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How to install 21st century handling and ride quality in your classic Chevelle

Modern Makeover: Introducing 21st century handling and ride quality to a classic Chevelle

Jim Smart Dec 7, 2017
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Suspension technology has come a long way since the 1960s. The 1964-’72 Chevelle delivered exceptional ride quality and handling for its time because it was a body-on-frame vehicle in a field of unit body competitors from Ford, Chrysler, and AMC. The Chevelle delivered on every level because it was clearly the best intermediate car of its time. Of course, times have changed and what was once great now feels outdated.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can upgrade your Chevelle’s suspension with polyurethane bushings, adjustable shocks, lowering springs, and thicker sway bars fore and aft. However, if you’re seeking a quantum leap in ride quality and handling, QA1 offers solutions that will bring your classic car into the 21st century.

We’re working with a big-block 1967 Chevelle hardtop that suffers from clunky handling and a noisy ride. Having a big-block in front creates its share of handling issues and the suspension is shot from a half century of use. Oh sure, we could just replace the bushings, springs, shocks, and sway bars and call it a day. However, Joel Rode of Hot Rod Specialties wouldn’t be a happy man and his classic Chevelle experience would be a whole lot less than it could be.

A big-block Chevelle needs all the help it can get in terms of handling and ride, so we turned to QA1 for a solution. Chevelles are heavy in the nose and they tend to plow, but they don’t have to. Adjustable coilover shocks; beefy sway bars fore and aft; thick, tubular upper and lower control arms with super-tough polyurethane bushings; and extra-added structural integrity make a night and day difference in handling.

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1. This is our big-block 1967 Chevelle as it stands with a worn-out factory suspension and stock ride height. We’re going to fit it with a complete QA1 suspension system to lower the ride height, improve the handling, and get better a ride quality.

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2. Although the Chevelle’s suspension has been refurbished over the years with ball joints, shocks, and stabilizer links to keep it going, it has never had a real upgrade in a half century of operation. Those stamped steel factory control arms need to go.

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3. Joel Rode, of Hot Rod Specialties, gets right down to business busting ball joints and tie-rod ends loose and tossing the old parts into the refuse bin. A good, sharp blow to the steering spindle shocks the ball joints and tie-rod ends loose. Rarely will you have to use a pickle fork to bust them loose.

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4. The old shocks are unbolted and removed from the hole in the bottom of the lower control arm.

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5. Having access to a vehicle lift makes this process easier, but it can also be done in your home garage. With the vehicle properly secured, place a jack stand under the ball joint area of the lower control arm to keep it and the coil spring supported. Unbolt the spindle and gradually unload the jack stand by slowly raising the lift. Keep in mind that a coil spring under tension contains a tremendous amount of energy. They can maim and kill if you are not careful. Stand away from the coil as the tension is released from the coil spring.

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6. Be prepared for moments like this. The lower control arm pivot bolts won’t come out in some cases due to header clearance issues. We’re cutting the pivot bolt to get it out because QA1 provides new Grade 8 hardware with their control arm kits.

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7. The upper control arms are where camber and caster alignment adjustments are made, using shims, on these old Chevelles. Once locked into place, the shims hold the alignment quite well. Take note of where these shims are before disassembly. Reinstall them in the same locations when you install the new QA1 control arms, which will get the alignment close enough so that you can drive to an alignment shop for a check and adjustment.

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8. We get a rush of excitement looking at these QA1 pieces for the Chevelle’s front end. These tubular control arms sport super-tough polyurethane bushings with zerk fittings for regular preventive maintenance. They will last the life of your Chevelle and deliver handling and ride quality like never before. QA1 coilover shocks are fully adjustable, enabling you to control stiffness and ride height.

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9. The QA1 upper control arms are offset, meaning you can dial in more negative camber by simply rotating the upper control arm shaft 180 degrees if you’re going road racing or autocrossing.

