Not withstanding its more experienced brother the C5, or the very pricey Viper GTS-R, the current-generation F-body is perhaps the best-handling production car U.S. automakers have ever built. Right off the showroom floor, the fourth-generation unibody Camaro can pull impressive g's and beat even the best factory prepared racecars of an era long gone. All this performance does not come with a high price tag, either. Today you can walk into your local Chevy dealer and drive off in a brand-new SS Camaro for less than $30,000. When compared to the $45,000-plus you'd shell out for a C5 or the $75,000-plus the Viper call tag will squeeze out of your bank account, the F-body's price seems minor, while its performance-per-dollar ratio is major.
What if there was a way to improve that performance ratio further, without hawking your home furniture to pay for it? Granatelli Motorsports has designed and currently offers several suspension products for third- and fourth-generation F-bodies that will stiffen the chassis and make them stick to the road like their tires were made of Super Glue. We stopped by Granatelli's to check out his parts, and we weren't disappointed in what we found.
One of the truly great feats of modern engineering is that cars today are so well built, and the aftermarket in such fine tune with any new muscle, that most suspension upgrades can be made in the driveway on any lazy afternoon. Granatelli chose a brand-new 2000 Camaro SS that had just a few miles on its odometer to test its parts. True to claim, the Granatelli suspension pieces bolted on with very minor alignment persuasion in just a couple hours. Granted, this was in a professional shop, with a car hoist and air tools, but even lying on your back using only hand tools, you could still get the job done in an afternoon.
Handling Made Easy
With it's multi-link-type rear suspension, the new F-body handles corners with an ease that car designers could only dream of 30 years ago. But cost and time, as always, limit GM's design and manufacture. Punching millions of stamped control arms from a giant roll of thin steel is always more cost effective than welding steel tubing together. That's why GM, as well as all the other giant carmakers, equips its cars with stamped rear control arms. While these arms work great in a straight line, or when grandma is the pilot, put yourself in the driver's seat and you'll feel those bars flex as you drift into the next corner.
Granatelli has engineered new tubular control arms with welded ends fitting polyurethane bushings from Energy Suspension. The 15/8-inch diameter bars are made from 0.120-inch thick steel tubing, powdercoated bright red, with its ends equipped with grease fittings to make lubing the bushings an effortless task. These tubular control arms will not flex, and by themselves can greatly improve handling.
Adding to the stability and strength offered by the tubular control arms, Granatelli offers two new Panhard bars for the F-body: fixed and adjustable. The fixed bar is a simple bolt-in replacement for the stock, stamped steel piece that will not flex under hard cornering. The adjustable Panhard bar offers the same stiffness in the turns and gives the installer the ability to center the axle housing beneath the car for the best possible weight distribution and handling. Granatelli says that most F-bodies will require an adjustable Panhard bar when installing super-wide rubber like 315/35ZR17s in the back. Otherwise the tire will stick outside the wheelwell on one side and rub the inner wheel tub on the other. Since the rearend is usually out of alignment from the factory, the adjustable Panhard bar allows it to be shifted side-to-side to get the correct spacing for the fat rubber.
Stiffining The F-Body
Granatelli knows the importance a stiff chassis plays in handling. Although we're sure GM does as well, again money and time come into consideration when designing the ultimate stiff ride. Granatelli has engineered a new G-Load brace that bolts under the car, replacing the flimsy stamped piece that comes stock. The tubular G-load brace serves to stiffen the unibody by connecting both sides of the frame with a common link in the center of the chassis. It also serves as a psuedo driveshaft safety loop, keeping the shaft from dropping on the floor if a U-joint fails. Granatelli warns, however, that the G-load brace would not pass NHRA tech because it does not wrap completely around the driveshaft.
The last bit of stiffening this F-body will see comes from the addition of weld-in subframe connectors. Granatelli's subframe connectors are crafted from 1 3/4-inch-diameter by 0.134-inch-wall tubing, and are engineered to fit tight against the floor. The subframe connectors and coil springs we'll mention in a moment are the only part of Granatelli's performance line that will require the installation talents of a professional shop, or at least someone with more tools and know-how than the average shade tree mechanic. After fully Mig-welding the subframe connectors to the underbody, the Camaro rides and drives like a different car. It tracks better down the highway and responds quicker to steering wheel input. Subframe connectors also help improve straight-line traction by reducing torque-robbing body flex when you leave the line. Weld-in subframe connectors are a must-have for any performance enthusiast.
Spring Into Action
The last performance bolt-on Granatelli chose for this Camaro was a set of its new coil springs. The rear springs feature a variable rate with anywhere from 95-160 pounds depending on the attitude of the car. The front springs are much stiffer, with a 375-595- pound variable rate. While the rear springs can be easily installed at home when you've got the control arms unbolted, the front springs will require a special hydraulic press to safely remove them. We'd recommend taking your car or at least the complete strut assembly to a suspension shop for that final touch. Sprewell Racing in San Gabriel, California, took care of installing the new springs and mounting and balancing a set of Racing Hart C5 wheels and Dunlop SP500.
After the final addition of a TriFlow exhaust system, this Camaro looks and handles killer, with a 11/2-inch lower ride height thanks to Granatelli's new springs. And this F-body is not just a looker, either. The Granatelli Camaro can hang it out in the corners and keep up with the best of the best in Any Canyon, USA. All this performance and good looks is easy to install, and not too hard on your pocketbook either. For the money, the performance, and the looks, you just can't beat this power symphony in F-Major.