No, we're not talking about the President of the United States (he gets enough ink on his own). We're referring to the dried out, extremely worn, and sometimes missing bushings within the front-end of your hot rod. While you may think your car rides fine, we guarantee you that if these components look dried, split or cracked-they are. A weekend's worth of jacking and whacking at your suspension can give you years of pleasure behind the wheel.
It's understandable that the hot rod population is fixated on high-horsepower, crisp transmission shifts, and, most of all, looks. With this being said, the little things often become overlooked and neglected. After a quick look at the underbelly of Project Homewrecker (Editor Jim Campisano's '72 LT-1 Corvette) we discovered some good and some bad. The good was that all the ball joints, sway bar bushings, end-links, and control arm bushings were all intact-the majority of the front-end components appeared to be of '72 vintage. The upper and lower ball joints were still factory riveted into the control arms (definitely original), the shocks were rusty and had no rebound, yet they retained Delco stampings, and the coil springs still retained the factory markings.
In order to put a stop to any future suspension and front-end issues, we called on the professionals at Mid America Motorworks for some guidance. Mid America Motorworks pointed us in the right direction by compiling a list of bushings, ball joints, shocks, and end-links that would be needed.
When Homewrecker was purchased, it wore hideous metallic brown paint and '70s-vintage, five-slot aluminum mags (with tires of equally dubious origin). The wheels were traded to a gentleman who felt they'd look period-perfect on his '73 Buick Grand Sport (a rare Stage 1, 4-speed car). He offered his 15x7 Rallys in trade, but they were really too narrow for the Vette, and were, at best, a temporary solution. To add to the beautiful Targa Blue paint job that Homewrecker received at Motor City Auto Body in Newark, New Jersey, we tapped Mid America Motorworks for a new set of factory-correct 15x8-inch Rally wheels, trim rings, and center caps.
Some might wonder why, with all the beautiful modern billet wheels available, did we go with heavy OE-style steel pieces and 15-inch tires. Two reasons: 1. We've rarely seen another wheel that looks as good on a Mako Shark-era Stingray as the factory Rallys, and 2. If we ever decide to upgrade to a more modern g-machine-style suspension and rolling stock combo, we want to be able to baseline test the car in near OE-trim. For now, we'll be able to bask in the glow of what it's like to drive a vintage Vette.
Where vintage has no place in a car that sees street duty is the tire department. Old bias plies look great on trailer queens, but we wanted the benefits of a modern radial tire. Once upon a time, high-performance 15-inch tires were the industry norm; now your choices are severely limited in this department. But there is one trusted name that you can still call on: Firestone. We opted for a set of Firehawk 255/60/R15 Indy 500 tires. This is wider than the factory fit back in 1972, but it was the standard size starting in 1978. We've used Firestone Firehawks on two other vintage vehicles over the years and they offer excellent grip, ride, and wear. We also like the fact that Firestone Wide Ovals were the OE tire back in '72, and that we can still use the brand today.
Now that we had a box full of goodies to install, we needed to employ the help of experienced professionals to give our classic the care it deserves. We took a trip down to see Joe and Mike Bontempo of Bontempo Brothers Competition (BBC) in Linden, New Jersey. BBC is not your run-of-the-mill repair facility, but it may possibly be one of the only remaining "REAL" speed shops in the country. Walking through the front door of BBC is a true trip back to the good old days. Imagine a place where you can actually purchase what you need without having to wait a couple of days for shipping. They even have a shop area where they install what they sell. And after taking a tour through the showroom, machine shop area, and repair shop area, we were speechless-these guys have muscle car parts stashed everywhere, some new-old stock, and some used. If you're in need of a Muncie rebuild, BBC is definitely an authority; the guys there rebuild many units throughout the year. Most everything BBC repairs, machines or restores is done in-house. Outsourcing is kept to a minimum in order to ensure quality. We were in good hands.
After scheduling an appointment with BBC, we called upon All Tow in Harrison, New Jersey, to carefully transport Homewrecker from Motor City to BBC.
Soon, we'll fire this baby up and take her down the road for her maiden flight.