CHASSIS TUNING TIPS

PINION ANGLE

 

NOTE: THIS DRAWING IS AN EXAGGERATION, YOUR PINION ANGLE WILL NOT BE THIS RADICAL. 

Pinion angle affects the efficiency of the power transmission from the drive shaft to the rear end. The pinion angle is the spread between the pinion centerline and the drive shaft centerline. For maximum performance, the ideal is to have a slight pinion down angle (min. 2 degrees) under full power.

Obviously, the pinion angle changes as power is applied and the axle housing begins to twist as the pinion tries to drive the ring gear. Rear axle wind-up can take some of the initial energy or "hit" away from the launch. As a general rule, a leaf spring rear suspension should have between 5-7 degrees of static pinion angle (angle down); and a factory four-link should be set at 4-6 degrees for drag racing..

Keep in mind that these pinion angles are for competition. If you primarily drive your car on the street, you shouldn't have more than a 5 degree angle maximum. The U-joints are designed to run at this angle, which allows the cups to rotate avoiding premature wear and failure. This doesn't affect leaf spring suspension since it runs well within this tolerance.

You will need to have the car level on four (4) car ramps or blocks of equal heights so you have room to work under the car when checking the pinion angle. Also, both the front and rear suspension need to be loaded to get accurate readings. The height of the rear end relative to the rest of the driveline will affect the pinion angle. Using an angle finder, which is a tool that combines a bubble level and a protractor, to determine the correct pinion angle for your car. Position the angle finder on the drive shaft and record the measurement. Then place the angle finder on the pinion (the U-joint yoke rotated to vertical position will give an accurate reading) and record the measurement. The pinion angle is a combination of the two measurements.

 Coil spring cars, use 90/10 front shocks on small block cars, 80/20 or 70/30 on big block cars and high horsepower small blocks. On short wheel base cars like Mustangs and Capris, use the 80/20 or 70/30 settings. Use 50/50 rear shocks along with an air bag (4-8 lbs air) in the right rear coil spring only. This you will have to play with to find the best setting for your car. The air bag is used to counteract the engine torque wanting to lift the left front corner.You can purchase shocks that are 3-position adjustable for both front and rear applications. These shocks are available from your local speed shop or mail order supplier. If you can't find shocks designed for your specific application, you'll have to check in a shock catalog for O.E. applications. You may have to use shocks from another make or model that has the same mounts at each end and the same length, or an inch or two longer. This won't hurt, because it allows for more suspension travel, so you don't hit the end of your shock travel and pull the rear wheels off the ground. 

image55

Setting Up For Instant Center Relocation

 

The basic information regarding instant center is the same for all cars, but for this discussion, we'll focus on the factory-designed four-link system. The instant center (IC) is an imaginary point defined by extending the line of the upper and lower control arms forward until the two lines intersect. By changing the locating points of either the upper or lower control arms, the IC can be moved longitudinally (fore-aft) as well as vertically. Moving the instant center closer to the rear of the car reduces the leverage on the rear axle, reducing and eventually eliminating the car's tendency to squat. There are two basic ways to change a Chevelle's IC position.

As the instant center is moved toward the rear by altering the upper or lower control-arm mounting points, this has an effect on tire load, or the "hit" on the rear tire. If you are using a sticky rear tire like a wrinkle-wall M/T E.T. Street or a pair of slicks, moving the instant center rearward will apply more leverage to the rear suspension, reduce the squat, and take maximum advantage of the wrinkle-wall tires. If a set of stiffer-sidewall drag radials are used, positioning the instant center back from its stock location--but not as far back as for a wrinkle-wall tire--would be beneficial.

The height of the instant center will also move as you reposition the control arms, and this affects average tire loading on the rear tire. If you draw an imaginary line between the tire contact patch to the car's center of gravity (CG), this is the 100 percent antisquat line. If the instant center is located above this line, antisquat will be more than 100 percent, while an instant center below the line is less than 100 percent antisquat. Theories abound on the proper location of the instant center, and this will change based on power, tire condition, track conditions, and perhaps a dozen other variables. This is just a hint of what you can learn about instant centers and traction. If you're into maximum traction, there's a ton of material to learn about putting the power to the ground.

Note: You need at least 45% of the car's weight on the rear wheels to make a 4 link suspension work properly..

image56

FRONT END GEOMETRY CORRECTION

image57

CAN I JUST CHANGE MY UPPER A ARMS AND CALL IT DONE?

