Tri-5 Front Suspension Upgrade - Close And Up Front

Make your Tri-Five handle and stop with Total Cost Involved's new suspension kit.

Dakota Wentz Sep 22, 2006 0 Comment(s)
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You better have a plan before you start on that.

How many times have you heard that before? And how many times have youdone the exact opposite. That's what I thought. When we started on ourblack '57 Chevy last month we actually listened to our mothers anddeveloped a plan, well, it was actually more like a set of guidelines.Our idea was to take a stock '57 Chevy and turn it into streetcar thatcould dodge a shopping cart rolling through the parking lot and actuallystop with a little pressure to the brake pedal.

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To give you an idea of exactly what the car was doing in our brake test,take a look at this picture. If you notice the right rear wheel issmoking because it's locking up. The funny thing is in this brake testthe driver is only feathering the brakes. Just imagine what that reartire looked like when he nailed the brakes.

To reach our goal, we took our '57 to Total Cost Involved (TCI). Weplanned to ditch the stock suspension and modernize our ride with newsuspension and binders. In the rear, TCI freed up some space byrelocating the leaf springs inside the frame rails. Doing this alsolowered the car between 1 and 2 inches. Then the stock rearend wasswapped with a new Moser 9-inch, and at the ends of the axle TCI threwon its budget-style disc brakes instead of reinstalling the stock drums.We chose this setup is because it's a relatively cheap upgrade thatworks. We didn't want to go gung-ho on the '57 and throw on some gnarlyfour-link with four-piston 13-inch binders. We wanted a simple, yetdesirable and efficient setup for the shoebox.

This month we're going to apply the TCI touch to the front. We're goingto toss the original front suspension, which includes the control arms,spindles, sway bar, shocks, and springs. Instead of reusing thestock-stamped control arms TCI is going to install its brand new tubularcontrol arms for the top and bottom. These tubular control arms comeready to install out of the box with the bushings, cross shafts, andball joints installed. Simply bolt and go.

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Usually we do a skid pad test as well, and it would have been nice tosee how the TCI setup handled the skid pad. But the car was starving forfuel when we ran it through the skid pad. Because of that we couldn'tget an accurate measurement of what the car is capable of.

To compensate for the drop in height in the rear from its kit, TCI hasdeveloped a new two-inch drop spindle, along with matching springs andshocks. The two-inch lowering will give the car the stance we're lookingfor and also bring the car's center of gravity down to the ground, whichwill improve its grip. Another feature we're adding that will help keepthe car upright in a hard turn is the new TCI sway bar.

Unlike the rear of the car, the '57 already had disc brakes up front,but we went ahead and kept the whole car TCI by installing their GMrotor with single piston caliper brake kit.

After George and Jeff at Total Cost Involved finished the install, wetook the car out to the track where we tested the setup. Before the '57went under the knife in any way, shape or form, we ran a baseline on it.In its before form, the fastest time we got zigging and zagging throughthe 420-foot slalom course was 7.12 seconds. Through the mathematicalcalculations of someone much smarter than myself, that calculates out to40.3 mph. In the 60-to-0 braking test, we completed three runs. Ourfirst run yielded a best 161.81 feet, the second 173.41 and our last at190.86. Although the first run of 161.81 is pretty respectable, for acar of that mass, the number decreased by roughly 15 feet as we keptgoing. Remember the baseline was with discs up front and drums in therear. In typical fashion the drums heated up and with that came somepretty significant brake fade, which is common in such a setup.

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Remember when I said the Total Cost Involved control arms were new?Well, I meant it. These tubular control arms are the first ones off theassembly line.

For the after testing, it was more or less all smiles for the slalomportion of our test. The new setup clocked in at 6.87 seconds, whichcalculates out to 42.1 mph. The new TCI setup added 2 mph from theprevious time. Now that might not sound like a lot at first, but it'sactually a good improvement, and once you factor in the added comfortand drivability of the new tubular control arms, the TCI control armsstart lookin' better and better.

Story deadlines prohibited us from installing a brake proportioningvalve and rear brake lockup became a problem in testing. The best wecould do with the new setup was 10 feet worse than the setup before, butwe had yet to install our proportioning valve. Because of this, when wewent to hit the brakes the rear brakes would almost immediately lock upand try and swing the rear end around. This is something we'll take careof before handing the car back to its owner.

On the positive side of things the new setup was consistent. The firstrun was 172.20, the second clocked in at 175.61, and the third was179.42. As you can see the four-wheel disc brake setup didn't sufferfrom brake fade near as bad as the disc/drum combo. In the end we'repretty sure we did exactly what we set out to do: We built a streetcarthat was more than capable of handling the blacktops of our cities andstreets. We didn't build a Pocono or Talladega track car; we builtsomething that will drive and handle ideally on any road in the country.

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