GM's 1964-1972 mid-size A-body is arguably the most prolific musclecar ever built. Its various forms include, but are not limited to, Chevelle, Malibu, Skylark, Cutlass, Lemans, Tempest, 442, and GTO. Literally millions were built in a nine-year period, and many of them, like our '68 Malibu, are still kicking around. If you are one of the lucky few to have bought a completely restored example, congratulations-you know how operate a checkbook. The rest of us have to deal with components and mechanical systems that are in some cases topping 43 years old. Suspensions, in particular, are problematic in that their wear is not always apparent from a cursory visual inspection.
Such was the case when we bought our '68. What looked and felt OK in a quick sneak-peak and a slow test drive before we handed over the cash, turned out to be a bad gig. We want to get our Chevelle project car into the 11s at the drags, but that will have to wait while we perform some serious remedial action. This thing was handling horribly, jinking and juking randomly over the smallest ruts and seams. In a nutshell, it could drive neither straight nor safely at 60 mph on the interstate, so we were not about to stuff over 600 hp under the hood and run 120 mph at the drags.
We needed a fix, we needed it fast, and we did not want to pay a fortune for it. What we found was Classic Performance Products (CPP), and their reasonably-priced line of quality A-body suspension components and rebuild parts. We opted for CPP's Totally Tubular control arm kit, a larger 1 1/8-inch diameter front sway bar kit, front KYB shocks, and stiffer big-block lowering springs. Once we got the Chevelle on the lift, we were in for a big surprise-we found out the steering linkage was completely shot. Since CPP also offers steering components, we replaced those as well, bringing our total parts bill to $1,229 (see complete breakdown in the sidebar). The end result is that we not only fixed the problem we had, but we made our Chevelle handle much better than it ever did when it was new. (We can only imagine how it will feel when we tackle the rear suspension.)
We are now one step closer to hitting the track in mind-bending fury. Soon, we will be replacing the glass 8.2-inch 10-bolt rear with a 9-inch Crate rearend from Currie. After that, we will be screwing together a 468-inch solid roller big-block that will make at least 600 hp on pump gas. Everything in between, including the cooling system, transmission, fuel system, and rear suspension will have to be dealt with as well, so let's get on with it!
Quick DisassemblyRather than bogging you down with a bunch of unnecessary photos, we are going to condense the procedure for tearing down the old front suspension with this checklist. We used a lift, pole jack, and air tools for the Chevelle, but you can substitute jack stands, floor jack, or hand tools. It takes a little longer, but is still easy enough to do in a day. Obviously, most of these steps will need to be repeated on both sides of the car. And keep in mind, these instructions will work for any '64-'72 GM mid-size A-body (Chevelle, Lemans, Tempest, GTO, Cutlass, 442, Skylark, and others).
f,,*Raise the car on a lift, or use jackstands to support the front of the car on the frame rails, well away from suspension components like control arms, steering linkage, and sway bar. Remove the front wheels.
f,,*Remove the upper shock bolt. We like Snap-On's #A139 shock socket, which is a slotted tool designed to turn the shock shaft while the nut is held with a 9/16-inch wrench. The two bottom shock bolts are removed with a half-inch socket, and the shock comes out through the lower A-arm.
f,,*Disconnect the outer steering tie rod. Snip the securing cotter pin with a pair of dikes, and remove the castleated nut with a 5/8-inch socket. If the tie rod needs help separating from the spindle, use a hammer to break it loose-not a "pickle fork," which can ruin the boot and or the ball.
f,,*Remove the brake caliper from the spindle with a 3/8-inch Allen driver, and hang the caliper out of the way with a bent piece of coat hanger.
f,,*Start taking the sway bar off by loosening and removing the the end links from the lower control arms. This will require a 9/16-inch socket and 9/16-inch wrench. Finish the sway bar removal by unbolting the frame bushings with a half-inch socket.
f,,*Take the spindle off next. Start by snipping the cotter pins from the upper and lower ball joint nuts, then loosen the upper ball joint nut with a 3/4-inch socket, and the lower ball joint nut with a 7/8-inch socket. Do not remove the ball joint nuts completely as the coil spring is under pressure!
f,,*Use a heavy hammer to break loose the upper and lower ball joint tapers. They will break loose with a bang, but if you left both ball joint nuts on like you should have, you will not be decapitated by the spring.
f,,*Support the lower control arm with a floor jack or pole jack. Position it under the lower ball joint and remove the castleated nuts from the upper and lower ball joint.
f,,*Have a helper insert a long prybar into the coil spring from below the lower control arm,using the open shock absorber hole. This will keep the spring in place as you lower the jack to decompress the coil spring.
f,,*Slowly lower the floor jack or pole jack, standing well out of the "kill zone" where the spring might fly out. Once the spring is fully decompressed, remove it from the lower control arm and framerail.
f,,*Remove the upper and lower control arms using a 3/4-inch socket and 3/4-inch wrench. An impact gun will make the job much easier. When the control arms are off, you can begin installing the new hardware.
f,,*When the installation is complete, do not forget to get it aligned at a competent shop.
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT |
|Part: ||Source: ||Part No./Description: ||Price: |
|Totally Tubular control arms ||CPP ||6472TCA-K (kit, contains all 4) ||$649.00 |
|KYB front shocks ||CPP ||KY-1000 (need 2) ||$39.00 ea. |
|Front sway bar kit (1 1/8-inch dia.) ||CPP ||CP883U ||$149.00 |
|Front springs (big-block, 11/2-inch drop) ||CPP ||FCS6330-D (pair) ||$95.00 |
|Inner tie rod ends ('64 - '70) ||CPP ||ES68IN (need 2) ||$14.00 ea. |
|Outer tie rod ends ('64 - '70) ||CPP ||ES333R (need 2) ||$39.00 ea. |
|Tie rod adjusting sleeves ||CPP ||ES2032SP (pair) ||$49.00 |
|Center link ('64, '68 - '72) ||CPP ||DS749 ||$74.00 |
|Idler arm ('64, '68 - '72) ||CPP ||FA443 ||$29.00 |
|Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks ||Summit ||28x10.5-15 (need 2) ||$159.95 ea. |
|Mickey Thompson Sportsman skinnies ||Summit ||26x7.5-15 (need 2) ||$93.95 ea. |
|Summit Star front wheels ||Summit ||15x4, 5x4.75 BC (need 2) ||$89.95 ea. |
|Summit Star rear wheels ||Summit ||15x8, 5x4.75 BC, 4.5BS (need 2) ||$119.95 ea. |
Tools You'll Needf,,*hammerf,,*3/8-inch ratchetf,,*3/8-inch articulated swivel-head ratchet (big-blocks only)f,,*1/2, 5/8, 7/16, 9/16, 3/4, 7/8 socketsf,,*1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 7/8 wrenchesf,,*3/8-inch Allen driverf,,*cutting dikesf,,*high-speed cut-off wheelf,,*jack stands and floor jack (or a lift and a pole jack)f,,*large pry barf,,*Snap-On shock socket, #A139 (recommended)