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A stack of fresh braking, steering, and suspension parts brings this 1957 Chevy into the 21st Century

Modern Times

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Making our old Chevys ride and drive more like their modern cousins is a staple of this hobby, and one of the most popular areas to tackle is the suspension and brakes. Why? Simple, because a car with vague steering, mushy handling, and sketchy brakes is zero fun to drive. Let’s be honest, even when new, our now classic Chevy didn’t handle or stop very well. Add in decades of wear and the bad situation is even worse.

A good example of this would be Tri-Five Chevys such as the 1957 Bel Air. They weren’t built for handling. They were built to get you from point A to point B in style and, by 1950’s standards, comfort. They’re as different from modern cars as a Model T is from them. Thankfully, they are also one of most popular classic Chevys on the planet so there’s a host of aftermarket parts available to get them up to 21st century driving standards. One option involves a full-replacement chassis and stacks of cash, while others are bolt-on simple and wallet friendly. Either way you go will get you better road manners. This time around we wanted to dive into the simplistic goodness of bolt-on upgrades. To keep things extra budget friendly, we even resisted the siren call of double-, triple-, or even quadruple-adjustable shocks for non-adjustable gas-filled tubes of shock goodness that cost about the same as a decent steak dinner.

With all that in mind, we headed over to CPP with a 1957 project car that was in need of some suspension, steering, and brake system updating. So, follow along as we stuff some of today’s tech into a classic from yesteryear.

1957 Chevy Suspension 02 Cpp Stock Parts 2/31

1. No shocker here, just old parts. In this case, the ’57 had front disc brakes, but the removal procedure is the same for drums.

1957 Chevy Suspension 03 Cpp 3/31

2. And that procedure was to remove it all, including the steering and control arms. The coil spring is under some tension so we used a spring compressor to keep everything, and everyone, safe.

1957 Chevy Suspension 04 Cpp Upper Tubular Control Arm 4/31

3. Here you can see the new CPP tubular upper control arm next to the stock stamped steel upper. Yeah, they look better, but more importantly, these new TIG-welded tubular control arms are considerably stronger than what GM put in the ’57 over 50 years ago. The arms are made from 1.25-inch 0.120 wall DOM tubing and have thick 1.5-inch 0.188 wall pivot barrels. This ensures the pivots stay true even under stress. They come preassembled on new billet chromoly 4130 cross-shafts and pivot sleeves. These sleeves capture both sides of the bushing, unlike the stockers that are only retained on one side. As a result they’re much stronger and resist flexion better. As a safety measure, they incorporate an interlocking shaft and sleeve design so that the bolts can’t work loose over time. The fact that they came with new, pre-installed ball joints saved us time.

1957 Chevy Suspension 05 Cpp Lower Tubular Control Arm 5/31

4. Like the upper arms, the lowers are TIG-welded 1.5-inch DOM tubing around a central plate that supports the coil spring and lower shock mount. They came fully assembled with self-lubricating (no squeak) Duraleen bushings and Moog ball joints. In terms of geometry, these also add 5 degrees of caster while providing full wheel travel. For extra strength they incorporate 4140 alloy cross-shafts and sleeves.

1957 Chevy Suspension 06 Cpp 6/31

5. First up was dropping in the new Grade 8 hardware that will hold the lower control arms in place.

1957 Chevy Suspension 07 Cpp 7/31

6. The upper arm was put in place using the new hardware provided. In our case, the header had to be unbolted and slid out of the way. The driver-side lower arm was then slid on and secured with four Grade 8 nuts and lock washers.

1957 Chevy Suspension 08 Cpp 8/31

7. The front brake kit (PN 5557SWBK-D12-UG) came with almost everything needed to give our Tri-Five 12-inch disc brakes along with dropped spindles. The kit was pre-assembled and had 12-inch one-piece vented rotors, big-piston calipers, bearings, seals, dust caps, spindle nuts, hardware, and even brake hoses.

1957 Chevy Suspension 09 Cpp 9/31

8. The spindles in our kit provided a full 2 inches of drop without changing the car’s steering geometry. This kit also works with most 15-inch and larger custom wheels.

1957 Chevy Suspension 10 Cpp 10/31

9. No need for fancy coilovers on this ride, but that did mean we needed to break out the spring compressor again to get the new CPP spring (PN FCS638-S) into place.

1957 Chevy Suspension 11 Cpp Drop Spindle 11/31

10. We used a pole jack to hold the lower control arm in place until we could install the CPP spindle and lock it to both arms with the supplied castle nuts.

1957 Chevy Suspension 12 Cpp 12/31

11. Next was sliding in the new nitrogen gas shock (PN CPP-1001). At only $39 per shock, this is a pretty wallet friendly way to go. For a few bucks extra they do have upgrade options if you want adjustability.

1957 Chevy Suspension 13 Cpp 13/31

12. Included with the drop spindle brake kit were these slotted, drilled, and zinc-washed 12-inch rotors. For less coin they offer plain, solid rotors, but these will keep looking great for a long time.

