In the high-performance world,
nothing ever remains stock.
That makes it difficult for aftermarket
companies to design parts and kits that are true, easy bolt-ons for every car—where
literally nothing has to be changed or modified to make the new performance parts
The only way any company can really
design a “bolt-on” part is to make it fit the car as it originally
came from the factory, otherwise there are too many variations to cover if they
were to try to make it fit every modified vehicle.
An unwanted consequence of
engineering parts this way is that they rarely, if ever, bolt right on.
Because, nothing ever remains stock!
We wanted to test this theory, and
make our shop car look and handle better, so we decided that the suspension
would be our first upgrade.
First, we felt we really had to start
with something completely original to prove our point. And we mean totally
It was hard to find such a ride, especially since we really wanted to build a 2nd-gen Chevrolet Camaro, and almost all of them have been modified over the years. But we found one that had been unmolested since rolling off the GM assembly line in 1981. It was a factory 4-speed without T-tops. How can we be so lucky?
The car still had the factory
air-conditioning system, though it hasn’t worked in decades. With the exception
of a crappy cassette radio installed in the dash, some cheap steel wheels and
tires, and quite a few miles on the OD, this car was untouched.
We parked this perfect candidate on
our lift and began ripping off the old stock junk to be replaced with all new tubular
Hotchkis cool stuff. We replaced everything including the springs, shocks, bushings,
upper and lower control arms, and even added a rear sway bar, along with
upgrading to a substantially larger hollow front sway bar too.
All parts and pieces came from Hotchkis and we only had to order four part numbers to get everything we needed, with one minor exception (more on that later).
Upper Control Arms: (A-arms full tubular fabricated steel with 4130 Chromoly billet cross-shaft and Delrin bushings factory-installed)
We could have also added Hotchkis ChassisMax bars, but decided to wait on them because plans call for a 1,000-horsepower-plus big-block to be stuffed in between the fenders in its future, so we’ll wait until then to see if we can make the bars fit around its equally-big headers.
Getting the Height Just Right
Since this was not just about making
the car handle better, it’s also about giving it a much better stance and look.
And since our Camaro really is not in the best shape to drive yet, we can only
admire its beauty for now anyways.
After almost 40 years of abuse, the stock ride height was whack. Like just about every 2nd-gen Camaro, ours sat lower in the front than the back. Much to the pleasure of air shock manufacturers worldwide. We measured front fender’s height at 26-3/4-inches above the ground. Our first go’roud with the Hotchkis kit, installing just the single front coil spring spacer supplied slammed our fenders right onto the tires. Of course, our 235/60-15 tires were a higher profile than most would run with this type of suspension. But they make a great example of how much is too much when lowering a car. The first install dropped the nose down 2-3/4-inches to just 24-inches total. The tires rubbed and there was no way we could drive it like this. And since we don’t have the budget for new wheels and tires yet, something had to be done. So we installed two more Hotchkis spring spacers per side and ended up at 25-1/4-inches, (1-1/2″ lower than stock), which looks really good and gave us enough tire clearance.
The rear dropped from original height of 26.5-inches to 25.5-inches giving it a nice, raked stance that’s not to too steep and still provides enough tire clearance.
Mike Petralia is a veteran engine and car builder, and long-time contributor to automotive publications. After joining Horsepower TV in 2006, he opened Hardcore Horsepower LLC, building cars and engines for magazines and customers.