Soup it up: Giving classic cars steadier ride
Ever wonder how much of a difference it might make to bolt an updated suspension beneath your classic muscle car, or in some cases, a relatively modern muscle machine?
RideTech, the Jasper, Ind.-based company that produces such suspension components, demonstrated the difference when the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association opened its 2016 season with its Spring Nationals show at Scottsdale, Arizona.
RideTech’s West Coast business development manager Jeremiah Stotler borrowed a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle from Frank Streff, owner of So Cal Speed Shop Arizona, and did a couple of laps around the Goodguys autocross course at WestWorld of Scottsdale. Stotler and a helper then installed RideTech’s StreetGrip suspenison. Stotler took the car back and repeated his laps.
The difference was a stunning eight-second per lap improvement, reducing lap times from 89 seconds to 81 with no other adjustments to the nearly 50-year-old car.
The RideTech StreetGrip kit includes vehicle-specific dual-rate front coils, Delrin front control arm bushings, tall ball joints (for improved camber curve), larger front swaybar, Delrin swaybar bushings (to reduce unwanted movement) and vehicle-specific RideTech HQ series rebound-adjustable shock absorbers. Everything arrives in one box. For the 1968-1972 GM A-body cars, the price is $2,000.
Kits for cars that were equipped with rear left springs include composite rear leafs that reduce vehicle weight by some 70 pounds. Those kits typically run around $2,500.
It took Stotler and a helper some 51/2 hours to do the physical work. “I’d never worked on a Chevelle before,” he said, “and we were in a parking lot working on jack stands, not on a lift in a garage. But it got the point across to people. It told the story of how easily it could be done.”
The hardest part of the work, Stotler said, was removing the Chevelle’s half-century old rubber bushings.
Stotler said the change in dynamics was “transformational.” The aged Chevelle went from “scary and unconfident and leaning on the brakes and in turns, to driving like a modern vehicle.”
“Before it was your typical ’60s car that rolled around corners and when you hit the brakes, the front end nose-dived,” Streff said after driving the car on public roads. “After, well, my wife has a (modern) Chrysler 300 and it rides nicer than that now.
“StreetGrip is absolutely right,” he added. “The car grips and follows itself (around a turn), but still has a really nice feel. It doesn’t feel stiff. The ride is actually softer, but when you get into a corner it stiffens up and grips.
“And it’s a street package, not an autocross setup, but it did a really good job for that as well.”
Because old cars “sag differently,” Stotler noted that once the rear springs and struts were replaced, the tail of the car ended up higher than it had been while the front was lowered by 11/2 inches.” On its website, RideTech has a list of ground-to-fender height measurements it’s done on kits it’s installed.
“Seventy-five percent are on older cars,” he said. “The other 25 percent are on low-rider trucks and modern-day Mustangs and Camaros and Challengers. Customers have 1960s to mid-’70s muscle cars, and a lot of street rods; street rods are making a comeback.”
Stotler noted that RideTech, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, produces all its own automotive suspension components in its Indiana facilities. “We don’t outsource,” he said. “We’re just a bunch of Indiana country boys who wanted to go hot-rodding.”
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at email@example.com.