How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3

Click Here to Begin Slideshow Over the past couple of issues we took a long, hard look at how to make a vintage Camaro or Nova handle without breaking the bank. Thanks to our friends at Classic Industries (18460 Gothard Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92648; PH: 800-854-1280; Website: www.classicindustries.com), we were able to come up with a series of parts that are not only affordable, but also easy to work with and extremely high quality to boot. This time around, we’ll dig into shock absorbers. There is an unpretentious truth in making a quick Camaro or Nova work on the street or on the strip, which is that the shock absorber is the key ingredient. The reason for this is simple: If you can control the wheel motion, you can control the dynamics of the car. The better the control of the wheel motion, the better the control of the dynamics of the entire car. Interpretation? In the world of the acceleration, this boils down to "hook." It also means your tuning capabilities are amplified manifold. Let’s start at the beginning: What really is a shock and what does it do? A shock is a hydraulic (or gas assisted) device that resists chassis movement by passing oil through a set of orifices and valved passages. In an adjustable shock, manipulating the fluid movement through the valving of the shock changes the dampening characteristics. There are many different types of shock absorbers available today. Some are not adjustable. Some are single adjustable (typically for rebound) and some are double adjustable for bump and rebound. Prices increase as the features increase. It’s not hard to have a couple of thousand dollars invested in double adjustable shocks. Furthermore, it’s difficult to fit some adjustable shocks into a stock front a-arm arrangement. One big reason is that the adjuster(s) can’t clear the shock opening in the lower a-arm. But before proceeding, let’s clear something up: Take a closer look at the terms used by the shock manufacturers and you’ll find that different shock companies use different lingo. Quite often the words "bump," "rebound," "compression" and "extension" are used interchangeably. A shock absorber travels in two directions: It gets shorter (compresses) and gets longer (extends). Some shock absorber manufacturers call this "bump" and "rebound", but all of this can get confusing. To get a grasp of what this is all about, pretend that you’re driving your car over a good old-fashioned speed bump. The speed bump "bumps" the shock that in turn compresses it. After you drive over the speed bump, the shock rebounds and extends. That’s where you get the term “bump” and “rebound.” Rebound (extension) is the shock's resistance to being pulled apart. It can be used to control chassis separation, the point at which the axle housing is pushed away from the chassis and the tires are applied to the track. During separation, many things occur. Forces push the car up and forward - and the axle housing sees the opposite force (don’t forget the tire sidewalls are also wrapping up). As the car moves forward, torque is created as the tires create traction to start this movement. Too much body separation can lead to some undesirable side effects. Wheel hop can occur as the tire tries to return to its original form (the tire unwraps). Stiffening the rebound can control wheel hop. Tire shake is similar to wheel hop and can be addressed similarly. For the most part, something like a "bald" starting line or unprepared surface will mandate a softer rebound setting to apply the tires with more force. On the track, a good starting line can use a stiffer setting. A stiffer rebound setting on a well-prepped track can provide quicker vehicle reaction times. Essentially, too much separation is an ET and energy waster. Bump (compression) is the shock's resistance to the chassis moving down or the axle housings moving up or into the chassis. The bump adjustment determines how long the tires are held down on the track after chassis separation. As we were getting to previously, buying into a set of double adjustable shocks can become costly in short order. Is there a compromise? We posed that question to the folks at Classic Industries. Their response was to recommend a complete set of Koni Classic shocks for either a Camaro or Nova (between the cars, the front shocks are the same; the rears differ). Typically, Koni Classic “Special D” shock absorbers are available from Classic Industries for under $120 each. Koni Classic Special D shock absorbers are single adjustable and must be off the vehicle for adjustment (no external adjuster). They adjust by collapsing the shock by hand and turning the upper shaft to engage the adjuster. Once the adjuster is engaged, with the shock upright, a clockwise action will increase the rebound (make the shock stiffer) while a counter clockwise turn will decrease rebound (make the shock softer). With these shocks there two considerations: The shocks are nitrogen gas charged. That means the shock will always be pushing the piston rod upward. You’ll have to keep constant downward pressure on the shock shaft in order to engage the adjuster and set the adjustment. On the rear shocks, there is a rubber bumpstop at the top of the shock. It’s hidden by the shock cover. In order to adjust the shock, the bumpstop must be removed. This is easy to do: Simply insert a small screwdriver or pick through each of the two small holes in the top of the shock body and force the bumper down the shaft. The bumper is split and removes easily once you’re able to get your hands on it. When the shock adjustment is set, simply reinstall the bumper over the shock shaft. It will work its way back to the top once the shock is compressed. For a better look at shock absorbers, check out the accompanying photos and captions. And in the next issue, we’ll turn our attention toward basic steering components.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Over the past couple of issues we took a long, hard look at how to make a vintage Camaro or Nova handle without breaking the bank. Thanks to our friends at Classic Industries (18460 Gothard Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92648; PH: 800-854-1280; Website: www.classicindustries.com), we were able to come up with a series of parts that are not only affordable, but also easy to work with and extremely high quality to boot. This time around, we’ll dig into shock absorbers.

There is an unpretentious truth in making a quick Camaro or Nova work on the street or on the strip, which is that the shock absorber is the key ingredient. The reason for this is simple: If you can control the wheel motion, you can control the dynamics of the car. The better the control of the wheel motion, the better the control of the dynamics of the entire car. Interpretation? In the world of the acceleration, this boils down to "hook." It also means your tuning capabilities are amplified manifold.

