Ever since the birth of drag racing on the old, abandoned airstrips of Southern California in the years following World War II, speed enthusiasts have worked feverishly at both making power and getting enough traction to get that power to the asphalt. Lost traction is just that—lost. It is wasted energy lost to noise, smoke, and stagnation. Traction has always been a challenging physics lesson for drag racers. The more power we make, the harder it is to get traction for a successful launch. Power is what causes rubber to lose its important bond with the pavement. This is why we want a suspension system that improves contact patch when it’s time to close the gap.
The good news for Bow Tie buffs is GM engineered real traction into the fourth-gen Camaro when it was developing a successor for the highly successful third-gen (1982-’92). In fact, there isn’t much difference between the third-gen and fourth-gen underpinnings. The original third-gen torque-arm suspension was so good GM decided to stick with a great idea. We’re talking a three-link torque-arm suspension engineered for world-beating performance at the cusp of the 1980s when the Detroit muscle car was making a comeback.
Battle lines between Camaro and Mustang were drawn along Woodward Avenue in Detroit when Ford introduced the Mustang GT and Chevrolet threw a counterpunch with the redesigned third-gen F-body Camaro Z28. Pontiac took on the Camaro and Mustang with its own redesigned F-body Firebird Formula and Trans Am. All of these ponycar platforms fielded 5.0L high-performance V-8 power. Of the two ponies, the Camaro employed a clearly better road-hugging suspension system with MacPherson struts in front and a sophisticated three-link torque arm suspension in back.
This leads us to the redesigned fourth-gen Camaro, which was the first GM F-body ever produced outside of the United States, in Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, Canada. Though the fourth-gen Camaro looked radically different than its predecessor, it was built on basically the same platform as the third-gen Camaro.
How do you improve on a winning factory platform—especially when you’re going drag racing? For the road racer, the third- and fourth-gen platform was born for the twisties. It is a natural low center of gravity platform that has always delivered excellent handling thanks to thoughtful engineering from the get-go. The aftermarket has taken an already-terrific suspension system and made it better.
If your road-race journey encompasses roughly 1,320 feet in a straight line in a fast/quick specific amount of time, there’s definitely room for improvement. Chris Alston’s Chassisworks and AFCO Racing have solutions you’re going to like. We’re playing with a 2002 Camaro on its way to becoming a single-digit quarter-mile drag car. All the right bones have been welded into place for solid structural integrity. We have a Coyote-crazed LS mill planned for this 14-year-old F-body. The genius of Chris Alston needs to be dovetailed into our fourth-gen in order to get all that LS power to the ground where its brute energy has nowhere to escape.
Traction = Better E.T.
We’re taking the “salad bar” approach to improving our Camaro’s torque arm rear suspension system. Chris Alston’s Chassisworks has amassed all of the right components for our fourth-gen drag car. Here’s what we have.
|5807-G10||Pro-Power Rear Lower Control Arms, 1 5/8 x 0.083" 4130 steel tube|
|6294||Pro Torque Arm|
|6296||Transmission Crossmember for Pro Torque Arm|
|6297||Adjustable Pro Panhard Bar|
|84F40-F11||FAB9-DF LBFS ARB 4130 Axlehousing with Drag Race ARB Mounts and Late-Big-Ford Sealed Ends|
|6295-CAC||FAB9 Cross Mount for Pro Torque Arm|
|3850BG||AFCO Double-Adjustable Coilover Drag Shocks|
01. The first order of business is to remove the existing suspension system. Because this Camaro is already a purpose-built drag car in need of an update, we’ve opted for the Chassisworks Drag Race Torque Arm Rear Suspension System.
02. Before you is the complete Chassisworks Drag Race Torque Arm Rear Suspension package. This is pulse-quickening hard-core stuff engineered to put the squeeze on rubber’s intimate contact with the staging lane. It works well because nothing moves when power is abruptly applied. Power doesn’t have a place to escape because Team Chassisworks understands how power travels from the pinion to the asphalt. All you need once the Chassisworks package is installed and properly tuned is sticky rubber.
03. We like this Chassisworks FAB9 axlehousing based on the legendary Ford 9-inch, which, despite your passion for Bow Tie performance is the most indestructible rear axle in automotive history. We’re talking 3-inch axletubes, 4130 steel, mucho gussets, gun-drilled 40-spline Strange axles, 1/2-inch studs, and the Strange Ultra Case to birth a virtually indestructible unit. Chassisworks provides all the trimmings, including a provision for an antiroll bar, drag shocks, all fourth-gen connections, and coil springs.
