Project 10 The Hard Way: Suspension

Upgrading the Suspension

Words and photos by Jok Nicholson

With the winter winds howling around the shop in Iowa and the wind chill at nearly 30 degrees BELOW ZERO (yes, you read that right!) we have decided to keep the furnace on and get back to work on the "Project 10 The Hard Way". With a little over three months to go before testing starts -- the racing around the Midwest will be underway in late April -- I am at a "no excuses point" on getting the project done.

I have been doing some small stuff like running the fuel lines to Quickfuel pump and getting the Moroso aluminum fuel line attached to underside of the car but I have been putting off the final decision on the front and rear shocks and springs.

I made the decision to get the best parts I could that would be "bolt-on pieces" for the front and rear suspensions. QA1 has a unique front strut package that included a coil-over spring package. That interested me because the stock springs are limited in spring rates and ride heights. With the QA1 front strut coil-over kit (part #HS606S-12220) we chose the shorter 12.1" compressed height and 220-lb. spring since this is a small block with aluminum heads, lighter steering box and small radiator. This strut is a single adjustable strut and is adjustable on the compression and set up "light" on extension for weight transfer. Double adjustable struts are available but with our horsepower and budget we are very comfortable with the single "R" calibration. The QA1 tech guys can help you get the right spring the first time if you give them a call. The coil-over strut went together perfectly and there are a couple spacers you can use to help get the final ride height right where you want it.

When we decided on the coil-over strut we also looked for a more solid and more adjustable upper strut mounting plate. QA1 has a super strong Caster Camber plate (#CPK106) that is much heavier then the OEM plate and is far more adjustable. If we can keep the tires going straight we have a better chance to be more repeatable on the strip. Well, if you are a racer you know what happened next...

I was looking at those rusty, heavy, ugly OEM lower control arms and since QA1 offers a tubular replacement part that is lighter, stronger and simply a better piece I had to have them. The part #52321 is the "race control arm and they also make a slightly heavier control arm for street use. The control arm swap was simple (after I fought to get the stock stuff off and the stock coil spring removed). Putting the new control arm was about a 10-minute job for each side; that is refreshing to get parts that actually fit.
Rear Suspension: Stay with stock springs and a drag shock or go coil-over with adjustable shock?

I know the stock springs and a good set of shocks can work as I have seen it on Stock Eliminator cars for years. My problem is I want more adjustability and I was thinking putting a set of coil-over shocks would be a good modification for better consistency.

When I first started looking there were dozens of "coil-over kits" that would require fabrication, welding and some cutting on the stock-bodied car. I did not want to do that and when I was talking to the QA1 tech guys they said they had a Rear Coil-over Kit for the Gen 3 Firebird/Camaro (Part #RCK52328) that simply bolted on. SWEET! Now that got me interested.

This was a very simple install and the directions were "spot-on" to make it one of the best and simplest upgrade to a coil-over rear suspension I have ever seen. *I had one little snag I ran into because I had removed the original GM 10-bolt rear housing. I replaced it with an S&W 9" Ford housing and because of that I had to fabricate a 1-50" spacer to move the bottom mount of the coil-over kit away from the housing. Delayed me about 25 minutes and we are good to go.

I want to congratulate QA1 on a group of products that absolutely fit without modification. If you work on cars or have been around racecars very much you know that is a rare but valuable statement. Thanks to Dave and Kaitlyn at QA1 (www.qa1.net). I highly recommend their components, and their service is first-rate as well.

Next up for Project 10: Front and rear brakes, what is the best choice for you?