  

Changing just the upper A arms can only do so much. The length and offset of the arms has very little effect on camber change, roll center or overall handling. They add + caster which can make the car track straighter at speed and improve turn in. However too much can make the car feel vague and the steering sluggish so that only goes so far. As the + caster is increased there is a tiny improvement in camber as a side effect when the wheels are turned. Our upper arms have this benefit as well as more caster adjustment. To make any profound improvement in the suspension geometry of cars that need it the actual pivoting points (pickup points) that determine that geometry need to be moved vertically. Road race cars like SCCA, TransAm, LaMans Series race cars and fast DRAG CARS use special taller spindles, raising the upper ball joint pivot points like our Stage 1 and 2 packages do. This was the genesis of our pro Touring Tall Spindles for the GM A and G Body and S series Truck platforms. For years circle track racers that run stock G or F body chassis have used taller truck upper ball joints, which seated improperly to improve the geometry. They’ve been doing this kind of thing for years by fabricating new parts, mixing and matching stock parts, modifying suspension/frame mounts etc. That’s how to win races with a less than perfect factory chassis and a small budget. We’ve taken that race experience, applies new technology and brought it up to date with our SSM STAGE 2 package. Major suspension improvements, not just shiny parts.

They'll physically bolt together and you could drive the car around but there's a catch or two. There's the fact that the original arms on the A and G-Body as well as the S series GM Platform cars were originally designed to droop down over the frame and have the ball joints at the proper angle for a full range of travel. Once you lower the car, go to taller spindles or ball joints etc. the arms end up closer to level and the ball joints end up close to binding at ride height. Hitting a big bump can bind up the ball joints and put a tremendous amount of stress on them as well as the upper A arms and A arm mounting bolts. They'll only take that for so long before something fails...

Much of it also has to do with alignment. A lot of folks think if their car goes straight and doesn't chew up the tires that it's aligned properly and working as well as it can. They're kidding themselves and they're missing out on a LOT of performance. The alignment specs recommended in the `60s and `70s (and even `80s!) were anything but performance oriented. In fact they've changed little since the 1940s. Today almost every car is using power steering and we're all running high performance radial tires (except for the resto guys but that's another story...) these tires are often more than twice the width of the originals, we've also got another 40 years or so of experience to draw on. What's more, once we've corrected the geometry so that it works like a new performance car it demands the same type of alignment those cars run to achieve peak performance.

Modern performance cars run a LOT more + caster and - camber. The + caster helps the cars track better at highway speeds and gives better steering feel. The - camber helps keep the tire's contact patch flat on the road surface during cornering. It's part of what makes new cars drive like new cars. Using these kinds of settings on older cars yields a BIG improvement in drivability and performance but because they were designed around different specs it's usually impossible to attain the best numbers with stock parts and shims. Lowering the car or increasing the effective spindle height with taller spindles or taller ball joints all add more + camber making it ever harder to dial in a - camber setting (which is what we want). That's the big reason for different upper arms. The taller spindles or tall ball joints make the big geometry improvements and the proper upper A arms make it possible to combine the new parts and geometry with the proper performance alignment, an unbeatable combination!

WHAT IS THE STAGE 1?

  

The SSM Stage 1

The secret is the combination of the extra tall ball joint to match your new tubular upper arms which greatly improves the camber curves and relocates the roll center. This means more grip and less body lean. The 1" EXTRA tall upper ball joints reverse the backward factory camber curves for a huge increase in grip. They also raise the extremely low factory roll center to dramatically reduce body roll

· For stock and lifted cars this radically corrects poor ball joint angle and helps the arm clear the frame when lifted properly.

· For drag racers SSM Stage 1 Plus allows faster weight transfer and more positive caster for better top end stability.

WHAT IS THE STAGE 2?

  

The SSM Stage 2

The stage 2 goes even a step beyond the Stage 1 Plus and further corrects the terrible backward geometry of the factory front suspension, by using Racing Series ball joints, the ONLY ball joints made 100% from US materials in the USA! 

They are much stronger, smoother, and longer lasting, than original GM, or any other aftermarket ball joint. The .5" taller lower ball joints further improve the camber curves and roll center location, significantly reducing lateral roll center migration for more predictable behavior. 

They also correct the factory bump steer issues by raising the tie rod ends into proper alignment.Now with extremely improved geometry designed for the rigors of SCCA, TransAm and NASCAR your car will truly dominate the street and track!

