Old Man Emu Isuzu
Shocks and Suspension
By, Sean Michael

OME Shock Absorbers | OME Leaf Springs | Overall Ride and Performance

OME Leaf Springs

Old Man Emu
Replacement springs were long overdue.

Of course, better shocks only satiate a fella for so long, and soon the need to improve other suspension aspects creeps into an idle mind. Usually, this means lift and articulation. As independent front suspension (IFS) rigs, Isuzus in stock form are blessed with good road manners and limited trail potential. The simplest way to address the need for improving the suspension's trail performance, following the upgrade to better shocks, is with a bit of lift.

I had added Calmini torsion bars (as well as having tried simply cranking up the stock bars) and shackles. With time, I even went up to their full 3" lift, thus reaching the maximum suspension lift offered by any manufacturer. Despite the good flex in that lift, its reliance upon a pair of add-a-leafs in the rear meant that overall ride quality suffered. It also could not handle the kind of gross vehicle weight that accompanied a family of 5, plus the packed USA VenturCraft trailer. The rig's 150,000+ miles also meant the original leaves had seen better days.

For a long while, I had considered having custom leaf packs made up by an experienced outfit like National Spring. I had also pondered finding low mileage leaves off of a junked Trooper. Neither option was particularly appealing, whether because of expense or because of little improvement in overall ride quality. Fortunately, I had read numerous reviews of Old Man Emu suspensions over the years. ARB-USA, is a mere 5 hours from me and I decided to pay them a visit.

Finding the Old Man Emu shocks was like finding the Holy Grail.

When I went to visit the ARB warehouse in Seattle, I planned on talking with Jim Jackson, ARB-USA's President, about how the OME springs might help my situation. After some discussion (including a look at his restored Land Rover), Jim pointed me to Buddy King. Hearing Buddy's description of the springs coupled with testimonies from Seattleite and fellow Trooper owner Jeff Kavanaugh, convinced me of the Aussie steel.

As with the choice of shocks, the spring options for the Trooper were also diverse. OME offers three springs packs, depending upon the load that you plan to carry. The three models -RDI, II, III - allow the individual to figure in vehicle weights, including normal and peak loads. Each differs from the next higher model by one leaf and a corresponding 300 kilos (about 660 lbs). Based upon our truck's weight (5200lb w/ full tank and driver) we opted for the RDII.

If you've installed add-a-leaves and shocks before, then you'll find nothing new with swapping in the OME products. If it's your first time and you're feeling a bit uneasy, you may want to have a manual such as those offered by Haynes or Chilton's. You'll also want to have the appropriate jack(s), jack stands, miscellaneous tools, and about 4 hours to do the job.

Old Man Emu
The new springs and shocks should handle the load of the Isuzu better than any previous setup.

Naturally, the shocks will be the easiest part (I was too anxious to wait and changed mine at the hotel parking lot in Seattle). The one quirk I found was that the model #N65 Nitrocharger shocks that we opted for, which are meant for an FJ80 Land Cruiser, required a small bit of grinding on the upper shock tower. This was a small price to pay for shocks that otherwise matched so well. No such fine-tuning was necessary in the front, though, where the stiffest OME shock for the Trooper, model #N50, fit perfectly.

Buddy's selection of Land Cruiser shocks pointed out an unusual quirk of his company; performance is what matters, not what an application guide says. We went round and round in the discussion that eventually lead to the choice of the #N65, discussing usage, loads carried, vehicle weight, shock travel lengths, current ride qualities, and lift plans. I was, frankly, amazed to see the lack of a cut-n-dry answer to "which shock should I use".

The net result was that I came away with a fuller appreciation for how seriously OME takes fine-tuning suspensions. I was to witness that again as I spent a few hours with Buddy as he spent his Saturday fiddling with the donor Amigo (courtesy of Isuzu) on which he was experimenting with countless suspension setups to dial in that suspension.

Old Man Emu greasable springs feature military wraps for strength.

The evidence of the OME commitment to quality came in the visual inspection and ride quality of the new suspension. A cutaway view of popular shocks, including the Nitrochargers, revealed the heft of the Aussie shocks' construction. Not only do they feature a massive 18mm shaft, but they utilize steel sleeves to protect against rocks. Their internal workings also reveal much about the OME philosophy to dampening the off-road jitters. OME shocks, unlike most competitors, utilize a twin tube, low-pressure gas cylinder. They also feature Teflon-banded pistons, further increasing their responsiveness and long service life.

The OME springs were similarly impressive. Jet black from their last bath (in a special paint dipping Down Under), and weighing fully 10% more than the factory springs with add-a-leaves, the springs feature several features that catch the perceptive eye. First, they feature military wraps. This means that where the first spring curves around the bushing for bolting to the frame/shackle, it wraps at full thickness completely around, ensuring greater strength and durability. Next, the springs' #2 spring extends out and over the latter bushing eye. Here again, the spring's strength is heightened as stresses are spread over the bolt point and not just short of them. Finally, the leaves are separated by greaseable Teflon friction disks, and kept in place by stout bolt-up leaf hangers. All this, plus the leaves' finish and high quality urethane bushings made for an easy install.

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