In the first installment of this story in the June '02 issue, we gave you the recipe to convert a run-of-the-mill, garden-variety Third-Generation Camaro to include the superior handling and braking capabilities of the special-edition 1LE. In this segment we are going to go through some of the steps that are necessary to make the conversion. Because there is at least one important part that must be obtained, we will provide you with a source for that part. There are a few other parts that may be necessary and we are going to specify those, as well. Then, in an upcoming segment, we will give you the details on installation.
Our mule for this work is an '85 Sport coupe. The car has over 94,000 miles on it. Although this is low mileage for the year of the vehicle, the suspension could definitely use some freshening up, and it needs new brakes.
If you can do this work yourself, you are going to save a bundle. For such individuals, it is strongly recommended that you have, at a minimum, the appropriate shop manual for this work, since the basic information in a shop manual will not be repeated. If you are having the work done for you, it is recommended that you have the appropriate amount of money. However, either way, we have several warnings:
1. This work will probably take longer than you think.
2.This work is probably more difficult than you think.
3.You will have to buy parts in addition to what Chevrolet specified.
Some of those additional parts may be optional, while others are not. We will provide the part numbers for the additional parts that are needed. We should also point out that an automotive hoist and certain specialized tools, including an air-powered die grinder and reference material with the proper torque values for the various parts, will also make this job easier. In other words, a fully equipped automotive shop with an experienced technician will make this work a lot easier, although not without aggravation.
For that reason we enlisted the assistance of ace technician Don Lorentzen who has a shop in Orange County, California. We have two very good reasons for this. First, at our age, lying on cold, hard concrete and getting filthy dirty isn't nearly as much fun as it used to be. Second, Don has all of the tools that are necessary to do this kind of work. Keep in mind that some of the work that needs to be done (particularly to the spindles) borders on custom fabrication.
Now that you've spent a bundle on parts, let's assume that you are going to have the work done. How are you going to justify all of this expense to the wife/girlfriend/significant other? Those of you who are real men, the captain of your own ship, the alpha male, don't need to worry about it and can skip the next paragraph. For the rest of us, here is one of the best excuses (maybe we should call it an "explanation") that we've heard so far:
Looking surprised and hurt say, "Gosh golly, gee whiz, Honey, the car has (fill in the blank with mileage and age of the vehicle) and needed new (fill in the blank with the part or parts that were replaced). Do you know how long it has been since I replaced the (fill in the blank with the appropriate part or parts)? I used high-quality parts because, after all, when you (and the children) are in the car, I just want you (and the children) to be safe." (If you have children, or even if you are just planning to have children, even if it is years from now, be sure and throw in that you were thinking about their safety. How is she going to argue with this?) Needless to say, it isn't enough to just say it; you actually have to sound like you mean it (without it sounding rehearsed).
We have two more warnings. This next warning, warning number four, is the most important:
4.As soon as the work is completed, confirm that the brakes operate properly. DO NOT go blasting out of the parking lot in a frenzy of excitement. Try out the brakes before you even put the vehicle into gear. Then, in an area with plenty of open space, and at a slow speed, try out the brakes.
You may be in for a surprise, and it may not be a good surprise. The brakes may not work properly for a variety of reasons. However, we recommend that if everything else checks out okay, you, or your technician, need to do some research. In addition to all of the other items that you have already bought (or will buy) you may have to purchase a master cylinder and proportioning valve. You may want to start your research with GM master cylinder PN 18060095 and proportioning valve PN 14089496. Those are the parts that worked for us.
Also, keep in mind that if you do replace the master cylinder and proportioning valve, you must again confirm that the brakes are operating properly.
The last warning:
5.After you have completed all of the work, get the frontend aligned.
Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, there is one more item. Why don't you take the opportunity to check for wear on the various parts underneath the car? A quick check showed that our ball joints needed replacement. That did not come as too much of a surprise considering the mileage. For those of you that want factory replacement ball joints, they're PN 9767281. Moog has a beefy ball joint, with a wear indicator (PN 2601130). The Moog ball joint may be referred to as having an "enhanced" design.
Somewhat surprisingly (given the age of our donor vehicle), the A-arm and idler arm bushings are okay. However, we are also going to replace the power steering hose (the pressure side) because it is leaking rather badly. All right then, let's get down to it.
The work need not be done in any particular order. We are planning to modify the spindles to accept a different caliper, add the caliper to the spindle, and replace the shocks, struts, front and rear springs, front and rear stabilizer bars, lower control arms, and some related components. (The word "planning" is important. There were a few parts that we did not replace.) We are adding one additional part, and contemplating another, neither of which is in our recipe, but we will save that for the next installment.
We started with the front brakes. Even before the work began, we need to provide a warning, and you may need to spend some more money. If you have 14-inch wheels on your car (as our Sport coupe does), you will need to obtain larger ones. The 14-inch wheels will not clear the new brakes. Take a look at the first two photos. We purchased two 15-inch wheels and got two more from a junkyard. Now that the work has been completed, we wish we had gotten 16-inch wheels. You'll understand why by the time you get to the next part of this buildup.
Since our calipers came unloaded, it was necessary to add the pads to the calipers, which can be seen in the photos below. It is also necessary to install the caliper carrier bracket (GM PN 10132830 for the right side and PN 10132329 for the left side). See the photos below for the caliper carrier and caliper carrier brackets. The right-hand bracket may still be available from GM (it was when we ordered ours). The left-hand caliper cradle (the one that is no longer available from GM) is available from other sources.
We originally put in an order with Spohn Performance for the left-hand caliper carrier bracket. It was to be delivered by October of last year. For some reason it was not delivered. However, as of the time that this article was written, we still had not heard from Spohn Performance about this part.
Because of our deadline we did some research on alternative sources. Both Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation (SSBC) and Scoggin-Dickey advertise 1LE brake kits. These kits include only the brakes and not any of the suspension components. However, this is important because that left-hand caliper carrier is available from SSBC (PN A24106B) as an individual part. (It may also be available as an individual part from Scoggin-Dickey; we didn't check because we were told that the Scoggin-Dickey system is from SSBC).
Unfortunately, this is a good news/bad news situation. Although the individual part is available from SSBC, at $150.00 (plus the cost of shipping), the cost is substantial. That's more than twice what we paid for the right-hand bracket that is still available from GM. We didn't have a choice.
We went ahead and ordered the part from SSBC. For some reason, this left-hand caliper carrier seemed to be jinxed-it was the wrong part. A call to SSBC confirmed that we had the wrong component. We asked SSBC to send us the correct part, and it arrived in two days, which left us with plenty of time. That kind of customer service overcame our aggravation at having received the wrong part.
At this point you may have some additional parts to purchase or some research to perform. Then, in the next segment, we will provide you with further detailed information on this upgrade. Stay tuned!