Solid axle swaps in a Chevy... MMMMMM my favorite Well my friend me being sick means I actually have time to sit here and put down everything all at once.
1)Axle choice - Dana 60 or Dana 44HD?
2)Suspension type - Linked or Leaf spring?
3)New or used Axle?
4)Aftermarket - Sticking Stock or bombing that too?
5)Leveling out the rear - How to get the "ass end up" now that the front sits higher
6)Misc. Items - Things such as brake operations, keeping or eliminating ABS, driveshafts, ect.
1)What axle are you planning on using? The grand pubah of Front axles sought after was made in 77.5 - 79 for the Ford F250 and F350 series trucks. This is a High Pinion, Kingpin Dana 60 that everybody and there brother wants to find. Mainly because for those interested in a linked suspension, the "short side" axle tube is longer than most other years, allowing room for the link brackets and coil towers. But for what you sound like you want(leaf spring), this axle has a 34" spring pad width. What does this mean for you? Your trucks front frame rails are spaced 34" apart, so the front axle will literally line itself right up like it belonged there in the first place. Not to mention a huge aftermarket for parts. But unless you get lucky and find a jaw dropping good deal on that year range from someone that doesn't know what those things are worth, expect to pay around $700+ for it. Either buying it online and actually getting it too you, or finding one locally. Check out pirate 4x4 as sometimes people come across these axles and post them up there. Otherwise check ebay, craigslist, and your local junkyard for that year range. If your not interested in Dana 60, there is always the Dana 44HD(3/4 ton version). This is a High Pinion, Ball joint front axle, found in the same year range on the F250's not fortunate enough to get a Dana 60(keep in mind that most F250s will have a Dana 44HD. The Dana 60 was only available in "Camper special"F250's. Easiest way to determine which is which? Dana 60 has king pins Dana 44 has Ball joints) Though the price tag on this axle is lower, it wont take the beating a Dana 60 will, and by the time you sink several thousand $$ into it to make it slightly stronger than a stock Dana 60, you could have just bought a Dana 60.
2) It sounds to me like your going with a set of leaf springs, which is easier than a linked suspension, but do some research on the linked suspensions before making your finally decision. Also, consider having a new set of leaf springs made for your application. Simply because this isn't some 4500lb F350 with a 460BBF in it anymore, so the leaf springs may end up sagging to low, or end up breaking a few leaves like I had happen to me. I recommend speaking with Alcan Spring out of Grand Junction, CO. Nobody builds custom leaf springs like those guys do. They will taylor it down to within a few pounds so you get the best ride, or load carrying capacity you can ask for.
3) Not sure what your budget is, but there is always the option of having a brand new Dana 60 or Dana 44HD built for you. Dynatrac makes some of the most jaw dropping axles you will find. Period. Hopefully Joey D will chime in there as he bought his Pro Rock Dana 60 from Dynatrac. Keep in mind though, there great work comes at a rather healthy price. Still, if you have the budget and want an axle that wont fail, give these guys a call.
4)Aftermarket. The name pretty much speaks for itself. This ranges from Gear sets, to aftermarket diff covers and steering arms, lockouts and drive flanges, and chrome moly axle shafts with CTM U-joints. There is ALOT of ground to cover there. For much beefier steering knuckles, look at Dedenbear or Crane Hi - Clearance, its almost a must with a heavy vehicle, bigger tires, and crossover steering. Chromo axle shafts are the way to go when it comes to making sure that all that power you make actually reaches the ground before self destructing. If your not interested in fuel economy, Drive Flanges can be used to replace the lockouts on the axle hubs. These basically tie the knot for your "bombproof" driveline. Never the less, a set of Warn Premium lockouts are still pretty damn strong. Yuokn Gear and Axle is a well respected name in the axle business when it comes to gear sets and axle rebuild kits as well.
5)By going with a kit, places like ORU or ORD claim that putting a solid axle under your Chevy will lift the front end 3" when its all said and done. So your back end is going to want to be leveled out some. Blocks are ok, but with that comes more axle wrap. Especially with serious power and dumping of the clutch. I'll recommend Off Road Design's Shackle Flip kit. Its not as cheap as a set of blocks, but you put them back there and never worry about them again. Installation is pretty simple too. DIY4X also makes a shackle flip kit too if I remember right.
6)Misc stuff is going to wind up costing you a pretty penny too, and this is the little stuff that sets you back week.. after week... after week because you didn't realize you needed it.
Go browse Off road designs online product page and familiarize yourself with some of there stuff. They make the brake lines, crossover steering kits and some other cool stuff. There customer service is top notch and they do nice work. Something else to consider is whether or not you plan on keeping your ABS... There are kits out there that will make the ABS work on your Dana 60, but there is nothing for the Dana 44HD. You either have to disable the ABS unit, or make it work with the new axle. Dynatrac can also help you out there as well. As far as driveshafts go there is no way in hell the stock unit is going to work with your new front axle anymore. So give Jesse a call at High Angle driveline about getting a front driveshaft built. If there is only going to be 3 or 4" of lift your rear driveshaft will be fine, just make sure to realign your pinion angle after adding some height to the rear.
I don't think I'm forgetting anything, but if I am I'll be sure to post it. Hopefully Joey D chimes in as well. He also has a Solid axle under his Chevy. And he has some great tips and pointers when it comes to this stuff. Just don't ask him how to take the bed off the truck without a lift