We love the look and feel of a musclecar. Nothing gets our adrenalin flowing like the sound of a worked big-block rumbling at idle and ready to smoke the tires at the hit of the throttle. But is a '60s musclecar a true performance vehicle? By the standards of that era, Mopar's iron certainly held its own in the performance market. But by today's standards, even the best performing musclecar from the '60s comes up a little short. Sure, you could order a musclecar with disc brakes on the front, and a front sway bar was optional on certain models, but most cars produced in the '60s and early '70s came equipped with drum brakes and soft suspension components rendering them barely controllable through tight curves. Embarrassingly, even the cars that were equipped with disc brakes and a sway bar are easily out-handled today by a middle-aged mom driving her modern Chrysler Sebring. Such was the case with our '68 GTX clone, so we decided to rectify the problem and bring our car's handling into the 21st century by adding performance wheels and tires, new suspension bushings, torsion bars, and front and rear anti-sway bars.

Upgrading the suspension on your Mopar used to be more of a convenience than a necessity. It didn't matter that your car didn't handle that great because neither did any of the Ford Mavericks or Chevy Citations that were on the road. Modern cars, however, are built with performance in mind. Even midsize family cars are equipped with four-wheel disc brakes, front and rear sway bars, and computer-tuned suspension components that enable them to out-perform the best that Detroit had to offer in the '60s. This means that even though you smoked that soccer mom in her SUV from the stoplight, she will flat out embarrass you if you try to hang with her through the curves. This scenario is exactly what prompted us to upgrade our car's suspension. We love to drive our classic Mopars and don't want to feel like we're out-gunned by more modern iron (or should we say plastic). Improving the way our car drives and handles will make it more pleasurable to drive our car on a regular basis. Thankfully, companies like Performance Suspension Technology (PST), BFGoodrich, and Wheel Vintiques have what's needed to bring our car's handling into this century.

Before you consider upgrades such as adding sway bars to your suspension, you should first check the integrity of the factory components. Adding sway bars to a car with worn suspension bushings is really counterproductive. Our car still had most of its factory rubber bushings in place, so we decided to replace them with PST's polygraphite front-end kit. Polygraphite bushings won't give like the OEM rubber units, so they will tighten the front suspension considerably, which will greatly improve the handling of our car. New polygraphite bushings will also allow for a truer front end alignment, again improving handling while reducing tire wear. Remember that our goal with this build is all-out performance so we won't be too concerned with ride quality. If ride quality is a concern, you may want to consider rubber front-end bushings. Either way, don't let the front suspension intimidate you. In addition to a press to install the control arm bushings, the only specialty tools you'll need are a tie-rod/ball-joint separator and a ball joint socket. Both of these tools should be available at your local parts store or tool supply warehouse. If you don't have access to a press, you should be able to find a shop locally that will press the control arm bushings in for a reasonable price. A car lift is also a nice convenience, but all the work can be accomplished with a jack and jackstands as well.

Since we were ordering front-end bushings from PST, we decided to upgrade our torsion bars as well and ordered their stiffest units. This, along with large diameter front and rear PST anti-sway bars, will significantly reduce our car's tendency to nosedive under hard braking and will virtually eliminate body roll when hard corners are encountered. Again, we're going for all-out handling and aren't worried about ride quality, so PST's largest diameter torsion bars and sway bars will be utilized. Smaller diameter sways and torsion bars will also help handling without sacrificing too much in the way of ride quality; be sure to call and discuss your options with a representative before ordering your parts. With our suspension components ordered, it was time to decide on a wheel-and-tire combination that would make the best of our performance suspension and still give us the classic musclecar look we desire. Our research led us to Wheel Vintiques and BFGoodrich.

All the high-tech suspension components in the world won't help your car handle any better unless you have the right wheels and tires to take advantage of them. Deciding what wheels and tires we'd utilize for this car created a dilemma. Wanting the best performance possible dictated we use a large diameter rim mated with a wide-performance, low-profile tire. Unfortunately, this look is just not appealing to us. Maybe it's because we grew up in an era when musclecars sported oversize tires on the rear and skinnies up front, but we wanted that classic musclecar stance that comes with wide 15-inch tires mounted on factory appearing rims. Fortunately, Wheel Vintiques has a line of billet aluminum wheels that look amazingly like the factory Magnum 500 units that would have adorned a '68 GTX. These wheels are available in many diameters and widths and combine the look of a factory wheel with the performance of lightweight aluminum units. While we are building this car for maximum performance, we decided to make a compromise and order wheels and tires that would perform well, while also giving us the look we were after. We carefully considered our options and then chose their 15x7-inch wheels for the front and 15x8-inch units for the rear. These rim widths will provide plenty of space for the wide tires that will help us take advantage of our new suspension components.



When it comes to performance/all-purpose tires, it's hard to beat BFGoodrich TA Radials. These tires are a great combination of cost, performance, and wear characteristics. Also, they are available in sizes that are common to musclecars without having to special order them. Since we wanted to take advantage of every available inch of wheelwell, we carefully measured both front and rear openings to come up with tires that would maximize the performance of our vehicle. we chose P275/60R15s out back. At 28-inches tall and nearly 9-inches wide, these are about the biggest tires that will fit in our stock B-body wheelwells without interference issues.

Up front we opted for P235/60R15s. Again, with suspension travel and lock-to-lock steering travel considered, this was the largest 15-inch-diameter tire that we could safely put on the front of our car. Tire diameter for the front units is just over 26 inches with a tread width of nearly 8 inches.

One of the cool things about these upgrades is the dramatic difference in the handling and performance of our vehicle. It only took a weekend to complete the suspension upgrades, and the difference was pronounced. While we don't have a high-tech g-meter or skid pad at our disposal, we do have a very nice, curvy, business park road adjacent to our shop. Taking the turns at the posted speed limit before our modifications was doable, but not what we'd consider fun. Our car would drift and had nearly enough body roll to scrape the chrome from the door handles. After our modifications, however, our car was riding on rails. Body roll was nearly non-existent, and our hefty B-Body could now nimbly navigate the same turns at nearly twice the posted speed limit (not that we recommend that sort of thing)

Any modification that makes a car more fun to drive can be considered money well spent, and this is no exception. Now if we can just find that soccer mom in her SUV we'll show her that a musclecar's performance isn't just limited to a straight line!

SOURCE
Alltrade Tools
Long Beach
CA
8-00/-368-6653
powerbuilttools.com
Performance Suspension Technology
8-00/-247-2288
p-s-t.com
American Muscle
americanmuscle.biz
Wheel Vintiques
5-59/-251-6957
wheelvintiques.com
BFGoodrich Tires
877-788-8899
www.bfgoodrichtires.com
Year One
PO Box 129
Tucker
GA  30085
800-932-7663
770-496-1949
www.nextgenparts.com/mustang
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