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1967 Chevy El Camino CPP Stage II Pro Touring Kit Install - Rehab Program
A New Suspension Turns This '67 El Camino From Zero To Hero.
Dec 1, 2010
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1967 Chevy El Camino CPP Stage II Pro Touring Kit Install - Rehab Program
Chris Gordziel was happy to report that the El Camino is now a pleasure to drive on the street, handles great, and has a much improved ride. He can also now hit the brakes without worry of plowing into the guy in front of him.
The suspension under Chris Gordziel's '67 suffered from a terminal case of being old and worn-out. Over the years the springs had sagged to the point where little spacers needed to be added to keep the fenders off the front tires.
Before the new parts could go on, the old junk had to come off. One area that gave us problems was the driver-side lower control arm bolt. To get it out we had to dent in the header a bit. It's OK, they were pretty ugly already. If they were nice, we would have needed to unbolt it from the head and lift it up a bit.
Yeah, they look sweet, but more importantly these new TIG-welded tubular control arms from Classic Performance Products (CPP) are much stronger than what was put in the '67 over 40 years ago. The arms are made from 1.25-inch 0.120 wall DOM tubing and have thick 1.5-inch 0.188 wall pivot barrels. This ensures the pivots stay true even under stress. They come preassembled on new billet chromoly 4130 cross-shafts and pivot sleeves. These sleeves capture both sides of the bushing, unlike the stockers that are only retained on one side. As a result, they're much stronger and better resist flex. As a safety measure they incorporate an interlocking shaft and sleeve design so that the bolts can't work loose. The fact that they came with new ball joints already installed saved us time.
CPP's coilover system is based around billet QA1 single adjustable shocks. Before going in the car, we dabbed the shock threads with some antiseize and installed the ride height adjustment rings.
And here's the sweet QA1 shock in place with its 10-inch 550-pound spring. The coilover shock assembly was bolted to the lower control arm and then raised up and through the frame. Once in place, the top of the shock was secured to the frame using the supplied hardware.
With the new control arms installed, the rest was crazy easy to do. The main reason is that the front spindle, hub, steering arm, and brake parts came completely preassembled from CPP. The bearings were packed and brake pads installed, so all we had to do was toss the whole deal between the control arms and secure it in place.
The twin-piston calipers will be a huge leap forward from the old drum brakes, and the zinc washed, drilled, and slotted rotors should work as good as they look. The powdercoating and zinc cost a bit extra, but they both ensure that the parts will stay looking great for a long time.
Here you can see the difference between the tiny solid stock sway bar and the 1.25-inch hollow CPP replacement bar. A bigger bar is the quickest way to tame body roll in any car, and the big-block '67 really needed help in this area.
The frame bushing mount holes didn't quite line up so we needed to elongate the holes just a bit using a drill.
With the sway bar installed, the front suspension was put into the done column. When the Elky was back on the ground, we set the ride height using the coilover system.
Check out this vintage rear suspension. It's all original with the exception of the way-cool air shocks. The exhaust system is cut off the way it is so that we could fit the larger rollers onto the car for testing. Gordziel assures us that he will fix their funky routing once the install is completed.
Much like the front, the first step for the rear is to start getting rid of the old stuff. Unfortunately, to get the drums off we need to pull the axles.
To pull the axles on our 12-bolt we had to loosen the pin retaining bolt and drop the pin. Just make sure that you don't turn the axles at all with the pin out or the gears will fall out of place. With the pin out, we removed the C-clips and carefully slid out the axles.
The new CPP kit came with new longer wheels studs. A big hammer knocked the old ones out, and we used an impact to pull the new ones into place.
The upper triangulated control arms anchor in the rear to the 12-bolt housing. The rubber bushings are pressed into the housing and can be a real pain to remove. We ended up using a big hammer and even an air chisel to get them out.
It's pretty easy to see here how much stronger the new upper arm is compared to the stamped steel stocker. Another benefit is that it's adjustable, so we can fine-tune the pinion angle and better align the rearend.
We lubed up the new bushing and tapped it into the housing until it bottomed out. We then installed the new upper control arm. To make sure we were in the ballpark, we set the length the same as the stocker that was removed.