PRO TOURING TALL SPINDLES?

  

The SSM Tall Pro Touring Forged Performance Spindles for the A and G-Body as well as the S series GM Platform. Raises Roll center, lowers center of gravity, eliminates bump steer and creates a negative camber curve that surpasses the C7 Corvette. Uses larger bearings with a wider separation and will accept 11-14 inch rotors. Huge single piston to 8 piston caliper options as well. Bolt on fast ratio steering arms. Even the ball joint tapers are larger. Available in stock and lowered heights. 

Adjustable Upper Control Arms

 

Installation Instructions

Note: Check your pinion angle before you start, so that you know which way to adjust the new arms. But beware that if the upper and lower control arm bushings are worn out, the axle may shift when the car is driven, making your measurements less accurate.

1. Raise the vehicle and place it on jack stands with the rear axle hanging. (no weight on the rear

axle.) Place a jack under the differential housing and support it lightly.

2. Unbolt and remove one upper rear control arm using a ¾” wrench. Remove only one control arm at a time. This will make it easier to line up the new control arms when they are installed.

3. Adjust the length of the control arms as needed to achieve the desired pinion angle. 3 to 4 degrees nose-down is recommended. Shorten the arms for more nose-down pinion angle. Lengthen the arms to bring the pinion angle up. 1/8 inch adjustment will change the pinion angle approximately 1 to 2 degrees. Adjust both arms at the same time to be sure they are the same length.

4. Tighten the jam nuts on the control arms. Loctite thread locking compound is recommended.

5. Grease the sides of the bushings and the thrust washer with a synthetic grease and install the front end of the control arm into the car. Do not tighten the bolt yet.

6. Pull the control arm down over the axle bushing and install the bolt. Raise or lower the front of the differential with a jack to align the boltholes. In some cases it may be necessary to jack under the rear of the differential (under the cover) to tilt the bushings forward.

6. Tighten both bolts and repeat the procedure for the other arm.

7. Check the pinion angle using the Chassis tuning tips link. Because of production variances and the large variety of modified cars, some re-adjustment may be necessary.


WARNING:

SHORTENING THE CONTROL ARMS MORE THAN 1/2" FROM STOCK CAN CREATE

NOISE, VIBRATION AND HANDLING PROBLEMS.

FAILURE TO HEED THESE WARNINGS MAY LEAD TO SERIOUS INJURY.

image58

Lower Control Arms

 

Installation Instructions

To aid in the installation of our rear suspension products, mark the rear shock absorbers

(with a marker) just below the protective skirt. This will be used as a reference later.

Place the transmission in neutral and hoist the vehicle into position. While the vehicle is in the air support the weight of the rear axle, raising it to the marks made on the shock tubes.

1. Remove the control arm with a ¾” wrench.

2. Lube the bushing mating surfaces of the control arm with a synthetic grease.

3. The factory control arm length should be duplicated if using an adjustable lower control arm. To accomplish this place your new control arm

on top of the factory one and align bolt holes.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the control arm installation of the second control arm.

5. Instal arm in reverse order.

6. Reinstall the wheels lower the vehicle and road test.

image59

Frame Notch Instructions

  

(1) Raise car to a comfortable working height using the method of your choice. Follow applicable safety procedures. 

(2) Locate the existing rear frame that will be sliced and re-boxed  

(3) SSM Performance suggests marking the length of your cut based on the wheel you are trying to accommodate. Mark a long enough frame section to allow your wheel proper clearance. 

(4) The depth of the notch is also dependent on the desired wheel clearance. As a good starting point, SSM suggests slicing the frame flush with the inner fender. 

(5) Keep in mind it is always best to cut less to begin with and grind to exact fit rather than trying to cut to exact dimensions.

(6) Use a vise and a hammer to bend the four smaller frame plates until they match the shape of the notch ends. Tack weld small plates into place. 

(7) In preparation for welding, trim the large plates so they slightly overlap the small end plates. 

(8) Before welding the large main plates, clamp them into place and check for good seams to place weld bead. The plate is slightly oversized to allow proper fit to all 78-88 G-body frames. Grind large plate for perfect fit. 

(9) First, properly clean the existing frame of dirt and rust to expose bare metal for the welding process. Weld small end plates in place first, and then weld the larger plates. 

(10) Installation is complete.

image60