The target is always moving. That's the problem with being in business. You can have the hot set up one day, but the competition is always improving, constantly nipping at your heels. They want what you have—market share—and more. Expectations from consumers are also constantly on the rise. Build a better mousetrap and they'll always tell you they need one for a bigger, stronger mouse.
Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) has been in the suspension business longer than some of our readers have been alive. It is a company long-known for delivering quality products that fit properly and do what they're supposed to do. The problem for AME is none of its competitors are resting on past performances either. The suspension market is one constant dogfight. What do you do?
In the case of AME, the philosophy is to keep moving the needle. Never get complacent. At the 2013 Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire, they brought a revised version of a car we tested in 2011. It still has its G-sport front suspension, but out back is a shiny new independent rear suspension. An IRS brings plenty of benefits to the table—obviously while one tire is getting upset by uneven pavement, the other is free to go about its business unencumbered, especially in turns. A good IRS will allow you to put more usable power to the pavement. Unlike some IRS setups, the Morrison unit uses traditional outboard brakes.
We couldn't wait to sample this car with its new rear suspension and frankly, we were not disappointed.
On The Track
For this year's Challenge, Super Chevy did things a little differently. Our “autocross” was actually a road course, The Streets of Willow, at Willow Springs International Raceway. We incorporated a five-cone, high-speed slalom that ran up the long front straight, as we didn't want horsepower to be the ultimate factor for testing, but rather how well each car got to, around, and then out of each corner. We shortened Streets by taking some of the rarely-used side roads and tight, twisty esses, ending up with about a mile of track that held some fast, some slow, and some momentum corners for me to evaluate the cars, then write about each trip behind the steering wheel. Life was really, really good that day.
For the Art Morrison Camaro, the first thing I noticed was how well the car “stuck.” It absolutely didn't want to move laterally, no matter how late I braked trying for rotation, or how much I tried to play “throw and catch” for anything late-apex. This car would rotate a little, but as soon as I applied power somewhere close to the apex for track-out, the rear planted and actually “steered” to keep me wherever I wanted to be. Present the Camaro to a corner, brake and turn, smoothly apply throttle at the apex, and it's a no-fuss, no-muss exit to the next one. I couldn't get this car sideways if my life depended on it, and believe me, I tried. I pushed it past defined limits a few times to see how the suspension reacted to being pressured, and it didn't disappoint. No matter what, that “stick” stayed with the Camaro during the entire track test, and the harder I pressed, the better the car felt. So predictable, compliant, and no surprises made for good stuff here, as I really found myself enjoying the drive rather than reacting and changing driving input and track lines for things going wrong. This suspension rewards precise driving and will make heroes out of an average Joe. My only disappointment was having to return it after my five laps were done.
This was just the beginning! I realized that something was missing ... noise. Suspension noise. You know what I'm talking about, right? Those gronky, clunking sounds when tires hit bumps and potholes (and for a track, “tiger teeth” rumble strips)? Long, thick articulation squeaks during suspension loading and release? Road chatter thunks that get you wondering if stuff is loose or worse? The sort of noises that no amount of Dyna-Mat can deaden, and almost every aftermarket (and OEM) suspension has? Guess what? The Art Morrison Enterprises multi-link IRS is church mouse quiet. It's strong, too. I peeked underneath and there's serious business going on. Beefy links, arms, joints, and axles couple the Dana 60 to each rear wheel. Nothing is coming apart unless you use tools.
Lap times only tell part of a story and this applies here, too. My only complaint had nothing to do with the suspension, brakes, or steering. I wanted more ponies fromt he car's high-mileage LS1; the ones I had were spent. No amount of begging or pleading, promises of molasses-covered oats, or a high-noon flogging gave them additional life, and I'm positive several more seconds could have been shed had, say, an LS7 magically found its way under the hood. Sigh, one can only wish ...
