By now the burgundy '88 Camaro IROC-Z gracing these pages has become a familiar sight to Super Chevy readers. In past issues, you have witnessed everything from its cosmetic transformation using Auto Air Colors' waterborne paint, to brake and suspension upgrades featuring Baer Brakes and Hotchkis Performance. In this month's issue, we are extracting the Hotchkis Performance Sports coil springs (PN#1903) from all four corners and replacing them with front and rear Cool-Ride kits from Air Ride Technologies. The reasoning behind the switch, first and foremost, was to improve the '88's ride quality. In 1982, when the new F-body debuted, its claim to fame for Camaro-performance freaks was that the new Z28 could out pull the '82 Corvette on the skidpad. Unfortunately along with improved handling, the new Camaros also gained a reputation for riding like a steel-wheeled skateboard. For high-performance Camaro fanatics, living with a stiff ride has come to be an accepted price to pay for skidpad superiority.
On March 7, 2005, Air Ride Technologies announced the arrival of its Cool-Ride kits for the '82-'92 Camaro. The best way for us to describe the content of the release is simply to quote it: "Air Ride Technologies has finished development for the '82-'92 Camaro F-body cars. The front Cool-Ride kit consists of an air spring and bracket assembly, which directly replaces the coil spring. Your factory or aftermarket strut assembly remains intact. This kit is also compatible with any performance replacement strut on the market. The Rear Cool-Ride kit directly replaces the OEM coil spring. The handling and performance are increased dramatically with this kit. If you pair it up with a four-wheel independent control system, you will be able to manipulate this system to get your car to handle and launch exactly how you want it to.
It was great to learn that Air Ride Technologies had released a kit specifically designed to fit our '88 IROC-Z, but its product release didn't quite answer our main concern. What we were looking for was an assurance that our IROC's ride quality would improve. The next step in our information quest was to log onto Air Ride Technologies' Web site and search for Frequently Asked Questions - Bingo! Here's what they had to say: "How is the ride quality? Wonderful! If you closed your eyes, you would swear that you were in a new luxury car. The ride quality is also adjustable to your taste from inside the vehicle. (Try that with a coilover or leaf spring!)."
Dependability concerns? For those of you unfamiliar with air suspension, or perhaps even hold a low opinion of it based on what you've heard from a fellow that had a friend who knew someone that lived next door to a guy that had bad luck with airbags, we'll give a quick response. First off, it seems the subject of air-ride suspension is like a Harley-Davidson; there's always some guy who has never owned one who can tell you all about them. Not wanting to be one of "those guys," there are a few of us at Super Chevy who currently have air-ride on our vehicles along with firsthand experience.
Without starting an argument, it's hard to say whether the first guys bagging their rides were street-rodders or mini-truckers. It seemed to occur around the same period in time (mid-1990s). The one thing for sure is, it was the mini-truckers who pushed the limits on how low a vehicle can go. The last thing a mini-trucker was or is concerned about is ride or reliability; the whole purpose is to lay absolutely flat on the ground. Consequently, spotting trucks at the side of the road (especially around a truck run) with broken homemade or even so-called professional custom-fabricated air-ride setups is not all that hard to do.