The best part of this adventure was that the BFGs never let out a yelp, nor did the Chevelle roll much more than what any well-suspended machine would exhibit. Clearly, Air Ride had dialed in the airbag pressures to optimize the Chevelle's stick in the corners. Combined with the Strong Arm suspension modifications, the adjustable shocks, and the confidence-inspiring Baer brakes, the total package made our rush down the hill conclude way too soon. We pulled over to take a photo just before the bottom of the hill, and import pretender took another minute or so to reel us in. He didn't look over as he went by, but the pleasure was all ours.
Back at base camp, we decided to take a closer look at exactly what Air Ride had tweaked on this Chevelle. Under the hood is a mild-mannered 383 built by Jasper Engines and backed by a Bowler-built 700-R4 overdrive automatic leading to the 4.11:1-geared 10-bolt out back. Even with the overdrive, the deeper gears spin that 383 pretty hard on the freeway at 70 mph, and because there's no tach, we did the math in Overdrive that told us the 383 is spinning right around 2,600 rpm.
Because we could, we also dusted off our angle finder and discovered that one reason this Chevelle holds the corners so well is that the Air Ride folks have dialed 3 degrees of negative camber into the alignment. Negative camber tilts the top of the tire inboard, drastically improving corner-holding power and lateral g numbers. The negative side to this race-oriented camber setting is that negative (or positive) camber is a serious tire wear angle. Tilting the top of the tire inboard increases the load on the inside edge of the front tires when the car is tracking straight down the road. While a set of tires like these BFGoodrich g-Force T/A's could easily last 20,000-plus miles of aggressive driving with 3 degrees of negative camber, it's possible that the inside edge of the front tires would be dead in less than 5,000 miles. When we quizzed Bret about the setting, he said the front is probably a bit too low since they normally shoot for a 1-degree negative camber setting on street-driven cars. One advantage of an adjustable front suspension is that lowering the car with the taller spindles tends to dial in more negative camber, which is a quick way to improve handling. Setting a 1-degree camber at normal ride height will then dial in more negative camber (perhaps another degree or so) when the ride height is lowered to a more aggressive posture.
We came away more than impressed with the Chevelle's overall street manners, ride quality, and excellent steering response from the Flaming River steering box. On the Car Craft attaboy scale of 1 to 10 lug nuts (10 lugs being best), we'd give the Air Ride Chevelle a solid 8.5.
Tech NotesWhat: '66 Chevrolet Chevelle
Owner: Air Ride Technologies