Before you arrive at the simplest, most elegant engineering solution, sometimes you have to make things clunky and complicated. That's what Detroit did with the factory steering gear in '60s-era muscle cars. Stock steering systems contain a multitude of massive components including a cast-iron steering box, tie rods, pitman arm, drag link, and idler arm. This results in a sloppy steering feel after 40 years. A modern steering rack, in contrast, streamlines the hardware down to a steering rack, a pair of tie rods, and a pinion gear. Fewer moving parts equate to a more precise steering feel and a serious reduction in weight. A factory power steering box and its associated running gear checks in at around 50 pounds, but a power rack-and-pinion assembly (such as this one from Unisteer, 855-248-9110, www.Unisteer.com) is 20 pounds lighter and can be had for less than $800. With improved steering precision and a big reduction in weight, you can't go wrong with an aftermarket rack.
Late-Model Engine Swap
Taking the aluminum engine hardware motif one step further, why not jump on the late-model engine swap bandwagon? Although L98 and LT1 small-blocks came factory equipped with aluminum heads and intake manifolds, the all-aluminum Gen III/IV small-block is still roughly 100 pounds lighter. The plastic intake manifolds found on Detroit's latest engine combos advocate the low-mass cause as well. Moreover, considering that today's small-blocks make just as much power as yesterday's big-blocks, an LS motor or a new age Hemi can save hundreds of pounds compared to a Rat motor or an old-school Hemi while making just as much horsepower. Thanks to companies like Holley—who offer motor mounts, headers, and oil pans specifically for LS swaps—going on an aluminum intensive diet with a late-model motor is easier than ever.
Some methods of losing weight require accepting a certain loss of civility, but if you're already running a big, lumpy camshaft, chances are good power brakes aren't an option anyway. Instead of adding even more weight with a hydraulic power brake booster, a much simpler solution is manning up with a manual brake system. Ditching the brake booster will save about 8-10 pounds, and replacing the factory iron master cylinder with an aftermarket aluminum unit will save another five to six pounds. At $200, this aluminum master cylinder from Wilwood (805-388-1188, www.Wilwood.com) is worth the price of admission. And about the loss of civility thing, if you take the proper measures to relocate the master cylinder pushrod on the brake pedal, and verify that the pedal itself is the right length, the increase in pedal effort compared to a power brake system will hardly be noticeable.
Steel used to be the only game in town for high-stress systems like the driveline, but with today's advances in metallurgy that's not the case anymore. If you need proof, check out Warren Johnson's 6-second NHRA Pro Stock machine, which has been relying on aluminum driveshafts for several seasons. According to Inland Empire Driveline, its aluminum driveshafts are 40 percent lighter than a steel shaft. For a 3-inch driveshaft in a '64-67 GM A-body, that equates to 22 pounds versus 13 pounds. If that's not exciting enough for you, we've recently heard rumors that QA1 (952-985-5675, www.QA1.net) will soon be offering custom carbon-fiber driveshafts at prices anyone will be able to afford. Moving farther down the driveline, cars with Ford 9-inch rearends can drop a huge chunk of weight with an aluminum centersection. According to Strange Engineering (847-663-1701, www.StrangeEngineering.net), the company's aluminum 9-inch centersection is 20 pounds lighter than a nodular iron unit. That's unsprung weight, folks, which goes a long way in the ride and handling department. At $420 for a 3-inch Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft, and $380 for a Strange aluminum centersection, these parts aren't much more expensive than their steel counterparts.
Not only do aftermarket racing seats look sweet, they're also an absolute necessity for any car that drives briskly around corners. Slipping and sliding around on a big ol' bench seat just won't cut it on the autocross. Whether they take the form of buckets or benches, stock seats are hefty monsters that typically weigh 35 pounds or more. A set of popular aftermarket buckets like the Corbeau Pro Series (801-255-3737, www.Corbeau.com) cuts that weight nearly in half at 19 pounds. Multiply the weight savings by two, and aftermarket front seats can save over 30 pounds. Furthermore, throwing out the back seats can be worth another 30 pounds. Of course, those with sufficient natural cushioning on their posteriors can go with aluminum seats that weigh less than 10 pounds.