04. Mid-ship is this Strange Ultra Case with 3.812-inch bore and a brute pinion support. You can get this guy fully stuffed and ready to go with a spool along with ring-and-pinion set in the axle ratio of your choice. What’s more, Strange provides the 1350 chrome-moly yoke.
05. The Pro Torque Arm Bracket is installed first as part of our rear axle prep. It is suggested you use a thread locker on these Grade 8 fasteners.
06. Control arms are prepped for installation, with spacers positioned as shown, with wide spacers outboard and narrow spacers inboard. If you get this backwards, the control arms will not properly align with the chassis. We like these adjustable 7/8-inch Heim joints, which makes these control arms fully adjustable.
07. Here’s one of the installed control arms as it should be with wide spacer out and narrow spacer inside.
08. Chassisworks’ Pro Torque Arm is installed next. This fully adjustable torque arm with two Heim joints allows you huge freedom to adjust pinion angle.
09. Shock brackets bolt on as shown to accommodate the AFCO Double-Adjustable Coilover Drag Shocks (PN 3850BG).
10. Control arm adjustment begins at the middle bolthole. Final adjustable happens with the axle installed and vehicle firmly on the ground.
11. Here’s the FAB9 housing with the Chassisworks Pro Torque Arm. This is the most bulletproof axle package we’ve ever installed in a Camaro.
12. The complete Chassisworks FAB9 axle package, including control arms and Pro Torque Arm, is rolled into position for installation. We’ve found it’s easier to build this axle off the vehicle rather than on. Roll it under the vehicle and secure all attachment points.
13. The driver-side control arm is installed at the stock control arm location. Note the wide spacer outboard. We’re redundant because this is an easy mistake to make. Both control arms should be adjusted to exactly the same length.
14. The passenger-side is secured using the provided Grade 8 hardware and spacers. Check and recheck axle alignment as you go.
15. The AFCO double-adjustable drag coilovers are prepped for installation. Leave spring tension loose until the shocks are installed and the vehicle is on the ground.
16. The AFCO coilovers are installed and secured using Chassisworks Grade 8 hardware. Index the adjustment knob forward for easy access, enabling you to dial it in for changing conditions.
17. Torsional antiroll bar nylon bushings are installed next using the provided silicone lubricant. Use protective gloves when you apply silicone lubricant. If you get it on your skin you will have to live with the consequences. It does not wash off.
18. The splined antiroll bar is installed next. You will have to drive the antiroll bar into the housing while protecting the end of the shaft. A mallet is effective or perhaps a block of wood between hammer and shaft. The objective is to get the antiroll bar centered.
19. Once the antiroll bar is centered, we’re ready to install the adjustable endlinks and Heim joints.
20. The antiroll bar endlinks install with the arm splined into the antiroll bar and connected to the chassis with this fully adjustable, Heim-jointed rod. Multiple adjustments enable you to fine-tune antiroll bar tension.
21. The antiroll bar endlinks splined onto the shaft as shown and are secured with Allen head bolts. Both ends must be indexed identically.
22-23. Adjustable endlinks are tied to the chassis and arm with adjustable Heim joints. Never has chassis tuning been any easier.
24. The Pro Panhard bar attaches to the passenger-side framerail at this non-adjustable Heim joint. This is the factory fourth-gen Panhard bar attachment point.
25. On the driver-side is this Panhard bar adjustment at the axle, which controls rear axle centering. Adjust this Heim joint to get axle tracking indexed with the front wheels.
26. The Chassisworks fully adjustable Pro Torque Arm is in position and ready for installation at the transmission crossmember. Because our Camaro doesn’t yet have an engine and transmission, we’re not in a position to install and adjust the torque arm in front.
27. The Chassisworks transmission crossmember is pieced together to show what it looks like assembled. It has to be positioned and welded into place, then the Pro Torque Arm connected. The torque arm brackets (arrow) point downward when installed.
28. The completed Chassisworks Drag Race Suspension System looks like this as viewed from the wheelwells. This is a durable package completely up to the business of hooking up and going fast. When the work is complete, opt for a four-wheel alignment and suspension tuning by an experienced drag racing chassis tuner.