Chevy Tri-Five Suspension Bolt-ons - How It Works

Leading suspension manufacturers explain how to take the handling of Tri-Five Chevys to the next level with a few simple bolt-ons

Stephen Kim Jan 26, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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Doug Nordin: Camaros, Novas, and Chevelles are very popular amongst the Pro Touring crowd but with the right parts you can get a Tri-Five to handle just as well. Not a lot of people actually autocross their cars, so some basic upgrades is all it takes to vastly improve a car’s street handling. At Global West, our parts are designed for people who want bolt-on simplicity using the stock frame. We offer tubular upper and lower control arms, sway bars, coil springs, leaf springs, and steering boxes. Together, these parts substantially improve driveability and cornering. For the best bang for the buck, upgrading the front control arms is where it’s at. They add much more caster for improved stability and corner entry, and change the camber curve for improved grip. Next on the list should be an upgraded steering box. We offer a Borgeson 12.0:1 unit that has much better steering feel and a quicker ratio than stock.

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Craig Morrison: The factory Tri-Five Chevy suspension design looks good on paper, but it certainly has its limitations. While they utilize a full frame with a double A-arm front suspension design, the geometry is all wrong for modern tires and performance driving. There is positive camber and toe-out, which leads to lots of understeer. In the back, it is a simple parallel leaf design that does a good job of holding the car up and that’s about it. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the Tri-Five suspension was designed for bias-ply tires, not modern radials. The additional grip of modern tires puts more load through the suspension, and makes its shortcomings even worse. An aftermarket frame offers the ultimate in ride and handling performance for a Tri-Five, but there are many more affordable options. Aftermarket control arms, coilover kits, and sway bars are just some of the hardware that’s available. AME offers a center X kit that strengthens the center portion of the chassis and many different options of grafting a suspension in out back. From individual components to a full rear subframe, it all depends on your budget, fabrication skill set, what you want to do with the car, and how you are going to drive it.

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Sway Bars

John Hotchkis: For people who don’t want to spend the money on an aftermarket frame, a sway bar package offers a great dollar-per-dollar performance value. Hotchkis Performance offers a front and rear sway bar package that makes a huge difference in car control and comfort. The stock Tri-Five suspension has no rear sway bar at all, so adding one dramatically improves handling. Our comprehensive kit works great with stock frames, and features a 13/8-inch sway bar that’s 60 percent stiffer than stock as well as an adjustable 1-inch rear bar. To tailor rear roll stiffness to a wide range of tire sizes, our rear bar has two sets of adjustment holes that offer both 309 and 480 lb/in of stiffness. Furthermore, our bars are hollow for excellent twist resistance and reduced mass. Compared to a solid bar, our hollow units are about 10 pounds lighter. Each sway bar kit includes laser-cut mounts, stainless U-bolts, polyurethane bushings, and a black powdercoated finish.

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Through many hours of testing, we were able to increase the front roll stiffness as aggressively as necessary while still keeping a comfortable ride and a fair amount of compliance. This greatly improves turn-in ability while reducing body roll. Then we matched the front bar up with the rear bar that had just enough roll stiffness to achieve neutral handling balance. The adjustability built into the rear bar allows optimizing handling balance to get the most out of all four contact patches. Overall, our Tri-Five sway bars make a car more responsive, and they are very easy to install in a single afternoon.

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