Despite being 20-strong, the...
Despite being 20-strong, the roster of in-house project cars continues to grow at Ridetech.
Ridetech has an interesting position in the suspension marketplace, since their products run the gamut from pure comfort and aesthetic kits to autocross and road course packages. From that perch, they have a broad view of the shifts in the hobby.
While they unfortunately don't really build customer cars since business keeps them busy, Ridetech does maintain an extensive fleet of 20-some odd in-house project cars. That's significant because founder and President Bret Voekel prefers to treat them as rolling testbeds for product development, which means they need to reflect current market trends and customer interest. It also brings up another interesting point; rather than just show cars that showcase their parts, aftermarket companies such as Ridetech have had to begin conducting their own ongoing research and refinement just to keep up. Bret likes to call it "rounding the edges," and it's an ongoing process at Ridetech as new techniques and technologies emerge. No longer do part numbers necessarily reflect a static engineering design; improvement is constant. "Good enough just isn't good enough anymore," Bret says. "Parts have to be great."
Ridetech engineers and tests...
Ridetech engineers and tests their products in their shop in Jasper, Indiana. Note the new Mustang in the back of the shop; the '11 cars have different rear suspension pickup points. The new '33 Ford project is to the left in the photo.
Bret's own Velocity '68 Camaro is a perfect example. While it's a beautiful car with significant investment and tons of one-off touches, it's also a track car that's seen enough hard driving and 7,000-rpm shifts to go through a couple of engines and transmissions and 25 sets of tires in the past two years-and it's even had a dent or two hammered out of the steel. Granted, part of that is Bret's enthusiasm for throwing a muscle car through corners at high speed, but either way the result is firsthand data for his engineers that trickles down into Ridetech's products. "Rather than just artwork, people want to build something that works," Bret says.
That type of testing is what brought about the StrongArm control arms, AirBar rear suspension, MuscleBar sway bars, and Ridetech's new line of coilover shocks. While it may seem like a change of direction, Bret assures us it's not a sea change, but a response to shops and individuals who were ordering the full suspension package, minus the air system and grafting in their own coilovers. The opportunity was obvious and Ridetech engineered their own coilovers and made sure the suspension kits could accommodate either choice.
To take their testing to the next level, Ridetech's next project is a '33 Ford roadster based on a Factory Five Engineering kit that's been modified to take advantage of air suspension. Why? Other than the obvious fun factor, the '33 will only weigh about 2,000 pounds and sport a 620hp Brodix-headed small-block Ford, which will allow Bret to explore how his products function under the extreme speeds and g-loads the car should be capable of. Bret sees the surging interest in autocross and track day events to continue increasing into the foreseeable future, so the Ridetech product line needs to be ready and always competitive. Think of it as a hot rod builder's version of "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday."
Everything gets driven, and...
Everything gets driven, and often hard, so maintenance for the project cars is ongoing. The big Buick GSX is one of our favorites.
Note the redesigned control...
Note the redesigned control arms on the '33 Ford project to accommodate inboard ShockWaves. The infinitely adjustable air suspension paired with unlimited tire size should create a potent track car.
Along with air and coil spring...
Along with air and coil spring suspension innovations, Ridetech introduced the Tiger 'cage to stiffen flimsy unibody muscle cars and help them perform better. Here, a technician is working on a kit for '10-and-newer Mustangs.