When Chevrolet builds cars like the Camaro they try to shove in the most performance for the lowest cost. After all, GM is a business, and like all businesses the goal is to make a profit. Given this business necessity, parts are often “good enough” for your average Joe, but if you’re reading this, then chances are you’re part of the automotive community that wants more. Well, thanks to the aftermarket there’s as much “more” out there as your wallet can handle. This is especially true of suspension components.
Stamped-steel rear control arms fitted with rubber bushings get the job done for most people, but when pushed hard, they flex and distort. Could GM have fitted the car with solid steel arms and urethane bushings? Yep, but they are trying to get the car to hit a certain price point, and to be honest, most people out there would rather have a fancier cup holder. Also, soft suspension bushings, besides being cheaper, make for a more compliant (i.e., cushy) ride with fewer squeaks and noises. Something performance-minded drivers are happy to compromise on if it means quicker times.
The fourth-generation Camaro is a perfect example of GM saving cash where it could. After all, it was called “the poor man’s Corvette,” and for Chevrolet to sell a Camaro, that had Corvette-like performance for a lot less coin, they had to cut costs wherever possible. BMR is a company not constrained by corporate bean counters so they can design parts for maximum performance. Their parts won’t flex under strain and have bushings that keep their shape when pushed hard. BMR also addressed the Camaro’s inherent chassis flex, especially in T-top models. The flex of the body, coupled with distorted suspension parts, can really hurt performance whether you’re at the autocross or dragstrip.
Kevin Lee loves his Camaro Z28. In fact, it’s pretty much his first performance car, and he enjoys taking it to autocross events and the local dragstrip whenever possible. In the twisties, he can almost feel the chassis flexing as the suspension tries to keep up with the action. At the dragstrip, the Camaro suffered from tragic wheelspin that didn’t help his 60-foot times in the least. To get the Camaro’s suspension sorted out, we borrowed his dad, Tim’s, shop, Don Lee Auto, and decided to throw just about every part BMR makes at the back of his Z28.
01. Our starting point was the bottom side of this 2001 Camaro Z28. The owner, Kevin Lee, wants to autocross it more and has been hitting the dragstrip each week. On the strip, the Camaro just smokes the tires, resulting in poor 60-foot times. The fourth-gen uses a stamped-steel Panhard rod to center the rear, a design that was carried over from the third-generation.
02. The main item we installed was BMR’s new Watt’s Link Kit (WL002). A Watt’s link locates the rearend housing in two directions compared to the Panhard rod’s one. This keeps the rear centered through the suspension’s entire range of motion. By keeping the rear centered, the car will have much more predictable and stable handling.
03. After removing the Panhard rod and upper Panhard brace, we were ready to install the new BMR Watt’s link. First up is the main brace, which attaches to the Panhard rod passenger side bracket and the frame where the upper brace rod attached. The brace is made from heavy-duty 1x2-inch, 0.120-inch wall rectangular steel tubing and 1/4-inch laser-cut steel plate. This makes it strong enough to stand up to the forces that will be exerted against it.
04. On the driver side, the main support bar was bolted to the frame using the three factory fasteners.
05. On the passenger side, the support bar mounted to the outside of the bracket that held the stock Panhard rod. For extra strength, we used the two supplied spacers between the two flanges, as shown.
06. We’re also installing BMR’s sway bar kit (PN SB026). The stock bars have low-torsional spring rates (i.e., they’re soft) mostly because they are made from small-diameter tubing. The BMR sway bars are designed by factoring in the Camaro’s weight, motion ratio, and other factors to end up with a bar sized to make the Camaro handle better. Made from heavy-wall 29mm DOM tubing, it’s cold-formed to better resist torsional (twisting) fatigue and hold its “memory” better than hot-formed bars.
07. The new rear bar mounted just like the stocker. To clear the Watt’s link, we used the included aluminum spacer between the sway bar bushing and the pad to drop the bar down a bit. Everything was installed loose at this point. We’ll tighten it all up later.
08. The larger front bar yields a 129 percent increase in sway bar rate and is made from 35mm DOM tubing. By being hollow, it’s stiffer but still relatively lightweight. The bushings are molded from 88-durometer, low-deflection polyurethane, and are internally fluted to keep the grease where it belongs. The steel mounting brackets are also reinforced for extra strength.
09. The main, double-sheer mount brackets are sized for 3-inch axletubes but comes with shim plates for use with stock, 2.75-inch axletubes like the ones on our Z28. The driver-side mount was installed perpendicular to the ground.
10. Six Grade 8 fasteners secured the passenger-side mount bracket as shown. Again, everything was left snugged for now so we could make adjustments as necessary.
