The task of creating a high-quality, easy-to-install, well-engineered suspension product like a set of control arms is not an easy one; it takes a solid understanding of engineering principles, chassis dynamics, and manufacturing techniques. Then take that single suspension part, expand the engineering process into a complete chassis, and ensure it’s capable of bolting into place underneath a 48-year-old vehicle body, and you start to understand the Herculean effort that goes into this type of manufacturing effort—one that Jeremy and Phil Gerber, along with their team at the Roadster Shop, have virtually perfected over the last 25 years.
Many of the chassis produced by the Roadster Shop fall into the cost-is-no-object realm, designed for the enthusiast whose pocketbook doesn’t become an issue during the build process. The company’s muscle car chassis and full vehicle builds are developed to compete with the world’s high-end supercars in performance testing, yet retain the nostalgic appearance.
The 1968 Camaro featured here is the first to use the company’s all-new SPEC Series chassis system, created specifically for the large Pro Touring market that extends beyond the traditional handbuilt chassis traditionally offered by the Roadster Shop.
But it wasn’t easy to find. In fact, this is the third car RS bought to use for the template of chassis construction.
“We searched for quite some time to find the right car to start with. We had to find as clean an original survivor car as possible. We bought two cars and ended up sending them back because they weren’t quite what they were supposed to be. We shipped one in from California to find out it was made of Bondo, then bought another one in Kansas, and sent our driver to get it, and it turned out to be a rusted-out pile. We looked at 30 or 40 others, then we found this one, which had original paint and had never been touched. It was the perfect car,” says Phil Gerber.
“This is the test car for proving out the capabilities of our SPEC Series chassis, which is designed to be a 100 percent complete bolt-in system, with no modifications. We try to improve absolutely everything about the chassis’ performance in the process. The SPEC Series is a price point chassis for us, as all of our other previous chassis have been on the higher side of the scale.”
The main goals during the design process were ease of installation, ride quality, and performance. Cutting costs without removing quality meant implementing automated manufacturing processes rather than creating labor-intensive handbuilt framerails like some of the company’s other chassis—which take 50-some hours per pair of ’rails before a single suspension part is created.
The Laser Rails are created with a set of CNC manufacturing operations, where the laser cuts all of the necessary shapes and pie cuts out of a piece of square or rectangular tube and allows the RS staff to form the square or rectangular tube around the pie cuts to build the framerails in a fraction of the time taken by the handbuilt ’rails. It affords them much more manufacturing flexibility in the process.
“We started with a clean sheet of paper and used our suspension analyzer software, then made tweaks until we got exactly what we wanted. We worked with our vendors to source the hard parts like what we use on our other chassis lines, like the Wilwood spindles and Penske shocks,” explains Jeremy.
Along with the spindles and coilovers, the front suspension consists of a set of fabricated control arms, power rack-and-pinion steering, upper A-arm eccentrics designed to provide substantial accuracy over shim-style arms, and complete chassis bracing for strength.
Phil says, “The whole package is designed to work together; the placement of the shock that gives it the right motion ratio, the positioning of the steering rack, the roll center, and the geometry all come together to exceed the expectations of the customer. Whenever someone gets behind the wheel of one of these old cars, they remember how it performed 25 years ago. They’re used to driving a modern car now, and this gives you the performance of a modern sports car but with the old-school look. This is what our customers want, and it’s what we provide to them.”
In the rear of the car, the choice was made to use a triangulated four-bar arrangement, which permits the use of the stock wheeltubs, or can also be configured to allow mini-tubs and seriously wide 345-series tires, if desired.
“We found that it packages better under the car without any modification. We didn’t want something where you were going to have to start cutting up the floor, so we were able to build a custom four-bar setup that gave us the performance, ride quality, and geometry that we were looking for, while still providing flexibility,” Phil concludes.
The drivetrain is simple and effective: an LQ9 with a Texas Speed camshaft couples with factory GM electronic fuel injection, a Legend five-speed manual transmission, and a Centerforce DYAD twin-disc clutch runs through a 9-inch factory rearend filled with an Eaton Truetrac differential, 31-spline axles, and 3.89:1 gearset. Wilwood brakes are at all four corners. To provide the clean appearance, the car rides on a set of timeless American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels.
It may have taken three tries to come up with the right car for this project, but the Roadster Shop gang nailed it and we were happy to have it at this year’s Falken Tire Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge.
|What Makes It Handle|
|Roadster Shop SPEC Series chassis system.|
|Roadster Shop SPEC independent front suspension with 550-lb/in race 8-inch springs, Wilwood Pro Spindles and Penske double-adjustable shocks. Includes Roadster Shop 1.25-inch diameter sway bar.|
|Power rack-and-pinion system.|
|Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers front and 12-inch rotors and two-piston floating calipers rear.|
|Roadster Shop triangulated four-link as part of the SPEC Series chassis. Penske double-adjustable shocks with 300-lb/in rate 8-inch springs.|
|Falken Azenis RT615K tires; 255/40/17 front and 275/35/18 rear.|
|American Racing Torq-Thrust; 17x9 front and 18x9.5 rear.|
|$9,895 with rear housing/axles but without brakes.|
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Time/Speed||100-Yard Dash||Road Course Lap Time|
|Roadster Shop 1968 Chevrolet Camaro||46.3 mph||5.86 seconds||01:16.6|
|2010 Camaro SS||42.1 mph||5.76 seconds||01:25.9|
|The Roadster Shop’s 1968 Camaro was driven by pro driver Mike Skeen, who was able to perform quite admirably—especially given the fact that this car uses a reclaimed LQ9 engine with a camshaft from Texas Speed for motivation. Not only was Skeen able to better the performance of the benchmark 2010 Camaro SS by 4 mph in the slalom portion of the testing process, he was only a tick behind the SS in the 100-yard dash. The Roadster Shop's SPEC Series chassis system was most impressive on the road course, where Skeen was able to better the performance of the modern chassis in the ’10 with a substantial lap time advantage—9.31 seconds on its best run. The quantifiable performance of the SPEC Series chassis is immediately noticeable on the track.|