If you're a third-gen owner, we'll bet there's times you feel like the world can be an unfair place. It seems like every aftermarket suspension company out there is making replacement subframes for first-gen Camaros, while others cater to the second-gen and fourth-gen crowd.
But where's the love for the third-gen Camaro owners who want to throw down in the twisties? Thankfully, the gearheads over at Hotchkis Performance saw this inequity and hit the drawing boards. What they came up with were some performance-driven suspension components designed to help third-gen owners keep up with their Camaro brethren when the road varies from the straight and narrow. So, we fired up our laterally-challenged '83 Camaro and headed over to Hotchkis for some suspension TLC.
We updated the front of our third-gen with Hotchkis' Sport Suspension sway bar kit. Included is a 1 7/16-inch hollow bar (PN 2203 $553.30), bushings, brackets, and end links. (A one-inch hollow rear sway bar included in next photo). For this build we also went with the Premium Steering Rebuild Kit (PN CHESTR033 $550.50), which included the inner tie rods, outer tie rod ends, idler arm, and centerlink. Although they're not included in the kits, we wanted to get maximum performance, and drop our ride height an inch, so we added in the Sport Coil Springs (PN 1903 front & rear $270.60). Hotchkis now does installations at its Premium Installation Center, so you can have your parts bolted on and aligned by those that know them best.
Track Thrash Results
Sure, the new parts are nice and sparkly, but did they make the third-gen perform any better? When we first got the bone-stock Camaro, we did baseline testing with the worn factory parts. This gave us a best 200-foot skidpad number by pulling .78g and an average speed of 39.1 mph through 420 feet of cones.
With the baseline numbers in place, we went back to the track sporting our new Hotchkis suspension parts. With multiple runs, we adjusted the firmness of the Tokico Illumina Shocks for maximum performance. Our skidpad numbers improved to .81g, while the speed through the cones clicked up to 40.9 mph. With the lowered center of gravity and improved geometry of the Hotchkis system, it was obvious we had reached the limits of the stock width 15-inch Firestone Indy 500 tires. We just couldn't get them to hook any further. Basically, the improved suspension was outperforming the tires. In order to move the needle up the scale, we fit the Camaro with a new set of Billet Specialties Apex-G 17-inch wheels shod in Nitto 555 rubber. With some more shock tuning, the F-body managed to pull an average of .88g on the skidpad, and the speed through the cones shot up to 44.7 mph.
Most important, the Camaro stayed pretty flat and gained more predictability while cutting through the slalom cones. Although the car is now quite a bit more maneuverable and fun in aggressive driving situations, it didn't hinder its smooth personality on the highway. So, with the increased drivability of our third-gen, we can't wait to get some real power to the wheels to see what it can really do.