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1971 Camaro Suspension Upgrade - Project Back to the Street: A Return To The Classroom

By Michael Galimi, Photography by Michael Galimi

It has been a few months since you have last seen Project Back to the Street. To recap the story, we embarked on a mission to convert a heavily modified '71 Camaro from a dedicated bracket-racing ride into a ground pounding, corner carving, street-legal hot rod. In order for a return to Main Street, the Camaro had to go back to school-the students at the Mercer County Technical School (Pennington, New Jersey) are handling the work, under the watchful eye of head instructor Bob Gonier.

Progress on the Camaro was hot and heavy for the first several months, but the relocation of the Super Chevy headquarters to Florida stopped forward motion this past summer. This month, we return to action and would like to refresh you on what we have accomplished to this point. Progress will resume next month as the students are revved up to tear back into our project car.

The trip back to the street has been a long one as the former race car was stripped down to a bare shell. This build-up is essentially a ground-up task, as if we purchased a bare shell. The good news was that the body is straight and we only had to replace the floors with new ones from Ground Up Restoration. Stripping the rest of the car was rather easy as the front-end was a three-piece fiberglass unit, which saves weight in a racing application, but was hardly street-worthy in our opinion. It was discarded and taking its place are new fenders, hood, nose and air dam, which we will cover in the near future. The interior and roll bar were gutted and cutout, as all new seats, dashboard, gauges, console, etc. will be employed. As you can tell by the illustration on page 86, the Camaro will enjoy a g-Machine appearance.

The drag racing-oriented suspension, front and aft, was removed and replaced with something a little more suited for the streets and corner carving. Super Chevy tapped Fat Man Fabrications for its Front Frame Stub kit. Gonier and his students unbolted the front subframe assembly, cleaned it up, added primer, and painted it black. The kit includes upper and lower tubular control arms, drop spindles, 12-inch four-piston Wilwood brakes, QA1 adjustable billet-aluminum coil-over shocks, and all the steering equipment to go along with the suspension and brakes. The front frame rides on Energy Suspension polyurethane body-bushings, giving the car a nice ride but keeps flex to a minimum when the driver gets aggressive.

Moving rearward, Fatman Fabrications came through its Triangulated Four-Bar rear suspension system. The guys at Fatman told us that Air Ride originally designed this suspension, but Fatman sells this setup for use with the less-complicated QA1 adjustable rear shocks. The four-bar setup is essentially a four-link rear suspension, although it doesn't look like the traditional four-link found in drag racing applications, where the bars are parallel. Instead, the Fatman/Air Ride suspension utilizes bolt-on chassis brackets (we welded ours) and the setup looks similar to what you'd find under something like a '78-83 Malibu. A Currie 9-inch was slung under the backside during the rear suspension installation. The iron housing came complete with 3.70 gears, 31-spline axles, and a limited-slip differential.

By Michael Galimi
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