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Monte Carlo Shocks - Best Of Both Worlds

Shock Tuning Made Easy

Kevin Lee Oct 1, 2002
Sucp_0210_01_z Montecarlo_shocks Photo 2/14

To "have your cake and eat it too" is something most gearheads aspire to achieve when building their perfect rides. Not too long ago, cars could only be built for one purpose. If you wanted to go drag racing, you set the car up to hook hard and go straight. But if you also wanted to go through some tight curves, you were either out of luck or had some serious chassis redesign ahead of you.

The trend today, however, is to build street machines that do everything well. We want to go fast in a straight line but also have fun on the road on the way to the dragstrip. Lucky for us companies are starting to offer products which make this possible.

Shocks are a big part of how your car is going to react to these different environments. Of course, there is the option of swapping them at the track, and in most cases this is not too difficult to do. But thanks to QA1 Motorsports, there's a better option. The company's shocks feature an external knob that allows the shocks' dampening to be adjusted at 12 different rates. Turn the knob counter-clockwise to the No. 1 position and the shock is at its softest setting. Turn it 12 clicks clockwise and it's at the stiffest. These aluminum-bodied, rebuildable shocks are designed to replace most stock musclecar applications, so we figured that our '70 Monte Carlo would be a perfect candidate to test them on.

Sucp_0210_02_z Montecarlo_shocks Photo 3/14

Before we started disassembling anything, Drew measured the ride height at all four wheels. The Monte sat pretty level side-to-side (LF: 26 1/8, RF: 26 1/4, LR: 23 3/4, RR: 23 5/8).

When we got the shocks, we were immediately impressed with their build quality. The shock bodies are machined from lightweight billet aluminum and then clear anodized. Adding to the shock's strength, the 5/8-inch piston rod is hard-chromed.

Our Monte Carlo's suspension has been rebuilt with polyurethane bushings and tuned with Hotchkis coils, trailing arms, and sway bars. We tested it a few months ago, checking its performance with different-size tires and decided to stick with the 17-inch Yokohama AVS S/Ts for this test, as well.

We took the Monte and the shocks over to Hotchkis Performance and installed them. The day of the testing the weather did not look promising. The track surface was wet and the sky was cloudy. Luckily, a few hours later the track had dried out and we were ready to run. The temperature stayed cool and kept the track a little cooler, which might have contributed to our speeds being a little off from the last time we tested (during a warm SoCal day). But by the end of the session the new shocks more than made up for it.

The QA1s worked very well and the Monte performed great. It's a fun car to shoot through the slalom and take out on the road. We have some more suspension mods in mind, so we will continue to play with the shocks' adjustments to see how our new modifications react. Hopefully we'll get a new engine in so we have some power to actually test them out on the dragstrip.

Sucp_0210_09_z Montecarlo_shocks Photo 10/14

With the enlarged hole the QA1 shocks slipped through the bottom and installed just like the factory shocks. Make sure to install the shocks with the adjusting knob facing the front of the car. The fronts are not as easily adjusted as the rear because the coil gets in the way. We found the best method was to use one finger through the hole in the control arm and another slipped between the coils.

Hotchkis Performance Test Data
Monte Carlo
Yokohama AVS S/T
225/55R17s & 255/50R17s
Tire psi. F40 / R37

Comments: It was immediately evident that the rears were too stiff with choppy ride quality; the car had slight oversteer when changing direction.

QA1 Front: 6 1 53.23
QA1 Rear: 8 2 55.33 54.28

Comments: We adjusted the front to full soft to see if the above characteristic of oversteer would increase dramatically, but it was only a small increase in oversteer. Speeds increased from previous runs, but ride quality was the limiting speed.

QA1 Front: 1 1 57.13
QA1 Rear: 8 2 57.96
3 58.24 57.77

Sucp_0210_11_z Montecarlo_shocks Photo 11/14

While we had the coils out, we figured that there was no better time to adjust our ride height up front a little. Hotchkis has designed their coils to provide a slight drop over stock, but we wanted a little more; lucky for us, they have overbuilt their coils to handle some trimming without suffering any ride or handling loss. Using a bandsaw, we trimmed 3/4 of a coil off the top.

Comments: We adjusted the rear down which gave added grip, front and rear, with less oversteer. Big ride-quality improvement and a more balanced feel was experienced when changing direction. We could feel the rear springs working while the rearend was more compliant to changing road surfaces.

QA1 Front: 1 1 57.78
QA1 Rear: 5 2 58.91
3 59.29 58.66

Comments: We adjusted the rear down again. We continued in this direction because the overall balance was getting better and better. The front and rear were working well together through slalom with good front bite at turn-in. The rear was confidence inspiring with the best grip of all runs.

QA1 Front: 1 1 58.98
QA1 Rear: 2 2 60.53
3 60.94
4 61.16 60.40

Comments: Overall, the trend on the Monte was to a softer shock setup, allowing the front and rear to work together, as they need to with a larger vehicle. The final product is an example of a balanced vehicle where the rear does not over-power the front. In the end, it was easy to drive. It felt like a much smaller vehicle with a high fun factor!


Hotchkis Performance
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
QA1 Motorsports
Lakeville, MN 55044
Center Line Wheels
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Yokohama Tire



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