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Drag Racing Suspension Packages - Handle With Care

By , Photography by , Scott Killeen

'82-'92 Camaro/Firebird
Guldstrand Engineering

Assuming the basic vehicle suspension is sound, Guldstrand's Camaro suspension upgrade begins with additions that enhance steering responsiveness and handling characteristics. Heavy-duty tie rod sleeves eliminate flex caused by heavy loads generated by high-performance tires, and include wrench flats for quick and easy toe alignment. Polyurethane front and rear control arm bushings increase road feel; eliminating deflection caused by stock rubber bushings results in a more predictable handling car.

Under heavy use, the factory Panhard bar tends to twist and deflect causing poor rear axle control. Guldstrand's heavy-duty tubular Panhard bar with polyurethane bushings eliminates twist and deflection. Collectively, these rear mods reduce wheelhop and control arm twist associated with the stock units.

Front and rear coil springs reduce body roll and brake dive while providing the traditional responsiveness needed to operate at high speeds. Three progressively higher spring rates (GT, slalom, and race) are available with exact selection depending on driver preference and the vehicle's intended use.

Guldstrand considers antisway bars to be the major final tuning device and sizes them as required to eliminate any residual under- or oversteer. The bars are retained by polyurethane sway bar bushings that increase the bars' responsiveness and effective rate. Also available are spherical rod-end sway bar links; designed to withstand the rigors of race car operation, they eliminate all antisway bar end link deflection at the price of some increase in overall ride harshness. Round out the suspension with Bilstein gas-pressurized shocks.

The standard Gen-3 F-car brakes don't cut it, so Guldstrand offers mounting brackets for the 1LE "big-brake" caliper that work with the standard knuckle when the knuckle is redrilled according to the supplied instructions. P245/45ZR17 tires on 17x8 1/2-inch wheels with 5-inch backspacing fit with no problem. Primarily street-driven cars should start with 0- to 1/4-degrees negative camber, 3- to 4 1/4-degrees positive caster, and 0- to 1/16-inch toe-in. The suspension components listed in the table will set you back about $1,600.

'78-'88 GM A/G-Body
Hotchkis Performance

Hotchkis' tubular A-arms for late GM A- and G-bodies provide a cure for those cars' "puny brake blues." They allow upgrading the stock 10-inch front disc brake rotors and small calipers to the popular '70-'81Camaro/Firebird (also '75-'79 Nova and clones, '73-'77 A-body, and '77-and-up big car) steering knuckle, which supports larger 11-inch rotors and corresponding calipers. Larger 12-inch rotors are found on some '77-and-up full-size police cars, heavy-duty trailering packages, big Caddys, and wagons. Both the 11- and 12-inch knuckle/rotor packages use the same ball joints as the '78-'88 A/G-body, so they'll physically bolt on to the stock arms. But because the new knuckles are taller, you need Hotchkis arms to avoid suspension geometry and alignment problems.

Poly bushings are used in Hotchkis' front upper arms, as well as the rear upper and lower trailing arms that work together with tubular trailing arm mount braces to positively locate and control the rear axle. To permit fine-tuning the rearend's pinion angle, the upper rear arms are adjustable. The resulting wheelhop reduction improves launches, while cornering and overall stability are dramatically improved through increased roll stiffness.

Also helping improve roll stiffness are 1 1/4-inch front and 1-inch rear antisway bars retained by greaseable poly bushings and endlink grommets. Rounding out the package are 600-pound front and 110- to 140-pound progressive-rate rear coil springs. The springs come precut to drop most V-8 cars about 1 1/4 inches. Hotchkis also sells a rear airbag kit to permit carrying heavy trunk loads at the vehicle's reduced ride-height; drag race oriented car crafters can preload the suspension as needed by using separate fill lines for the right- and left-side bags.

Hotchkis sells and recommends Bilstein shocks. Tire and wheel sizes vary per year and model but, generally speaking, 16x8-inch wheels mounting P245/50ZR16 tires in front and P255/50ZR16 out back are safe on most of the A/G-bodies. Hotchkis recommends starting with stock alignment specs and dialing in more caster and negative camber for serious autocross activities. You can buy all the parts listed in the table for under $1,500.

Hotchkis Performance
12035 Burke Street
Suite 13
Santa Fe Springs
CA  90670
H-O Enterprises
Rancho Cucamonga
Global West Suspension
655 S. Lincoln Ave.
San Bernardino
CA  92408
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