How do you add 21st century handling to a mid-20th century Chevy chassis? We asked Garrett Harmola, President of Aldan American this question. He had answers. In the early 1980s, Aldan American was one of the first U.S. companies to offer adjustable coilover shock absorbers for street rods and other popular applications. Later on, Aldan American began producing billet aluminum adjustable coilover shocks for street performance and drag racing applications.
Aldan American’s focus has always been on adjustable coilover shocks. That said, Aldan American has a coilover shock package just right for your Camaro, Chevelle, Nova, or fullsize. Your first order of business before purchasing adjustable coilovers is to know how you’re going to drive your Chevy most of the time. What’s your pleasure? Commuting, street cruising, street/strip, or all-out racing? Harmola suggests single-adjustable for street and double-adjustable for drag or road racing.
Once you have established your vehicle’s mission, you can select the shock and spring package from Aldan’s complete line of bolt-on coilover kits. The team at Aldan has matched their coilovers and springs with options for light, medium, and firm rear kits. For the front, they offer complete coilover kits designed for small- and big-block cars. They also provide all of the bracketry, mounts, and hardware necessary for installation.
There is a complete family of billet coilover shocks to choose from. The Striker Series shock is double-adjustable with both rebound and compression adjustments for a total of 66 settings. The Phantom Series is a single-adjustable shock with 11 rebound settings. There’s also the Phantom Series single-adjustable shock with six compression settings. The 500 Series billet shock is a non-adjustable coilover you can use and enjoy without giving it any thought. Install it and go. The SS Series single-adjustable (compression only) coilover shock is designed specifically for GM vehicles and comes in a variety of sizes.
The beauty of the Aldan American family of coilover shocks is how easy it is to select and order them. You can get a complete vehicle-specific coilover kit with everything you’re going to need to get the job done. What’s more, these suspension kits are made in the USA with the quality you’d expect while sporting outstanding, predictable performance. CHP
Aldan American offers complete coilover shock conversion kits, which eliminate the factory coil springs and shocks. Instead, you get a coilover shock package that delivers the kind of ride and handling you desire. Everything you need is here to get fast, quick coilover performance in an afternoon.
We’re working with a big-block–powered 1969 El Camino, beginning with the front suspension, which has been rebuilt at least once. We are going to install Aldan American billet single-adjustable coilover shocks, which completely eliminate the coil springs and gas shocks.
With the vehicle properly supported, the shocks are removed first using a 9/16-inch socket. At the top of the shock is a stud mount where the stud must be held secure while the fine-thread nut is removed with a 9/16-inch wrench.
With the top mount disconnected, the shock comes out the bottom of the lower control arm.
With the lower control arm safely supported, loosen the castle nut on the lower control arm ball joint. Do not remove the nut completely
Use a ball joint splitter to separate the ball joint from the spindle. If using a pneumatic tool (as we are), use ear protection. Keep in mind that the coil spring is still under a lot of tension at this point, thus the reason for not completely removing the ball joint castle nut. Without the nut still there (or better still, and having the lower control arm supported), the coil spring could shoot out and cause serious injuries, or worse. Face protection is also recommended.
With the lower control arm supported with a jack you can remove the castle nut and slowly lower the control arm. Once the tension on the coil spring released, push down on the lower control arm and remove the coil spring.
The lower control arm spring pocket should be free of debris. The shock mounting holes may have to be drilled out to 3/8-inch to accommodate the Aldan American fasteners.
Now is a good time to thoroughly inspect bushings and ball joints for excessive wear and tear. Replace bushings and ball joints if necessary. Opt for polyurethane bushings for improved handling.
The Aldan American coils springs rest on these optional roller bearings for smooth operation. The bearings are lubed up with chassis grease before installation.
Polyurethane bushings are employed at both ends of the shock for durability and improved handling. The top stud mounts are installed as shown and given a light amount of polyurethane lubrication for quiet operation.
The coil spring has been fitted to the shock, which is installed at this time. The lower mount sits in the spring pocket of the lower control arm. Spring pressure is adjusted uniformly on each side for a consistent ride height. Do an initial static adjustment, then once you’ve driven the vehicle on an initial shakedown run, adjust the ride height. The optional roller bearings mentioned earlier really ease this adjustment process.
Especially challenging on classic El Caminos and Chevelles is reconnecting the lower control arm to the spindle, which takes two people to get it all reconnected. With the vehicle supported at the framerails, use a floor jack to get the spindle and lower control arm mated up.
Aldan American provides all of the hardware you’re going to need. This is high-quality Grade 8 zinc-plated hardware.
The completed front suspension should look like this. Note that we have replaced the coil spring and shock with an adjustable coilover shock combo. The ride height is adjusted with the provided spanner wrench, which turns the adjuster at the base of the coil spring. There are two adjuster rings. The one the spring sits on is used to adjust spring tension and ride height and the other ring is used to lock the upper ring in place.
The El Camino’s rear suspension, with its trailing arms, coil springs, and shocks is straightforward and easy to service. We’re going to replace the factory-style coil springs and shocks with simple coilovers.
With the rear axle and chassis properly supported, the bottom shock mounts are disconnected. Do this one side at a time.
The top shock mounts are disconnected from the chassis. We’ll be using the Aldan American top shock mounts, which are different from the way the factory does it.
Next, the trailing arms are disconnected from the axle bracket in order to install the lower coilover mounts.
With the rear axle dropped and supported, the coil springs can be removed.
The top shock mount boltholes may have to be drilled out to accommodate the larger Aldan American bolts and mounts.
The top mount is secured with two fasteners provided in the kit. This turns the top mount into a single, heavy-duty pivot.
A new bottom shock mount provided in the kit improves shock location and geometry.
The billet, adjustable coilover shock is then installed and secured at both ends.
The top mount is secured and tightened as shown. These heavy-duty, race-ready mounts will take a beating and come back for more.
Using a transmission jack (you can use a floor jack with jack stands for proper support), the axle is raised and the lower shock mounts are secured.
The Aldan American billet single-adjustable coilover system offers a night and day difference in ride height and handling. We’re going to road test our big-block El Camino then adjust and road test again. The ride height will be measured at the wheelwell lips. We’d like to get this El Camino as low as possible for the best handling and a cool stance, too.
Photos by Jim Smart