If you own a muscle car, it's hard to avoid all the superlatives bouncing around the industry about custom tube chassis, adjustable shock absorbers, and the latest bumpsteer drama that seem to have taken on the intensity of a well-orchestrated soap opera. Mired in this jungle of information is some basic information that can help the entry-level suspension tuner make some simple changes that can turn your sleepy '60s muscle car into a much more stable machine that could completely change your opinion of older cars. Our willing participant, Brian Cox, purchased his '67 Chevelle a couple of years ago but soon discovered that the car lacked finesse when it came time to change lanes on the freeway, so he was looking to improve its agility and steering response.
The good news is that a couple of bolt-on parts can make a world of difference, and that's the Car Craft way of doing things. When it comes to the front suspension on all '64 through '72 Chevelles, the car suffers from multiple weak points. In no particular order, these include stupid-soft front coil springs, piano wire that doubles as a front sway bar, and an aggressively poor camber curve. This terrible camber exercise is dictated by a short spindle height that creates an increase in positive camber anytime the front springs are compressed with body roll. Since body roll is accentuated by cushy springs and a small antiroll bar, attending to these parts is one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve handling on these early Chevelles and Camaros.
Decades ago, when there were not a lot of aftermarket parts available for these cars, the early Chevelle handling pioneers discovered that the second-generation ('70-'81) F-body front sway bar bolts right up to an early Chevelle. Many second-generation Camaros and Firebirds used stock 1 1/8-inch front sway bars that really helped control body roll on early Chevelles. While the chances of finding a '70 Firebird in the boneyard today is remote, companies such as Addco have the front (and rear) bars you need sitting on the shelf. Cox wanted to complement the sway bars with a set of shocks that would be affordable and improve handling but not ruin the ride quality. Before all the hero moves, however, his first step was to completely restore the stock front suspension with an OPG rebuild kit with new ball joints, control arm bushings, and a new drag link. Once that was accomplished, Cox landed a set of Bilstein shocks from Race Car Dynamics (RCD) that are much more than just painted Bilstein shocks. RCD tunes these shocks to work more effectively on a Chevelle to deliver decent ride quality and an improvement in suspension control.
Finally, we know one of the best ways to improve handling is to go right to the interface between the suspension and the road: the tires. Cox's choice of rolling stock for the Chevelle revolved around set of traditional 15-inch Cragars and BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires. Though that combination is timeless, we proposed something a little more aggressive with an upgrade to a set of 17-inch Center Line wheels and General Exclaim UHP Grabber tires. With a set of 17x8-inch wheels, we mounted a pair of 255/40R17s on the front and slightly larger 275s on the rear. With that, we were ready to test.