Here's the rear caliper mounting bracket from CPP. It includes shims of various sizes to help get the caliper properly lined up with the rotor.
Before the axles could go back in we needed to install the new caliper bracket. As you can see we had to reverse one of the T-bolts due to interference with the axle tube suspension brackets.
We then slid the axle back in place, installed the new 12-inch rotor, and attached the single-piston caliper.
Like the upper the arm, the lower trailing arm is much stronger than the stamped factory version and has urethane bushings in lieu of the rubber version. The new tubular CPP arms also incorporate sway bar mounts.
Here's the new rear drop-height spring next to the original one. Take note that the top of the new spring differs from the OEM version. This meant that we couldn't reuse the original isolator, so we wrapped the big end of the spring with a section of hose.
And here's the spring in place using the lower factory isolator, and the one we fashioned out of hose on the top.
It's hard to believe that this svelte QA1 shock replaces the behemoth air shock we removed. Like the front, it offers simultaneous compression and rebound adjustments with the 12-position knob. They feature QA1's deflective disc valving and are 100 percent dyno tested.
The new QA1 shock bolted in place just like the old air shock did. The adjustment knob will make fine-tuning the shock a snap. With the shock in place, we ran all the new rubber and hard brake lines CPP included in the kit and put the rear cover back on the 12-bolt with the gasket also included in the kit.
Having a rear sway bar should really pay off big in the handling department. The new 1-inch solid bar is a huge step up considering our Elky didn't have one to begin with.
And here's our completed rear suspension. Sure, it looks better, but the real question was how much better it would help our Chevy at the track.
With the main work done under the car, we turned our attention to what needed to be done underhood. In addition to drums, our El Camino also had manual brakes, not a great combination. We removed the stock master and replaced it with this 11-inch power brake booster and master cylinder combination. Like the front spindle, this came fully assembled from CPP and included all the brake lines to plum in the new proportioning valve. The larger booster was a tight fit but it cleared the big-block valve covers, inner fender, and windshield wiper motor.
We also decided to replace the stock steering box with a CPP 14:1 close-ratio 500 box. Having good steering response is critical if you want to improve the handling and feel of an older Chevy. It's one of the easiest upgrades you can do.
The new CPP box turned out to be a direct replacement for the stocker. We also ordered new high and low pressure lines along with the right rag joint to attach it to our steering column.
Our El Camino originally ran 15-inch wheels around its awesome drum brakes. Unfortunately those wheels were a no-go with our new bigger binders. Our solution was to pick up a set of affordable 17-inch Vintage Wheel Works V40 rollers and some Nitto NT555 tires (245/45ZR17 front and 275/40ZR17 rear). The wheels (17x8 front and 17x9.5 rear) are made from virgin 356 aluminum ingots and heat treated for strength. The tires have a 300 treadwear rating, which means they will last as well as perform.
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.
The big-block '67 looked like it was getting ready to flip over onto its roof. It was fun to watch, but not conducive to good handling. Before getting motion sickness, our wheelman Nick Licata was able to nail down a best time in our 420-foot slalom of 6.82 seconds. This equates to 42.1 mph and was frankly better than we expected. On the other hand the four-wheel manual drum brakes were abysmal with a best 60-0 mph braking distance of 192.90 feet! That's past the point of being bad and firmly into the dangerous category.
With all the suspension parts installed, and the '67 wearing a fresh coat of black primer, we headed back to our El Toro test track. After a few warm-up laps we were rewarded with a best slalom time of 6.22 seconds or 46.2 mph. This was a huge improvement over the previous tests. Moreover, the El Camino's body roll was now under control and the tighter steering made the Chevy easier to weave through the cones.
In the braking test we saw an even more impressive improvement with a best 60-0 stopping distance of 120 feet. Knocking over 70 feet off the distance is huge and best of all this performance was repeatable while the stock drums were toast after two panic stops. Five back-to-back distances were 129, 127, 123, 120, and 121 feet. We should also note that the '67 didn't pull to either side and nosedive was slight, even with the big-block weight up front.
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