With street performance and handling being the most popular today, stock muscle car suspensions leave a lot to be desired when it comes to corner carving performance. If you have a leaf spring equipped car, spring bond and axle hop are your constant enemies, either on the street, the autocross, and the dragstrip. Even with coilovers and traction/slapper bars, a leaf spring suspension just can't handle a lot of today's modern driving.
Seeing a need for a solution, the suspension masters at BMR Fabrication came up with a bolt in Watts-Link/Torque Arm suspension kit for first generation Camaros. The benefits of this system are excellent lateral stability, while also offering superior vertical stability in handling and driving. Think of it like getting the best of a four-link style suspension, while also getting the great road handling of a coil spring suspension. Another benefit of the BMR kit is its fully adjustable Watts-Links, so you can tune the suspension to fit your car, or what type of driving you'll be doing.
Follow along as we install the kit on a '69 Camaro.
The first order of business was to get the exhaust system out of the way. The tailpipe on the exhaust will need to be modified so it doesn't interfere with the Watt's link.
Here's the whole 12-bolt kit (BMR is also working on a kit for 9-inch equipped first gens). Everything is heavy gauge steel tubing, with full powder coating, polyurethane bushings, sleeves, and all necessary installation hardware.
After the exhaust is out of the way, the stock trans crossmember gets removed, and the new BMR unit is test fitted into place.
The kit comes with a new polyurethane transmission mount so you don't have to reuse your old one.
With the crossmember in place, it's time to mark on the subframe where to drill for the mounting bolts. The BMR cross member features a swing-out design making it easier to remove than the stock cross member. The unit also features plenty of arching to clear a variety of exhaust tubing sizes.
With holes marked and drilled, it's a simple matter of bolting the crossmember in place.
All bolts are in place, and the crossmember is ready to go. You can see the mounting point just below the tail shaft for the torque arm. If you've got a 3rd or 4th Gen Camaro, it's the same basic system that came from the factory on those cars, but much beefier.
With the front finished, it's time to move to the rear. First thing to do is drain the rear of fluid and remove the cover.
Use the factory bolt holes, the included studs are installed to hold the torque arm and Watts-Link rear end mount in place.
Things go together like a sandwich on the rear, with a gasket between the housing and the mount...
Then the mount is slipped into place...
...Followed by another gasket...
...Then the new rear end cover with higher fluid capacity and main bearing reinforcement for the rear end.
The front/transmission end of the torque arm features a fully bushed nose that the connection yoke slips into. This allows a minimal amount of forward/backward motion so the torque arm doesn't bind or twist during operation.
Another BMR feature are grease fittings for both the yoke and torque arm bushing to both can be lubed for worry free operation.
Here the rear of the arm connects to the bracket on the rear end housing...
...While the front bolts into place on the trans crossmember.
With both ends in place, they're bolted in using the supplied hardware. All fasteners in the kit are Grade 8 bolts for superior strength and durability.
The arm also comes with a driveshaft loop, so if a shaft failure occurs, it won't go through the underside of the body like a buzz saw, or tear up the underside of the car.
That done, it's time to install the side braces for the torque arm to provide extra strength in high torque applications, and give the forthcoming Watts-Link bracket extra support.
To hold everything in place for the time being, the mounting bolts are used to hold the braces in place.
To remove the leaf springs for the Watt's link install, the gas tank has to be removed first. This is always easier if the tank is as empty as possible. It's best to store the tank outside or other well ventilated area to prevent a risk of accidental explosion.
This bracket connects the Watts-Link bars to the rear end, providing for the adjustable lateral stability and range of motion. If you have an '03 and up Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis, this is the same system used in those cars, and all of their police cousins.
This is the link for the Watts bars. You can see how much punishment and hard driving BMR designed it to take with its sturdy aluminum body, large mounting bolt, and fully bushed pivot point for squeak and bind free operation.
Here the link is mounting to the main bracket. The link can be adjusted up or down to fit your car's suspension tuning and driving purpose, and any track conditions you might encounter.
With the bracket in place, the side brace arms are secured to the torque arm. These braces also help to stabilize the rear end and keep it in the correct geometry with the torque arm and Watts-Links so the system provides maximum performance at all times.
With the side braces secured to the torque arm and the Watts-Link bracket in place on the housing, the rear bolts can be tightened up.
Two additional mounting points and braces secure the link to the bracket for extra strength and stability in hard cornering.
