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1971 Chevy Camaro - The Right Stuff

Project Orange Krate Gets A New Front Subframe, Suspension, Subframe Connectors, And Brakes.

Chuck Vranas Dec 1, 2010
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If you like to go fast and take turns with maximum g-force, it's a good idea to first sit down and plan how to accomplish it. But remember, it takes more effort than bolting on a set of coilover shocks and wide, sticky tires to make it happen. Sure, if you want to cruise the strip, a lower stance can make your ride look cool, but if you want it to perform, you'd better figure on bringing more than that to the party!

After dialing in the back half of Project Orange Krate, our 1971 Chevy Camaro, last month with the installation of Detroit Speed Inc.'s new Quadra-Link rear suspension combined with Baer Brake Systems' Extreme-Plus braking package, it was a clear choice to look to both companies once again for help in dialing in the front half of the car. Detroit Speed's hydroformed front subframe is a direct bolt-in replacement for the stock subframe, featuring cutting-edge suspension geometry to improve both handling and ride quality. The core of the Detroit Speed subframe rests within their unique hydroformed framerails for additional strength and stiffness. Since hydroforming is conducted at low temperatures, it allows the steel to maintain most of its original integrity regarding metallurgical strength and stiffness. Combined with stamped crossmembers, durable tubular upper and lower control arms featuring DSE's unique suspension geometry, signature coilover shocks, and power rack-and-pinion steering, the complete subframe is a winner straight out of the crate. Incorporating a splined sway bar, C6 steering knuckles, and bearing packs with the ability to run up to a 10-inch wide wheel while not having to alter the front wheelwells proves this system will be able to handle whatever you choose to run on the street or track.

Camp 1012 04 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Welding 2/31

With Project Orange Krate picked clean for the build-up, Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, wasted no time settling the car onto the lift to get busy. Since the new subframe came already assembled, it was placed on a rolling platform and rolled into position under the car to prepare it for installation. Using Detroit Speed's CNC-milled billet aluminum body mounts and related hardware, Newell anchored the subframe in place and raised the car on the lift to ready the subframe for being squared to the car. Using a simple plumb line, or in Newell's case, a cross-line laser level, four points were marked and cross-checked to ensure the subframe was within close tolerances of 1/8-inch diagonally from side to side before tightening it into place.

Once this step was completed, Newell began to prepare the floorpan area for the installation of the Detroit Speed subframe connectors by first degreasing the area, then removing any old undercoating or contaminants to present a clean surface to work with. To increase the cars' stiffness by connecting the front subframe to the rear framerails, we selected Detroit Speed's weld-in subframe connectors. Their unique design allows them to almost disappear into the floorpan area once installed. One of the benefits here is that there is no compromise in ground clearance. Fabricated from rectangular steel tubing, the kit also includes laser-cut mounting brackets, end caps, informative illustrated instructions, templates, and even a step-by step installation DVD.

Note that in our installation, we did not do any final welding of the subframe connectors to the new subframe since the car will be disassembled for final metal and bodywork. Once completed, the finish welding will be addressed to tie everything together. To wrap up the frontend, Newell bolted in Baer Brake Systems' aggressive Baer Claw Extreme-Plus braking system featuring their wicked 6S six-piston MonoBlock calipers paired with their cross-drilled and slotted two-piece 14-inch brake rotors. With Orange Krate's front and rear suspension installation now complete, the next time you see the car it should be down on all fours showing off its nasty stance with a vengeance.

Camp 1012 02 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Detroit Speed Subframe 3/31

To give Project Orange Krate, our second-gen Camaro, the ultimate handling capabilities both on and off the track, we contacted Detroit Speed Inc. for one of their industry leading front subframes featuring unique hydroformed framerails for the ultimate in strength and stiffness. The complete subframe includes everything your see here and it is a direct replacement for the stock bolt-in unit. Tubular upper and lower control arms combined with adjustable Detroit Speed coilover shocks, splined sway bar, and C6 steering knuckles and bearing packs will provide plenty of performance handling.

Camp 1012 06 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Front Crossmember 4/31

Precise engineering of the subframe is evident at every corner, including the contours used in the front crossmember where the power rack-and-pinion bolts into place. Note that the crossmember is designed to accept a variety of engine combinations including everything from a big-block to the standard small-block, LS1, LS2, and LS7 Chevy V-8s.

Camp 1012 07 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Baer Claw Extreme Plus Brakes 5/31

To perfectly match the braking capabilities out back (spotlighted in the previous issue) we contacted Baer Brake Systems for their high-performance Baer Claw Extreme-Plus braking system featuring their 6S six-piston MonoBlock calipers (manufactured from forged aluminum alloy) expertly matched to their cross-drilled and slotted two-piece 14-inch brake rotors.

Camp 1012 08 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Tightening Subframe 6/31

Newell then tightened the subframe into place using a 3/4-inch socket and 3/8-inch drive. This will properly secure the subframe in place for the next step.

Camp 1012 09 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Solid Body Mounts 7/31

Detroit Speed's solid body mounts are designed to eliminate any flex between the body and subframe connection. CNC-milled from billet aluminum, their unique two-piece design is then hard-coated (not anodized) to avoid corrosion. CNC-milled stainless beveled washers are included along with core supports and washers. The optional polished stainless body bolt kit completes the installation hardware.

Camp 1012 10 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Peter Newell 8/31

Peter Newell, owner of Competition Specialties, got started by placing the subframe on a rolling pallet and slid the subframe into place. He then located the four body mounting points and installed the lower cup bodies, beveled washers, and polished stainless body bolts into place by hand to secure the subframe to the body.

