Kelly and Mindi Lanford love their 1968 Chevelle. It was never built to be some all-out Pro Touring ride but that doesn’t mean the couple doesn’t enjoy blasting through a curvy mountain road every now and again. They wanted the Chevelle to handle better but they didn’t want to do any cutting or welding, and they certainly didn’t want to go broke doing it. The solution they found was BMR Suspension’s Level 2 Handling Performance Package (PN HPP012). The kit fits 1968-’72 GM A-bodies and comes in either red or black hammertone.
For about $2,200 you get a lot of performance goodness, including lowering springs, upper and lower front tubular control arms, rear control arms, new rear differential bushings, front and rear sway bars, and Bilstein shocks for all four corners. Add in a bunch of new hardware and it’s everything you need to greatly improve your classic Chevelle’s handling and general road manners.
While BMR offers more aggressive handling packages, the Level 2 kit is perfect for those who want improved handling in a simple to install “one stop shopping” kit. The polyurethane bushings in the BMR kit won’t deform and deflect like the factory rubber ones but they are still compliant enough to absorb road noise. All the bushings are greaseable so the system components won’t squeak, and the differential bushings (PN BK044) are designed to handle the high compression loads of aggressive launches and hard acceleration while still providing plenty of articulation. So let’s take a look at what’s involved with getting a ’60’s muscle car updated to 21st century handling standards.
1. The ’68 Chevelle was in great shape but it was bone stock in terms of the suspension, and handled like a 50-year-old ride.
2. Before the new widgets could go in place we needed to ditch old parts. First up was dropping the stock shocks.
3. OK, safety disclaimer time. There’s a lot of stored energy in the coil springs, so care needs to be taken when removing them from the car. You can skin the feline many ways; the safest being a set of spring compressors. Or you can use a floor jack to hold the lower arm up, then detach the upper arm from the spindle and lower the bottom arm slowly until the spring is fully extended. The choice of how you do it is up to you.
4. With the springs gone, Colt Mills could go ahead and remove the upper and lower control arms.
5. BMR’s upper A-arms (PN AA033) are equipped with CNC-machined, nickel-plated, dual-offset cross-shafts with heavy-duty stainless bushing retainers. They come pre-assembled with new polyurethane bumpstops, new ball joints are included. The greasable 95-durometer bushings add a solid, more responsive feel over the stock rubber bushings. BMR’s bushings are internally fluted, which allows grease to evenly coat the inner sleeve. These flutes also direct grease to the outer edge of the bushing, keeping the thrust surface lubricated.
6. A-arms are one of the most important, yet overlooked suspension components. They are the direct link between the front wheels and the chassis. Any deflection causes a change in alignment, which results in poor performance and driving feel. Fabricated from heavy-duty 1.25-inch, 0.095-inch wall DOM tubing with laser-cut, CNC-formed plate steel braces for extra strength, deflection is eliminated.
7. Quality springs are critical if you want your Chevy to ride nice, have the right ride height, and handle well. BMR’s lowering springs (PN SP030) are made from chrome silicon high-tensile spring wire and are cold-wound on a CNC coiling machine. This ensures every single spring is exactly the same. Each spring is compressed solid, twice, which guarantees they won’t sag. Finally, they are stress-relieved at 750-degrees and then shot-peened. This makes for a spring that BMR warranties for life against sagging. Before shipping out, a CNC load cell measures each and every spring. The linear-rate springs we installed featured a 1-inch drop, perfect for our street-driven Chevelle.
8. With the arms and spring in place we could compress the lower arm upward (using a pole jack) until the upper ball joint could slide into the spindle.
9. Ride, handling, and control are what a shock absorber provides. Compromise in one area and it may create a problem in another. Bilstein’s patented design reduces the need for compromise. The rising rate valving of the front Bilstein shock absorbers (PN BSN-24-131506) in the BMR kit provides the necessary damping to react quicker to road conditions without sacrificing ride comfort. This combination of valving and high-pressure nitrogen gas keeps the tires in constant contact with the road.
