By the mid-1990s, the completely redesigned C4 Corvette, which was introduced in 1983, was getting long in the tooth. Though the C4 was still high on styling and comfort, it was dated and time for a fresh approach. The fifth-generation (C5) Corvette was all new for 1997 with a fresh attitude and upscale demeanor for America’s beloved sports car. With the all-new C5 Corvette came a completely new “three-position” touring performance suspension system conceived by Corvette chief engineer David Hill and his team, which enabled buyers to dial in the kind of driving experience they wanted most at the time. “Tour” for normal weekend getaway and daily commute driving. “Sport” for a pinch more aggressive suspension tune. And “Performance” for an all-out canyon cut.
These remarkable two-seat rides still deliver tune-on-the-fly performance. However, as suspension parts wear out, state-of-the-art suspension systems don’t deliver the slot car style performance they used to when they were new. And, if you haven’t driven your C5 much through the years, rubber bushings tend to deteriorate over time … driven or not.
Despite the best domestic suspension techniques of the era, these C5 Corvettes are getting high time on them and are ready for fresh underpinnings. Oh sure, you could go all out with a complete high-end aftermarket suspension system on your C5 but who has the spare cash for that?
Energy Suspension has a solid economic solution to your C5 suspension challenges. Not only do you automatically get like-new C5 handling when the job is finished, you have pocket change left over for other fresh-ups you’d like to do. Energy Suspension understands the difference between a suspension upgrade project done and a suspension upgrade project done right. You can cut corners with something of lesser quality or you can invest wisely, right now, and be ready to cut corners in a way-fun way.
Energy Suspension is about Hyper-Flex high-performance polyurethane suspension bushings and related parts. You have a choice of red and black. Both types are Energy’s Hyper-Flex performance polyurethane formulations, which is what makes Energy Suspension different. Some select Energy Suspension black polyurethane components contain graphite to add a lubrication property to eliminate noise. Graphite is not added to red bushings because black graphite discolors the red polyurethane. However, graphite does not compromise Energy Suspension’s polyurethane formulas.
Energy Suspension’s control arm bushings are full-floating and non-binding, which is important when your Corvette’s ride height is altered or greater suspension load is required. Hyper-Flex performance polyurethane control arm bushings do not rot or deteriorate from oils or atmospheric conditions such as ozone, smog, road salt, chemicals and other corrosives like some bushings do. Most Energy Suspension sets come out of the package with zinc-plated outer metal shells.
When it’s time to tackle your C5’s suspension bushings, wear latex or rubber gloves when you’re applying Energy Suspension’s Formula 5 Prelube, which keeps bushings quiet and makes them easier to install. You don’t want this super slippery stuff on your hands because it does not come off quickly. It will remain on your skin for a long time, which is good news for bushings, bad news for your hands.
Bushing replacement is relatively easy and can be performed with most of the handtools found in your home garage. As always, safety must come first. Support your Corvette with 2-ton jackstands, never a hydraulic jack.
01. Our 1999 Corvette’s suspension with its factory rubber bushings could use real help from Energy Suspension. This is a quick and affordable suspension upgrade that will get your C5 back to “better-than-new” status. Polyurethane bushings will provide stiffness and stability your C5 has never had.
02. Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings are just the right firmness to take the wander out of your C5’s worn-out suspension without selling off the farm. In front, these bushings will make a dramatic improvement in the way your Corvette handles, with quicker steering response and much greater vehicle control. We’ve taken our 1999 C5 through the slalom before and after installing the Energy Suspension bushings. The difference in handling is remarkable.
03. Before disassembling the control arms, mark the caster/camber eccentrics as shown with two reference marks for reinstallation. Do this on all eccentrics fore and aft.
04. Disconnect the ball joints as shown. One arm, one side at a time.
05. The lower control arm is removed as shown once the sway bar and pivot points have been disconnected.
06. The upper control arm has been removed, which is an easy task. The C5 Corvette’s control arms are remarkably easy to remove and service.
07. Original GM bushings are pressed out like this. You’re going to need a hydraulic or arbor press to get the old bushings out. They can be very stubborn to remove.
08. Once the steel sleeves are removed, getting the rubber out becomes easier.
09. This is where you’re going to need protective gloves for your hands. Formula 5 Prelube from Energy Suspension is a terrific lubricant with great staying power for quiet operation. However, you don’t want it on your hands.
10. Energy Suspension bushings are carefully pressed into control arms. Be very careful any time you’re using a press. It is easy to become so focused on the bushing that you forget where your fingers are.
11. Lower control arm bushings are installed. These are the rear upper control arm bushings, which are easy to press in and seat.
12-13. Rear upper control arm bushings are pressed out as shown. Keep close track of the spacers located on each side of the factory bushings.
14. Stubborn factory bushings sometimes have to be heated with a torch to the point of deterioration and driven out. Be careful not to overheat the arm. Wear lung and face protection while doing this.
15. Once the arm has cooled, the bores are cleaned up and new Energy Suspension bushings installed.
16. Control arms are reinstalled and original alignment settings confirmed. Bolts and bushing bores should be lubed with chassis lube or wheel bearing grease.
17. In front, alignment settings are marked like this prior to disassembly. Although we’re going back to original alignment settings, it’s always a good idea to have a fresh four-wheel alignment by a professional alignment shop once you’re back on the road.
18. Front upper control arms, which are very similar to the rears, are removed next.
19. Bushings are split with a razor blade and removed.
20. Upper control arm pivots are cleaned up and readied for new bushings.
21-22. Pin and bushing are bathed in Energy Suspension’s own lubricant and installed.
23-24. Once all control arm bushings have been replaced and control arms reinstalled, sway bar bushings and endlinks are replaced last. We’re ready for the street and road course.
25. Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings look sharp and will out handle their good looks.
26. Our 1999 Corvette hits the autocross for its first workout with Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings. The result is phenomenal handling over and above factory and for not much money. Bushings alone have made an incredible difference in handling.
Photography by Steven Rupp
Videography by Steven Rupp