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Editor's Note: Last month, we brought you the results of the first two cars in our Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire. This month, we give you the lowdown on how the BMR and Detroit Speed entries did. Next month: Art Morrison Enterprises' 3G Corvette and Air Ride Technologies' '66 Chevelle.
Not all companies have a ride at their disposal 24/7. Such is the case with BMR Fabrication. Long known for its super-trick late-model parts, the Florida-based company recently started putting the same effort into making early-model muscle cars handle without breaking the bank. The '71 Chevelle they brought to the party was a customer's car, and to say it was "fresh" would be a gross understatement. In fact, the day before the event, the ride was getting its first alignment.
Adhering to their customer's wishes, the goal for this car was to improve the handling, but not at the expense of ride comfort. Since it's a street car and not a racer, they paid particular attention to how the car performed in the real world where railroad tracks and pot holes are a fact of life. Still, the car turned in good performance numbers right in line with our C5 Vette baseline car.
Besides wallet-friendly cost, another benefit BMR builds into its products is ease of installation. These suspension parts are designed to be easily bolted in without the need to cut up or weld to the bottom of the car. Installation of the parts can easily be accomplished in a day, and the "no cutting" aspect is a big benefit to those that might hesitate to slice into a rare and/or valuable muscle car.
Driver's Impression - On The Autocross Track
This car had very good and manageable acceleration with varied traction on corner exit. I didn't like the brakes, as a routine pedal application rewarded me with intermittent lock-up. This brake response was quite sudden and took me by surprise, but light pedal pressure gave me a very delayed response. In corner entry, the car felt sluggish, and as the steering was stock ratio, the car couldn't keep up with the steering input and any change of direction was delayed. Precise driving was required to maneuver this car through the slalom and transitional section of the autocross course. Feedback from this car was delayed and this is most likely due to the slow, OEM steering box. A faster box and tractable, compliant brakes could change this car's personality and make it a very fun street ride.
Driver's Impression - On The StreetWhen I first saw the giant Nittos on 18-inch wheels, I didn't expect much from the Chevelle in the ride department. Boy, was I mistaken. This thing rode like a new Cadillac CTS. It soaked up the nastiest bumps with just a slight thump of the tires, but was never floaty. It was like the potholes didn't exist. It cornered like a new CTS, too. It pulled .93g on the skidpad, and was almost a full mph faster through the slalom than a C5 Corvette. Amazing. My only gripe was the ultra-light steering. It was the wrong kind of throwback to the good old days.
The BMR upgrades were simple, affordable, and effective. Under $4,000 for everything, they bring the handling of this Chevelle into the 21st century. It's definitely not a racecar, but a perfect daily driver with vastly improved handling from stock. From the logbook-"This car takes all the Chevelle's attributes and amplifies them, while it gets rid of the weaknesses."
BMR Fabrication '71 ChevelleTotal cost of suspension parts: $3,552.50 - including spindlesEstimated install time: 12 hoursInstall note: Bolt-in with no floor modifications