As we’ve been inspecting the different vehicles that competed in the 2016 Falken Tire Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge at Auto Club Speedway, we’ve taken note of the different engineering solutions that have been applied to the different vehicles. It’s interesting to see how each of the chassis are designed and what works with the particular vehicle of choice.
The 1970-’81 Chevrolet Camaro platform seen here—as constructed by Total Cost Involved, Inc. (TCI)—plays a distinct second fiddle to the earlier 1967-’69 platform when it comes to the Pro Touring world for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the iconic styling cues of the first-generation Camaro have been sought after since the car’s introduction 50 years ago, and when it comes to chassis construction, the earlier model’s floorpan configuration lends itself well to modifications. Not so with the second-gen car, but TCI Founder and President Ed Moss and the company engineers, along with VP/test driver Sal Solorzano are out to prove that the car can be outfitted to be an extremely capable performer when equipped with the company’s components.
“We always use a vehicle, whether it’s our own or a customer’s, to do testing and product development. This particular car, and the type of product it is, people use this product for autocrossing and road racing. So in order to give the customers feedback, we have to understand what they’re doing, what spring rates they need, and what it takes to succeed and run strong numbers at these events,” says Solorzano.
Before the TCI gang showed up at the 2016 Falken Tire Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge, they had only been out one time prior with this vehicle and its newly designed suspension systems, so they were still feeling their way around the specifics of the ’71’s chassis dynamics as equipped with its TCI suspension products.
As the 1970-’81 Camaro chassis is so different from the earlier generation, it requires a different type of suspension to be packaged underneath for fitment reasons. For the front of this car, TCI designed their Pro-Touring IFS system as a bolt-in package. The development process centered around creating a clip that could be bolted in by a wide range of enthusiasts and provide the type of performance the most dedicated weekend track junkie could enjoy.
By moving the framerails inboard, they’ve maximized clearance for monster tires. An innovative feature is the dual mounting positions available for the upper control arms. This feature provides the ability to switch between street/dragstrip duty by using the top set of holes, or adding more camber to the vehicle for autocross-style competition by using the lower set of holes.
“Part of the issue with the second-gen Camaro is that the weight bias is off, so one of the things we’ve addressed is the ability to reduce the weight in the front. The clip that we build is 120-130 pounds lighter than the stock front clip,” says Solorzano. “This improves the handling, the acceleration on the dragstrip, and on top of that we improve the camber gain and the amount of caster you can dial in.” He stresses that the front suspension clip is a true bolt-in, with no welding or other fabrication required, which makes it an easier install for a wide range of enthusiasts.
In the rear, much ado is made about every inch of available space. As the configuration of the rear floorpan doesn’t easily permit the retrofit of a four-link suspension system, the TCI boys decided to remove the leaf springs and instead add a torque arm much like that found underneath third-gen F-body vehicles. Of course, it’s been tweaked to receive the TCI treatment and offers vastly improved performance over the stock suspension setup.
Although there is some minor welding required to properly install the Torque Arm rear suspension assembly, Solorzano says that its elimination of suspension bind and other improvements make the design well worth the effort. The arm features a unique telescoping slider at the front mounting position that permits the arm to rotate as the suspension articulates, and handling is controlled by the coilovers and rear sway bar, with no unwanted motion or bind induced by the arm.
“The torque arm offers a lot of articulation. It’s a complete bolt-in system, and this articulation is huge for a car that’s going to be driven on the street. You don’t have to modify a lot of stuff—there are no modifications to the chassis required whatsoever unless the owner chooses to mini-tub the car for more tire clearance,” says Solorzano.
Welding is required for the axle brackets, Panhard bar bracket, torque arm tabs, and optional sway bar brackets—or the owner can choose to purchase a ready-to-go 9-inch axlehousing with all of these items already installed. The axle brackets offer three height adjustments in 1-inch increments, and the coilovers provide height adjustment fine-tuning.
Developing these components to work in a wide variety of situations allows TCI to satisfy just about any enthusiast’s desires, and the testing time spent at the track learning how individual adjustments affect the performance of the products allows them to set the buyer up for success from the outset.
“If someone calls, we can tell them from our experience where to set the shocks to get a comfortable ride, and how to use the shocks for best performance. When you give people feedback that comes from real world testing and driving, you can unequivocally help people autocross, drag race, whatever they want to do with their car,” sums up Solorzano.
|What Makes It Handle|
|427-inch LS7 with TREMEC Magnum six-speed and McLeod RXT clutch.|
|Total Cost Involved (TCI) Pro-Touring System.|
|TCI Pro-Touring IFS tubular bolt-on front clip with triple-adjustable RideTech coilover shocks and a TCI 1 1/8-inch sway bar.|
|Power rack-and-pinion system.|
|Wilwood 14-inch rotors with six-piston calipers, front and 13-inch rotors with four-piston calipers, rear.|
|Total Cost Involved (TCI) Torque Arm system with triple-adjustable RideTech coilover shocks and a TCI 3/4-inch sway bar.|
|Falken Azenis RT615K: 315/30/ZR18 front and rear.|
|American 18x11 front (6.25-inch backspace) and 18x11 rear (5-inch backspace).|
|$17,519, includes brakes and rearend housing.|
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Speed||100-Yard Dash||Road Course Lap Time|
|Total Cost Involved 1971 Chevy Camaro||46.2 mph||5.31 seconds||01:17.0|
|2010 Camaro SS||42.1 mph||5.76 seconds||01:25.9|
|During the track testing portion of this event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, it was evident that the Total Cost Involved team had sorted out the chassis underneath this 1971 Camaro quite nicely, as Solorzano was able to pilot the second-gen to a slalom time over 4 mph faster than the benchmark 2010 Camaro SS. In addition, the car was 0.40 seconds quicker in the 100-yard dash. Wrapping up, Solorzano’s wheel skills were on full display during the road course portion of the event, as he was able to better the modern car's elapsed time by nearly 9 full seconds with a strong 1:16.98 run. This was only the second time out for this car, and Solorzano did explain that the car was suffering from an oversteer issue on test day that has since been corrected. He’s confident the car’s performance would have been even better in the slalom and road course portions of the event. Overall, an extremely solid performance from a car that’s well-rounded in its capabilities.|