The ’82 Camaro was a quantum leap forward in terms of technology and styling when it was introduced nearly four decades ago. It was unlike any F-body to come before. It employed slippery aero lines, a hatchback roofline, and handling like never before. GM came back with an encore performance with a complete F-body redesign for 1993, yet with the same bones as the third-gen Camaro. It was a looker and a handler with more power on tap.
With the passage of time, fourth-gen Camaros (1993-’02) have become long in the tooth and could use some suspension refinements to improve handling. Chevrolet had a terrific idea in its two-link torque arm rear suspension system, which was a huge improvement in suspension technology when it was introduced in the early 1980s. It sat low to the ground with a killer center of gravity. It held the road better than any Camaro ever had.
Despite GM’s best efforts at an F-body handler, there has always been room for improvement due to the budgetary constraints of building a mass-production car. Wimpy, stamped-steel suspension parts just don’t cut it when your plan includes autocrossing, road racing, or the dragstrip. Stronger aftermarket suspension components make the third- and fourth-gen Camaros better handlers that are more fun to drive.
For this exercise we’re going to show you an affordable and easy-to-install rear suspension upgrade from BMR Suspension that we picked up through Summit Racing Equipment. You go from cruiser to corner carver with the BMR Suspension Adjustable Rear Suspension Kit (PN RSK032), Control Arm Relocation Brackets (PN CAB002), and the Adjustable Torque Arm (PN MTA001), which are optimized for great street manners, and are affordable to boot. And when it’s time to log in better quarter-mile dragstrip or autocross times, you’re going to be ready.
Control arm relocation brackets are needed any time you lower the ride height so that the suspension geometry isn’t compromised. The stock control arm mounting location is fine if you’re going to remain at the factory ride height. However, if you’re going to lower the ride height, the control arm angles needs to be corrected. The relocation brackets enable you to lower the control arm rear mounting position by as much as 3 inches, correcting the control arm angle. This also allows you to make quick changes at the track. BMR Suspension has designed the control arm relocation brackets to work well in street performance, drag racing, and road race applications.
The torque arm upgrade is easy to accomplish and will eliminate wheelhop because it does away with the flex of the stamped-steel factory piece. This 1.25-inch 4130 steel tubular-design torque arm doesn’t budge under load. This strength helps your Camaro maintain traction and stability when the gas pedal is mashed. It’s also adjustable, which helps to dial in the pinion angle.
Ricardo Topete of GTR High Performance, who is installing the BMR suspension pieces, has previously installed the sway bar (PN SB026) and 1.25-inch lowering springs (PN SP003) to get the vehicle ride height where he wanted it, hence the need for the control arm relocation brackets. With the full complement of BMR Suspension components in back, Ricardo will get the handling and traction he’s been looking for.
1. Here’s everything you need to improve traction in the third- and fourth-gen Camaro. Three BMR components are shown here: the Adjustable Rear Suspension Kit (RSK032), Control Arm Relocation Bracket Kit (CAB002), and the Adjustable Torque Arm (MTA001). This combination provides stability, handling, and improved traction. The control arm bushings have a hard, 95-durometer number. By contrast, the torque arm bushing is 65-durometer for firmness and longevity, yet with the right flexibility.
2. Ricardo Topete of GTR High Performance supports the rear axle of his high-mileage, daily-driver ’99 Camaro Z28, which has already been fitted with BMR Suspension lowering springs and sway bar. He’s going to install the control arm relocation brackets, control arms, adjustable Panhard bar, and torque arm to complete the package.
3. All the components are being set up at this time with Heim joints installed and adjusted. The Heim joint threads should be lubricated for ease of adjustment.
4. An aftermarket Panhard bar was installed on this Camaro years ago. We’re going to replace it with the fully adjustable BMR Panhard bar.
5. Control arm replacement is easy. Ricardo removes the stamped-steel factory control arms, which are flexible and prone to alignment changes in hard driving. The BMR 4130 steel tube control arms with polyurethane bushings will not budge, which will improve handling and stability.
6. The existing rubber control arm bushings are worn out and did a lot of flexing when they were new. With nearly 200,000 miles on them, they are shot and in need of replacement. Once he removed the left arm he repeated the procedure on the right side.
7. If you examine the stock stamped-steel control arm and the BMR 4130 steel tube arm side-by-side, it’s an unfair comparison because the BMR control arm is stronger and fitted with hard polyurethane bushings. Adjustable control arms are also available from BMR.
8. These polyurethane bushings have been lubed with a grease designed specifically for polyurethane bushings, which helps eliminate squeaks and other noise. Ricardo installs the BMR control arms using the factory hardware. If you want to replace the hardware, opt for Grade 8 only.
9. Control arms often require some manipulation to get the bolts to line up. Expect fitment to be tight compared to the factory control arms.
10. The parking brake cable brackets have to be cut as shown to make room for the control arm relocation brackets. Check the fitment before you cut and follow instructions closely.
11. The shock absorber is temporarily unbolted to install the control arm relocation bracket.
12. The control arm relocation bracket is installed next, positioning the shock mount portion of the bracket sandwiched between the axle mount and the shock. Then, bolt the bracket to the factory axle mounting brackets.
13. Here’s a look at the control arm relocation bracket from in front of the axle. The bracket is secured at the shock mount and with the provided hardware.
14. The control arm relocation bracket has been located and fitted with the mounting hardware. All Ricardo has to do now is tighten and secure the hardware per BMR’s detailed instructions. Ricardo suggests attaching the control arm to the top hole in the relocation bracket to start off. Performance during a test drive will determine if any further adjustment is needed. The left side was done exactly the same way.
15. The factory torque arm is a wimpy, stamped-steel piece with a certain amount of flex, which adversely affects traction and stability. Note the torque arm is buried in tons of sound deadening for a quiet ride.
16. Two very long bolts, which tie the rear axle to the torque arm, are removed next. It is very tight above the rear axle getting the two torque arm bolts out.
17. Once the two torque arm bolts are removed, the torque arm comes free from the clamshell mount at the transmission.
18. The clamshell torque arm front mount is hard to get to and calls for the transmission crossmember to be removed for easier access. The rubber mount will be removed and replaced with BMR’s polyurethane mount (65-durometer) for greater control.
19. Getting the torque arm into the forward mount can be difficult because it is a tight fit. Ricardo drives the torque arm into the mount as shown before attaching it to the axle.
20. This is how deep the torque arm slips into the forward mount. Because it is such a tight fit it takes a lot of energy to get it seated. Never do this with a dry mount. You can also see the OE bushing mount with the new, much firmer poly bushing.
21. The fully adjustable torque arm mounts at the rear axle with the new bolts provided in the kit. The bolts should be installed with the heads on top. This way, if the nuts ever come loose, the bolts will remain in place. The driveline angle is checked with this magnetic protractor, which must be checked with the vehicle on the ground on a level surface. Pinion angle must be the same as the crankshaft and transmission output shaft angles. These adjustable rod ends make it easy to adjust the pinion angle.
22. Next, the BMR Panhard bar is installed and adjusted. A four-wheel alignment should be performed in order to get the rear axle plum with front-end alignment. The adjustable Panhard bar allows you to get the axle centered and tuned for the kind of driving you’re planning. This affordable BMR rear suspension upgrade is perfect for the daily commuter and weekend racer because it isn’t as involved, or as expensive, as the complete BMR underpinning package that they offer for the more hard-core racer.
Photography by Jim Smart