1969 Chevrolet El Camino - The Agile A-Body Part II

B-Body Spindles And New Control Arms Hone Our Elky's Handling To A Fine Edge

John Nelson Dec 1, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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In Part I of our quest to create an agile A-body (Sept. '07), we upgraded a big-block-powered '69 El Camino with Hotchkis' TVS (Total Vehicle System), thenadded in some modern rolling stock, all the while verifying the results on the test track. We came a long way but were still held back by the factory front spindles and control arms, which limit A-body alignment options and therefore handling ability. That's the area we'll address in Part II by adding Hotchkis' B-body spindle conversion and a set of brand-spankin'-new lower controls arms. We also bolted on a set of True Connections' rear disc brakes to complement the 12-inch binders included with the new spindles.

To quickly recap, Hotchkis' TVS package includes Sport Springs all the way around, new Extreme rear and Sport front sway bars, heavy-duty tie-rod sleeves, and lower rear trailing arms teamed with a set of new double-adjustable upper trailing arms. We supplemented this setup with a pair of trailing arm mount braces, a set of HPS 100 shocks, and an airbag kit. Our modernized rolling stock consisted of a set of Oasis Wheels 17-inch IROC wheels fitted with BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW rubber, P245/45ZR17 all the way around. Our gains were impressive, and we actually improved this Elky's ride quality as well.

On the other hand, there was still more improvement to be had, so we posed the question, How does installing a set of B-body spindles on an A-body improve its handling? "It's mostly geometry change," says Hotchkis Chief Engineer Aaron Ogawa. "You can only go so far with the TVS kit. That's just suspension, certain pieces and then the sway bars. That does help the overall balance, but the geometry is not changed." So what exactly needs to change?

Camber, primarily, which is the angle of the wheel, expressed in degrees, when viewed from the front of the vehicle. When the top of the tire tilts out from the center of the car, then the camber is positive; if it tilts in, the camber is negative. "Typically what we see on the A-bodies is a positive camber curve," Ogawa explains. "When the suspension is going into bump, or going upward, and when the car goes into a turn, the suspension moves up, and the angle of the wheel with respect to the frame of the car tips to the outside." In the extreme, the tire runs on its edge rather than on its contact patch.

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Here lies your garden-variety, untouched and bone-stock, nearly three-decade-old A-body front suspension setup. Changing the springs, shocks, and sway bar-all part ofthe TVS install we covered in Part I-greatly improves handling. Alignment options, however, and ultimate handling prowess, are limited with the stock spindles and upper control arms in place.

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