When wanting to breathe new life and performance into your first-gen Camaro, there’s no better way than weaving a masterful combination of handling and braking products into the mix. No matter how much power you have under the hood, it all takes a back seat until you can harness it in the curves.
We recently visited Peter Newell at Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, to check out the installation of Fatman Fabrications newest innovation: the Sportalign IFS system. Incorporating it with their first-gen Camaro subframe, the new system allows for the driver to take full advantage of an independent front suspension with separate tuning capabilities for both regular highway driving and performance track driving.
Sportalign technology allows for repeatable alternate settings once the initial highway settings are in place. With your car’s alignment set up for highway use with 0.5 degree positive camber, 4 degrees positive caster, and 1/8-inch toe in, while at the track all you’ll need is a few minutes work spinning a pair of 3/4-inch wrenches allowing the camber to be moved 0.5-1 degree negative and the caster to 2 degrees positive while the toe in remains unchanged. It’s all accomplished with the simple removal of camber shims while retaining the fine-tune alignment shims added at the initial highway setting. The magic is in the caster being altered through an eccentric cam that drives a plate, which mounts to the upper control arm, back and forth on the frame.
While dialing in the newfound handling capabilities for the car, it was the perfect time to bolt in a set of QA1 Quad Adjust coilover shocks to further raise the ante. The shocks feature four-way adjustability with independent rebound and compression adjustments at both low- and high-shock speeds. This will allow us to fine-tune the shocks for lower-speed circumstances like corner entry and exit while also adjusting for high-speed situations.
Connecting the shock to the reservoir is a PTFE-lined braided steel hose with four-way swivel adjustment on the body for plenty of mounting options.
Nothing completes a performance upgrade like a massive infusion of braking capabilities. Wilwood Engineering’s aluminum tandem master cylinder and combination proportioning valve work in unison to feed their forged Superlite 6R Big Brake front brakes with six-piston Superlite calipers and 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors. Out back, their forged Dynalite Pro Series rear parking brake kit for the Big Bearing Ford, packs plenty of bite with a set of Dynalite four-piston calipers and 12.88-inch drilled and slotted rotors. This system offers unmatched stopping performance and shines during repeated hard braking situations. The kits add a good amount of eye candy behind the wheels, too.
We can hardly wait to experience the improvements firsthand when this car hits the street and track. And knowing Newell, these parts are sure to get a real workout!
01. The new Fatman Fabrications front subframe comes in raw steel and is a direct replacement for the stock unit and is packed with updated features for improved handling and strength. The unit includes revised tubular-style engine mounts featuring an exceptionally strong triangulated design ready to accept the Chevy small-block.
02. Everything you see is included to complete the installation along with Fatman’s exclusive Sportalign IFS system, tubular upper and lower control arms, power rack-and-pinion, 2-inch drop spindles, steering arms, sway bar, and all related hardware.
03. To prepare the new parts for installation, Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, got busy in the paint booth by first prepping and then laying down the color.
04. By the time he was finished, Newell had added a dramatic blue candy vibe to all of the suspension components, including the new subframe.
05. To start assembly, the lower tubular control arm was secured into position with the supplied hardware (properly lubricated with white lithium grease) aided by a padded jack stand.
06. The arm was then tightened using a 15/16-inch wrench and socket.
07. Newell then assembled the steering arm to the 2-inch drop spindle on the workbench then followed by installing the assembled unit to the lower control arm using a castle nut and a 7/8-inch wrench.
08. To begin the install of the Sportalign IFS system, the eccentric cam is bolted in place in the center hole of the upper control arm camber plate. The Nyloc nut was then tightened just enough to prevent any wobble while allowing the cam to be rotated.
09. Setting up the Sportalign system is a snap, starting with mounting the upper tubular control arm. Beginning with a bolt and washer at each side, three additional washers are then set in place on the outer side of the upper control arm camber plate.
10. Next, a 1/8-inch camber shim (with three notches) is set into place parallel to the outer side of the upper control arm camber plate. This will be in place when the primary highway alignment is set.
11. The inner plate is then set in place, featuring a slot to engage the eccentric cam. Next, install the setting lock plate stud with 1/2-inch wide slot that will engage the upper control arm bolts (on left) followed by washers and nuts. With the eccentric cam moving the upper arm rearward and the lock plate locks the caster setting for initial highway setting. Once at the track, simply loosen the upper control arm bolts to remove the camber shim and lock plate. Rotate the eccentric cam to drive the upper arm forward on the frame-mounted camber plate, align the holes to reinstall the lock plate on the forward control arm bolt and tighten. It’s that simple!
