In the last issue, we went through the process of upgrading the rear suspension on our '01 Z28 project car, which we affectionately call Black Betty. We covered the installation of a plethora of Global West suspension components, including Traclink, antisquat box, lower control arms, springs, QA1 shocks, adjustable panhard rod, and subframe connectors. In this issue, we'll cover the installation process of the front suspension components. And just as with the rear components, we dipped deep into the Global West Suspension catalog to assemble a suspension system up front that will complement the components installed on the rear. To start off, we went with their lower control arm bearing kit (you install it right into your stock control arms) then moved onto their tubular upper control arms and coilover conversion kit that includes springs, a thrust bearing kit, 3-inch helper springs, helper spring adapters, and upper spring mounts. For shocks, we once again went with QA1 double-adjustable coilovers. Although bolting up the front suspension is not quite as involved as what we did on the rear, it's just as important. This is where adjustability really comes into play, which has a huge effect on the handling characteristics as well as the ride height of your car.
Also in the last issue, we addressed the fact that some Camaro guys may want to bolt on suspension components only to get an aggressive stance and the "right look" for their car while still retaining a smooth, comfortable ride. But there are others (like us) who care only about getting the most performance possible out of their suspension, as they'll be spending quite a bit of time on the track. With the amount adjustability available in today's suspension systems, it's easy to get your Camaro to handle aggressively at the track and, with a few clicks on the shock adjustment knob, have a comfortable drive home from the event. Doug Norrdin and the crew at Global West Suspension in San Bernardino, California, have been upgrading suspensions on street performance and race cars for over 25 years and have a handle on what their customers are looking for in a performance suspension.
When we took Black Betty over to Global West for the suspension upgrade, we told them we wanted to have the baddest fourth-gen, in terms of handling, on the planet. Although the car gets plenty of street driving, we were more than willing to sacrifice ride comfort for killer times on the track. Surprisingly, with their front suspension kit and QA1 shocks, we didn't give up tons of streetability in order to achieve our goal of having our project knock down the lowest times possible on the track.
For the second and final installment, we'll show you how to bolt up Global West's front suspension components on our '01 project car. We'll then follow up with testing numbers to show how the car's performance improved.
Wheels and Tires
By upgrading to a larger wheel and wider tire, the car made a nice jump in handling performance. Plus the combination of New Gen Dominator wheels and Nitto NT05 tires give our project an aggressive demeanor.
It's important to remember that the suspension components are only as good as the wheels and tires will allow. In order to achieve quick times at the track, you're going to need strong, light wheels (they have to look cool too), and performance tires. As of now, most street driving events require tires with a minimum treadwear rating of 180. If you show up to an event with tires rated below that number, which means they're made of a stickier compound, you'll most likely be turned away or at best be put in an exhibition class where your times will not count.
To get our Camaro on track (no pun intended), we called Jon Henson at Driverz Inc. and told him what we had in mind for our car. He gladly hooked us up with a set of wheels that would be able to accommodate the widest tire we could get under our fenders (barely). He recommended we go with a set of New Gen Dominator wheels (18x10 in the rear and 18x9 up front). These are awesome rollers that give our car that sinister look we were going for. Rubber-wise, we chose to go with Nitto NT05s. They feature a treadwear rating of 200, so we'll be able to run legally in most any sanctioned street car event. As most fourth-gen Camaro owners know, there is limited real estate between the rear quarters of our '01 Z28, so we went with a very snug-fitting 295/35R18 out back and a comfortable 275/35R18 tire up front. Depending on your car, you may have to roll the rear quarter-panel lip so the rear tires don't rub during aggressive driving or when hitting big dips in the road.
With the suspension upgrades completed on Black Betty, the car has taken on a whole new driving attitude. The car is able to keep up with basically any American muscle car on an autocross. In fact, at a recent autocross, we were able to click off the second quickest time of the event. That's quite an accomplishment, especially for a car that's about 300 pounds heavier than most of the competition and relies on a stock LS1 engine for power.
Testing ... One, Two, Three ... Testing
In order to keep track of how the car varied in performance, we brought it out to our nearby testing facility in El Toro, California, for slalom and skidpad testing on three separate occasions-once in stock form, once with the Nitto tires and 18-inch New Gen wheels, and then again with all the Global West suspension components bolted up. For slalom testing, we mark off a 420-foot course with cones set a cozy 70 feet apart, while we measure g-forces via a 200-foot skidpad.
As one would guess, the car's handling and ability in stock form changed dramatically once the Global West Suspension components were bolted up. Obviously, the numbers showed the car had improved in performance, but what those numbers don't tell you, is how much more fun the car is to drive-on the track as well as on the street.
Another thing we learned right off the bat is that all these new suspension components need to be tuned up to the car. Sure, you'll notice a major improvement in handling over the stock suspension once you take the first corner, but in order to get the absolute best performance from these components, it's imperative the front and rear suspension components work together. You'll have to experiment and make adjustments on the shock settings to find out what works best with your driving style and ability. Also keep in mind some settings might work great on a road course but may not be optimum for an autocross or street driving. If you have any questions about where to start out with your settings, the tech staff at Global will gladly help get you rolling in the right direction.
We realize not everyone lives near Global West Suspension, and there's a good chance Doug Norrdin won't be able to come out and personally tune your car's suspension once you get all the goodies bolted up, but we did. With that said, Doug was kind enough to come out to our test facility and offer his professional tuning services to make sure the car was dialed in for optimum performance. And that's a good thing because us magazine guys know just enough about suspension tuning to get into trouble and not much more.
We hit the slalom course and realized right away that the car needed a little massaging. Right out of the box, the rear was too loose for our liking, so Doug did his magic and got the suspension to plant the rear tires and perform better than we could have ever done. Not only did he make shock adjustments, but actually ended up making a spring change on the spot.
We realize most guys aren't able to test their cars in a controlled environment like we do, so it's important to understand that gaining 1 or 2 mph in a distance of 420 feet is a nice improvement-gaining 5 mph is a major gain in performance.
Needless to say, with the help of Doug and the Global West Suspension components, Black Betty is getting closer to being the baddest-handling fourth-gen on the planet.