Next up is to remove the leaf spring assemblies so the new control arms can be mounted. A pair of jack stands supports the body on the rear subframe so the leaf springs and their mounts can be removed safely. You'll also need to support the rear end to keep it in place while this process is going on.
With everything supported, the shocks are removed.
The BMR kit includes this plate to cover up the factory shock mounting hole in the body to keep moisture from getting inside the car and causing problems. Note the evidence of tire rubbing in the wheel well. With the new BMR kit, this won't be a problem anymore.
With the shocks out of the way, the spring shackles are removed, and in this case the attached traction bars. Another great feature of the BMR kit is the elimination of the inherent wheel hop problems leaf spring cars experience under hard acceleration.
With the rear end housing supported, the weight is removed from the leaf spring so it can be pulled out safely.
Up front, three bolts secure the forward spring box to the body. They're removed along with the lead springs, but will be reused later.
In the back, it's just a matter of removing the bolt that secures the spring to the rear subframe.
With all the necessary bolts removed, the leaf spring comes right out.
You need the factory mounting box of the leaf spring to mount the new control arms, so it has to be removed from the old leaf springs before tossing them aside.
Here you can see how the box is bolted to the forward part of the new control arm to mount it to the body/subframe.
In place of the old spring shackle is this BMR unit, which not only connects the control arm to the rear end, but also serves as the lower mounting point for the new adjustable coilover shocks that are replacing the leaf springs.
A bushed heim joint is on the rear end of the control arm, allowing for bind free movement, and added length adjustment for increased suspension tuning.
Next up is to install the upper mounting bracket for the Watts-Links and coilover shocks. The first thing to do is set it in place, and use the included self tapping screws to hold it to the subframe while the other mounting pieces are put in place.
Here you can see where the outer mounting bracket will attach to the outside of the rear subframe. It's always good to set things like this in place first, measure and check alignment, then make marks for drilling, so you get it installed the right the first time.
With everything marked, holes are drilled in the subframe for the mounting bolts. To make this process easier, using a step-style drill bit will save you some effort, and make sure you don't drill too far.
Part of the reason for drilling such a big hole in one side of the frame is to allow the installation of this small brace. This piece will keep the frame from distorting when the mounting bolts holding the upper bracket are tightened down.
The easiest way to install the outer part of the bracket is just like this, that way the two cylindrical braces don't fall into the frame, and you can make sure everything's lined up properly. Once this part is in place, tighten down the bolts, and the upper bracket is installed.
With the upper bracket secured, it's time to assemble the new coilovers. The BMR kit comes with QA1 adjustable coilover shocks that allow for even more suspension tuning. The shocks are super simple to assemble, just slip the spring over the shock, then the top collar, and tighten the collar down, you're good to go. Once the car is back on the ground, then you'll want to follow the BMR and QA1 instructions for properly adjusting the spring on the shocks.
With the shocks assembled, they're ready for install. A drift comes in handy for getting the shock lined up with the bolt holes on the upper bracket.
Here you can see the very sturdy lower shock mounting. Under hard driving conditions, this part sees a lot of stress, so BMR designed it to be plenty strong.
Here's how everything looks with the shocks installed. The last part that remains are installing the Watts-Link bars.
Installing the Watts-Link bars is easy, the just slip into their intended brackets on the upper mount. The BMR kit includes instructions on which mounting/adjustment hole to bolt the bars to when first assembled, and how to adjust them once the installation is done.
On the link ends, the bars use heim joints for bind free operation and additional adjustments. Like with the rest of the kit, heavy duty grade 8 bolts secure the bars in place.
Here you see how sturdy and secure the Watts-Link bars are connected to their pivot point. Depending on the handling of the car, track being driven, and overall driving intent, the pivot can be moved up or down to change the roll center as necessary for optimal handling.
Here's how everything looks in the rear fully installed. To start out, the Watts-Link bars were set in a neutral position, with adjustments to be made after the car was back on the ground and driven a little bit to evaluate what changes were necessary. When you reach this point, all that's necessary is to reinstall the gas tank, fill the differential, and bolt the wheels back on.
Here's an overall shot of the whole BMR Torque Arm/Watts-Link kit fully installed. From this view you can see the strength of the BMR kit, and how cleanly it installs on the underside of the car without any major modifications. This whole kit gives the best of both worlds when it comes to handling, allowing a car owner to have great road handling, and great strip handling when necessary.