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Camaro Rear Suspension Upgrade - Spring Back

Getting Tough Out Back With Fiberglass Leafs, Hot Wheels, Big Rubber, And Bad Brakes

By Mike Petralia

Hangin' your rear out when you're huggin' a corner with the back tires blazing, there's no funner way to negotiate a turn (and we ain't talking about lewd conduct either). One of the prime components to making this fantasy a reality, besides a killer motor and a Posi in the rear, is good suspension and a lack of concern for the life of your tires, but that's another story. Because, without good springs and shocks out back, you'll have a difficult-if not impossible-time controlling your slide, and your car will handle like its heavily sedated. Besides, there's more to making a car handle like it's on a slot track than just a trick front end.

Back in the February 2001 issue we showed you how to make your Second-Generation Camaro act like it's a Fourth-Gen, and chase down some Corvettes with killer products from Vette Brakes, Bilstein, Baer, Weld Racing, and Yokohama.

Now it's time to do the rear. It's important to attempt to match spring performance front to back, but doesn't mean matching spring rates. Rather, it means keeping your front and rear springs in tune with each other. Usually the only way to accomplish this is by running springs from the same, experienced manufacturer. Mix-matching parts, front and rear, is an invitation for disaster and should be strictly left to the pros.

In an attempt to make our 31-year-old F-Body a Corvette contender we installed 200 in-lbs, Vette Brakes' fiberglass mono-leaf springs with polyurethane bushings and specially valved Bilstein shocks (also from the Vette Brakes catalog). In addition, we replaced the factory rubber upper leaf spring shackle bushings in the Camaro's frame with poly bushings from Energy Suspension. A few weeks prior to the spring swap we added the rear half of our Baer braking system to make sure the Camaro will yank out our fillings when we slam on the whoa pedal. To finish off the install and make sure that the new springs and shocks can do their job properly, we mounted big-by-bigger 315/35ZR17 Yokohama A032R radials on 17x11 Weld Type 76 prototype wheels. These Yoko's are the stickiest, most aggressive DOT-blessed rubber you can find, and although they weren't engineered for cross-country endurance, they'll stick like Krazy Glue in the corners, and that's what we like!

This weekend operation should be enough to put our old F-Body close to, if not past, the 1g mark on the skid pad and certainly make it much more fun in the saddle. In the coming months we'll see if 550-plus hp and, possibly, a Richmond six-speed gear crusher can get us around Buttonwillow's road course faster than anything Detroit or Europe can roll off its showroom floors. Or at least anything that costs this little to build.

Why Fiberglass?
Fiberglass springs offer several distinct advantages over their steel counterparts. The most attractive feature is lightweight. Both fiberglass leaf springs combined weigh less than 1/4 the weight of one of the stock multi-leaf springs in the Camaro. And unlike steel, fiberglass springs will maintain their resilience for life. Meaning they will not sag and their rate will stay the same from day one on. Due to their lightweight, fiberglass springs can also react quicker to bumps in the road and correct attitude changes in the vehicle. And finally, one of the best parts we found about our fiberglass springs is that there is no wheel hop, even without any type of traction device. This phenomena may not apply to all cars, but our wheels don't hop when we spin em'.

By Mike Petralia
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