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10. The upper control arm bolts in place of the original, with shims used for alignment purposes. Although shims are a pain to use for camber and caster alignment, they hold alignment better than any other means. Unless you hit a curb, or nail a pothole with great violence, this approach to alignment does it best.

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11. Joel methodically assembles the adjustable QA1 coilover shocks using molybdenum grease between the adjustment rings and the shock body for ease of ride height adjustment.

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12. The QA1 coilover shocks attach to these lower shock mounts, which bolt to the lower control arm with four Allen screws. These lower mounts provide excellent support.

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13. The adjustable QA1 shocks are bolted on up top and are prepared for attachment to the lower control arms. Installation works just like removal did. Support the vehicle at the framerails with a floor jack and place a jack stand beneath the lower control arm. We’re using vehicle weight to compress the spring and secure the lower control arm.

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14. Here’s the shock’s top attachment point, as original with a stud and urethane grommet.

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15. These billet aluminum tie-rod adjusters have to be one of the best innovations we’ve seen for classic Chevys. Late-model vehicles have employed these adjusters for years. QA1 makes it easier than ever to set toe, and these can’t deform under load like the stamped steel stockers. Take the new tie-rod ends and adjuster and set them up to the same exact length as the original tie rods.

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16. Here’s the driver-side QA1 tie-rod assembly installed and ready for alignment.

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17. The QA1 stabilizer links have polyurethane bushings for greater stability. Joel applies polyurethane lubricant to eliminate noises.

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18. It is a matter of opinion which way to install stabilizer link bolts: head up or head down. Joel prefers head down.

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19. We’re working with a typical Chevelle rear suspension with coil springs, trailing arms, and a 12-bolt GM rear axle. This one is filled with 2.73:1 cruising gears. We won’t be going drag racing any time soon.

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20. Joel begins his regiment by supporting the axle with screw jack stands. This support is important to axle stability while we’re changing out the control arms, springs, and shocks.

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21. QA1 has provided us with a complete rear suspension system for our Chevelle. Joel can tell you firsthand what a difference the QA1 kit has made to his Chevelle’s handling and ride quality. That difference comes from adjustable coilover shocks, bulletproof trailing arms, and a sway bar the Chevelle never had in the first place. It means stability like never before.

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22. With the rear axle carefully supported, Joel begins pulling the rear suspension apart. He begins with the upper trailing arms.

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23. When you examine the QA1 and the factory upper trailing arms side-by-side the difference in integrity is clear. Brute tubular stock is unyielding in its strength, which keeps the axle centered and stable.

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24. Polyurethane bushings have been hammered into the 12-bolt axlehousing. The old rubber bushings were shot and way overdue for replacement.

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25. The lower trailing arms (also known as control arms) are removed next at the chassis and the axle.

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26. The new QA1 lower trailing arms are installed with the zerk fittings pointed down for easy access. The bushings have been lubed for quiet and reliable operation.

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27. The QA1 coilover shocks and springs are assembled as shown and set up uniformly for installation. Once you have your Chevelle on the ground, you can adjust the ride height, take it out for a little road work, and then recheck the ride height.

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28. Our QA1 coilovers are installed and ready for a ride height adjustment. You’re going to want a solid, level surface on which to adjust the ride height.

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29. The QA1 rear sway bar is a terrific addition for this big-block Chevelle. Joel tells us it’s a night and day difference from what he had underneath before. The ride height is lower and the handling and ride quality are incredible.

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30. The rear sway bar connects to the lower trailing arms as shown via a billet-aluminum block and Grade 8 hardware from QA1. This is, without a doubt, a nice piece.

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31. The ride height has been lowered about 1 inch front and rear. Additional coilover adjustment can bring it down even further, or raise it up if needed. The QA1 suspension package gives us complete adjustability coupled with exceptional handling.

Photos by Jim Smart


Additional Sources
Hot Rod Specialties
909.215.5516

Sources

QA1
Lakeville, MN 55044
800-721-7761
http://www.qa1.net

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