of the car is suspended in the air. Then, the transmission has to come out sideways through the driver's wheel well. While the engine was basically laying on the floor, I decided to put a new timing chain on the car for the hell of it. The old one ended up being pretty stretched out so it was a good thing I did.
After getting the refreshend transmission back and reinstalled, I was ready for the Air Ride.
Air Ride Install
Here's what the factory strut looks like. Basically a typical McPhearson strut assembly with a stabilizer bar attached that connects to the front sway bar. First step is to remove the strut.
There's basically 2 bolts on the strut and 3 bolts up top holding a typical strut to the car. This car also had the stabilizer bar. Like I said above, do not remove the upper strut mount. Not only is it very dangerous, but if you keep this assembly together, you can put the car back to factory by simply changing the strut out.
The front Air Strut I purchased used so I did not have to hack up my factory strut. The Air Strut kit usually contains the Air Bag and the mounting plates. You will have to cut your strut in half right below the lower spring mount and slip the Air Strut kit over it. It'd be best to use a brand new strut for this so that you can keep your factory struts in case you want to go back stock.
The way this works, in a factory setup the car rests on the spring. This determines the ride height. As the car goes up and down hitting bumps, the strut acts as a shock absorber. The Air Strut works in the exact same way. The weight of the car sits on the Air Bag and can be adjusted. The strut goes through the middle of the air bag and allows you to run an upper strut mount as a pivot point for the Air Strut. I made my own upper strut mount using a mount that I found off the shelf at Advance Auto Parts. You could use the factory mount for a better fit, but for one the caddy mount was rather expensive, and for two I didn't mind fabricating a little to make it how I wanted it. I ended up drilling one new hole for the strut and making a plate to fit the 3rd mounting hole to the factory strut tower.
Before drilling the above holes, I test fitted the strut in place with the 20" wheels that I was going to run. I was checking ride height here to see how low it would lay.
Here's the final assembly with the 1/2" air line ran and a nice Push to Connect fitting installed. There's basically two kinds of fittings to use. One is a regular compression fitting. This is where there is a sleeve on the air line and you screw the sleeve until it crushes onto the air line to hold it in place. These are un-reliable, so the second kind (Push to Connect) are the way to go. You'll see in the pics here that there are cheap plastic PTC fittings, and nice brass ones. The brass are of course more expensive, but they have a sleeve in the middle that keeps the air line straight meaning less chance of leaks. These are very easy to install. First, cut the hose so its a straight cut, then just push into the fitting and pull back some. The hose will lock in place.
The rear of this car has a small coil spring and uses a factory air shock with a compressor for ride height adjustment. The springs have to be removed, but I kept the factory air shocks in place just for the heck of it. They really aren't bothering anything and can be removed if you want. The factory compressor does have to come out or at least disconnect the factory wiring to it so that it isn't able to run. After the spring is removed, I turned the 2500# bag upside down to mount it. I drilled a hole in the top of the spring perch and used some thread extenders to go through the lower control arm. These are just a tight enough fit to not need anything else bolted to them! The air line is now under the control arm but very close to the arm. You'll notice that the bag was kinked after I installed it.
Since the bag was slightly angled on the bottom, I decided to grind on the factory control arm to get it more level. This way the bag will sit more even on the control arm. The air line drooped too far down with a straight fitting installed, so I swapped it out for a 90 degree fitting and an extension to put the fitting past the control arm. I tried to bolt the bag on the bottom using some washers and bolts but it didn't seem to work out well so I left it alone. The weight of the car on the bag is enough to keep the bag from rising up, and the bolt extensions seen above keep it from moving side to side.
I mounted the 9 gallon tank and the Air Compressor in the trunk up against the back seat. I wanted enough room to fit my box with my 15" subs and still have a clean open trunk space. The valves are mounted behind the carpet hidden as well. Everything is hidden once the box is in the trunk, including the amplifier tucked neatly under the spare tire cover. The front and back are independent and use 1 switch for each. I mounted them up high near the rear view mirror. Since I only had 2 switches, there was no need for a big clunky box in the way all the time, plus it adds some style. Inside the car, I added a digital air pressure gauge from Dakota Digital. Very nice setup that monitors the bag pressures as well as the tank pressure with limits that you can program to let you know if its too low or high PSI.
Now that all bags are in place, here's some shots of how low the car sat. I set it up so that it wouldn't drag on the ground if something went wrong with one of the bags. I had the front wheel just barely below the fender allowing it to turn without rubbing. The rear probably could have been dropped another couple inches and still been ok. The 20s also keep the car from dropping too low. Smaller wheels would let it just about lay on the ground.
Here's the final pics in the daylight.
Any questions? Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Videos of the Air Ride on the Caddy!
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