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TECH: Ridetech Riviera

Demo’ On The Down-Low

By Rotten Rodney Bauman



Since becoming an “Elite” dealer for the complete line of Ridetech suspension components and accessories, sales have been steady at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff. Oftentimes such sales are followed by in-house installation jobs. At HR&CS, we’re here to help with any Ridetech-related phase of your street rod, custom, or muscle car build—or upgrade. But in all honesty, a crafty hobbyist with access to a lift (or in certain situations, even a sturdy set o’ jack stands) could likely handle installation chores at home, as Ridetech products are thoughtfully engineered—even to include installer-friendliness. To illustrate that claim, we’ve documented the Ridetech RidePro AirPod e3 upgrade to our fearless leader, Randy Clark’s personal ’65 Riviera project.


There’ll be other installations of other Ridetech wares documented here on this ‘site as we go. Here on the Interweb, at www.hotrodscustomstuff.com, we’re not exactly pressed for space. So, before we proceed with the technical portion of this story, be warned: this is not the abbreviated version. With that there said; prepare for in-depth detail of each and every step. Come along for the ride!


As seen here on the HR&CS studio picnic table, this is what’s goin’ in.


As seen here on the HR&CS studio concrete slab, this is what’s comin’ out. These original coil springs have not been cut or heated, and they’d likely be appreciated by a restorer. So, they’ll be stocked at HR&CS’ newest department; Old Car Stuff.  


Granted this part ain’t too technical, but it seems interesting enough to note that ‘round here, Buick finned aluminum drums are rarely seen—still attached to a Buick. Them’s hot rod Ford parts right there.


With the lower ball joint now loose, and the brake components and spring out of the way, we’ve gained access to areas in need of modification. The Riviera’s lower control arms will require relief cuts for ShockWave clearance. For this, an extra large 4 1/2-inch holesaw comes in handy.


Here’s a closer look at the cut as HR&CS fabricator, Jeremy checks his progress. He’s almost there.


From this point the rest of this cut goes quickly.


With a quick flip of a pry bar, the freed section of unwanted steel is on its way to the scrap bin. Then these steps will be repeated on the opposite side.


Obviously some cleanup and detail work will be required, and this would be an excellent time to replace wiggly ball joints as well.


Here Jeremy dresses down sharp edges left by the holesaw. A cutoff disc on an angle die grinder works well in such tight spots.


Due to the ShockWaves’ slightly-wider-than-coils diameter, trimming of the upper spring pockets will also be necessary.


Still hot, here’s a close-up of what must be removed. Next the procedure is repeated on the opposite side.


A test-fit of the left-front ShockWave has revealed hidden interference in the form of a shock bushing cup, which had remained in hiding for as long as it could.


The offending bushing cup was no match for a 3/4-inch drill bit. With the ‘bit still warm, the procedure was repeated on the opposite side.  


The cleaning and detailing of wheelhouses and used suspension components may not warrant deeply-detailed documentation, but once again, we’re not exactly pressed for space here on the ‘site, so here’s a glimpse of it, anyway.


On this warm Escondido day, a short lunch break is all the dry-time our rattle-can enamel requires. With ball joints and tie rod ends replaced as necessary, it’s final assembly time.


The ShockWave’s lower trunnion mount will likely need a slight rotation in order to line up flat with the mating surface of the lower control arm.


After a quick twist with an adjustable wrench, the trunnion mount lines up well enough to reconnect loosely.


With new bushings in their places, the strut rod is reattached.


Now that both spindles and control arms are reunited and back in the swing o’ things, related fasteners can be torqued down on both sides.


This’ll just about wrap it up for the front. At this point, wheel bearings are packed and the hub ‘n’ drum assemblies are ready for dust caps.


Bringin’ Up ‘N’ Down The Rear


So, as we’ve seen, the forward portion of this Ridetech RidePro AirPod e3 system isn’t rocket surgery. This particular job could be easier on a 2-post lift, but once again, a sturdy set o’ jack stands might suffice in a pinch. The rearward installation to follow should go quickly, as it’s a direct bolt-in with no trimming required.  


Here’s our starting point, with shock absorbers still attached and the car’s weight still on its stock coil springs.


First order o’ business: remove the existing shock absorbers.


Next Jeremy unbolts the coil springs.


If by chance you’re doing this job at home on your back with the car up on jack stands, please use a coil spring compressor. Here Jeremy’s spring removal method o’ choice involves a long Snap-On pry bar. It’s okay; he’s done this many times before. He’s got room under the lift, and when the spring goes “boing,” he’ll be standing safely outside of its trajectory.


With the path now cleared for the new Ridetech airsprings, the inflation kit fittings are installed. For anti-leak insurance, on pipe-thread fittings, a single wrap of Teflon tape is a good practice. Thoughtfully thinking ahead; Ridetech has already wrapped the ends in need.


