Project True Sstreet
Sometimes you have to adapt to your surroundings in order to live in comfort and achieve happiness. The same holds true for your hot rod. An ultra-stiff suspension with low profile 20-inch rubber is not going to be ideal for drag racing. On the flip side, a pair of race slicks with four-inch-wide skinnies up front is most certainly not going to be ideal for carving corners.
For this particular installment of Project True SStreet, we'll leave the corner carving out of the equation and look to achieve some straight-line traction. Project True SStreet-our '87 Monte Carlo SS-is being constructed to endure limited street use and a ton of strip slaying. In order to achieve hook (traction), many conditions must be met, with the most important being weight transfer.
To kick off the transformation of Project True SStreet's front suspension, we began by jacking up the frontend and placing two jack stands under the frame for safety. After raising the frontend, we removed the front wheels. When working on an older vehicle it is good to spray WD40, PB Blaster or some sort of penetrating oil on all fasteners to be removed.
In a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, it's important to get weight transfer to the rear of the car on launch, assisting the rear tires in gaining traction. A few ways to accomplish this include lightening up the front of your car by changing to lighter wheels, lighter aftermarket A-arms, and lighter brake system components.
For a beginner, something as simple as removing the front sway bar will help traction and reduce short times by allowing more suspension travel up front (along with a weight savings). There's nothing in the world like a car dragging the bumper on takeoff, and while this might look cool, it could hamper the end result-which is, of course, the quarter-mile time.
Additional factors in gaining traction include utilizing a full-out drag slick, as opposed to a street radial; pulling timing out of an engine on launch; track preparation; spring selection; and shock adjustment.
While the G-body aftermarket is gaining steam, locating a quality set of bolt-in, drag-specific A-arms wasn't an easy task. Finally, we got connected with Todd Braasch and the crew at TRZ Motorsports in Kissimmee, Florida. TRZ makes tons of quality suspension components for most GM's, including the F-body, A-body, B-body, G-body, and others. For this install, we'll be utilizing TRZ's Pro upper and lower tubular A-arms. These units are designed to replace the stock arms with no additional modifications. A weight savings of about 15 pounds per side can be expected, due to its TIG-welded chrome-moly construction. As an added feature, the upper arms include built-in limiters to help control front-end travel, allowing added control during launch.
In order to handle the stopping duties, we once again called upon Strange Engineering in Morton Grove, Illinois. As you may recall, we've already stuffed our Chris Alston's Chassisworks nine-inch rear housing with quality Strange components, as well as Strange Pro Race Steel rear disc brakes. To complement the rear brakes we'll be installing a Strange Pro Race Steel brake kit up front. The entire front kit weighs in at a lean 33.5 pounds and comes complete with bearings, hubs, rotors, pads, calipers, and mounting hardware.
Once the spindle is removed-breaking it free with either a hammer or a fork-separating tool-the upper and lower shock mounts are removed, along with the shock. We then proceeded by lowering the jack slowly and prying the spring out of the perch carefully-and staying out of the way!
Next, we removed the upper A-arm fasteners attaching the crossbar to the frame-mount, as well as the two lower fasteners holding the lower arm in place. After removing the A-arms, we put them next to the new ones to show the difference in weight and structure while retaining all stock mounting points. These TRZ units should help improve our front suspension geometry, as well as shaving some serious weight off the front of our Monte.
It was time to prepare the VariShocks for installation. Since our ProCharged small-block powerplant was not yet installed in the Monte, we will utilize 500-pound front springs for starters; however we may require a 575-pound or so later, depending on the total nose weight. These shocks can be installed on either an aftermarket A-arm or OEM unit in the stock-mounting locations. We started by installing the springs at a seven-inch length as recommended in the instruction manual. These shocks will allow us infinite adjusting possibilities via both bump and rebound adjustments. The VariShocks are not just for drag applications, but a wide array of automotive enthusiast uses.
Our next step was to drill and tap the old backing-plate holes to 3/8-16 and test-fit the caliper-mounting bracket utilizing two .675-inch spacers (provided in the kit). Once satisfied with the fit, we painted the spindle to protect it from the elements and give it a better look. We then took the new bearings (included in the kit) and packed them via this handy wheel bearing packer tool. Once the bearings contained a sufficient amount of grease they were installed, along with the inner grease seal into the hub. We then installed the new hub onto the spindle, utilizing the old spacer and spindle nut.
Since the majority of the spindle was already assembled, we added the brake rotor and Strange specific dust cap before installing the spindle back into the vehicle. Once in the vehicle, we installed the front brake caliper and shimmed it as per the instruction manual. All brake lines and the new Strange master cylinder will be installed at a later date. We then wrapped our Mickey Thompson Sportsman 26x7.5x15-inch DOT radials around the Street Lite wheels from Billet Specialties-awesome! We gave the Street Lite a spin and had plenty of clearance in all areas.
To control front-end dampening and ride height (or lack of), we enlisted the help of Chris Alston's Chassisworks. Chris suggested utilizing its VariShock bolt-on coilover conversion specifically designed for GM A-arms. VariShock QuickSet 2 is a double-adjustable unit that allows you to control shock bump and rebound independently. According to Chris, drag vehicles generally require more extension (rebound) travel to aid in weight transfer, and because the drag strip is flat, less compression travel is needed. The amount of extension travel available in the shock will also drastically affect how the car works. Better yet, imagine 11 pages of specifics about the VariShocks, and valuable tuning tips for either handling, drag racing, or street driving-it's all there in the kit.
Now that we have our front suspension lined up, we needed some rolling stock. Having attended many race and show events, we were infatuated with the new Street Lite street/strip wheels from Billet Specialties (La Grange, Illinois). The Street Lite wheels are SFI 15-1-approved, light weight and feature an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Each wheel accepts mag shank lug nuts and can be used with 5/8-inch race studs. The 15x3.5-inch front-runner weighs in at a super-light nine pounds and should really aid in keeping our frontend weight to a minimum. For this installment we will only mount the front wheels because our 10x15-inch rear units require some frame modification for proper fitment and will be bolted up during a separate installment.
Needing some DOT-legal rubber to wrap around the Street Lites, we called upon Mickey Thompson Tires in Stow, Ohio. Mickey Thompson Performance Tires is known worldwide as a leader in high-performance tires for both on and off-road applications. We'll utilize the DOT-approved Sportsman front tires and the ET Streets in the rear, which work as well as slicks, but are also DOT approved. Why all this DOT, you ask? Since we'll be running Tremec True Street events at assorted Super Chevy Shows with Project True SStreet, DOT approved tires are required.Now let's get busy!
Here's a final shot of out new front suspension installed. Not only did everything fit perfectly, but it looks great. We have to admit, we screwed up on one thing: Being guys and all, we mounted the shock in the stock location on the lower arm; however, a coilover unit requires mounting atop the arm, leaving the majority of the load on the cross bar-not the fasteners. That's what happens when you assemble first and read the instructions later. The situation has since been corrected. Check out the stance on this bad boy! It almost looks like a tube chassis car. While this looks cool, once the proper drivetrain is installed and the rear ride height is set, we'll adjust accordingly. For now we'll enjoy our super-low stance.