In the last issue we gave you the 411 on floating rearend technology. For those that missed class (and shame on you if you did), it’s race car tech that has migrated over to our street cars, and given how hard our Camaros are being driven these days, it’s a very good thing indeed.
The problem solved by a floater rearend mostly revolves around brake pad knockback. In a traditional rearend the axles support the weight of the car, and under hard cornering they can flex. This flexing, besides causing unpredictable geometry changes, can cause the rotors to push back on the brake pads, forcing the pistons back into the caliper bores. The result is when you hit the brakes, the first pump only resets the pistons back against the pads (and hence the rotor). This necessitates another pump to actually cause the braking action you expected on the first hit of the pedal. Now, you can get used to this, but double pumping your brakes after every hard turn can get a bit old, and besides, do you really need one more thing to think about when you’re out on the track?
A floater is also safer than a traditional flanged axle since there’s no way a wheel can exit the vehicle if an axle snaps. Race teams have also grown fond of them since they can replace a broken axle without even pulling the wheel off the car. Is it necessary for everyone? No, but if you plan on pushing your ride hard, then it’s an option you should really consider.
Several companies have started selling race-bred floater kits designed for street-driven Camaros. These kits have features not found on race cars but are needed for street duty – items like parking brakes and ABS capabilities. Strange Engineering has been selling drag car floaters for some time now, but they’re getting ready to introduce a street version. Based on race-proven components, their retro-fit system combines the best of racetrack tech and street car necessities into one package perfect for the weekend warrior who likes nothing more than flogging his Camaro from time to time. Strange also tried to make the kit as compact as possible so that it would clear various stock suspension mounts. We volunteered Bad Penny, our ’68 Camaro, to be their patient zero and talked Tim Lee, over at Don Lee Auto, into letting us tie up his lift for a few days. Now, in terms of installation, this isn’t something the average guy can knock out in his or her garage. So we hit up Currie Enterprises since they have a ton of experience installing floaters and a bitchin set of tools. So follow along as we show you what’s involved in taking your Camaro one step closer to handling nirvana.
01 And here’s what makes up the floater part of Strange’s kit. They’ve been building drag race floaters for some time, but this is their first kit designed for cars that hit the twisties. The retrofit kit features hardened steel drive plates, 4130 heat-treated spindles, steel hubs, and Timken bearings. The ARP wheel studs come in 1⁄2- or 5⁄8-inch, and the inner axle end can be 31- or 35-spline. The axles are custom cut to the right length for each order and are made of Hy-Tuf steel. The kit will offer ABS compatibility and ship with Wilwood brakes in a variety of rotor sizes and styles.
02 Since the spindle will support the weight of the car, it has to be made of stout material. Strange can turn down the spindle to fit the ID of your axle tube, but for reasons you will soon see, it’s better to do it at the shop that will be installing them since fitment is critical. If you’re buying a rear housing from them they can also install the spindles at their facility. The 2-inch OD spindles are big enough to accommodate 1.5-inch, 35-spline axles. We installed the kit in a Ford 9-inch housing, but it will work with Dana 60, GM 12-bolt, and other rears.
03 The rear in our ’68 Camaro was running traditional flanged axles. The problem is that they flex under hard cornering causing pad knockback in the rear brakes. This constant stress also caused the bearings that support the axle to leak and loosen up, which made knockback even worse. A common “Band-aid” is to frequently replace the bearings, especially before a big race.
04 Over at Currie Enterprises, the first task was to do math, lots of math. After all, our distance from wheel to wheel was 55 inches, and this is what we needed it to be afterwards. Strange provided an engineering diagram, which really helped Currie figure out where to make the cuts. Just like when building a house, measure twice, cut once.
05 Using a bar and jig to line the spindle up dead center in the housing, Currie found a small issue. It seems that the process of welding on the three-link brackets warped the axles tubes. Now this isn’t as critical with traditional axles, and the ends can be welded on slightly off center to account for the warpage. But with a floater, the centering is critical since being off center will cause stress and increased wear on the splined ends of the axles.