If you want a suspension to be the end-all no matter what roads and turns you throw at it, don't balk, don't look back, and don't hesitate a lick ... just step into this “office” and enjoy the most fun road experience imaginable. It's been two weeks since I got out of the drivers seat of the AME '69 Camaro, and even with all that time to think about things, I'm still grinning like a Cheshire cat. And I'll say it now ... this is the best suspension I've ever felt underneath a car on a track. AME has done its homework, and spent the time necessary to fine-tune the aftermarket front subframe. But it's the new rear multi-link independent suspension that brings this company to the forefront. Think of how we've improved what car manufacturers thought was pretty cool back in the day? There were heavy-duty lowering leafs which begat a three-or four-link rear suspension with coilovers, which then brought out several versions of IRS. While these are good (and I've tested two or three of them), the Art Morrison Enterprises independent rear suspension hits home and there are no holes! —Mary Pozzi
On The Street
We drove this car a couple of years ago with a solid rear axle, but now it been equipped with the company's new independent rear suspension—AME's first foray into that technology with a first-gen Camaro. Color us impressed.
When it came time to select a street-drive route for the '13 Suspension & Handling Challenge, we purposely selected a road that was broken up in sections with all kinds of nasty, uneven pavement. There was a “fun” section where one side of the car rolled on super smooth pavement, but the other traversed rippled, chopped, and cut asphalt. You know what? It didn't upset the Art Morrison Camaro in the least. We were shocked at how compliant this car was. Superior ride, of course, is one of the benefits of an IRS. It might not have been luxury car smooth, but it was as pleasant as one could hope for in a car that could turn corners like this.
But this test isn't all about smooth ride. It's about grip, and this car had it in spades. Think about this for a minute: A 44-year-old Camaro just obliterated GM's 2013 Camaro SS in every measurable category: Lap times (1.85-seconds faster), slalom (3 mph faster) and skidpad (.91g vs. 88g). And while the tradeoff in some cars might be ride quality or noise, this first-gen F-body was not victimized in either regard. It was comfortable and quiet.
There was not much to complain about here. The feedback from the steering was excellent. AME made some improvements to the front suspension, too, and the car tracks much better on the street. There's not much we'd change at either end of this car.
Obviously, the downside to this is price. The independent rear setup comes with a hefty $13,850 price tag—that's no joke, but neither is the way this car performs. Then another $7,387 for the front suspension, plus $75 for the subframe connectors. If you've got the green, we'd say go for it. The AME IRS isn't cheap, but it provides great value if you really plan to drive your hot rod. —Jim Campisano
|Art Morrison Enterprises|
|Engine Type: LS1|
|Block: GM iron|
|Fuel Delivery: GM fuel injection|
|Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed|
|Clutch: Centerforce 11-inch Dual Friction|
|Rearend: AME Multi-Link IRS, Dana 60, 3.73 gears, Limited Slip differential|
|Chassis: AMEGT-Sport front clip, subframe connectors, and AME Multi-Link IRS rear subframe|
|Front Suspension: AME C6 suspension kit with forged aluminum control arms|
|Steering: Rack and Pinion|
|Springs: 450 lbs/in|
|Spindles: '05-current Corvette|
|Shocks: JRI Double Adjustable|
|Sway Bar: AME 1-1/8-inch solid|
|Brakes: Wilwood 6-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors|
|Rear Suspension: AME Multi-Link IRS|
|Springs: 450 lbs/in|
|Shocks: JRI Double Adjustable|
|Sway Bar: ¾-inch solid|
|Brakes: Wilwood 4-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors|
|Cost of Suspension:|
|$21,312 without brakes|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels: Intro Emotion, Front-18x10, Rear-18x11|
|Tires: Nitto NT05, Front-275/35R18, Rear- 295/35R18|
|LF: 792||RF: 936|
|LR: 875||RR: 806|
|F: 50.7||R: 49.3|
|1969 Chevy Camaro|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.91g, CCW 0.91g, Average 0.91g|
|Slalom: Best 48.5 mph, Average of 5 runs 47.7 mph|
|Road Course: Best 1:03.71, Average of 5 runs 1:04.22|
|2013 Camaro SS|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.88g, CCW 0.88g, Average 0.88g|
|Slalom: Best 45.5 mph, Average of five runs 45.5 mph|
|Road Course: Best 1:05.56, Average of 5 runs 1:06.20|