The second-generation Camaro was designed in the late-'60s with one goal in mind: Put one in every driveway. Between 1970 and 1981, Chevy built 1.9 million Camaros, while its sister division, Pontiac, built 1.3 million Firebirds. Everyone drove them, from Sunday school teachers to hot rodders. As such, they were not designed up front to be fire-breathing corner-carving machines. Although some small compromises were made to accommodate enthusiasts in some models, the second-gen F-body was largely a flexi-flyer built on a unibody platform, and shared most components with its econo-car X-body (Nova) sibling.
Yet here we are, almost 40 years later, turning them into hot rods that have to do real work, like carving up the cork screw at Laguna Seca, or dancing through the bus stop at Watkins Glen. If you can't bring your antique up to current production car levels of stiffness (let alone anything state of the art), you might as well race a piece of licorice. It's not going to be fun for you, or your Camaro.
Since the people at Air Ride Technologies already have a complete line of suspension components for the '70-81 Camaro and Firebird, it was only logical for them to move into a realm these cars need the most help with: chassis stiffening. The TigerCage seen here is the result of that venture. As with their suspension pieces, Air Ride decided to design the TigerCage as a "top shelf" system, using only the best materials and construction techniques-which in this case means TIG-welded grade 304 stainless steel throughout.
Why stainless steel? It's stronger than mild steel, it lasts forever without being painted or otherwise treated, and it looks absolutely fabulous. In fact, the TigerCage is a work of art in disguise-finely crafted TIG welding is found throughout, and all gussets, clamps, tabs, brackets, and fasteners are designed with care for strength, and aesthetic value. This isn't a pile of raw poles that shows up on your doorstep with a piece of paper saying "Good luck with that." The TigerCage bolts right in without cutting or welding. In fact, to prove their point, Air Ride installed one in our '76 Camaro project car in one day.
We drove to the Goodguys show in Costa Mesa, California, where Air Ride was set up in the manufacturer's midway. Throughout the day, Air Ride installed the TigerCage as the cameras rolled, and people watched. It was truly a unique experience in bolt-on history. When we were done, we made some laps through the Goodguys Street Challenge Autocross, and were amazed at the immediate improvement in chassis stiffness. The suspension was working even better than before-no wonder, since the geometry wasn't moving around. Without question, the Camaro feels lighter, and inspires more confidence. And the Tiger Cage is now the crowning jewel of the interior too.
The Air Ride TigerCage is designed primarily as a chassis stiffener-older unibody cars lik
The TigerCage install starts with the main hoop brackets. After pulling out the interior a
The main hoop is bolted to the brackets on the floor with fasteners that are grade 8 or be
The key to the TigerCage's stiffness is the box joint at the rear window. Two bars meet at
This template, included with the TigerCage, lines up with two existing holes on the packag
We put the package tray cover back in after drilling the holes, and marked the position of