The great thing about buying a beat-down classic A-body is that you don't need to hock household items or sell off family members to medical science to afford one. The bad thing is that it has a low buy-in for a reason-lots of wear, lots of tear. Then again, making treasure out of trash is what this hobby is all about.
Take Chris Gordziel's '67 El Camino for example. He picked up this hunk of classic Chevy iron for a measly $1,500. Of course, for that price it barely ran, had a few "rough" panels and was sketchy to drive on the highway or any road with a slight bend. His first task was to get it running by dropping in a freshened-up big-block, and a mashed in fender was fixed, along with a few of the more unsightly blemishes. With this done, it was time to address the items that were conspiring to make using the Elky a real buzz kill, namely the handling and brakes.
Stuffed into the handling is the steering component. After all, even a car with a great handling package will suck to drive if it has vague, unresponsive steering. For handling, Gordziel decided to go with Classic Performance Products' (CPP) Stage II "Pro Touring" kit (PN 6467PTK2). The kit comes with front and rear tubular control arms, front QA1 coilovers, rear QA1 shocks and drop springs, along with front and rear sway bars. His '67 was rolling on tired four-wheel manual drums, and Gordziel lived in constant fear of eating the bumper of the car in front of him. What he found was CPP's Big-Brake kit (PN 6467FRBKBB), which included rotors, calipers, hubs, spindles, parking brake cables, brake lines, brackets, and everything else needed to convert to four-wheel disc brakes. To these kits Gordziel added in a 500-series steering box (PN CP50004) and a power brake booster kit (PN 6772CBB4), which included the proper disc/disc proportioning valve.
Now, a big pile of shiny new powdercoated parts is cool and all, but we wanted to see what the gain would be from dropping such a big stack of cash. Gordziel realized beforehand that the stock 15-inch wheels wouldn't clear the new brakes so we picked up a set of Vintage Wheel Works rollers and some Nitto tires before our baseline tests. It was also important to test the suspension and brake upgrades on the same rubber.
With all the parts on hand we grabbed our tools and headed over to where Gordziel works at Best Of Show Coach Works in San Marcos, California, for a little quality time on their lift.
Putting It All To the Test Sure, the new parts look great, but what we wanted to know is how much better the '67 would perform. Now, to keep this a suspension test and not a tire test, we made sure to install our new 17-inch Vintage Wheel Works wheels and Nitto 555R tires for the before testing. This way we have a true before and after testing of the suspension and brakes.