I’ve gotten into the mindset where I like to try and custom build or DIY as much as possible when building a car. While more and more small niche companies are making specialized parts to “bolt-on” your project, it’s easier than ever to build a “custom” vehicle. Nothing beats being able to show off your ride at a show and have people notice all of the one-off modifications and parts. In the end I spend less money, and I don’t need to wait for “custom” parts to show up in the mail. It’s one of my secrets to completing project cars so quickly.
This weekend I started tackling a project that is a perfect example of this topic. Currently I’m fitting one of my project vehicles with air ride suspension. A few sites offer high-priced, “bolt-on” kits, but they still aren’t a true bolt-on affair. These kits also are way out of budget for this particular build. The first big piece of the puzzle are the rear air shocks. Since this is a small vehicle, I’m tight on space and opted to go with Air Lift Chapman style air struts. These are close to the same dimensions of the original rear suspension, but they need a mount solution where they meet the rear axle beam. Niche companies do sell accessories that allow you to bolt the struts on with out breaking out the welder. But the cost to buy them, and wait for them to be made, and arrive to me; I could’ve saved time and $150-$200.
I decided to take a pair of worn out, original rear shocks and cut the bottoms off with the end links and use my Eastwood TIG 200 to mate them together. Luckily the Air Lift rear air struts came beveled at the bottoms to make a nice valley to lay the filler rod in. I also ground a small bevel on the original shock bottoms.
I then set my TIG 200 up on a 110V outlet and set the output at the pedal to be a max of 120 Amps. I decided to use an .030 filler rod to produce a small, tight puddle that wouldn’t protrude from the joint too much. I found myself hovering the pedal around 75% which was about 100-110 Amps. The results were pretty good given that I am definitely still a beginner to TIG welding.
In the end I spent about an hour total modifying these air struts, and saved myself a significant amount of money and wait time. If you do this a few times even on one project, you can see how you’ve quickly paid for your welder, and have the satisfaction of having parts you made yourself!