Tube Shock Conversion

The original Armstrong lever shocks on my Bugeye were completely worn out and due for rebuilding or replacement. The rears were particularly bad making for a very “hard” ride. The questions was, should they be rebuilt or replaced with one of the tube shock conversion kits available from the usual Bugeye vendors. My dad installed a Bilstein tube shock conversion kit from Putzke’s on his Bloody Beast AH 3000 and was very happy with it and since Udo Putzke also designed a kit for the Bugeye I decided that it would be a nice Christmas present from my dad! Fortunately, he concurred and right after Christmas we started the install.

Frankly, Udo’s instructions (clicking will download the instructions) could be a little more detailed, but we were able to successfully figure things out.

First we laid out all of the parts that came with the kit. Most everything is self explanatory with the exception of the spacers. Left side components were marked with red circular stickers and the right side components were marked with green circular stickers. 

Putzke's Bugeye Bilstein Shock Kit Components

Putzke’s Bugeye Bilstein Shock Kit Components


Understandably, Udo’s kit assumes a stock Bugeye. If you have made modifications like I have, these modifications can create installation conflicts with the new shocks or their mounting brackets. The first one I encountered was the upgraded anti-sway bar installed on my car. It interfered with the lower mounting bracket. I noticed, as you can see in the following photo, that I may have been driving a little too hard in some auto-crosses! Bent anti-sway bar bracket. For now I removed the anti-sway bar bracket. I will find a solution to this issue after the shocks are installed. I also encountered a conflict in the front upper mounts with my radiator overflow tank that will need to be relocated at some point.

Bent Anti-sway bar mounting bracket

Bent Anti-sway bar mounting bracket

Coolant Overflow Tank

Coolant Overflow Tank

Front Shock Installation – Lower Mount:

1. Pulled the emergency brake and locked the rear wheels.

2. Loosened the wheel nuts on the front wheels, jacked the car up and supported with jack stands and then removed the front wheels/tires.

3. Loosened (don’t remove) the two bolts that hold the the lower spring plate to the front A-arm.

4. Remove one bolt – frame side/inboard.

A-arm Bolt Replacement

A-arm Bolt Replacement

5. Place the new bottom bracket and long spacer on top of the A-arm. Replace the bolt and nut with one supplied in the kit. Tighten until metal contact.

6. Remove the wheel side/outboard bolt.

7. Insert the spacer and rate the bracket over the hole.

LH Front Lower Mounitng Plate and Spacer

LH Front Lower Mounting Plate and Spacer

LH Front Lower Mounting Plate

LH Front Lower Mounting Plate

8.Replace second new bolt/nut.

9. Check spring clearance and pull bracket away from spring.

10. Tighten both bolts to 19lbs.

Front Shock Installation – Upper Mount:

1. Support the lower control arm with a floor jack.

2. Remove three (3) from the Armstrong lever shock. At least in my case, I had to remove the big heater inlet hose to get to the shock bolts.

Removing Armstrong Shock Mounting Bolts

Removing Armstrong Shock Mounting Bolts

3. Remove the oil plug (big hex nut) from the Armstrong shock and take the valving out.

4. Reinstall oil plug and tighten, check and refill oil.

5. Checked the threads on the shock tower to make sure they were clean and in good shape. As Udo’s directions say, “Bad threads must be repaired!”

6. Clean threads with brake cleaner and Use Locktite on threads.

7. Install the original equipment shock with the new bracket on top using the original bolts.

8. Tighten all three (3) bolts to 30 lb.ft.

9. Install the Bilstein shock #F4-BE3-E553-T0 and tighten to 30 lb.ft. (top and bottom)

10. Install the wheels/tires and set the car on the ground.

Udo emphasizes that if you have adjustment plates installed, you must check the camber, caster and toe on the car!

RH Front Shock Installed

RH Front Shock Installed

Rear Shock Installation:

The rear shock installation is much easier than the front. We already had the car off the ground and on jack stands with the rear tires/wheels removed.

1.Removed both the LH and RH rear Armstrong Lever Shocks.

