When GM introduced the second-generation Camaro in early 1970, it was a quantum leap for the leading ponycar competitor because the 1970 Camaro became more hip with more power and a wider track. It was a true road hugger with handling that exceeded its predecessor. It was a Camaro ready for the 1970s and, in due course, would outpace the Ford Mustang, Mercury Cougar, Plymouth ’Cuda, Dodge Challenger, and AMC AMX. The Camaro simply had a better thing going because Chevrolet was better attuned to the ponycar market.
How do you improve on a wider track and an increase in power? You take those dated stodgy front coil springs and shocks and toss them in the scrap metal bin. Then, you don a set of Aldan American coilover shocks designed specifically for the second-gen Camaro to get a cool 2-inch drop and better handling via the lower ride height and single-adjustable coilover shocks.
We’re at Powerhaus in Torrance, California, stealing a little lift time to take care of a nice, low-mileage original pewter ’73 Camaro. We’re installing the front coilover shocks (PN AFBFHS3) from Aldan American, which replace the original coils and shocks. Very little modification is required outside of the removal of the old springs and dampers to make way for the Aldan American coilover shocks. And believe it or not, they’re easy to install and they fun up the drive when all of the perspiration is over.
1. Our original ’73 Camaro Z28 was already pretty nice, but the tire to fender gap made us think more 4x4 truck and less performance car. Thankfully, the fix is easy.
2. First up was getting the Camaro onto the rack at Powerhaus in preparation for the Aldan American coilover upgrade. The ride height off the assembly line is 27 inches at the front fender lip. Our goal is 25 inches from fender lip to asphalt.
3. The Aldan American coilover shocks come ready for assembly, which gets you more connected with how they work together. The coil slips over the single-adjustable shock body and sits on the (optional) thrust bearing kit on the spring perch.
4. Our ’73 Camaro’s original suspension has held up quite well for 45 years of modest California driving. In fact, it looked in excellent shape.
5. With the lower control arm safely supported, we’re ready for shock absorber removal, starting with a deep-well 9/16-inch socket on top nut.
6. After removing the lower two shock bolts (in the lower control arm) the old shock absorber was removed out the bottom of the lower control arm and tossed.
7. The stabilizer endlink is next to be removed—again with the lower control arm properly and safely supported.
8. A ball joint splitter fork (sometimes called a pickle fork) comes in handy to separate the ball joints from the spindles. In this case, you need only disconnect the lower control arm ball joint for coil spring removal.
9. With the lower control arm safely supported (in our case with a floor jack), disconnect the lower control arm from the spindle. Remember, the coil spring packs a dangerous amount of energy when compressed. They can maim and/or kill if they suddenly pop free from the control arm.
10. The lower control arm is slowly lowered to release the coil spring, which is then removed as shown. Gary Nelson, who is doing the work, knows to stay clear of the spring.
11. The original nut plates used to secure the shock absorbers at the lower control arm are removed to make way for the larger Aldan American coilover bolts.
12. The lower shock mount bolt holes are drilled out to 3/8-inch to accommodate the larger bolts for the new coilovers.
13. The threads on the shock body are coated with Permatex Anti-Seize to keep the threads slippery and adjustable. The threaded spring perch is used to adjust the ride height. A spanner wrench to adjust the ride height is available from Aldan American.
14. These thrust bearings carry the spring load and make it easier to adjust the ride height, even when under load. These roller bearings get moly lube instead of Anti-Seize. Once coated, they slide over the shock body and onto the spring perch.
15. The Aldan American coil spring packs 550 pounds of pressure in order to be compressed 1 inch (550 lb/in). Gary Nelson mounts the spring and readies the shock for installation.
16. We like these Aldan American single-adjustable shock absorbers, which have a total of six settings for your driving needs. This way you can soften them up for cruising or dial up the rebound and compression for performance handling.
17. The lower control arms were loosened up during disassembly to ease coil spring removal. Gary is tightening them for installation.
18. The Aldan American coilover assembly is installed at this time. The top of the coil spring mounts in the same frame pocket as the factory spring, but the bottom of the spring rides on the spring perch threaded to the shock body. The shock mounts in same locations as the stocker.
19. The larger lower coilover bolts install through the holes we previously drilled out in the lower control arm and are fastened with a washer and nut.
20. The completed Aldan American coilover shock assembly is installed. It is also a nice, stealthy, hidden modification you can install on an original vehicle without notice. Where you will notice the Aldan American shock/spring package is in the car’s ride and handling.
21. We set the ride height right where we wanted it: 25 inches at the fender lip—2 inches lower from the factory ride height. Once we have Aldan American coilover shocks at all four corners of this factory original Camaro, the handling will be extraordinary.
Photos by Jim Smart