Try to quickly navigate through a relentless series of cones with a stock Chevelle and you'll see that cars of that size weren't designed for such dastardly maneuvers. A couple months ago we took our LQ9-powered 1966 to the EVOC facility in Riverside, California, for track testing and were quickly reminded that our classic Chevys are not exactly graceful handlers.
Thankfully, developments in aftermarket suspension parts for popular '60s and '70s models in the past few years have grown, and today it is indeed possible to turn a sloppily handling muscle machine into a spry specimen. Detroit Speed, Inc. out of Mooresville, North Carolina, is considered one of the best when it comes to performance handling components for old muscle cars and company founders Kyle and Stacy Tucker are constantly putting their parts to the test in their own hot-handling Camaros, so using their components on our '66 was an easy choice to make.
To upgrade the 1966 Chevelle, which had excessive body roll, weak drum brakes, and sloppy steering; we ordered DSE's Front Speed-2 Kit (Stage-3, PN 3203903) with the optional Splined Front Sway Bar (PN 031405) to help plant the front end and keep the car square when blasting around corners. The Stage-3 Front Speed-2 Kit comes with tubular control arms, forged spindles, tie rods, coil overs (PN 031319D). For the rear, we went with DSE's anti-roll bar (PN 031404), coil springs, upper and lower control arms, and specially-valved Koni shocks that DSE has made per their specifications. Using bolt-on components, we aimed to make our Chevelle handle like it's on rails and with Detroit Speed's reputation; we knew our A-body was in good hands. With a pile of parts collected at our Tech Center in Irvine, California, Jason Scudellari tackled the task with precision and had our project back on the road with minimal down time.
1. While we were ripping the stock suspension out, we opted to replace the rearend with something much beefier, namely Strange Engineering’s S60, which you can read about in a full buildup article in an upcoming issue.
2. The factory 12-bolt in the Chevelle was bolted in using the stamped stock steel upper and lower control arms and factory coils. Aggressive driving causes the stock pieces to flex, allowing the rearend to move, hindering the car’s handling ability and responsiveness.
3. The front suspension consists of DSE’s tubular upper and lower control arms, adjustable coilovers, and aluminum-bodied bump stops. The control arms come with Delrin bushings, steel cross-shafts and high-quality ball joints that can take the rigors of hardcore handling. The Delrin material offers minimal deflection while providing smooth operation.
4. Removal of the upper control arms starts with these bolts. We also noticed that GM cast a few different mounting holes that made us want to try some different control arm angles at the dragstrip. These various holes could change the car’s instant center and could help or hurt traction.
5. On the Strange S60, we replaced the bushings with brand new pieces from Classic Performance Products.
6. Before lifting the new S60 into place, car builder Jason Scudellari made sure to fasten the new coil springs from DSE using the factory retainer plates.
7. Attaching the new control arms starts with adjusting the length as close to stock as possible. To change the car’s weight transfer characteristics, you can simply lengthen the arm with it on the car.
8. The DSE lowers bolt into the stock location and is a significant improvement over the factory stamped steel parts.
9. Bending the brake lines was another task to be handled before bolting up the Strange S60.
10. To solidify the rear suspension, we ordered Detroit Speed’s SL series upper and lower control arms and DSE’s bolt-on sway bar.
11. The drum brakes weren’t doing us any favors in the performance department, so we opted to install Wilwood’s six-piston caliper discs and we’re ready to be bolted up.
12. With the shocks, brake lines, upper and lower control arms removed, the 12-bolt easily dropped out of the ’Velle.
13. The sturdy upper control arms from DSE simply bolt into the factory pick up points.
14. Next, Jason Scudellari raised the S60 into place, making sure to align the upper control arms and coil springs into the factory pockets.
15. The links attach to the frame using zinc-plated brackets.
16. The rear sway bar attaches to the axle housing with DSE supplied hardware.
17. The Koni shocks we ordered from DSE are specifically valved to work with the spring rates.
18. Moving onto the frontend of the Chevelle, Scudellari started by disconnecting the tie rods and the spindle nut before ditching the stock discs.
19. CPP’s 500 Series steering box is a direct replacement for the factory power steering box or an easy way to upgrade from manual steering to power steering. The 14 to 1 ratio adds a new dimension of handling to your car, smooth operation and excellent road feedback.
20. Removal of the stock steering box starts with the pitman arm. Once the arm is disconnected, four bolts through the frame later, you can drop out the cast piece.
21. Removal of the stock steering box starts with the pitman arm. Once the arm is disconnected, four bolts through the frame later, you can drop out the cast piece.
22. The lower control arms are built with Delrin bushings for minimal deflection.
23. DSE’s shocks are specifically engineered to make old heavy cars handle. The rebound and compression have been finely tuned by some of the best in Pro Touring. With this setup you can also control ride height with a spanner wrench on the threaded spring perch.
24. DSE’s spindles are forged pieces that are engineered to withstand the harsh loads of aggressive handling.
25. Here's a shot of DSE's front suspension completely assembled. We noticed the car was lowered by almost 3 inches, giving an awesome stance. The cool thing is with the coil overs we have the option to raise the ride height a bit for the street. The aluminum bodies DSE shock are dyno'd before being sent out and even come with a graph showing the user how the shock performed.
26. To install the DSE splined front sway bar you must drill and tap the frame before installing the billet aluminum support brackets that house Delrin bushings.
27. The DSE splined sway bar attaches to the lower control arm using high quality sealed links.
28. It’s important to tighten the billet steel arm on the splined side first; if you tighten the link first, the arm can slide off the splines.