10. Stock sway bars have low torsional spring rates because they are manufactured from small-diameter bar stock or tubing. BMR Suspension’s front and rear sway bar kit (PN SB028) was designed by factoring in the vehicle weight, application, motion ratio, and coil spring rate. The 32mm front sway bar provides a 400-percent increase in sway bar rate over the stock bar and is cold-formed to better resist torsional fatigue, which means it will retain its “memory” far longer compared to hot-formed bars. The bushings used are 88-durometer, low-deflection polyurethane pieces with internal fluting for better grease distribution. The new bar mounted to the existing factory points on the frame.
11. And just like that the front was done. Installation wasn’t rocket science and the nine components installed drama free, plus they look great.
12. Like the front, the rear suspension on our ’68 Chevelle was super clean and very stock.
13. After disconnecting the stock shock we could lower the driver-side end of the 12-bolt housing enough to get the stock spring out and the new one in place.
14. The stamped steel factory arms are fine for cruising around town. But when subjected to loads from turning or launching hard they can twist and distort, which causes unpredictable handling and wheelhop. The soft rubber factory bushings do nothing to help deter this. After supporting the rearend with a pole jack we unbolted the lower control arm. We found it easier to the complete the driver-side before tackling the passenger-side.
15. The upper arms of the Chevelle’s triangulated four-link arrangement can be a bit tough to get to, but having the Chevy up on a lift helped.
16. The hardest part of the whole install was removing the bushings from the 12-bolt housing. Specific tools are available for this job but you can also use an air hammer and a chisel. By folding the sides of the bushing sleeve inward, the bushing and sleeve were able to be hammered out. Once the bushing was removed we went ahead and installed the upper control arm, part of the Rear Suspension Kit (PN RSK017), at the frame side only. The non-adjustable upper control arms are manufactured from 1.625-inch diameter, 0.120-inch wall, DOM steel tubing, strong enough for any compression load.
17. These bushings (PN BK044) are how the control arms directly connect to the differential, making them crucial to a proper functioning rear suspension system. Manufactured from 90-durometer polyurethane, BMR’s bushings kits are a huge improvement over the dry rotted, worn-out, soft rubber factory bushings. Best of all, they are made to fit and have zinc-coated steel inner sleeves to resist rust. After a few smacks of the hammer our bushings were firmly in place.
18. Also part of the Rear Suspension Kit were the heavy-duty 1.50-inch diameter, 0.120-inch wall DOM steel lower control arms. These are far stronger than the stamped steel stockers and will help eliminate wheelhop and unpredictable handling due to arm flex and bushing deflection. Like the other BMR arms, these contained greasable (95-durometer) polyurethane bushings.
19. The adjustable reinforcement braces really helps to strengthen the Chevelle’s chassis and they triangulate the forward end of the lower control arms to the frame. It’s made from 1.0-inch diameter, 0.156-inch wall, steel tubing. Again, it installed without any hassle or drama.
20. It was then time to install the rear 1-inch solid bar stock sway bar. Many times, Chevelles and other A-bodies did not come with a rear sway bar. Adding one is a great way to increase your car’s handling capabilities. The new rear bar is a 200-percent increase in bar rate over a stock bar, which should help flatten out the big-block–powered Chevelle in the turns. It attached to mounting points on the lower control arms using supplied Grade 8 hardware.
21. It was then time to unbolt the upper shock mount and toss them into the refuse pile.
22. In their place we installed a pair of Bilstein gas pressurized shocks (PN BSN-24-009294) that are valved to match the fronts. These shocks are a very cost-effective way to improve both the handling and ride of an early Chevy.
23. And just like that our rear suspension rehab was completed. The 11 main components took a few hours to install and we’re happy to report everything fit the way it was supposed to. The only thing left to do was align the suspension and go find a twisty road somewhere.
Photography by Pete Epple