Let’s be honest, the thing we love about our classic Chevys are the timeless good looks and sexy body lines. Anyone who’s driven a stock, classic muscle car knows that they are woefully inadequate in terms of handling compared to the modern cars we’ve become accustomed to. They also tend to have a stance more suited to 4x4 trucks than badass hot rods—an aspect that’s even more glaring if said Chevy is running low-profile tires. Both of these shortcomings: bad handling and large tire-to-fender gap can be addressed with updated suspension parts and coilover shocks. Unlike traditional coil and shock (or strut through coil) arrangements, coilover setups let you change the ride height of your car. They also shave some weight due to the smaller packaging of the coil spring.
QA1 makes the conversion as painless as can be, and due to the unique design of their lower control arm, you could buy this kit in stages. Yep, buy the control arms now, and with the adapter plate, you can run your stock springs and shocks. Save up some more cash, and then it’s easy to buy their coilover kit without having to buy new control arms. On a ’73 Camaro, we opted to install the whole enchilada at one time, and we upgraded to QA1’s race series control arms. The main difference between these and their street version is that the race arms incorporate their new Ultimate Ball Joints, which cost a bit more. But the flexibility of their kits means they have something to fit most any budget.
01. Our starting point is what appeared to be a stock second-gen Camaro suspension.
02. Removing the old stuff wasn’t rocket science. However, if you have stock coil springs, take care since they’re under considerable tension.
03. Not all was as stock as it seemed. This Camaro had QA1’s cool coilover conversion kit. The clever design lets you have coilover adjustability and still use stock control arms. But we wanted to move to some aftermarket control arms with better geometry.
04. Behold the tubular upper control arms from QA1 (PN 52318, $450). Fully TIG-welded, these arms add 3 to 4 degrees of caster and 0.5 to 1 degree of negative camber when paired with their lower arms. They come fully powdercoated in any color you like, so long as it’s black. If you don’t need the upgrade race version, you can save around $50 by buying their street arms.
05. The main difference between QA1’s race and street versions is the type of ball joint supplied. The street arms get your standard ball joint and the race arms have QA1’s Ultimate Ball Joint. These super strong parts have a very low operational friction that can be adjusted for preload (breakaway torque can be set as low as 0 ft-lb). This allows for very smooth and bind-free operation. The ball-to-race tolerances contribute greatly to wear resistance and the preload can be adjusted with the arms on the car. Lastly, they are fully rebuildable.
06. The arms came pre-adjusted for preload, but if you want to change them you’ll need a couple of tools from QA1: a spanner wrench (PN 1891-101, $20) and their proprietary Allen hex key (PN 1891-102, $10). Buy them bundled together (PN1891-103, $29) and you save a buck.
07. Like the upper control arms, the lowers (PN 52320, $630) are also TIG-welded and fully powdercoated. In the case of our race versions, they also have their badass ball joints. One unique feature is their basket-like spring pocket. Aside from being strong, it allows the same arm to support either their Pro-Coil coilover shock system or, with spring adapters (PN 7720-168, $70), you can run a traditional smooth-body shock and spring. The lower race version arms price out about $180 more than the street version with standard ball joints.
08. For our coilover application, QA1 supplied these support plates and bushings. The plates bolt into the basket on the lower control arms.
09. Before installing the lower control arms, we had to slide out the sleeves and replace them with the larger ones included in the kit.
10. When we called QA1, they asked us for the weight of the Camaro up front. Having this information, they sent us a pair of their 10-inch Pro Coil springs with a rate of 400 pounds. They are cold-wound from chrome silicone steel (CrS) for long life and consistency. They are also heat-treated and shot-peened before being powdercoated silver.
11. Paired up with their springs were these Pro-Coil double-adjustable aluminum shocks (PN GD501-10400C, $725). With separate settings for compression and rebound, they let you fine-tune how your car rides and handles. These shocks had a compressed length of 10.50 inches and an extended length of 15 inches. They were also fully dyno tested by QA1.
12. For our application, the T-bar mount on the end of the shock had to be removed and replaced with the steel sleeve included with the shock plates. To remove the bars, we used some split-ring piers to ditch the retainer and then pressed out the bar.
13. The coilover kit came with standard spring seat washers, but we opted to upgrade to their thrust bearing kit. The kit included four stainless washers, two thrust bearings, and two spanner wrenches (PN 7888-110, $40). When it comes time to adjust your ride height with the car under load, you’ll be glad you shelled out the additional $40.
14. And here you can see the assembled shock mounted to the lower control arm support plate.
15. Hard turning puts a lot of strain on your car, especially its steering components. To combat this, we installed a pair of QA1 heavy-duty tie-rod sleeves (PN 5252, $71). They are made from solid blocks of steel and then zinc-plated to resist the elements. The short version is that they won’t flex like the stamped steel OE split sleeves
16. Since we were under the car we made sure to check all of our components for wear. That turned out to be the right call since we found one of the outer tie rods to be toast. At that point the problem became trying to find a shop that had a ’73 Camaro outer tie rod in stock. Fortunately, we’re just down the street from Classic Performance Products (CPP). They had just what we needed.
17. Again, nothing too complicated, we just installed the new upper and lower control arms and secured them with the new hardware that came in the kit.
18. To give our Camaro a bit more adjustability, we grabbed a pair of QA1 Stocker Star smooth-body double-adjustable aluminum shocks (PN TD702, $288) for the rear. Like the fronts, these dyno-tested, direct bolt-in shocks were adjustable for both compression and rebound and are completely rebuildable and revalveable by QA1. Their compressed length came in at 13 inches and the extended length was 19.63 inches.
19. After supporting the rear with a pair of pole jacks, we removed the worn-out gas shocks.
20. The new shocks had the correct T-bar upper mount, but the kit came with bolts and nuts that were too small to use on the Camaro. On our second-gen, the holes were threaded for 3/8-inch bolts so we grabbed four Grade 8 fasteners and washers to complete the install.
21. The QA1 Stocker Star shocks are now the prettiest things under the back of the Camaro, but more importantly, they will let us dial in the car for best ride or best handling possible.
22. We then repeated the same procedure on the passenger side. Total install time was approximately six hours. All that is left to do is get to the alignment shop, then have some fun.