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Got Stance?

How to Set the Correct Ride Height

Photography by Matthew King

The right stance can make or break a car, but like the famous quote about pornography, we can’t define the perfect look for a car—we just know it when we see it. Some people like pavement scrapers, others like the feeling of lording over traffic like an air-traffic controller in the control tower. It’s all up to you, but sometimes you get a car with a stance so wrong you just have to take action. That was the case with this ’65 Chevy Biscayne we recently picked up for a paltry $900. A two-owner grandma car with a 230ci six and three-on-the-tree, it’s seen better days but is still a solid car that drives great. But something had to be done about the skinny 14-inch wheels and mile-high stance—and quick. We couldn’t bear the thought of showing up in the Car Craft parking lot with it. Swapping on a set of 15x8 Corvette Rally wheels solved part of the problem, but it only made the nosebleeds worse. Throwing caution to the wind, we yanked all four coils and broke out the torch for a quick lowering job.

As a general rule, any coil-sprung car’s ride height and handling abilities can be improved by cutting from ½ to a full coil off each spring, providing of course that they haven’t already sagged beyond the point of usefulness. Many suspension companies offer complete lowering kits that include matched springs which offer a variety of stiffness rates. In most cases, the shorter the spring, the thicker the wire coils will need to be in order to provide proper spring load (see sidebar). Otherwise the car will bottom out mercilessly on every speed bump and driveway entrance. Conversely, if you want to turn your car into a canyon carver, be prepared for a harsher ride. As with most car mods, you’ll need to strike a balance between comfort and performance, but like cams and headers, even a mild upgrade will make a world of difference.

If you choose to cut your own springs, as we did, take this advice: It’s far easier to measure twice and cut once than to try to stretch out your springs if you go too far. Start out by cutting a half coil at a time, reinstall the springs, and let the car settle for a few days before you hack again. On the Biscayne, we got the front right on the first try, but the rear springs took two cuts until we were satisfied.

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