The Chevrolet Camaro has been a formidable competitor to the Mustang for a half century now, taking a significant bite out of Mustang sales, and there’s a reason why. Camaro product planners have never taken their eye off of performance. Even in its leanest years—the 1970s and 1980s—the Camaro remained a solid performer with an enviable sales track record. Although the Camaro went away for a time during some mighty troublesome years for Detroit, it never lost its following—die-hard Bowtie enthusiasts who have continued believing in the marque.
Those faithful and true to the Camaro got a pleasant surprise for 2016 in the all-new sixth-gen Camaro. The sixth-gen offers a crisp driving experience enabled by an all-new, lighter structure and a broader range of powerful engines. Let’s begin with six all-new powertrain combinations, including a 2.0L Turbo Four, an all-new 3.6L V-6, and, of course, the LT1 6.2L V-8, which is SAE-certified at 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque—making it the most powerful Camaro SS ever.
The Camaro’s stiffer platform and downsized dimensions are accentuated by a sculpted body. To understand Camaro styling, you have to know its developmental history. The new sixth-gen body was tuned in a wind tunnel—like race cars and aircraft—and refined to reduce aerodynamic lift for better handling and also to enhance efficiency.
And what about handling? Some 70 percent of the platform components are unique to the Camaro. Via extensive computer-aided engineering, structural rigidity was increased by 28 percent, while the body-in-white mass was reduced by 133 pounds. They took weight out of this puppy in baby steps, much like Boeing shaves weight out of an airliner to achieve better seat mile. The total curb weight for the Camaro has been reduced by more than 200 pounds. How’s that for an impressive weight loss program?
A Better Sixth-Gen
We’re working with Leonard Hill’s 2017 Camaro SS. Leonard appreciates the new Camaro’s good looks and crisp handling from the factory. However, there’s always room for improvement, and the Camaro SS is no exception. Despite all the top-notch multilink suspension technology, the sixth-gen could use additional strength and stability underneath.
When you look at the factory stamped control arms with lightening holes, they don’t deliver the stiffness needed for a challenging canyon pass or a tough road course. These lightweight control arms with soft rubber bushings deflect under load and absorb power instead of allowing it to connect with the road. BMR Suspension’s heavy-duty control and trailing arms with polyurethane bushings will help Leonard launch harder, which will reduce wheelhop and add cornering consistency to his Camaro. Leonard’s Camaro benefits from the box-tube construction of the BMR control and trailing arms, which brings unequalled strength. Polyurethane bushings deliver stiffness while allowing some flex for a comfortable commute to work or a weekend getaway.
Leonard also opted for BMR Suspension lowering springs on all four corners. These springs not only lower ride height but bring stiffness and stability to the Camaro. All BMR springs are manufactured from chrome silicon high-tensile spring wire and are cold-wound on a CNC coiling machine for consistency.
A sixth-gen suspension upgrade wouldn’t be complete without BMR Suspension sway bars and adjustable endlinks fore and aft. Of all the suspension upgrades you can make to a sixth-gen Camaro, these heavy-duty sway bars are among the best because they virtually eliminate body roll. The Camaro SS, during initial testing had some roll. When Leonard took to the streets with the BMR sway bars and endlinks all roll was eliminated.
We’re looking to the expertise of Marlon Mitchell at Marlo’s Frame & Alignment in Chatsworth, California, to handle the installation. Marlon is a seasoned suspension tuner and good all-around chassis guy. The BMR Suspension upgrade is best performed by a seasoned chassis shop like Marlo’s. A spring compressor is required to replace the front coil springs and the chassis has to be anchored to a solid fixture in order to replace the rear coil springs. Just remember, an uncontained coil spring is dangerous so extraordinary care must be taken when replacing coil springs.
Let’s get started.
Deep Well Sockets — 18mm, 15mm, 10mm, 7mm
T15 Torx Socket
Box-End Wrench — 15mm
3/8- and 1/2-inch Ratchet
6mm Allen Wrench
Plastic Rivet Remover (for front chin spoiler and splash shield)
1. During our initial road test, the sixth-gen Camaro did surprisingly well. It held the road with a minimal amount of body roll and solid contact patch. When you’ve harnessed the kind of power Chevrolet delivers with the Camaro SS, you want as much control as possible. We’re going to make this Camaro SS even better.
2. The sixth-gen Camaro rear suspension as it comes off the assembly line with four control arms and two trailing arms for great stability and handling. Despite GM’s close attention to detail here, the Camaro could use improvement in the form of box tube control and trailing arms. For a lower ride height and improved stability, the Camaro needs lowering springs.