Camp 1012 11 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Fatmax Crossline Laser Level 9/31

It was now time to check and make sure that the subframe was square to the body. For this step, Newell chose to use a Stanley FatMax cross-line laser level. A simple plumb line could also be used.

Camp 1012 12 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Lower Control Arm 10/31

Up front, he used the lower control arm forward mounting locations and dropped a line to the ground to mark the location. Out back, the round flanged holes that are near the front of the rear framerails were used to mark the location.

Camp 1012 13 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Floor Measurements 11/31

With the four points marked on the floor, he then measured diagonally between these points to make sure they were within 1/8-inch of each other. Had there been a discrepancy, the subframe could be loosened so any adjustments could be made. At this time the wheelbase was also checked for side to side accuracy.

Camp 1012 14 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Detroit Speed Custom Designed Subframe Connectors 12/31

Detroit Speed's custom-designed, weld-in subframe connectors are fabricated from rectangular steel tubing. The kit features laser-cut brackets to attach the rear of the subframe to the connector. The installation will increase the car's overall rigidity by linking the front subframe to the rear framerails.

Camp 1012 18 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Rocker Panel 13/31

Following Detroit Speed's detailed, illustrated instructions, Newell first measured 67/8-inches inward from the pinch-weld along the bottom of the rocker panel and marked the spot.

Camp 1012 19 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Measuring Tape 14/31

He followed up by using a straight edge to draw a line with a marker connecting the two points together.

Camp 1012 20 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Template 15/31

Detroit Speed provided a template to mark the rear of the floorpan. Newell trimmed the template and positioned it using double-sided tape. From there he used a Sharpie to mark the area to be cut.

Camp 1012 21 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Sawzall 16/31

Following with a Sawzall, he continued cutting the marked areas. Note that it is recommended to cut to the inside of your marked lines since additional trimming can be done later for the final fitment of the connectors.

Camp 1012 22 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Rear Front Seat Brace 17/31

Next, he measured inward 63/4 inches from the pinch-weld on the rear front seat brace and marked the spot

Camp 1012 23 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Subframe Connectors Lines 18/31

Newell then continued by marking and drawing another line 3 inches to the inside of the first line. These will be the cut lines for where the subframe connector will be installed.

Camp 1012 24 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Cutoff Wheel 19/31

Wearing adequate eye protection, Newell began the removal of the marked sheetmetal and proceeded to cut the floorplan using a cutoff wheel.

Camp 1012 25 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Using Cutoff Wheel 20/31

Newell completed the cuts using the cutoff wheel to get through the layers of steel used for the rear front seat brace.

Camp 1012 26 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Sheetmetal Removed 21/31

Once the sheetmetal was removed, it was easy to see how the new subframe connector would fit into place. A number of test fits confirmed the need for some additional trimming and deburring for the perfect fit. Note the surgical area was thoroughly cleansed of any old undercoating and contaminants prior to starting the job.

Camp 1012 27 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Rear Floorpan 22/31

Beginning with the rear of the subframe connector, he inserted the open slotted end into the rear floorpan and raised the unit upwards.

Camp 1012 28 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Front Connector 23/31

With the connector clamped in place, you can see just how slick the installation will be once everything is completed. Note that the front of the connector may need some trimming where it will meet the subframe, depending on your situation.

Camp 1012 29 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Mig Welding 24/31

No additional trimming was needed in our case. Newell used a Lincoln Electric Power MIG 216 to MIG weld the end caps in place to the front of the connector.

Camp 1012 30 O 1971 Chevy Camaro 50 Grit Disc 25/31

He completed the job by smoothing out the welds using an air-driven grinder topped with a 50-grit disc.

Camp 1012 33 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Clamp 26/31

The connector was then clamped into place with the provided inner and outer laser-cut mounting brackets to determine any needed trimming of the brackets prior to final welding. The brackets were ready to be secured into place with minimal trimming. (Note that they are already drilled and ready for your plug-welds!)

Camp 1012 34 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Mig Weld 27/31

He then removed the connector to complete the final MIG welding on his workbench.

Camp 1012 35 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Baer Claw Extreme Plus Braking System 28/31

You can bet that the car will stop on a dime and give change! Wanting extreme durability and unparalleled performance, the Baer Claw Extreme-Plus braking system will without a doubt make a well-noted difference on both the street and track. Note the custom color painted logo that will match the car's exterior.

Camp 1012 36 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Project Orange Krate 29/31

Thanks to Detroit Speed Inc., Baer Brake Systems, and Competition Specialties, Project Orange Krate should handle like it's on rails once it hits the asphalt. Stay tuned for our next installment when the car finally lands on all fours wearing its new Boze Lateral-g wheels and BFG rubber.

Camp 1012 37 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Tack Welding 30/31

Newell wasted no time tack-welding the mounting brackets into place

Camp 1012 38 O 1971 Chevy Camaro Welded Connector 31/31

The connector was clamped back into place where Newell tack welded it into its final resting place. Note that since Orange Krate will soon be disassembled for final metal and bodywork, the finish welding of the connector to the subframe will be completed at reassembly. Talk about a clean installation-the Detroit Speed subframe connector is nearly flush to the floor, making it barely visible from underneath the car.


Lincoln Electric
Cleveland, OH 44117
Baer Brakes
Phoenix, AZ
Detroit Speed
Mooresville, NC 28115



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