Armstrong Shock with Lever to be Removed

Armstrong Shock with Lever to be Removed

2.Installed the three spacers for the new mount bracket and one new bolt provided with the kit. Torqued nuts to 33 lb/ft.

Armstrong Shock Removed with Spacers in Place

Armstrong Shock Removed with Spacers in Place

RH Tube Shock Bracket in place

RH Tube Shock Bracket in place

3.Installed the rear shock F4-BE3-E554-T0 to the top bracket pin and torqued to 33 lb. ft.

Bilstein Shock Upper Mount

Bilstein Shock Upper Mount

4.Installed the step-down spacer on the lower mounting and torqued to 33 lb. ft.

RH Bilstein Shock Lower Mount on Axle

RH Bilstein Shock Lower Mount on Axle

5. Complete other side. Inspect your work and then reinstall wheels/tires and lower to the ground.

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

6. Take out for a test drive!

Post installation assessment: Udo’s shocks don’t turn the Bugeye into a Cadillac boulevard cruiser – but then we wouldn’t want that now would we :-). However, the ride is much improved (particularly in the rear) as compared to the admittedly worn out Armstrongs. One cannot really compare the two since we have exhausted lever shocks and brand new tube shocks. The test is always “would you spend the time and money and do it again,” and we think the answer is “yes.”







Replacing leaking RH Lever Shock

I use Bilstein tube shocks on my car having installed Udo Putzke’s mounting kit when the the car was restored. Details may be reviewed on a previous post regarding the front and rear suspension. The kit uses the original lever shocks without the pistons as the upper “A” arm of the front suspension. The right front shock was leaking oil. 

I returned the shock to World Wide Auto Parts run by Dave Caldwell. Dave had rebuilt my shocks about ten years ago. In spite of the time that has passed, Dave honored the lifetime warranty and sent a fresh rebuild to me. Amazing!

To replace the shock, I first placed the car on four jack stands and then removed the right front wheel.

On Jack Stands for Shock Replacement

I then placed a floor jack under the spring pan and raised the pan until the shock arm was free of the rubber rebound pad.

Floor Jack to go Under Spring Pan

I then loosened the top mount for the bilstein tube shock using a 3/4” wrench and loosened the lower mount for the bilstein tube shock with 5/8” wrenches.

Bilstein Shock Lower Mount

I then removed the split pin on the castle nut securing the fulcrum pin.

Split Pin in Castle Nut

I then progressively loosened the castle nut and used it to tap out the pin with a soft hammer.

Gradually Knocking the Fulcrum Pin Out

Then using a drift I tapped out the bolt all of the way, leaving the drift in its place.

Fulcrum Pin Removed

Using a large screwdriver I levered the trunnion for the king pen off of the shock absorber.

Screw Driver as Pry Bar

It won’t move far, but I put a large jackstand under the hub to prevent any stress.

Jack Stand Supporting the King Pin and Trunnion

Using a 9/16” socket and ratchet I loosened and remove the right front shock bolt to chassis.

Loosening Front Shock Bolt

Then using an Allen wrench through the access hole in the bracket, I loosened and removed the left front shock bolt to chassis.

Allen wrench to Remove Left front Shock Mount

I then removed the left-hand rear and the right-hand rear shock bolts to the chassis with a 9/16 inch deep socket and ratchet.

Removing Rear Shock Mount Bolts

I was then able to lift the shock away from the car. It was immediately obvious that the shock had been leaking!

Obvious Oil Leak

The next step is to clean up the mounting area before installing the new shock.

Clean and Ready for New Shock

I then loosened the shock arm bolt/nut 9/16” wrench to make it easier from the arms to go over the trunnion bushings.

Loosen Shock Arm Bolt

The next step is to install the new shock to the chassis by first screwing in both of the engine side (rear) bolts. These are grade 8 3/8”-24 x 1 1/4”. This is made easier with some long extensions and a universal joint before the socket.

Long Extension and Universal

In this case, the completion of the installation really is the reverse of the removal process!