With the proliferation of high-end suspension parts, there are lots of ways to go when assembling your ultimate dream machine. Likewise, there is no shortage of people making lots of claims about how to best modify your ride for the performance that best suits your needs. You want better handling, but not at the expense of ride quality. Better braking is a must, but you don't want to be replacing expensive components after one short season of cutting corners and cruising the boulevard. So how do you choose? One of the best ways is by gauging the results that others have received after installing the parts. That's where we at Super Chevy come in. With an extensive track record of product testing, we do our best to bring you real world improvements that you can use in making an educated choice when deciding which way to go.
As mentioned, there are a lot of companies making claims about the performance improvement you'll achieve with the installation of their handling and suspension products. One of those firms, Detroit Speed and Engineering, has recently released its new rear suspension system for First-Gen F-bodies. DSE is one of those top companies that will take and put its part through its paces long before they sell you one. That's one of the reasons it is rapidly rising in this industry. DSE has a great product line, they stand behind everything they manufacture, and they thoroughly engineer and test every product before releasing anything to market. More importantly, they believe in their products!
If you've been reading Super Chevy the last couple of months, you should be familiar with the Camaro that DSE has been working on. In our previous articles, we described how the company would be modifying one of its test cars to prove that great handling, performance, and ride can all exist simultaneously. The results of this carefully controlled performance testing show that their innovative new QUADRA Link four-bar suspension system dramatically improves a car's handling and performance over the original rear leaf suspension. The second part of their assertion was that these improvements would not come at the expense of deterioration in ride quality. These are some pretty lofty claims, and the testing will prove them right or wrong.
Installing The Quadra Link
Installing Detroit Speed and Engineering's QUADRA Link is an easily accomplished task that a moderately skilled backyard mechanic can perform. The detailed instructions supplied by DSE are written in a clear and concise fashion, and all necessary components, measurements, and specifications are supplied with the kit. Installation of the QUADRA Link is accomplished in the following eight basic steps.
* Preparation of the vehicle. Vehicle prep consists of raising the vehicle off the ground, removing the rear suspension, axle, fuel lines, and tank. At this time, the interior seats, carpet, and trim will also be removed.
* Installing the upper link front mounting pockets. DSE supplies an accurate template that allows the installer to mark out an outline in the floor pan to be cut for proper placement of the link mounting pockets. Once the pockets are properly located, they are then welded permanently in place.
* Installation of the upper shock crossmember. An area in the trunk floor between the rear tires needs to be cut out for installing the pre-notched shock crossmember. A detailed drawing in the installation instructions makes this a relatively easy process. Once correctly positioned in place, the shock crossmember is permanently welded.
* Installation of the track bar body mount bracket. The track bar body mount is positioned and welded in place inside the bottom right rear framerail.
* Installation of the axle brackets. Following the instructions and using the supplied spacers the axle brackets are then welded in place.
* Installing the upper shock mount brackets. Now the rear axle is positioned in place under the car, followed by the installation of the links. The shocks are then installed in the axle brackets followed by positioning and welding the upper shock mount brackets.
* Installation verification. With fabrication complete, the car can be mocked up and a number of measurements and checks can now be made, (supplied with the installation instructions), to be sure that everything is installed correctly. Some minor rear seat cushion frame modifications may have to be made to reinstall the rear seat. After mock-up, remove and paint any components desired.
* Final assembly. Reinstall the axle and finalize installation according to the supplied positioning and torque specifications.
Adhering to these basic installation steps will provide the car owner with one of the most satisfying do-it-yourself systems ever produced. Not only do the components fit and finish nicely, as the following results show, they do what they are supposed to.
Follow along as we show you some of the pictures shot at the track test session, and then see for yourself how simple the installation process is. We're sure you'll agree that now you don't have to settle with a harsh-riding First-Gen simply because you also want it to perform.
On To The Track
The car used for the performance testing was a tried and true '69 Camaro SS with a 383 small-block, Fikse 18x8.5 front/18x9.5 rear wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 245/40ZR18 front / 275/40ZR18 rear tires. All the parameters were the same for both tests; the leaf spring configuration and the QUADRA Link configuration. The car used the same engine, the same make of Pilot Sport tires (the first set having been worn down to nothing) and the exact same Fikse wheels. Repeat testing was performed at the same location with an identical series of performance tests giving a true "A to B" comparison. The three tests used for comparison were a 125-foot skidpad test, the standing quarter-mile and a six-turn 420-foot slalom course.
At 6:00 a.m. on an overcast but warm Saturday morning we all arrived at the Detroit Speed and Engineering facility in Mooresville, North Carolina, with coffee cups in hand, ready to begin the day. The Camaro was fueled and ready to go with the installation of the QUADRA Link having been performed on site the previous week (see sidebar). The Camaro was loaded into the trailer and we began the two-and-a-half hour trip to the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport in Maxton, North Carolina. As we drove to Maxton, the skies cleared and it looked like we were going to have the identical weather conditions this day as on the day of the first series of tests. This proved to be the case.
Upon arrival at the Laurinburg facility, we pulled the trailer onto the runway to the exact same location. The Camaro was unloaded, and DSE owner Kyle Tucker immediately got to work prepping and checking the car for the day's testing, while Stacy Tucker once again activated the VBOX data logging system. After the initial checks, Kyle gave the thumbs-up and Stacy was ready to download data from the VBOX into her laptop for analysis. It was now time for Detroit Speed and Engineering to back up their claims, and I must say they looked pretty confident.
The first test with the newly installed QUADRA Link system was the slalom run. We laid out the same 420-foot course that consisted of six turns 70 feet apart, and amazingly most of the original tape markings for the cones were still in place from our last trip to the site; this was really going to be a true comparison test! The VBOX data acquisition system used GPS to calculate the distance, time, and miles-per-hour when running the slalom course. If the DSE claims hold up and the QUADRA Link helps reduce roll and hold the road better, we should see a significant improvement in speed. As the Camaro ran the slalom, it really appeared to run much more nimbly through the cones than it did with the old leaf spring suspension. There was a noticeable reduction in body roll while it sliced through the course much more smoothly. We made several passes through the slalom to acquire an average number, and the analysis showed a significant improvement in speed, running the slalom with an average speed of 58.39 mph with the QUADRA Link as compared to 55.55 mph with the old rear leaf spring suspension! Quite impressive.
Next, we were onto the skidpad test, which measures the car's road-gripping ability. We ran the Camaro as fast as possible around the circumference of a 125-foot-diameter circle at the limit of the car's traction and grip. The VBOX measures the lateral g's the car is able to withstand. Once again, the improvement in lateral acceleration capability of the QUADRA Link was evident both visually and in g-force number. The car had less lean and the g-force increased from 0.81g's to 0.84 g's.
The final test of the day was the standing quarter-mile. We made a few passes to measure how well the QUADRA Link launched off the start. From the decrease in elapsed time and the increase in speed, it was evident that the energy from the 383 Mouse was transferred to the pavement much more efficiently, and wheelhop was non-existent. The Camaro gripped the pavement much better. The elapsed time improved from 15.16 seconds to 14.28, and the speed increased from 98.62 mph to 101.22.
There you have it, Detroit Speed and Engineering and the QUADRA Link rear suspension upgrade came through with flying colors. The improvements in handling and performance should impress any serious First-Generation Camaro enthusiast who really enjoys driving hard. The QUADRA Link is affordable and relatively easy to install (the installation instructions are very clear and easy to follow), and the improvement in ride, performance, and handling, we believe, proved worthy of being considered for addition to any cool First-Gen machine.