Final assembly of Ridetech’s airsprings goes quickly. A twist or two later, it’s time to install them on the car.  


Safety Meeting? Cone of Silence?


Actually, the upper fasteners require some “reach-around” on this ol’ Riviera. So, a third ‘n’ fourth hand from HR&CS fabricator, Charlie comes in handy here.


The lower fasteners, however, are a breeze with easy access.


And the installation of Ridetech Coolride shocks is a straight-forward nuts ‘n’ bolts operation as well.


Mounting the AirPod—Custom Bracket Fabrication 101  


With front ShockWaves, rear airsprings and rear Coolride shocks installed, Jeremy will now fabricate custom mounting brackets for Ridetech’s AirPod assembly. Early on, we did consider concealing the unit in the dead space beneath the car’s rear package tray. But this is pretty shiny stuff, so Randy’s final call was to let it show ‘n’ shine.


Armed and dangerous with a pair o’ remanufactured, reinforced, professional-grade ambidextrous template scissors, Jeremy commences to create a cardboard template for floor-fitting mounting brackets.


While we watch, these mounting brackets will be custom-fabricated to fill the gaps ‘tween the AirPod’s flat base and the Riviera’s curvy trunk floor. Here with the aid of a dull Sharpie, the template’s outline is transferred to 18-gage sheet steel.


Here at the big bandsaw, Jeremy begins cuttin’ out the brackets’ curvy upright sections.


Having made the cuts; it’s brake time. Here on the brake, the same two pieces receive a 45-degree fold, which will soon enough become the mating surface for the flat underside of the AirPod’s base.


This is just a routine fitment-check. There’ll be others ‘long the way.


Next at the belt sander, the metal edges are dressed down smooth.


After cuttin’ appropriate-dimension strips at the power shear, Jeremy hand-forms the more-complex mounting flanges for the curvy trunk-floor-sides of his brackets.


With the bracket secured to the table, it’s Miller time as Jeremy kick-starts the Millermatic 135 MIG welder. In short bursts, he’ll cool occasionally as he goes with compressed air, which should help keep heat-distortion all the way at bay.


Even though his brackets won’t even show in the end, Jeremy grabs his—die grinder and begins to dress his welds.


Afterward, a Roloc disc-equipped angle die grinder is the ticket for further smoothing.


It’s almost a shame they won’t show, eh?  


This is just another routine fitment-check—before mounting holes are drilled in the trunk’s floor.


Here the last of four mounting holes gets drilled to accept the curvy sides of the new brackets.


Planning ahead, four blind rivet nuts will eliminate the need for the buddy system. When the AirPod is bolted in place for keeps, it will be a one-person operation.


For the same purpose, four weld nuts will be used at the flat-flanged side where the bracket supports the AirPod. Once again, a dull Sharpie marks the spots.


With weld nuts in position, it’s gettin’ close once again—to Miller time.


This time Jeremy chooses the shop’s Miller Syncrowave 200 TIG welder for attachment of the weld nuts.


Humor me here if you will—I couldn’t resist: HR&CS’ award-winning paint department houses not one, but two state-of-the-art sprarybooths. This shot, however, was not taken in HR&CS’ award-winning paint department.


Tyin’-Up Loose Ends


With the AirPod now secured in place, it’s time to turn attention to loose ends, such as wiring and routing of supplied 1/4-inch DOT air line. 


Here making good use of a nearby stationary object, Jeremy builds his Ridetech-supplied wiring loom. Slight tension helps to minimize unsightly twisting.


Sneakily sliding the additional wiring ‘longside the Riviera’s factory loom is the chosen approach here.


Ridetech recommends connecting the system’s hot wire directly to the positive battery terminal. In this instance, a little fishin’ trip was required, but a length o’ welding rod made things easier.


As an option for ease-of-installation, butt-connectors are provided by Ridetech. Jeremy don’t much care for butt-connectors—and ordinarily he prefers solder. For those occasional exceptions, he’ll zip-tie to something substantial to minimize the jigglin’.


Here’s a neat lil’ tool for clippin’ 1/4-inch DOT air line. Ridetech can supply them, and as our area’s source for all Ridetech wares, so can we at HR&CS.


As y’all can see here, this lil’ air line cutter does a very clean job.


Connecting the air lines from this point is a simple push-on operation.  


With trunk space to spare, there’s still plenty o’ room for ice chests, luggage, drive-in movie stowaways, etc. Y’all use your own imaginations, okay?


With the installation now complete, it’s setup time for the system’s digital control panel.     


Even in the full-down-low position, the ol’ Riviera could be cautiously driven, as it ain’t quite layin’ frame.


While installation times will vary, on this job, the desired effect has been achieved in just 25 hours, with a well-engineered Ridetech system.


As an “Elite” dealer for the complete line of Ridetech suspension components and accessories, we at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff are here to help with any Ridetech-related phase of your street rod, custom, or muscle car build—or upgrade.