It's not everyday that you get a call to shoot Penthouse Pet Lori Michaels and her classic '96 Chevy Impala SS. Well, as it turned out, we got a call to shoot the car and not the babe, but that's OK because Ms. Michaels decided to go all-out on her '96 Chevy Impala SS--for looks as well as performance. In addition to the 700-plus-hp coming out of the Beck Racing Engines-tuned mill, the car needed to corner and handle properly.
A stock Impala SS has impressive handling abilities out of the box but look to the experts at Hotchkis Performance in Santa Fe Springs, California, to take a great car and make it even better. You can get the Hotchkis Performance front end kit with all the parts necessary to swap out the coil springs, tie rod links, and sway bar. John Hotchkis had his engineers working overtime to develop a set of sway bars that were 100 percent stiffer in the front and 144 percent stiffer in the rear. This translates into keeping the car level through seriously tight corners. The suspension kit also centers the rear axle in the wheelwell for an appearance benefit, as well. Hotchkis Performance not only made the suspension kit drop the vehicle a bit and handle like an F1 racer, but allowed for individual tunability in the rear lower control arms.
HOTCHKIS HOLLOW BARS ARE THE NEXT BIG THING?
Evolution is constantly taking place over at Hotchkis. The latest offerings are hollow sway bars--they've engineered a series for many of their most-popular applications. While these are lighter than their solid counterparts, they've been engineered to have the same torsional energy as their solid predecessors, so no performance is sacrificed in order to decrease the weight of the car. We got an up-close look at some of the new parts and replaced the solid units under our in-house-project Grand National while we were there.
It is important to get the wall thickness correct so the hollow bar won't kink or collapse while being bent. All Hotchkis bars are inspected for correct shape, size, and integrity during the manufacturing process.
We got an exclusive peek inside Hotchkis' manufacturing facility and were impressed with the knowledgeable personnel and high-tech quality control equipment.