Hotchkis Front Suspension Package for Second Gen F-Bodies (PART 3)
July 12, 2013 by Drive
Text and Photos by Staff
In a recent post, we gave you some background on second generation F-body platforms in 1970. Our candidate for a quick reform was an ’80 Trans Am that was in great shape overall, but had three decades of neglect and wear and tear on the original suspension. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 for a few preliminary steps. Now take a look at the final steps of this transformation:
At this point, with both control arms torqued to spec, we’re ready for the new Hotchkis performance spring.
The springs will give us a 2-inch drop for a much more aggressive stance, but the biggest return from the spring swap will be the much stiffer 600-lb-in rating that will improve overall response and cornering.
To install them, we raised the lower control just enough so that the spring would seat into the pocket. The top was placed in first and then the bottom of the spring was coaxed in with a pry bar. Precision aluminum ride height adjustment shims are also available for further tuning.
The spindle was placed on the lower ball joint, and then the lift was used to slowly compress the spring and bring the upper ball joint into position. Both nuts were installed and torqued to spec.
The quick-reacting, Hotchkis-spec Bilstein shocks are the key to the firm, but not punishing ride that the upgrade package provides.
With the suspension mostly wrapped up, we moved onto the steering. While spinning the sleeves off of the tie rod and drag link, we took note of how many turns were required to give a ballpark estimate of where the Hotchkis sleeves should be.
The superior construction is apparent when the two are laid side to side. While the stock piece is little more than a split, threaded pipe with two clamps, the Hotckis part is a solid piece of aluminum that will provide greater strength and more positive locking.
Even though they were installed with the same amount of turns as the original sleeves, our TA will still require an alignment to dial in the toe.
Since we’ve already removed the end links, the two bolts holding the mounting brackets are the only things we needed to remove the sway bar.
Lying next to one another, the larger diameter of the Hotchkis moel provides much more rigidity than stock, and we also drop excess weight since the 1 3/8-inch bar is hollow.
Note the difference in the curves. The CNC bending process results in much more precisely bent bars, plus it reduces the strength inconsistencies found in the original bar.
Prior to placing the urethane bushings on the bar, we applied a dab of grease to prevent grabbing and binding.
The bushings are split, so they are easy to place on the bar without smearing the grease where you don’t want it.
A little more grease was placed between the new mounting bracket and the bushing, and then the whole assembly was bolted into place. Note the grease fittings on the brackets that allow for easy lubing down the line.
Finally, our last step was to tighten the end links onto the sway bar. Tighter isn’t necessarily better here; we want the bushings snug enough to provide resistance to movement, but not so much that the material is excessively distorted.
And there we have it, an afternoon’s worth of parts swapping that will dramatically change the driving experience of our Trans Am and provide a solid basis for more handling, improving projects down the line.