Many things look good on paper, but when applied to the real world can be abysmal failures. A real world litmus test always exposes the hidden flaws that can turn a great idea into disastrous application.
TCI Engineering has been designing automotive frames and suspension parts for 35 years, starting with Model A Ford frames for street rod builders back in 1974. Over the years, TCI's product line has expanded to include suspension upgrade parts for late model cars, from control arms to subframes. Fortunately for those in the Chevy hobby, TCI has done extensive testing to ensure its products deliver in the real world.
In 2005, a well-worn '68 Camaro was bought to help design and prove TCI's first-gen Camaro high-performance suspension parts and subframe designs that were on the drawing board. TCI knew that anything it developed would need to undergo extensive and rigorous track testing. Fast-forward to August '09 and this Camaro carried the TCI battle flag into the second-annual Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge.
First up was a complete disassembly of the Camaro. The 350 had water in the oil, so it saw a complete rebuild to 355 cubes with a Scat crank and H-beam rods swinging SRP pistons. A set of Dart Pro 1 heads were installed with a full Comp Cams solid roller valvetrain, Edelbrock intake, and Holley 750 HP mechanical secondary carb with Holley fuel pump and regulator. A Toy Shop-built 700R4 with 3,000 stall converter was bolted to the back for forward motivation.
On the suspension side, the first thing was installing TCI's bolt-in front subframe assembly. It consists of TCI's tubular control arms, 2-inch drop spindles, TCI's own adjustable coilover shocks and 1-inch diameter front sway bar. Brakes are Wilwood Superlite six-piston calipers with 13-inch rotors. Everything bolts to a mandrel-bent, double-rail frame that features an adjustable transmission crossmember so you can fit any trans behind the engine of your choice. Even better is that the whole subframe assembly bolts right to a first-generation Camaro without modifications.
Out back, the Camaro features TCI's new Torque Arm 3-Link bolt-in kit with driveshaft. The new kit features a slider on the front arm that lets it slide front-to-rear and rotates during articulation of the suspension. This allows the handling to be controlled by the coilover shocks and rear sway bar without any binding issues. The only welding required on the kit is the axle housing, Panhard bar and sway bar brackets. The kit is connected to a Currie F-9 9-inch rear with 4.11 gears, 31-spline axles, and True Trac Posi unit. Wilwood Superlite four-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors handle braking duties in the rear. Overall, the torque arm suspension allows for a lower stance but with better rear end control and increased handling ability.
To stuff as much rear tire as possible underneath the Camaro, the stock wheelhouses were cut and modified using a set of Classic Industries replacement stock inner wheelhouses. That provided enough space to stuff a Michelin Pilot Sport 2 315/35ZR18 tire wrapped around a Boze Mesh wheel so the 355 has plenty of rubber to send horsepower to.
Driver's Impression - On the Autocross Course
My first autocross run had me thinking this Camaro's suspension was a bit too stiff, but each trip through the cones allowed me to gain confidence and the overall times showed it. While it will most likely get slammed for not being a comfy street ride, I loved every part of my job for the autocross and realized that the car has an extremely high tolerance for pressure. You want to go faster, just push the car more and with late-model F-bodies being so softly sprung, this is almost impossible. I'll even go so far and say I've never driven a better handling first-gen Camaro ever.