The puzzle is finally starting to look like something. The hefty pile of parts we started with just a few weeks ago is slightly resembling a hot rod the magazine can be proud of. In our previous segment, we installed the Fat Man Fabrications Trick front suspension, complete with tubular control arms, coilovers, and rack-and-pinion steering for added ride quality and superior cornering. The GM Performance Parts ZZ454 is quietly awaiting its chance to lay some rubber as well as the Level 10 Performance 4L60E automatic transmission.
This month, we install the Fat Man Fabrications four-link suspension and Currie Enterprises 9-inch complete rearend. The factory suspension in the '71 Camaro is a multi-leaf spring configuration that is still used today on many truck production lines. In our Camaro, it is simply going to hinder us in our pursuit of speed and agility.
The stock suspension in the '71 Camaro is a multi-leaf spring setup. A stack of five "leaf
Bolting directly to the frame rails and body, the mounting brackets for the two upper links fit the contour of our Camaro perfectly and were quickly installed with an electric drill and the supplied hardware. The lower links install in the buckets for the factory leaf springs and provide the perfect geometry for us to set the Currie 9-inch in place.
The rear suspension kit is offered two ways: with either coilovers or Air Ride Technologies' air bags. Air Ride has put this kit through its paces on more than one occasion and has proven its worth around the cones. This was a tough decision to make. Ultimately (and for the sake of simplicity), we went with the coilover setup.
We spent a good amount of time with the mock-up to ensure our angles and links were installed properly, but when we were all said and done, we had proper pinion angle, side-to-side alignment, and axles centered in the wheelwells. At this point, the front and rear suspension is mocked and ready for paint.
Our GMPP ZZ454 and 4L60E are awaiting installation and bodywork is being performed just about every day. The finish line is getting closer and we think we have finally picked a color for the Camaro. Follow around as we just about get the 'Maro on all fours.
We decided to install the mounts for the upper links first. These mount to the framerails and the rear firewall. We lined the mounts up the only way they fit snuggly and used a magic marker to mark the spots we needed to drill. Using a unibit, we were able to keep drilling the holes bigger until we reached the correct size for installation. These brackets mount to the rear firewall via backing plates that install from the cockpit side and are shown above.
Once both sides were fabbed up in place, we placed some spot welds to ensure they didn't move. The brackets bolt to the frame rail via self-tapping screws that are sufficient, but we felt a little more comfortable adding some welds and after a call to Fat Man, they suggested we do so.
Next, we installed the lower links. This was pretty straight forward as they install using the factory spring buckets. The lower links are non-adjustable and provide you with a geometrical foundation for centering the axles and setting the pinion angle. This also provided you with your side-to-side geometry and saved us countless hours of measuring and fabrication.
Using the supplied bracketry, the guys over at Mercer County Votech made quick work of the lower control arm, and lower coilover mount. We purchased T-bolts to keep everything looking clean. We could have reused the U-bolts from the factory, but decided otherwise. Once in place, the coilovers slid right into place with the top mated to the brackets we installed to the framerails.
It was at this point that things got a little interesting. While trying to place the 13-inch Wilwood disc brakes and emergency brake in place, the inner hub of the disc was too small and would not mate properly with the axles. We sent the brakes over to Nick's Machine in South River, New Jersey, which bored out the inside of the discs and made them fit snuggly. This allowed us to move up and get the entire rear setup with the rotors, emergency brake assembly, caliper brackets, and calipers.
At this point, we could set the rear under the framerails and figure out the pinion angle. We set the pinion angle at three degrees off the angle of the car. This was easier than we thought and we were almost perfectly lined up by eye.
We then got started on the rearend housing. Currie Enterprises came through with a 9-inch limited-slip rear for the build complete with 3.70:1 gears, 31 spline axles, and 7/16-inch studs. The rear is also set to the stock width and comes with stock-style mounts that we will use to mount the coilovers and lower control arm.
We then called Bobby Carroll from Carroll's Rods and Racecraft before we began welding the brackets for the upper control arm. We wanted a professional to take a look at the setup before welding and final assembly. Taking guesses with a suspension that may see 150 mph is not a great idea and I don't suggest amateurs attempting this on their own. Get everything set up and bring the car to a fabrication shop for the welding.
We had to do some fitting to get the upper brackets in place. On the driver's side, the brackets lined up on the pumpkin and not on the tubular surface of the axle housing. This meant some time grinding down the brackets to achieve a clean finish.
Bobby spot-welded the brackets in place and then we were able to pull the rear out from under the car. He then proceeded to weld the brackets in place permanently, giving up a great deal of his day to help us out. Check out the welds when all was said and done. That's one bracket that isn't going anywhere.
We then placed the assembly and using an air bag, moved it up and down through its entire range of motion to ensure there was no binding of any kind. It fit perfectly and was ready for us to rip it all apart and start painting.
As an added bonus of things to come, check out the paint scheme that we will be going with. This is the blue we are using before any clear coats. I think I have talked the owner into deep grey racing stripes. What do you think?
Fat Man Fabrications
8621-C Fairview Rd., Hwy. 218,
Dept. SRM Web
Carroll's Rod & Racecraft
11 American Way, Ste. 17