1957 Chevy Bel Air Suspension - Anti-Orca Devices

With The Help Of Some Hotchkis Sway Bars, This Five-Seven Receives A Lesson In Roll Control.

Sucp_0908_02_z 1957_chevy_bel_air_suspension Before 2/27

BeforeThis is how cars used to handle. It's a wonder we survived. The addition of a front and rear sway bar improved the handling immeasurably.

You have not lived if you haven't tried to run a stock '57 Chevy with manual steering, a bench seat, and no seatbelts through a slalom course. Imagine being dragged through the ocean by a whale, holding on by just a dorsal fin, and you have a pretty good idea. You're porpoising up and down, getting tossed side to side, and hanging on for dear life. It's not pretty (and we had the benefit of radial tires!).

More than once we thought we were losing control and we were not going more than 30 mph. The combination of body roll and no belts saw us steering with only half a cheek on the seat most of the time. I was ready to reach for my Dramamine, except I didn't have any.

Sucp_0908_01_z 1957_chevy_bel_air_suspension After 3/27


This car's behavior was fairly typical for the era, which is frightening. Ron Godel owns this beautiful Two-Ten. It's got a 283 four-barrel Power Pack, three-on-the-tree and is just as the factory built it, save for the 8-inch-wide Corvette Rally wheels and Dunlop G/T Qualifier P235/60R15 tires. He loves the car dearly and takes it to cruise nights in north Jersey, but he definitely wasn't satisfied with its road-holding ability (or its definie lack thereof).

Fortunately, there are a million ways to improve the capabilities of your Tri-Five, from low-buck upgrades to a completely new chassis with late-model Corvette suspension parts. We went the simple route here and addressed the most obvious shortcoming--its lack of anti-roll (or sway) bars. We got front and rear bars from Hotchkis Sport Suspensions and in an afternoon made a serious upgrade to the '57's handling (and safety).

How much of an improvement? Our best time through the 420-foot slalom before the addition of the bars was 10.10 seconds. With the bars, we knocked the time down to 8.88. The mph rose from 28.35 to 32.24.

Pictured is the complete rear sway bar kit from Hotchkis (PN 22105R). It includes a 1-inch, lightweight (yet durable) tubular bar capable of two separate adjustments: 310 lb/in (soft setting) or 385 lb/in (stiff setting). Also pictured is the rear section of our test specimen. The '57 Chevy did not come with a rear sway bar, so some drilling is required for this otherwise bolt-in installation.

Here Crazy Horse Technician Brian Applegate begins by sliding the U-bolts into place. The U-bolts should be approximately 27-inches from one another. Considering the rear is offset, be sure that the U-bolts measure an equal distance from the brake backing plates for assurance. The brake lines may have to be unclipped and moved away. Once all is square, Brian installs the sway bar bushings, axle brackets and sway bar proceeding to tighten the U-bolts evenly, while also being level with the ground.

Next, we lubed the dogbone end-link bushings and assembled the remainder of the sway bar. The 1/2-inch bolts, washers and nuts were utilized to link the dogbone to the sway bar and the frame brackets. Two holes need to be drilled into the frame to fasten the links. Brian rotated the sway bar up into place, making sure the bar was centered in the car and the end-link was slightly tilted toward the rear of the car (to facilitate easy adjustments when needed). Both holes were then marked via a tire crayon.




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