Getting the first phases of a project car moving in the right direction can be the most crucial. You may have your mind made up about how you want your car to look, drive, and sound, but to get there you'll need to do a little research in order to compile the right parts for your ride.
Some guys are set on having a good-looking car without all the handling "bells and whistles." That's fine for some, but others need to get the most bang for their hard-earned buck and will want their car to perform as well as, if not better than, it looks. So keep in mind, wheels, tires, stance, sound, and paint all play an important part in the final outcome. Whether it's a winning track combination or a show car winner, it's all up to your personal taste.
It's no secret that we here at Camaro Performers like to go fast in as many directions as possible. Going straight is cool, but the opportunity to hang it all out in the corners is a rush that we can't seem to get enough of.
Our 2001 Chevy Camaro Z28, known as Black Betty, is pretty much in the beginning stages of receiving performance upgrades, so we decided to jump right into the suspension aspect of the car. Besides going for an aggressive look, we need our project car to handle as good or better than any fourth-gen out there.
We knew Global West Suspension, in San Bernardino, California, makes some serious handling components for fourth-gens, so we gave them a call and told them we wanted to turn our stock Z28 into a wicked-handling car that could perform well on the street and pull off some quick times on the autocross or road course.
Global West Owner Doug Norrdin is a racer himself and has been setting up performance and race cars since the early '80s, so we knew our project was in the right hands. Besides, the desperation in our voice was a dead giveaway that we would settle for nothing less than the best suspension components available for our car. Doug graciously opened up the Global West catalog and pointed us to a host of suspension upgrades that would help get our Camaro in and out of corners quickly and efficiently.
The rear suspension upgrade for our fourth-gen features rear lower control arms, antisquat brackets, Traclink torque arm, Eibach springs (keep in mind that this is racing, so Doug made us promise not to print the spring rates), and panhard bar. Up front, he suggested we go with their lower control arm bearing kit (it installs directly into your stock control arms) tubular upper control arms, coilover conversion kit that includes springs, thrust bearing kit, 3-inch helper spring, helper spring adapter, and upper spring mount. For shocks, we went with QA1 double-adjustable coilovers (PN DOE7855P) up front and QA1 double-adjustable out back (PN DTC2502P).
Normally, we would bang out this suspension installation in one article, but since there are so many important details to go over, we're going to have to do this in two parts.
In the first installment, we'll cover what went on in the rear of the car, including subframe connectors and the Global West Traclink. In part two, we'll focus on the front suspension components. We'll also have the results of our testing with stock components compared to how the car improved with the upgraded suspension.
Straight Talk About Cornering
•We have a pretty good handle on what many of the bolt-on suspension components do for our cars, but we thought it would be cool to hear it from the man behind Global West Suspension, Doug Norrdin. We hit him with a few questions regarding what all this stuff actually does.
CP: What is the purpose and benefit of your antisquat kit?
DN: Antisquat kits provide additional holes for bolting the lower control arm to the rearend. Generally, this is to lower the arm at the rearend which, in turn, changes the way the car will apply power to the ground. It is a tool you will use for fine-tuning the suspension, especially if the car is lowered. In most cases, when you lower a third- or fourth-gen Camaro (depending on how low you go), the angle of the lower control arm is pointing down toward the front of the car. This is undesirable for traction. Adjusting the lower arm at the rearend by moving the attachment to a lower location reestablishes a better lower-arm angle and brings back traction.
CP: We understand that subframe connectors control chassis twist, but what other benefits to they provide?
DN: Subframe connectors provide additional structure for safety in case of an accident, and depending on the location of where the subframe begins and terminates, the frames can tie into the pickup points of a rollcage. They greatly reduce flex in the unibody and, on T-top cars, they reduce rattles and even leaks and, for performance driving, they transfer load quicker for improved transitions during cornering.
CP: Many aftermarket suspension companies use larger sway bars with their kits but, on your fourth-gen system, you went with the stock sway bars. What's the main reason for that?
DN: For a lot of the newer applications, the factory sway bars are generally big enough. In many cases, the springs, especially the fronts, are too soft. The manufacturers increase the cornering ability by adding roll stiffness through the larger sway bar. This is fine, however, sway bars only work in cornering and do nothing for straight-line deceleration (nosedive). Going to a bigger bar still won't help that condition, and you can get into a situation where the bar lifts the inside tire because of excessive roll stiffness. Our program is designed to increase the spring rate in the front to reduce nosedive, which will improve braking and cornering ability. This doesn't mean the car will go ridged. What we are going to do is raise the envelope of the car's handling ability. Going to a race spring increases it even further. The question is, at what level of the performance envelope do you what to be?