Hey Max,
A couple of years ago I picked up an '86 Mazda B2000. It had the rear flipped and a couple leafs taken out, the front torsion bars were turned down, and the bumpstops were cut too. I want to change all this by getting a full FBSS kit so I can lay frame. My question is, what's the best way to go in the front? I don't really want to weld in a C-notch because I want a clean, unaltered look right there. I appreciate your time, Max. Thanks!
Brian
Mechanicsburg, PA


Well Brian, back in da day it was rare to see the frame notched for an airbag, so what you're asking is not all that difficult to do. The reason people started notching their frames was to get more lift by moving the 'bag closer to the fulcrum point (the inner arm mount) and to run a larger 'bag. Both of the reasons can help make for a better ride, but I must complain that not modifying the frame, which could offer a better airbag experience for the simple reason of wanting "a clean, unaltered look," is a step backward. The 'bag and its mounts certainly do not look “unaltered,” so why not make the changes that would best benefit your efforts?

Max,
I have a second-gen S-10, but it's 4WD, what are my chances that I can 'bag this thing without wanting to kill myself half way through the job? Any kind of answer would help at this point. Thanks!
Mikey Warner
Somewhere in the South


The ol' "I got a four-wheel-drive and wanna 'bag it" question. If you need to keep 4WD, the job will certainly be more difficult than if you can ditch the axles, but somehow I don't think you'd be asking me how to do it if you could simply unbolt everything and throw a bag in the now empty hole. A few 4WD trucks run torsion bars on the top arm in order to keep the space clear for the axles; you could steal this idea, mount the 'bag to the upper arm, and build a tall upper 'bag mount. I have done this before, but it wasn't the easiest of installs. There is also the possibility of running bag-over-shocks, but I'm not positive what kind of modifications would need to be done in order to accommodate them. It is absolutely possible to do what you ask, but keep in mind that drop spindles aren't available and the CV joints will also limit your travel regardless of how you modify the ball joint angles. Laying your truck flat on 20s or even 18s while keeping the 4WD will take some serious fabrication and ingenuity.

Good luck!

Yo Max,
This is not a tech question. It's more personal. Someday I dream of owning my own custom suspension and fabrication shop. My skills aren't bad, but I am nowhere near confident in running my own outfit just yet. I was just wondering how you started and where you picked up your trade. Keep up the good work, man!
Jorge Cervantes
Fresno, CA


Thank you, Jorge—I really enjoy this question. The way I got started was by working on my own vehicles, then my friends wanted me to work on their vehicles, then other people in town started asking about getting work done, and then all of a sudden we were in business. I think the biggest difference between then and now is that air suspension was in its beginning stages, so most of the junk work that we did in the beginning was easily forgiveable because there weren't any rules yet. I screwed up my fair share of suspensions and wasted lots of time testing theories and refining ideas to get to where I am now. The beauty of this is that you can learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past by shops like mine. One of the biggest things that I never forgot was that I absolutely did not know it all and I asked every fabricator who would let me in their shop how or why they did something the way they did; some of their answers were not very reassuring, while others were pretty damn impressive. To this day I still ask questions when I can. The most important piece of advice I can offer anyone trying to claim a spot in this business is to not compromise your work for any reason. It will always come back to haunt you in some form or fashion. It doesn't need to be perfection at every turn, but not grinding off torch slag or making sure your welds are presentable looks amateur and unprofessional. The fact that you are “nowhere near confident in running your own outfit just yet” is a good sign; it means that you know you have room to grow. I hope you figure something out soon!