11. We then attached the double-sheer extension bracket on the driver-side mount plate. For now we used the recommended starting locations. The kit has a lot of adjustability, but BMR provides a good starting point.
12. Next up was the passenger-side extension. Again, it has six adjustment points, but as suggested, we started on the lowest one.
13. Here’s the fully assembled Watt’s pivot and adjustable link bars. There are four aluminum spacers—two per side, and the outside ends of the link bars. The three bolts in the center are what will bolt to the main Watt’s link brace. These are key to how the Watt’s link keeps the rear perfectly centered under the Camaro through its entire range of motion.
14. We then bolted the pivot to the Watt’s link brace and the rod ends to the driver- and passenger-side extension brackets. With that, our Watt’s link was installed and we could move on.
15. Next up on our chassis improvement list was the Camaro’s torque arm. The stamped-steel stocker flexes, resulting in wheelhop and sloppy launches. The new piece from BMR (PN TA012) is made from 1.25-inch, 0.120-inch DOM steel tubing and 1/4-inch plate. This version mounts to its own bracket instead of the transmission, giving it even more adjustability.
16. The torque arm crossmember has five positions of adjustability for instant center and pinion angle tuning. The tunnel mount takes strain off of the transmission; especially important for higher-horsepower applications. And, as a bonus, the brace adds even more chassis stiffness.
17. The torque arm mounted to the front crossmember with a 68-durometer polyurethane bushing housed in a 1/4-inch CNC-formed steel plate. This means the torque arm transfers power efficiently without generating a lot more noise. The heavy-duty chromoly adjuster on the rear of the arm allows for fine-tuning of the pinion angle. Lastly, the system incorporates an NHRA-legal driveshaft safety loop.
18. Fourth-gen Camaros, especially those with T-tops, have a lot of chassis flex. Besides being hard on the car, this flex kills both handling and dragstrip launches. To reduce this flex, BMR offers a four-point bolt-in (also available as a weld-in system) subframe connector kit (PN SFC019). By tying together the four corners, a ton of stiffness is added to the equation.
19. The subframe connectors bolt to the frame using existing holes. To get nuts into the hard-to-reach spaces, BMR welded “handles” to the nuts, which made the whole process quick and easy. There are four of these, two for the front and two for the rear.
20. With the nuts in place, we lifted the connectors into position. Given the small variances in cars, and the fact that they’ve flexed a bit over time, we needed to use a small pry bar to get the last holes lined up. Also, the center of each subframe connector tied into the mount we installed for the torque arm, creating a latticework of strength for the chassis.
21. Our Camaro is lowered, so BMR recommended we utilize their Control Arm Relocation Brackets (PN CAB002) to keep our suspension geometry correct. This required us to cut a small tab off of the parking brake cable mount.
22. By installing the control arm brackets, we can help reduce wheelhop and get harder launches. Besides fixing the rear suspension geometry, they will allow us to add antisquat brackets for increased traction.
23. And here’s the relocation bracket fully installed. In addition to fixing our geometry, it also tied into the lower shock mount, providing even more rigidity.
24. Another cause of wheelhop in fourth-gen Camaros is their flimsy, stamped-steel lower control arms. The soft rubber bushings that deflect under load and absorb power instead of transferring it to the tires don’t help either. These tubular pieces from BMR (PN TCA002) won’t deflect and they are on-car adjustable, which is certainly the way to go. The poly mounts eliminate deflection and are internally fluted to get grease evenly around the stiff, 95-durometer bushings. This makes them super strong yet still quiet enough for street use.
25. This shows how the BMR four-point subframe connectors tie into the chassis mount for the rear lower control arms. Since the various systems all tie into one another, it creates a much stronger chassis system than any one component would have on its own.
26. This gives you an idea of just how many parts we installed under the Camaro and how the overall system works to strengthen its chassis. Installation took a full day and required zero welding and very little cutting (just the tabs for the relocation brackets).
27. Kevin then drove over to his dad’s alignment rack to double-check that all the bolts were tight, set the pinion angle, and adjust all the pieces to the starting positions recommended by BMR.
28. Kevin hits the local dragstrip on a fairly regular basis, so we were curious as to how much the parts helped improve his times. With stock components, the fourth-gen was desperate for traction and would often blow the tires off at launch. Kevin reports that now the Camaro squats down and launches hard. Before the changes, his best eighth-mile time was an 8.80 at 83 mph. After, he ran an 8.51 at 84 mph. The big change came in his 60-foot times where they dropped from 2.10 to 1.88, which is a huge gain on the same tires. Kevin also plans on messing with the settings to see if he can get it to launch even harder.