I am taking this time to give back to the community and I hope that this helps someone in figuring out a new suspension and brakes for their first gen Camaro.
First off, I have a 1969 Camaro that had manual drum brakes and the original suspension on every corner. The ride was, I guess you could say, plush. It tended to float down the highway and leaned a little in the corners. I figured out that the rear springs had sagged 2.5 inches and the front about 1.5 inches. While the suspension was OK, the brakes were fairly scary. I had spent a lot of time replacing drums, shoes and springs, then adjusting and adjusting, bleeding and bleeding, etc... but I was never entirely comfortable if I had to make a quick stop. I was always making sure there was plenty of space between me and the guy in front of me.
I am building a pro-touring car on a budget so I knew that I did not want to be buying parts twice. I figured that the suspension, brakes and wheels would need to be all planned together. I did not buy all the parts at the same time, they were bought over 5 years and stored until I had accumulated everything and had time to install them.
Here is the list of the suspension parts I installed:
- Ridetech upper control arms with .5 Tall ball joint
- Hotchkis front 2 drop springs - 1907F
- Hotchkis leaf springs 1.5 drop springs - 2407C
- Hotchkis front sway bar - 2207F
- Global West lower control arms
- Viking double adjustable shocks front and rear
- CPP C5 spindles 1 taller than stock
- Budnik 18x8 wheels with 5 backspacing probably should have gotten 4.75
- 245/40/18 tires
For the brakes, I only converted the fronts to disk:
- Kore3 340mm c6 Z51 Calipers w/rotors
- Tuff Stuff 9 dual booster
- Wilwood Proportioning Valve
- 1 bore master cylinder - ACDelco #18M974
- DSE reduced angle firewall brackets
- Clevis kit
- 10 psi residual pressure valve needed for rear drums
- Ό NiCopp lines
- 3/16 NiCopp lines
- Stainless Brake Line Protector (gravel guard)
I know someone is going to point out that I should have used all the same brand components for the suspension. I didnt because most companies did not have an affordable system 5-6 years ago and I bought some items on sale and some on Craigslist. I did find out that most lower control arms do not change geometry, they place the lower ball joint in the same location as stock, so it does not matter which you get. I liked Global West because they do not lower the car and they have a rotating spring pocket.
I guess that I am lucky, all the front suspension parts swapped out without much issue. Some problems I did have:
- To remove the drivers side UCA, spark plugs, headers, PS pump and alt had to be removed. (I have a LS engine) Headers were removed for passenger side.
- I had a lot of problems with the tie rod ends. I bought new ones and I had the Baer Trackers, to help correct bump steer issues. I could not tighten the Baer sleeves enough to get the toe even close. There would be an inch of thread that the sleeve would not go over. Not sure if this was caused by something I did, was a defect or bad design. I got fed up and threw them in a box. I will figure it out later.
The brakes were also straight forward:
- I bent my own lines by removing the existing lines and trying my best to copy them.
- I used the 3/16 lines for the front brakes and from MC to residual pressure valve, I then used 1/4 to the back axle.
- I placed the residual pressure valve just outside of the frame, about a foot after the wheel well.
- The 3/16 lines bend very easily by hand, with plier/bender and dedicated tube bender. The dedicated bender looks best but is the trickiest one to use.
- The 1/4 line could only be bent well with the dedicated bender. The plier/bender left creases in the lines which I did not like.
- I forgot too many times to install the flare nuts and gravel guard before doing the final flare! Sooo annoying! I also threw away a lot of copper that I bent 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
- I do not see how someone could buy pre-bent line and install them with the engine installed and the body on the frame. The only way is to bend your own.
- Installing the brake booster with the DSE brackets was difficult. There is very little room for tightening the lower two nuts on the firewall.
Once everything was installed:
- I bled the brakes by myself using Motive products pressure bleed system. This worked fantastic until I over pressured the cap and sprayed fluid all over the place. I also forgot to release the pressure before removing the MC cap and again had a big mess!
- I had to remove the valve stem cap because they lightly touched the calipers, thats cutting it a little too close!
- I found that the rim of the wheels was touching the UCAs before the wheels were fully turned. I think there are a few options here. A Ό wheel spacer might have been enough, removing the .5 upper ball joint and installing a standard height one or grinding a little on the UCA. I opted for the grinding, it worked fine and I doubt that I compromised any strength. Having 4.75 backspace might have worked but I was not buying new wheels.
- I found that the lower bump stop was about Ό inch away from the frame, I just used a sharp knife and trimmed it so that I have about 1 inch of space.
So, the end result is that my car handles very well without being too harsh, credit the Viking shocks for that. I need to find some good roads to really test it out.
The brakes are not exactly what I expected. The pedal travel is about 1.5 2 inches before engagement and the effort is light. And they are a little grabby. The good thing is that I can modulate them and I feel much more comfortable and safe driving around. I think these issues are because I have very big brakes up front with only drums in the back and I probably have too much vacuum for my booster. I do have the proportioning valve adjusted all of the way to the rear.