10 The Hard Way: 10 seconds for 10 Grand -- what are the odds?

In the second of many tech articles to come about the 1984 Firebird we have chosen to be the next DRO Project Car we are going to deal with some front suspension upgrades and how to eliminate one of the alignment problems the ’82-92 Camaros and Firebirds have.
First, it was time to get dirty. We removed the front struts, the lower control arms, front springs, all the steering links and tie rod ends. Then we decided to throw away the heavy power steering sector as well. I called a few guys I know that had raced this type of car in Stock and Super Stock classes. I wanted their opinions on how to upgrade the front suspension and steering and do it right the first time.

They all agreed on three main things:

  1. Get rid of the power steering sector and put a Vega steering gear and pitman arm on it. They said it would bolt on and you could find them on E-Bay for about $125.
  2. Replace the lower control arm bushings with urethane replacements. This would keep the front aligned better and let the suspension travel easier, which is good for weight transfer.
  3. Talk to Ed Quay Race Cars about the “zero bump-steer kit”. The idler arms and lower control arms swing from different pivot heights and this causes a lot of tow-in and toe-out changes if the car can pull the front wheels. (Of course it will…that’s why I want wheelie bars!)
This is the Energy Suspension urethane control arm bushing kit. Cost us about $55. If I had to do this again, I would take the control arms to a professional. It is a lot of hassle to get the bushings pushed out without the proper fixture for the hydraulic press. Pop the cap off the top of the strut and this is where you remove the large nut to remove the strut. You have to hold the hex-shaped shaft of the strut and these are TIGHT. Get a breaker bar and some muscle.

This month I will deal with the installation of those three items. It took me a couple weeks to get everything ordered and delivered but everything came in and worked fine. It’s been a while since I have done suspension work (I guess that’s why I have a dragster) and I forgot how much time it takes me to crawl around under a car on jack stands.

Let’s start with the front suspension disassembly. Naturally, support the car on jack stands and take the wheels off. I took a scraper and blow gun and tried to get all the road debris scraped off everything in an attempt to stay a little cleaner. Next up was putting a floor jack under the lower control arm to remove the top strut mounting nut. Next up was to remove the two bolts/nuts that hold the front strut to the spindle. (This is where the ½” air impact wrench got put to use). You will have to remove the front brake-line mounting clip but this all went really smoothly.

Next up was the removal of the front coil springs. I did not have a spring compressor so I went to the local O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store and they will loan you one if you buy suspension parts. I needed both lower ball joints so that was handled. I must admit I hadn’t used a coil spring compressor for about 20 years, but it was pretty easy to use. Once we had the spring compressed we could lower the floor jack under the lower control arm and get the spring out.