12. For the ultimate in braking performance, we went with Wilwood Engineering’s Forged Narrow Superlite 6R Big Brake Kit up front. Inside the box was everything necessary to complete the installation, including a pair of their beefy six-piston Superlite calipers, 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors, hats, caliper-mounting brackets, pads, and all related bearings and hardware.
13. The caliper-mounting bracket was secured to the spindle using the spacer, washers, and bolts provided. Once proper alignment is confirmed, remove the upper mounting bolt and coat the threads with Locktite 271 then torque to 140 ft-lb. Then torque the lower lock nut to 65 ft-lb.
14. Newell opted for a manual rack-and-pinion for this application, which was extended 2 inches per the instructions with the provided components in the kit for the proper track width. It was installed to the subframe using a 15/16-inch wrench and tightened.
15. When assembling the rotor to the hat, be sure to first coat all the threads with Loctite 271 and hand-thread all bolts to start. Then tighten in an alternating sequence and torque to 155 in-lb. For added security, the bolts may be safety wired using a standard 0.032-inch diameter stainless steel safety wire.
16. Confirm the correct wheel-hole pattern and install the wheel studs to the hub using a 1/2-inch socket and tighten to 77 ft-lb. Then pack the large inner bearing cone with high-temperature disc brake bearing grease and install into the backside of the hub. Follow by installing the grease seal by pressing it into the backside of the hub.
17. Then, pack the small outer bearing cone with high-temp disc brake bearing grease and install into the front of the hub and slide the completed assembly onto the spindle. Secure the hub to the spindle using a spindle washer and OEM spindle nut. Seal up the hub with the provided O-ring and dust cap.
18. The rotor assembly was then slid onto the hub and secured into place, aligning the small countersunk holes of the hat with the threaded holes in the hub. Three flat-head screws were then installed and torqued to 85 in-lb. The caliper was then secured to the mounting bracket with the supplied hardware followed by the pads being installed into the caliper.
19. To add plenty of suspension tuning, a set of QA1’s Quad Adjust coilover shocks were selected. Fashioned from high-quality aluminum, the shocks feature two rebound-adjustment knobs for high and low shock speeds. The two compression adjustment knobs are located on the remote reservoir body for adjusting both the high and low shock speeds.
20. To start the assembly of the coilover, Newell began by threading the aluminum lock nut (shoulder up) and the spring seat adjuster (shoulder up) down to the last thread. He followed up by using Permatex Anti-Seize lubricant to coat the threads of the shock body to prevent galling.
21. The Thrust Bearing Kit was used to offer plenty of ease in adjustment. Both sides of the washers were coated with Permatex Anti-Seize lubricant and then set in place.
22. The shock was then secured in place to the lower tubular control arm. With the piston rod fully extended, the QA1 coil spring was then lowered into place onto the spring seat adjuster, followed by installing the spring cap.
23. Here you can see the completed coilover in place ready to be secured to the upper shock mount of the new Fatman Fabrications subframe.
24. To complete the high-performance brake upgrade, Wilwood’s Forged Dynalite Pro Series rear parking brake kit for the Big Bearing Ford features a neatly hidden internal shoe e-brake system and includes 12.88-inch drilled and slotted rotors and four-piston calipers.
25. The rear axle was removed to allow the installation of the parking brake bracket assembly to the axlehousing.
26. Newell then slid the rear axle back into place and followed by installing the bearing retainer with the opening pointing upward and the lip facing inward (toward the bearing). The retainer and bracket were then secured to the axlehousing flange using the OEM nuts and bolts. All the threads were treated to red Loctite 271 and torqued to OEM specs.
27. The rotor and four-piston caliper were then set in place and secured with the provided hardware.
28. To complete the rear suspension, a pair of QA1 Quad Adjust coilover shocks were assembled as previously outlined and mounted into place.
29. Completing the brake installation, Wilwood’s aluminum tandem master cylinder was bolted into place complete with their combination proportioning valve and bracket kit.
30. The crowning touch for the QA1 Quad Adjust coilover shock installation were the trick reservoir mounting brackets they offer, which are engineered for a number of mounting options.
31. With the turbocharged small-block bolted into the new subframe, Newell made the final adjustments before installing it into the car.
32. There’s nothing better than installing a slew of cutting-edge performance parts into your ride and getting it ready for the first drive.
33. With the new subframe bolted back under the car, Newell measured from corner to corner to ensure that the unit was correctly aligned. If any adjustments were needed, they would be made at this time (note that the sway bar is to be installed once the installation is completed). The performance updates are now ready to take on both the streets and racetracks.