DSE offers its Rear Speed...
DSE offers its Rear Speed Kits for both '64-67 and '65-72 GM A-bodies. Speed Kit 1 (PN: 041603; $960) includes upper and lower control arms and chassis braces, while Speed Kit 2 (PN: 041607; $1,770) adds springs, a sway bar, and Koni shocks. Project Olds was fitted with DSE's Speed Kit 3 (PN: 041611; $2,345), which includes everything in Speed Kit 2 plus a set of custom-valved DSE alumium coilovers.
Avid readers will recognize the name Robert McGaffin as PHR's photographer extraordinaire. Squashing the competition like Walmart in what's left of capitalist America, Robert's endless assignments have brought him face-to-face with the hottest muscle cars featured in this magazine in recent years. Eventually, he couldn't bear standing on the sidelines any longer, and had to get a project car of his own. That itch has materialized in the form of a '65 Olds Cutlass, and he's determined to transform it into a pylon-clipping autocross beast.
The DSE kit can be installed...
The DSE kit can be installed with the rearend in the car, but with a lift at his disposal, Jarvis felt it was much easier to drop the entire assembly. The coilovers feature a new upper bracket that bolts to the frame, and removing the rearend improves access to this area of the car. After securely positioning the car on jackstands and disconnecting the stock control arms, shocks and brake lines, the rearend was lowered out of the way.
While shooting Randy Johnson's LS7-powered '66 Chevelle for our November 2008 issue, McGaffin contracted an A-body fetish that he couldn't shake. Disenchanted by the astronomical price tags affixed to the typical Chevelle, McGaffin realized a change of plan was in order. "I always wanted to build an A-body due to the availability of go-fast parts, and because they have plenty of room inside for my kids. Since Chevelles were so expensive, I started looking at Skylarks and Cutlasses and was amazed by how much more car you could get for the money," he recalls. "I've always been the guy who likes oddball stuff, and I liked the idea of building something that wasn't mainstream.
I found this '65 4-4-2 clone on eBay, struck up a deal for $7,500, and a few days later it was sitting in my garage. The car had already been restored in the past, so all the metal was solid and it needed no bodywork at all."
By opting for a not-so-common body that's attached to a very common platform, McGaffin essentially purchased a solid two-door post Cutlass for the same price as a jalopied-out Chevelle. That means he can focus less on restoration and more on performance. "My goal is to build something I can beat on around an autocross course that I can also take to cruise night and enjoy with my kids," he adds. "The stock 330 small-block is going to be replaced with a 500hp 455 big-block, and the suspension and brakes will be upgraded with hardware from DSE and Baer. Above all else, this car needs to be reliable, and I want to keep it on a reasonable budget." The best part is that you'll be able to read all about it right here in PHR as the project develops.
By far, the biggest challenge in building Project Olds will be getting a two-ton A-body to deftly negotiate tight autocross courses, and the big-block plopped up front will only compound the degree of difficulty. Consequently, it only makes sense to tackle the suspension first, and for guidance, we contacted Kyle Tucker at Detroit Speed and Engineering. Although best known for its cutting-edge suspension bits for first-gen F-bodies, DSE has recently expanded its product offerings to encompass GM A-bodies, X-bodies, and Chevy IIs as well. In light of our predicament, Tucker set us up with DSE's Rear Speed Kit, which includes a set of upper and lower control arms, coilovers, an adjustable sway bar, and a chassis brace kit. Lending a huge hand in the parts installation was Brent Jarvis of Performance Restorations in Mundelein, Illinois. Jarvis is no stranger to muscle car restorations, and he's done his fair share of competitively road race A-bodies. In the months ahead, we'll cover the build of Project Olds' engine, rearend, front suspension, fuel system, and brakes, but for now, here's how to transform your A-body's antiquated rear suspension into a laterally lethal combination.
|THE COST SO FAR
|'65 Olds Cutlass
|DSE four-link suspension
As with the upper control...
As with the upper control arms, the lower control arms were matched to the length of the stock arms for the initial installation. On A-bodies, Jarvis recommends setting the lower control arms at a 2- to 4-degree upward angle. "If you actually plot out the instant centers of the rear suspension, you will see that a slight upward angle will give you the best combination of front end lift and anti-dive characteristics. Lower is better to a point, but then the geometry gets screwed up and your suspension just won't work," he explains.
Adjusting the control arms...
Adjusting the control arms is as easy as shortening or lengthening the threaded portion of the arms, then locking down on the jamb nuts. Measuring from the center of one bolthole to the other provides the greatest accuracy when matching the length of the new control arms to the stock units.
Removing the upper control...
Removing the upper control arm bushings from the rearend housing can be a real bear. Jarvis says that using a hammer to either remove or install the bushings can crack the housing ears, so a press is a must, which resembles a big C-clamp. As expected of a 40-year-old car, the axle bearings were leaking, and the stock drums were removed accordingly to address the problem.
After removing decades worth...
After removing decades worth of grime off the rearend housing with a wire brush, it was given a fresh coat of paint. Before pressing in the new upper control arm bushings, which were supplied with DSE's kit, Jarvis made sure the openings were free of sharp edges and burrs that could potentially obstruct the bushings. A light coat of wheel bearing grease prevents distorting the bushings with excessive force from the press.
Perhaps the most innovative...
Perhaps the most innovative pieces bundled into the DSE kit are a set of chassis braces that attach between the upper and lower control arm brackets using the factory boltholes. This effectively triangulates the upper control arm mounts, rear crossmembers, and framerails to substantially stiffen one of the most severely stressed areas of the entire chassis. The braces were actually installed after the control arms were in place, but mocking them up beforehand shows how they're positioned in the chassis for illustrative purposes.
To reinforce the factory shock...
To reinforce the factory shock mount area and provide an attachment point for the aftermarket eyelet-style shock mounts, the DSE coilovers use a set of two-piece custom upper brackets. Before installing them, the factory shock mount holes must be enlarged to 3/8 inch.