Stop & Turn: Brake & Suspension Mods

When Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI) started working with the guys from HOT ROD Garage on the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 tribute car known as “The Executive Chevelle,” the project broke new ground. The Chevelle was built from the start as a modified car using aftermarket parts and as such was the first vehicle in the OPGI fleet that was not built out as a 100%, factory-spec restoration. At the time, the stated purpose of the project was “To create a car that has the clean look of a 1970’s muscle car on the outside with modern power and reliability hidden inside.” If you think about it, that statement could be true for most classic car projects, as the owners want to retain the looks and style of the old days in cars that feature enough “modern performance” to keep up with today’s traffic and road conditions. The only problem with that balance is that the standard of performance today is pretty high, and the bar keeps getting higher. While yesterday’s V-8 powered muscle car classics still have plenty of power to keep up with modern traffic, their ability to stop and turn is a different matter entirely.

There is just no way the factory suspension setup on a 40-year-old car can handle like the latest batch of new Challengers, Mustangs and Camaros that come from the factory equipped with big disc brakes, multiple sway bars, high-tech shocks and modern suspension geometry. The good news here is that you really don’t have to settle for the limited performance of a 40-year-old suspension system any more. Thanks to an abundance of aftermarket suspension components, you can retrofit modern, high-performance suspension and braking components right onto your classic ride. Any car that handles and stops better is also a safer car, and that’s a win for everyone on the road.

StreetGrip Suspension Systems from Ridetech are an affordable approach to better handling that is designed to beef up a factory suspension system without replacing the entire suspension system under the car.

When it comes to stopping power, many older cars from the ’60s have drum brakes at all four corners. At best you might find a pair of small factory disc brakes on the front of your car. Both setups are inadequate compared to the brakes found on modern cars today and considering the weight of car, factory braking systems from the old days are just plain unsafe unless you really don’t plan on driving the vehicle much. It goes without saying that high performance driving duties are pretty much out of the question with most of the old braking systems. The good news here is that there is a wealth of new disc brake conversion kits available from the aftermarket today. You can easily find a better brake setup to upgrade the stopping power of just about any classic car these days.

A complete suspension upgrade kit like this “Speed Kit” from Detroit Speed includes new a-arms to help transform the ride and handling of your classic muscle car.

OPGI offers a variety of high quality braking components from brands like Classic Performance Products, Wilwood, SSBC, Russell and more. From complete conversion kits to individual braking components and the hardware to install them, you’ll find everything you need to beef up your brakes in the OPGI catalog today. You can rebuild an original drum brake system, replace individual GM factory (drum and disc) braking components or upgrade to a completely new disc brake system all the way around. If you go with larger wheels, you can install larger discs that have been cross-drilled, gas-slotted and zinc washed. Combine top quality rotors with larger multi-piston calipers for even more braking performance.

New polyurethane bushings are an economical way to tighten up your suspension. Your car will track straighter under braking thanks to firmer bushings that will not deflect as much as the worn-out rubber bushings that are probably under your car right now.

Along with a brake upgrade, it might be a good idea to check out some suspension mods available to keep your wheels planted more firmly on the ground. Even if you’ve got great brakes, an overly soft or worn factory suspension system on a 40-year-old car can still make stopping and turning a challenge. Great handling is not just about smoothing out bumps in the road, as we found when we upgraded the suspension on the Executive Chevelle with a complete Hotchkis Stage I Total Vehicle System Handling Package along with new Chevelle spindles, steering arms, tie rods and center link from OPGI. When we tested the combined effects of Wilwood disc brakes and the Hotchkis suspension setup on the Chevelle at a local autocross course we found that the Chevelle ran the course a full 4 seconds faster in modified mode. Four seconds is an eternity on a short autocross track with an overall lap time of about one minute. Prior to the mods the Chevelle wallowed through the turns knocking down cones and the overall stopping distances got longer and longer as the factory brakes got hot. After the mods, the overall handling felt more precise, turns were flatter and the car stopped when we wanted it to. In modified mode our 40-year-old Chevelle felt ready to take on any road or track situation with new confidence. That’s why OPGI offers a wealth of components and kits from top brands like Detroit Speed, Hotchkis, QA1 Motorsports, Ridetech, Moog, Moser and others to tighten up the handling of just about any suspension system. As with the improved brakes, the new suspension system with better sway bars and shocks made the OPGI project Chevelle a safer handling vehicle out on the road, and that’s where it counts the most.

Adding larger sway bars front and rear like these “Sport Suspension” bars from Hotchkis will go a long way toward improved handling, especially on cars that lack a rear bar altogether. The Hotchkis bars are tubular designed and feature greaseable bushings along with heavy-duty mounting brackets and end links.


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Posted in Chevy, Featured Products, OPGI News

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