We’ve run Old Man Emu suspension on two different trucks, over a total of 150,000 kilometres. Over 50,000 of those kilometres covered roads from Canada to Argentina. It’s really hard to argue against the attributes. Old Man Emu performs better than most factory suspension systems (especially on loaded vehicles), requires almost zero maintenance, costs a fraction of mid- or long-travel setups, and just plain works day in and day out. Old Man Emu is the system that I almost always recommend to anyone who wants to install new suspension on their truck and never worry about it again.
But there is always a shiny upgrade that catches my eye. Race-bred remote-reservoir bypass shocks are appearing in wheel wells everywhere. I didn’t think I “needed” an upgrade until I spent time in a couple of Total Chaos media trucks at the Rebelle Rally. Oh, and then I spent another week driving Harry Wagner’s ADS suspended first-gen Tundra chasing the Sonora Rally in Mexico. Yeah, that’s about the time when the parts ordering began.
I took a few things I liked from each of those trucks and assembled a system that would work well for our 2008 Toyota Tundra.
87500 Urethane pivot upper-control arms
59870 Total Chaos lower control arm cam tab gussets
880-06-947 Factory Race Series 2.5 DSC coil-over reservoir shock (front)
883-26-006 Factory Race Series 2.5 DSC reservoir shock (rear)
ABSOSR – Active Off-Road bump stop kit (rear)
ABSTOF – Active Off-Road bump stop kit (front)
The Factory Race Series Fox shocks are the crown jewels that do all the work, but the Total Chaos upper control arms (UCAs) are what allow the additional wheel travel and alignment to stay within spec. With more wheel travel to play with, I’ll be pushing the limits (on purpose, or not), and that’s where the progressive spring rate of the Timbren bump stops come into play. These seemingly simple pieces of rubber work significantly better than the stock pieces.
Once again, I spent the day with my friends at The Gear Shop in Calgary. This project could be done at a home garage/driveway with basic tools, but I didn’t have either of those as an option, so I let Alex do the heavy lifting while I shot some pictures and distracted him.
Thankfully, the harsh Alberta winters hadn’t wreaked too much havoc on the chassis. A little heat, penetrating lube, and leverage was enough to break the suspension components free on our ’08 Tundra.
Total Chaos lower control arm cam tab gussets were welded in first to reinforce the factory cam alignment tab plates. Stock pieces tend to deform during bottom outs or hard front impacts.
The front coil-over shocks are adjustable from 0-3 inches of lift. We adjusted the threaded collar on the zinc-plated shock body to about 0.75 of an inch from topping out. This provided 2 inches of lift over stock. Super-Lube was used to pre-lubricate the upper control arm bushings before the upper control arms and shocks were bolted into place.
The rear required a simple removal and replacement of the old shocks; the only added step was mounting the remote reservoir. I previously installed Old Man Emu medium-duty leaf springs on the Tundra. The 1.5 inches of lift they provide works perfectly with the extended length rear shocks.
The Factory Race Series Fox shocks come with DSC (dual speed compression) adjusters. Contrary to what you may think, high and low speed doesn’t refer to the speed of the vehicle, but instead to the speed of the shock shaft. That means you can adjust compression for both high speed (fast washboard and small whoops) and low speed (ride, handling, and bottoming control) driving conditions. If the load in your vehicle is constantly changing, or you’re driving on ever-changing road conditions, you have the option to change your shock compression to compensate. There are 10 settings for low-speed compression (gold knob) and 12 for high-speed compression (blue knob).
Once the front and rear Timbren bump stops were installed, The Gear Shop completed an alignment, and I was out the door and into the dirt as fast as you can say—not so fast! This was the perfect time to throw on a set of new wheels and tires. We wrapped some BFGoodrich 35/12.50R17 all-terrain KO2s around bronze 17/8.5ET0 Method Race Wheels 702 Trail Series wheels with patented Bead Grip technology. The new bead grip is for performance, but the bronze is just for fun.
After removing the front mud flaps and “massaging” the bumper plastic, these wheels fit perfectly without any rubbing—no need for body mount chop at this point. Just like that, our 10-year-old truck performs, well, better than a new TRD Pro at a fraction of the cost.
I have about three months of driving under my (seat)belt with this setup, and it would be hard to go back to anything else. Sure, the polyurethane bushings make some noise if not greased (that’s the sound of performance), but hopping under the truck every three to four months to grease the UCAs isn’t a deal-breaker. Plus, they’re absolutely silent when they’re greased properly. I tend to leave the DSC selectors clicked somewhere on the soft side (usually 2-4 clicks from the softest setting) and ride the flying couch in comfort. Washboard, potholes, and G-outs are soaked up so easily that I find myself pushing the truck harder and harder. If I want a little more control on the road, I crank up the low-speed compression to 8 or 9. The biggest gripe I have with this setup is that now I “need” something similar on my other truck. Thanks a lot.