From The Bottom Up

Our ’85 Gets A Front Suspension Rebuild

Andrew Bolig Oct 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)

Step By Step

The first thing we needed to do was get all the years of dirt, road grime, and cobwebs cleaned off the car. This was best done with scrub brushes, soapy water, some all-purpose cleaner/degreaser, and a hose. Don’t wear your Sunday best when you’re doing this because the cleaner you get the car, the dirtier you’ll become. We’re going to disassemble everything, but we at least wanted to get enough grease off the parts so we could see the bolt heads.

With the front wheels removed, we could see that the front rotors were grooved, and Chris Petris suggested we look at getting new calipers and rotors. We put a jack under the control arm and removed the shock mounting bolts.

With the shocks removed you can take the pressure off the spring and remove the control arms.

The best way to remove the upper control arm bushings is to drill around the metal sleeve inside the bushing and then push out the sleeve and the bushing in a press.

Make sure to support the control arm sufficiently because it’s aluminum and it doesn’t take too much pressure to damage it in a press.

We drilled off the rivets that held on the upper ball joints and removed the remaining part of the rivet with a punch tip installed in an air chisel. We needed to use a press to remove the control arm shafts so we could install the urethane bushings provided by Vette Brakes & Products. There is a large washer and a small washer on the shaft and the shaft can only be pressed out one direction.

Once the upper control arms were disassembled and cleaned we installed the new ball joints supplied by Corvette Central.

The old ball joints were riveted in place but the new ball joints use bolts to hold them in place. We put some blue thread lock on the bolts to make sure they wouldn’t come off at an inconvenient time.

There are specific bushings for the front of the control arm and the rear. The one-piece bushing goes to the front of the control arm with the small washer. The rear bushing is in two pieces and uses a large washer on each side of the bushing. Be sure to lubricate the steel sleeves inside the bushings with silicone grease before installing them or they’ll squeak.

Here you can see the washers installed on the shaft. We also installed the nuts that go onto the shaft.

Chris prefers to tighten them with the engine in the vehicle and the suspension under load, so we’ll wait until we get the engine in to finish tightening the nuts.

With the bushings installed and the new ball joints in place, the upper control arms are finished and ready to be installed. Now we’re ready to move on to the lower control arms.

The lower control arm bushings are also removed by drilling around the metal sleeve and pressing them out like the upper control arm bushings.

The ball joint on the lower control arm requires a special tool to remove it without harming or distorting the aluminum control arm. This one tool removes and installs the ball joints. If you don’t have this tool, take your control arms to a certified technician who has the tool to prevent damage to your control arms.

With the control arms removed and rebuilt, it was time to focus on the frame of the ’85. With so much of the suspension removed it was easier to clean and get into places that typically are hard to reach. We’re replacing the spring with a newer one so we removed the four bolts that held the spring in place and put it aside. This revealed even more little nooks and crannies to clean.

When everything dried and the overspray cleared, we had a nice, clean frame on which to bolt the suspension. A little bit of time, cleaning, and painting can yield huge results toward the finished product.

The bottom of the frame is as clean as the top of the frame, which makes it easier to bolt items back into place. While we were at it, we cleaned and painted the underside of the hood. All of the paint we used was Krylon Semi-Flat paint in spray cans.

It evens out nicely and has a shine much like the original paint. At this point we started to install the new spring and the upper and lower control arms.

This car is going to be a daily driver so we wanted to soften the notoriously firm suspension. Chris suggested we use a soft ride (non-FX3) spring from a ’94 Corvette.

The only modification from the original spring was that we needed to use the spring mounting cradles, which are cast instead of stamped, for the wider spring. For the same reason, we used shocks from Corvette Central that are designed to give an improved ride without sacrificing handling.

A keen eye will notice that the spacers under the control arm shaft are not the same size as the ones that are originally used on ’85 Corvettes. Chris ordered a set for a later C4 so that we could increase the amount of positive caster available. This will help with driveability and will keep the car from darting around from road variances.

With the spring installed, we jacked up the lower control arm and fastened the ball joints.

It’s easy to see how much better the suspension looks, but what you can really appreciate is how reliable everything will be, thanks to Corvette Central and Vette Brakes & Products. We’re planning on driving this car to some events when it’s finished and we’ll welcome the reliability and ride that the new components will provide.

Since we acquired our '85, we have been busy cleaning, painting, and replacing many of the parts on the front suspension. Corvette Central and Vette Brakes & Products have come to the rescue for this installment by providing us with the necessary pieces to make this ’85 handle well and make it a pleasure to drive.

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