We are living in the second golden age of musclecars. Detroit is pumping out new performance rides that smoke the fastest cars built in the late '60s. Additionally, today's aftermarket is churning out a constant flow of go-fast goodies to help bring classic musclecars up to high-tech standards. 21st Century Street Machines saw the limitations of late '60s technology and decided to do something about it.
First off, there is nothing terribly wrong with the stock subframe on a First Gen Camaro or Firebird. Deficiencies in the suspension geometry can be helped quite a bit with a set of re-engineered control arms or even by something as simple as the Guldstrand Modification that we detailed in PHR's July '06 issue. However, these "fixes" can only take you so far, and when you get into areas like adding rack-and-pinion steering, the word "compromise" quickly enters your vocabulary.
Ed Bednar of 21st Century Street Machines knew there were other replacement subframes on the market, but he saw a better way to build the mousetrap. He decided to engineer a subframe that would be fairly easy to install, yet bring the front suspension firmly into the new millennium. His new front clip slides directly into the spot occupied by the old stamped-steel clip and runs the track-proven C5 Corvette suspension. He also made sure to incorporate several suspension tuning features that have not shown up in previous aftermarket subframes. Additionally, it's also designed to work with modern rack-and-pinion steering without major compromises.
Besides the better feel afforded by rack-and-pinion steering, another advantage is that it really cleans up the engine bay and allows a greater choice in engine packages. Their subframe can be ordered with multiple engine mount configurations to accommodate everything from a 572 big-block to a modern LS7. 21st Century even offers custom stepped headers for whatever mill you decide to run. In fact, depending on your needs and budget, 21st Century can ship you a clip in just about any level of trim, from a bare frame and modified rack all the way up to a completely assembled system that includes brakes, headers and even the engine if you're willing to pay the shipping.
For our install, we ordered the subframe, new C5 Vette suspension parts, splined sway bar, and headers. Since we will be running a T56 six-speed transmission, they also included the necessary sheetmetal for raising the tunnel for clearance. This procedure also has to be done with a big-block install. If you are going with a small-block or with a different trans like a 4L60e or 700R4, then your stock tunnel dimensions will be fine.
Since the system uses factory C5 suspension pieces, replacing worn parts down the line is painless. For brakes you can use anything designed to work on a newer Vette, from the economical factory brakes all the way up to big racing binders. Since our '68 Camaro plans to hit the road course as well as the drag strip, we went with Wilwood's 14-inch C5 big-brake package and new aluminum tandem master cylinder. After a quick call to Chris Alston Chassisworks, we were the proud owners of a set of double-adjustable coilover Varishocks, complete with 9-inch long, 600-pound springs. With parts in hand, it was time to bring our '68 Camaro into the 21st Century.