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Performance Front Subframe and Suspension Swap - Makeover!

After A Couple Of False Starts, We Get Serious About Our '73 Camaro

Christopher Campbell Jan 1, 2010

While the ultimate objective for Project F73 has been pretty clear in our minds since the beginning, we've only recently gotten serious about making solid progress and final decisions on the parts needed to get there. Sure, we got a little distracted by easy cosmetic upgrades such as our RS front clip swap and the temptation to spray on some shiny new paint, but we came to our senses and realized we were putting the cart before the horse. So, we're getting back to the meat of the project-the chassis and suspension package that's going to transform F73 from a mundane muscle car into a street car with real track cred.

chp_01_z Performance_front_subframe_suspension_swap Chop_shop 2/29

Since the day we dragged it back to the shop the plan was to take our basic 2nd-gen Camaro and turn it into a world class "driver's car" that would be able to carve through autocross cones or high-speed corners in open track events with authority while still not hiccuping during congested drives through heinous LA traffic or long road trips. Basically, we wanted an all-around muscle car that could easily stand its ground with modern equivalents performance wise, but not leave us longing for that refined OE-engineered and integrated feel.

Thanks to a plethora of well engineered products on the market for F-bodies, almost any choice would certainly improve F73's handling well beyond factory. But, with so many varied packages and suspension theories out there, those options mostly led to lots of debate over the right package to meet our goals. That is until we spent some time talking with the former GM engineers over at Detroit Speed and took a ride in their '69 Camaro test car.

With Detroit Speed's Stacy Tucker behind the wheel, the car proved to be incredibly aggressive on the track, but also very comfortable when cruising around-something we hadn't expected. Perhaps the best way to describe the difference is that the test car felt polished-not like an old Camaro with good parts bolted on, but like one that had seamless integration. The distinction is that DSE engineers didn't confine themselves to the Camaro's original architecture.

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Although the individual parts of the kit are important, Detroit Speed's hydroformed subframe is the platform that truly makes the difference in handling. While a cursory glance over the subframe shows that it's loosely based upon the stock GM equipment, there's actually a great deal of clean-sheet reengineering that went into the design to correct factory issues and dramatically increase torsional rigidity. That's particularly impressive considering that it remains a straightforward bolt-in part.

We know what you're thinking: a subframe and full suspension swap sounds like a massive and intimidating project. We were under that impression ourselves, but discovered it's far easier than expected. Detroit Speed's front suspension package is designed with a garage builder in mind and goes together like a kit should: quick and easy. With the help of A&E Motorsports in Santa Fe Springs, California, we had the subframe and suspension swapped out in a day's time, but even in a home garage it's a weekend project at best.

That really sums up the other goal of F73; we want you to know that you can build this car too. Plus, since we hate project cars that get built and just disappear afterwards, we've got performance evaluation, testing, and lots of driving in mind for this long-term project that anyone who chooses to follow in our steps will know exactly what they're getting for their hard-earned cash.

chp_04_z Performance_front_subframe_suspension_swap Tubular_lower_control_arms 4/29

So you may have seen it in CHP 's pages before, but now that we've got our heads back in the right frame of mind, this is where Project F73 really begins.

Quick Notes
What We Did
Swapped out the front subframe and suspension with DSE subframe and suspension components paired with Baer brakes.

Bottom line
We finished nearly 50 percent of F73's planned chassis upgrades in a weekend and completely reinvented the Camaro's suspension geometry.

$7,480 for the complete subframe and front suspension package with powdercoat and partial assembly option. $1,895 for the front Baer Pro-Plus system, $3,280 for the Rushforth wheels ($595, fronts; $895, rears; $75 each wheel for options), $400 for the BFG g-Force T/A KDW 2.

Inside A&E Motorsports
While the DSE subframe and suspension swap could easily be done in a home garage, we sought out Bruce Monroe and his crew's extensive car building knowledge. A&E is a full-service shop that handles everything from drivetrain, to chassis, to full assembly, and since we're moving onto much more complicated work requiring some fabrication that's a little over our heads, we put F73 in the hands of the pros.

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Larry's Garage (the original name of the shop) has actually been in the same place for 45 years. Larry, the original owner, had worked for Howard Gilbert-the head designer for A.J Foyt-and two of his techs were also previously wrenching for A.J. One day young Bruce walked in and asked if they needed someone to change oil and do odd jobs. That led to 15 years of work and quality hands-on education. Several years later, Bruce ended up buying the facility and launched A&E Motorsports, all the while maintaining the original name. Since then, Bruce has handled everything from race cars and boats to turnkey street rods.

To say we've been impressed by A&E's attention to detail and work ethic would be a severe understatement. These guys went above and beyond the call of duty on every aspect-almost like they were building F73 for themselves. That's the kind of pride in workmanship we love to see. If you're in SoCal, give 'em a call next time you need a shop that knows performance muscle cars.


Baer Brakes
Phoenix, AZ
A&E Motorsports
Santa Fe Springs, CA
Rushforth Wheels
Tacoma, WA



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