3. Marlon Mitchell of Marlo’s Frame & Alignment has secured the chassis with a winch and hydraulic bottle jacks. The winch prohibits any upward body/chassis movement. The jack moves the control arms as necessary for spring and control arm replacement.
4. The main control arm, properly supported by a jack, is disconnected from the brake and spindle for coil spring removal.
5. The lower trailing arm is disconnected and removed. There are two trailing arms on each side, an upper and a lower.
6. We like these powdercoated BMR lowering springs. They lower ride height by approximately 1 inch and deliver firm handling. The smaller coils go in back and the larger coils ride on the MacPherson struts in front.
7. BMR’s front and rear sway bar kit was developed by factoring in the sixth-gen Camaro’s weight, motion ratio, coil spring pressure and ride height, and adjustability. What we like most about these bars is their precision fit. Polyurethane bushings minimize flex while keeping ride comfort in check. These CNC-formed sway bars dramatically reduce body roll, which has been confirmed in road testing.
8. The BMR sway bar endlinks are fully adjustable, which allows you to tune, road test, and tune again as necessary.
9. BMR suggested non-adjustable control and trailing arms for our sixth-gen project. These guys are rigid and packed with polyurethane bushings, which eliminate the flex of stock stampings with rubber bushings. You can see the difference between the stock trailing arm (top) and the BMR version (bottom).
10. Control and trailing arm installation is easy. All you have to do is support the main control arms then unbolt and replace the trailing arms one at a time. For a smooth and quiet operation, be sure to coat the poly bushings with the supplied lubricant prior to installing the arms.
11. Though it is hard to see, once the brake is disconnected and the main control arm properly supported, the factory coil spring comes out as shown. Marlon has tied down the vehicle and carefully modulated the main control arm to remove the spring.
12. The factory insulator is fitted to the new BMR lowering spring and then the spring is installed.
13. Next, the trailing and control arms are installed and secured.
14. The lower trailing arm as installed should look like this. It is virtually impossible to get this backwards. If you have, you will not be able to get to the zerk fitting.
15. Here’s what it looks like after the rear BMR coil spring and trailing arms have been loosely installed. All that’s left to do is tighten all the hardware.
16. Rear sway bar removal and replacement can be very challenging due to the Camaro’s sizable muffler, which can be removed for better access. Start the removal by disconnecting the factory, non-adjustable endlinks. The new BMR bar bolts in the factory location and uses fully adjustable endlinks.
17. The completed rear suspension should look like this. These box-tube trailing and control arms look sharp. More importantly, they make a sixth-gen Camaro handle better by eliminating suspension flex. When you put it all together with lowering springs—which improve the center of gravity—and thicker sway bars, the difference in handling is tremendous.
18. With the front end properly and safely supported with jack stands and the control arms supported with a hydraulic jack, we’re ready for strut/spring removal. The struts are disconnected from up top as shown.
19. The struts are attached to the spindles by two bolts, which once removed free up the spring/strut package.
20. Marlon uses a hydraulic press in coil spring compressor mode for factory spring removal.
21. Although the new BMR coil springs install without the need to use a spring compressor it is easier to use one. With the springs installed, the strut/coil package is reinstalled first up top before being bolted to the spindle.
22. The front sway bar is difficult to get to because it is trapped by the aluminum subframe brace and splash shield. Begin removal by disconnecting the factory endlinks.
23. We have already removed the splash shield. This is the aluminum subframe brace that can be partially or completely removed to gain access to the sway bar. We dropped the front of the subframe brace and were able to get the sway bar out.
24. The new BMR sway bar goes in the same way the stock bar came out. The brackets and polyurethane bushings bolt in at the factory locations. Don’t forget to lubricate the bushings with the provided lube or you are guaranteed suspension noise.
25. The front sway bar endlinks are installed and tightened to 35 ft-lb. Test drive and adjust accordingly.
26. The completed BMR front suspension includes lowering springs and heavy-duty sway bar. The lower ride height, stiffer springs, and heavy-duty sway bars make all the difference in overall handling.
27. Leonard hits the road with the newly installed BMR lowering springs, sway bars, and control/trailing arms. Although the visual difference isn’t that significant, Leonard tells us the difference in handling is something he can feel with greater confidence when it’s time for canyon cutting or a challenging road course. What’s more, it makes for a safer Camaro thanks to the ability to respond quicker and with more precision to sudden changes around him on the freeway.
Photography by Jim Smart