10 Surprising Cars That Were Fitted With Leaf Springs – HotCars

Some gearheads claim leaf springs belong on horse-drawn carriages, not on modern cars.
Separating everyday passengers from tiresome everyday bumps, jolts, and other road imperfections, leaf springs have been utilized for over 200 years, long before even the oldest production cars.
Times have changed, modern cars more commonly use a combination of coils and dampers, multi-link suspension independent set-ups better suited to the compact dimensions afforded by a highly compressed coil. However, the leaf spring isn't done just yet, trucks requiring heavy load-bearing capabilities still use them, as does a surprising number of modern machinery, albeit in unique ways.
America's most popular sports cars, Mustangs, and Corvettes both used leaf springs in the earlier generations, the latter still using a modern composite variant until as recently as 2019. Coil springs are for sure the more popular choice, but there is still some life left in the good old-fashioned leaf spring.
From muscle car to a movie star in one fell swoop, most gearheads will easily identify the Trans-Am Firebird, the hit movies' success doing wonders for Pontiac's sales figures.
Forget what you see on the big screen, Smokey And The Bandit. like all Hollywood blockbusters, uses an awful lot of "suggested" features, instead just revel in how good this thing looks and sounds. By the mid-seventies, muscle cars were a shadow of their former glory, the Trans-Am no different with 400 cu-in V8 engines that were woefully underpowered, 200 hp was the most you could get.
Ford's Mustang kick-started the whole pony car genre with their 1964 Mustang launch, demand outstripping even the most optimistic sales figures, in the first year alone selling 400,000 cars. Designed from the outset to be fast and affordable, whenever possible, using existing Ford model components, including a shared platform.
Keeping public interest high is where the original Shelby GT350 project stems from. Stripped Fastback bodies and a host of Ford spares emerging as the GT350, faster and more aggressive, provided, of course, it used Ford mechanics, which unfortunately included the rear leaf spring suspension set-up.
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Sixty years after its introduction, the Austin Healey 3000 is still a regular sight at historic race events, thanks to agile handling and surprising turn of speed. Fabricated largely from steel with optional lighter aluminum fenders and hoods, at the time a rarity in its price bracket.
A simple box-frame chassis playing host to BMC's C-Series straight-six engine in later cars displacing 3 liters, producing 148 hp, promising a top speed of around 116 mph. Under the skin, modern disc brakes and coils up-front take care of stopping and turning, the rear end using older drum brakes and leaf springs.
Sporting a Bertone-styled body with Ferrari power and in later years even assembled by Ferrari themselves, the Fiat Dino 2400 Coupe is as close to Ferrari ownership you can get without spending huge sums. The whole collaboration project came about as a result of Ferrari needing to produce enough Dino engines to meet homologation requirements.
Undoubtedly a contender for Fiat's best and prettiest sports car ever, even more so in the later Spider configuration. However, unlike Ferrari's own Dino badged and powered cars, the Fiat didn't have the same level of agility, coils up front being the standard at the time, rear coils only appearing on later 2400 models.
Britain's answer to the tide of US muscle cars, the Interceptor was dressed in a svelte Italian grand tourer bodyshell packing a range of American sourced V8s, at their best boasting Chrysler 440 units, pushing out in the region of 330 hp.
At the time, Jensen was a class leader, not just in terms of performance, but also engineering, it was one of the first cars to be briefly be offered with all-wheel-drive platforms. In other areas, Jensen offered the latest in driver aids, power steering, power brakes, all aimed at making the Interceptor the best driver's car gearheads could buy. At the time a serious E-Type alternative, but the Jag has coils and IRS at the rear, Jensen stuck with a simple leaf-spring set-up.
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On appearances, you wouldn't seriously expect the '50s themed Morgan to sport the latest in engines, chassis, and suspension set-up. In fact, you'd be hard pushed to tell this example is from as recent as 2006.
Those same appearances can be misleading. In 2004, Morgan switched to a more modern Ford Duratec 2-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a modern 5-speed manual transmission, almost revolutionary for the traditional sports carmaker. Some things never change, even with modernized powertrains the +4 still used an alarmingly high number of older tech, wood frames, and semi-elliptic leaf springs among them.
Twice winners of the Indianapolis 500, two times F1 WDC winners backed up with dozens of sports car wins, Maserati was a successful and highly innovative racing team. Success on track, surely meant its road cars would be among the best in terms of performance and engineering.
Unfortunately, racing success didn't boost the carmaker's balance sheet, seemingly never far from collapse, Maserati rolled out some truly stunning cars even if they were not technically advanced. Launched in 1962, the Mexico is a perfect example of "adequate" engineering, dressed in Vignale bodies fitted with 4.2-liter Tipo V8s might have seemed the perfect blend of performance and style. However, beneath the skin, Maserati was still reliant on live rear axles and leaf springs, a design that remained until the Bora arrived in 1971.
Both revolutionary and evolutionary at launch, Chevrolet's seventh incarnation of the Corvette continued the tradition of the body on frame construction. A more aggressively styled body shell still constructed from fiberglass riding atop a load-bearing steel chassis.
Originally, Chevrolet had planned to introduce the C7 as a mid-engine layout, eventually reverting to what they knew best, big V8 engines up-front driving the rear wheels. Stingray models featuring 6.2-liter LT1 V8s were offered with either a 7-speed manual or 6-speed paddle shift semi-automatic. Despite the modern makeover, it might come as a surprise to learn the Corvette, despite using double wishbones front and rear, eschewed coilovers in favor of a transversely mounted composite leaf spring set-up.
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Typically, crossover SUVs use a double-wishbone and coil-over set up to deliver the best compromise between on-road and off-road ability. None of which matters to your average XC90 owner, who will never tackle anything more treacherous than a heavy downpour or snow flurry.
Volvo, the ever safety-conscious Swedish carmaker, takes a different approach. Coils the defacto standard upfront with the ears kept in check by a single transfer composite material leaf spring. Volvo claims a lighter, more compact installation with the bonus of improved NVH levels.
Simplicity, strength, and reliability, all major selling points of a leaf spring set-up off-road, some of best-offroader used leaves to excellent effect including Land Rover Series 1, Willys Jeep, and Toyota's own Landcruiser FJ, all icons in their time. While Land Rover and Jeep have moved on, it might come as a surprise that until 2021 Toyota still uses a live rear axle and leaf spring configuration.
All that changes for 2022 Tundra buyers, coil-overs, and wishbones promising a greater level of axle control and articulation for off-road escapades, while on-road delivering a more comfortable ride.
If you have $35,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you could actually buy a used supercar.
Raised in a car-obsessed environment from an early age ensured a keen interest in anything car-related. first and foremost an F1 fan, but also an avid follower of other motorsports. Professional background working closely with a well established UK based Supercar manufacturer in recent years.