In recent years, makers of air bag suspension systems have waged a highly effective campaign to earn credibility among misinformed skeptics. The nay-sayers are haunted by the misguided assumption that air suspension is for tubby boulevard cruisers and 18-wheelers-not performance cars. While this used to be a valid assessment, it's totally out to lunch in the modern arena.
The big difference is that today's air-spring systems-like those offered by Air Ride Technologies-are complete kits that come with specifically matched springs, shock absorbers, sway bars, and, perhaps most importantly, fabricated suspension control arms and spindles with revised geometry to maximize the handling benefit caused by the altered ride height. Add it all together and the result is a unique combination of improved suspension geometry (for maximized tire contact and adhesion) and reduced body roll, but with the air-only benefits of a smoother ride and the ability to adjust ride height to suit your tastes.
To spread the good word, Air Ride Technologies has gone so far as to sponsor an annual Street Challenge event where drivers are invited to compare their standard metal-sprung cars against cars riding on air. These events are held at Putnam Park Road Course in Greencastle, Indiana-a 1.8 mile road course featuring 10 unforgiving turns. At the '06 event, professional road racer Boris Said generated an amazing 1.1 g in an Air Ride-equipped '67 Chevelle wearing a set of BFGoodrich G-Force tires. His best lap time around the course was 32.23 seconds. Then he jumped into a similar Chevelle-sitting on its stock Super Sport metal coil spring suspension-and ran the circuit in 37.36 seconds, 5 seconds slower.
So there's little doubt that air suspension has arrived. But how easy is it to install? To find out, Rodney Mason and Brad Coomer descended on CC publisher John Gallagher's daily-driven '67 Buick Gran Sport 400. We followed along and were surprised at how it's a pretty basic change-out operation where it's out with the old, in with the new.
At just over $6,000, the complete Street Challenge package shown here can't really be considered a budget bolt-on, but if you're looking for a track tested (and proven) suspension system that delivers a better ride than metal-based counterparts and lets you play with different ride height settings for enhanced cornering-or just bitchin' stance-look no further. And remember, though this installation centers on the STR2000 kit for '64-'67 GM A-bodies, Street Challenge kits are also available for '68-'72 GM A-bodies, Tri-Five Chevys, '58-'64 X-frame Chevys, '62-'74 Novas, '67-'81 Camaros, '78-'88 GM G-bodies, '63-'06 Chevy pickup trucks, and all '64-'70 and '79-'04 Mustangs.
This '67 Buick belongs to CC publisher John Gallagher. He scored it for 4K off the street
Starting at the front of the car, Air Ride's Brad Coomer removed the entire suspension ass
The stock coil spring pockets must be trimmed to fit the larger diameter of the air spring