Okay, I'm gonna sound like a complete moron when I say this, but I always thought shocks meant just the part that damps the ride and the springs were well... springs. So what's a strut? Can someone explain this to me? Thnx
with a traditional shock setup, a lot of room is needed because the spring (carries the vehicles weight) is not attached to the shock (stops spring from bouncing ad infinitum). you will find the shock with separate spring setup on most pickups, SUVs and RWD cars.
the early mustang (2nd or 3rd gen), F-body GM (camaro, firebird) moved to a "modified" shock/strut suspension on front. the two ares till separate, but both are mounted closely together on the control arm. the rear was still standard shocks.
with the fuel economy crush of long ago, smaller, lighter, more efficient cars were needed. with the advent of FWD, the engineers needed more room for the axles, tranny and whatnot, so they mounted the spring ON the shock...hence, the strut. it allows the same apparutus to both carry the vehicles weight AND stop the thing from bouncing.
most domestic FWD cars use(d) struts up front with shocks in the rear (GM, Chrysler). the drwaback is a solid or semi-solid rear axle that can not articulate (flex) as much, therefore it can't or doesn't handle as well as something with more flex. Ford generally uses struts all around (starting with the 1st gen escorts and continuing through the scort line, tempo, taurus, contour, etc). since these cars have greater flexibility and 4 wheel independent suspension, they tend to handle better. also a benefit, albeit a less-promoted one, you can adjust the alignment angles on the rear of these cars with much greater ease and thoroughness than a solid axle, shock and spring design.