1957 Chevy Suspension 14 Cpp Front Brake Caliper 14/31

13. The calipers in the drop spindle brake kit were these big-piston pieces. They are offered in several colors but we chose the understated black. The best part is that they use easy-to-find, off-the-shelf GM brake pads and rebuild parts.

1957 Chevy Suspension 15 Cpp 15/31

14. The key to getting “new car” steering is having the right steering box, so we chose CPP’s 500 Series power steering conversion gearbox (PN CP50000-2). The 14:1-ratio unit was a direct replacement and lined up perfectly to the column without the need for any shims. The bolt-on aluminum cap allows for zero movement and, best of all, won’t leak.

1957 Chevy Suspension 16 Cpp Steering Parts 16/31

15. The stock steering parts were pretty beat down so we ordered up new parts from CPP including Moog outer tie-rod ends (PN ES234RL), inner tie-rod ends (PN ES577-M), and aluminum tie-rod sleeves (PN ES577SP-AB), along with a new centerlink, idler, and power steering pitman arm.

1957 Chevy Suspension 17 Cpp New Steering Column Choices 17/31

16. CPP offers quite a few choices when it comes to steering columns, including standard, tilt, and a slew of finishes from chrome to basic black. We went with a tilt column in black (PN TC-57-FB) and added the tilt column adapter harness (PN CP20117). Later we will run their leather-rim steering wheel (6794LSW) to top the whole deal off.

1957 Chevy Suspension 18 Cpp Front Sway Bar 18/31

17. To help our ’57 handle better we added a front sway bar kit (PN CPP594), which included a 1-inch solid sway bar and the required bushings and mounting hardware. As an upgrade, we decided to try out their new aluminum sway bar mounting blocks (PN FBM25-25B).

1957 Chevy Suspension 19 Cpp 19/31

18. Our Chevy didn’t have a factory sway bar so we needed to drill some holes for the bushing mounts. After installing the bar and bushings we marked the frame for the new holes.

1957 Chevy Suspension 20 Cpp Drill Sway Bar Mount 20/31

19. We then drilled out the holes big enough so we could get the supplied U-bolts through the frame.

1957 Chevy Suspension 21 Cpp 21/31

20. And here’s the new front suspension, steering, and brakes with everything bolted up and ready to rock.

1957 Chevy Suspension 22 Cpp Tracktion Bars 22/31

21. The ’57 had traction bars when it showed up but they were lower than the bottom edge of the rear wheels. CPP thought it was a bit unsafe so they fabbed up some replacements. Last we heard, these Trac Bars will be added to their catalog.

1957 Chevy Suspension 23 Cpp 23/31

22. The rear disc brake kit (PN CP2105-38-5434) came ready to work with our Currie 9-inch housing and included rotors, calipers, caliper brackets, rubber hose kit, and mounting hardware. To the base kit we added drilled, slotted, zinc-washed rotors (PN ARGX-8121L/R) and braided stainless brake lines (PN +RBH-S10). First up was installing the outer support for the rear caliper bracket.

1957 Chevy Suspension 24 Cpp 24/31

23. The rear single-piston calipers came with integrated parking brake mechanisms.

1957 Chevy Suspension 25 Cpp Rear Caliper Bracket 25/31

24. Next to go on was the rear caliper bracket, which involved installing the bracket and then using shims until the caliper was centered over the rotor.

1957 Chevy Suspension 26 Cpp Rear Disc Brakes 26/31

25. And here’s the rear disc brake system fully assembled with the zinc-washed 12-inch rotor and caliper mounted and ready to go.

1957 Chevy Suspension 27 Cpp 27/31

26. We used the same wallet-friendly nitrogen shocks (PN CPP-1105) in the rear as we did on the front. After tossing in some 2-inch lowering blocks (PN CP2031), our rear suspension was finished.

1957 Chevy Suspension 28 Cpp 28/31

27. Moving back to the front of the car we went about installing our power brake unit. The ’57 runs a big-block so it’s hard to fit a vacuum booster, and besides, the big-block doesn’t make much vacuum anyways. So, our solution was CPP’s Street Beast Hydraulic Brake Assist, Hydra Stop kit (PN 5564HBK-SB). Still, the distance from the valve covers to the fittings that run to the power steering system was a bit on the tight side.

1957 Chevy Suspension 29 Cpp Banjo Brake Fittings 29/31

28. The solution was these super cool banjo fittings that had just been released by CPP (PN 49032, 49033, 49034). These let us run a tight 90 off the fluid ports and are built to handle the extreme pressures of power steering lines.

1957 Chevy Suspension 30 Cpp Hydrastop 30/31

29. With the banjo fittings in place, we were able to route the rest of our brake lines and plumb in the CPP adjustable proportioning block.

1957 Chevy Suspension 31 Cpp Power Steering Filter 31/31

30. Hydraulic braking systems, like CPP’s Hydra Stop, need super clean power steering fluid to function properly, so we installed a Magna Pure filter (PN 20-0038F) upstream of the braking unit to filter out any stray contaminants.


Classic Performance Products (CPP)
Placentia, CA 92870



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