Let’s start at the beginning: What really is a shock and what does it do? A shock is a hydraulic (or gas assisted) device that resists chassis movement by passing oil through a set of orifices and valved passages. In an adjustable shock, manipulating the fluid movement through the valving of the shock changes the dampening characteristics.

There are many different types of shock absorbers available today. Some are not adjustable. Some are single adjustable (typically for rebound) and some are double adjustable for bump and rebound. Prices increase as the features increase. It’s not hard to have a couple of thousand dollars invested in double adjustable shocks. Furthermore, it’s difficult to fit some adjustable shocks into a stock front a-arm arrangement. One big reason is that the adjuster(s) can’t clear the shock opening in the lower a-arm. But before proceeding, let’s clear something up:

Take a closer look at the terms used by the shock manufacturers and you’ll find that different shock companies use different lingo. Quite often the words "bump," "rebound," "compression" and "extension" are used interchangeably. A shock absorber travels in two directions: It gets shorter (compresses) and gets longer (extends). Some shock absorber manufacturers call this "bump" and "rebound", but all of this can get confusing. To get a grasp of what this is all about, pretend that you’re driving your car over a good old-fashioned speed bump. The speed bump "bumps" the shock that in turn compresses it. After you drive over the speed bump, the shock rebounds and extends. That’s where you get the term “bump” and “rebound.”

Rebound (extension) is the shock's resistance to being pulled apart. It can be used to control chassis separation, the point at which the axle housing is pushed away from the chassis and the tires are applied to the track. During separation, many things occur. Forces push the car up and forward - and the axle housing sees the opposite force (don’t forget the tire sidewalls are also wrapping up). As the car moves forward, torque is created as the tires create traction to start this movement. Too much body separation can lead to some undesirable side effects. Wheel hop can occur as the tire tries to return to its original form (the tire unwraps). Stiffening the rebound can control wheel hop. Tire shake is similar to wheel hop and can be addressed similarly. For the most part, something like a "bald" starting line or unprepared surface will mandate a softer rebound setting to apply the tires with more force. On the track, a good starting line can use a stiffer setting. A stiffer rebound setting on a well-prepped track can provide quicker vehicle reaction times. Essentially, too much separation is an ET and energy waster.

Bump (compression) is the shock's resistance to the chassis moving down or the axle housings moving up or into the chassis. The bump adjustment determines how long the tires are held down on the track after chassis separation.

As we were getting to previously, buying into a set of double adjustable shocks can become costly in short order. Is there a compromise? We posed that question to the folks at Classic Industries. Their response was to recommend a complete set of Koni Classic shocks for either a Camaro or Nova (between the cars, the front shocks are the same; the rears differ). Typically, Koni Classic “Special D” shock absorbers are available from Classic Industries for under $120 each.

Koni Classic Special D shock absorbers are single adjustable and must be off the vehicle for adjustment (no external adjuster). They adjust by collapsing the shock by hand and turning the upper shaft to engage the adjuster. Once the adjuster is engaged, with the shock upright, a clockwise action will increase the rebound (make the shock stiffer) while a counter clockwise turn will decrease rebound (make the shock softer). With these shocks there two considerations: The shocks are nitrogen gas charged. That means the shock will always be pushing the piston rod upward. You’ll have to keep constant downward pressure on the shock shaft in order to engage the adjuster and set the adjustment.

On the rear shocks, there is a rubber bumpstop at the top of the shock. It’s hidden by the shock cover. In order to adjust the shock, the bumpstop must be removed. This is easy to do: Simply insert a small screwdriver or pick through each of the two small holes in the top of the shock body and force the bumper down the shaft. The bumper is split and removes easily once you’re able to get your hands on it. When the shock adjustment is set, simply reinstall the bumper over the shock shaft. It will work its way back to the top once the shock is compressed.

For a better look at shock absorbers, check out the accompanying photos and captions. And in the next issue, we’ll turn our attention toward basic steering components.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 1

There are all sorts of different shock absorbers available for Camaros and Novas (along with other cars – GM, Ford and Mopar). Some are super expensive. Classic Industries notes that the Koni’s Classic line is a great choice for a middle-of-the-road suspension system.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 2

Koni Classic shock absorbers must be removed from the car for adjustment.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 3

To adjust the fronts, you simply compress the shock shaft by hand and turning the upper shaft to engage the adjuster. Once the adjuster is engaged, with the shock upright, turning the shaft clockwise action increases the rebound (make the shock stiffer). Turning the shaft counterclockwise decreases rebound (make the shock softer).

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 4

The dilemma here is the newer shocks are gas charged. That means the shaft will always be extending. You have to keep the shaft compressed in order to make the adjustments.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 5

The rear Konis adjust exactly the same way, but they are equipped with a cover. Inside that cover is a rubber bumper. It must be removed before the shock can be adjusted.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 6

To remove the bumper, insert a pick or a small screwdriver into these two holes at the top of the shock. You can push the bumper out.

How to Improve Handling in Your Chevy Camaro or Nova Part 3 7

This is the rubber bumper we’re talking about. It must be reinstalled once the adjustment has been made (not a difficult task).

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