This Dodge Challenger had...
This Dodge Challenger had a short life as a street car, and now we're helping convert it to a dedicated bracket racer. Last month we showed you the back half repair and rebuild. This month we'll tackle the front suspension and brakes.
Late model Challengers (and other LX Mopars) come from the factory with an independent rear suspension, which was replaced in a previous issue with four-link, solid-axle suspension more suited for drag racing. Up front, the new Challenger features rack-and-pinion steering and a strut-style suspension, which includes upper and lower control arms, and a third tension arm diagonally mounted in front of the lower control arm. In terms of technology, this type of suspension is far advanced when compared to classic Mopars and is great for the street, but still needs some tweaking for drag racing use.
In drag racing, weight and weight distribution are an important factor for traction. Late-model Challengers are already heavy, so any weight we can remove from the car will make it easier to achieve lower elapsed times. We've removed much of the car's wiring and all of the airbags, and we'll also be installing a lightweight racing seat, and shedding weight from the car in various other areas in an attempt to offset the weight of the required rollcage and frame connectors.
01 This car's front suspension...
01 This car's front suspension took a hard hit during a rollover accident, so the first step was to remove the damaged components so the car's frame could be checked and straightened by a professional frame shop. Luckily, control arms and suspension parts are readily available from Chrysler, or from any other '06 and up Charger or Challenger.
Since this car was rolled over, before any modifications can be made, the car was taken to a qualified frame shop to be straightened and checked. After getting the car back from the frame shop, all of the front control arms and tension arms were checked and replaced as necessary. The control arms in these cars have no provision for adjustment, so it's important to replace them even if they are only bent slightly to ensure proper front end alignment. We'll also remove the front sway bar as it will save weight and allow front end travel. After we get the Challenger to the track, we may also experiment with limiting front end travel, depending on how well the car hooks up.
While installing the rear suspension and rollcage in the Challenger, Steve from Steve Miller Fabrication installed Chrome-moly frame connectors, tying the K-member into the car's new narrowed rear subframe. Bars were also added from the rollcage and firewall to the shock tower and then to the car's frame forward of the shock tower for additional chassis stiffness. We're building a 426-inch late-model Hemi for this car along with Indy Cylinder Head, and want the car to be able to handle as much power as Indy can throw at it. The extra bars will also make the car safer in the unlikely event of an accident at the track.
This Challenger began life as a 5.7 Hemi-equipped R/T model, so it was originally equipped with disc brakes and heavy vented rotors up front. Lightweight brakes will not only shed total weight and un-sprung weight, but take weight from the front of the car where it really matters. The Aerospace Components calipers also allow the pistons to retract when the brake pedal is released, so the brake pads don't drag on the rotor which creates friction. Aerospace Components custom made this kit for us, which incorporates a rotor with a 4.5-inch bolt circle, 1/2-inch studs, and billet calipers and brackets.
The Lakewood Drag shocks for the front of our Dodge came from Applied Racing Technology (ART) in nearby St. Petersburg, Florida, and will allow the front of the car to rise, transferring weight to the rear wheels to improve traction and acceleration. We also chose Eibach sport springs for the front of our Challenger, which will lower the ride height of the front of the car approximately an inch and a half to two inches.
02 Any car that has been...
02 Any car that has been in a collision such as this should have the frame checked and straightened if necessary by a professional shop. Fortunately, the damage to this Challenger was minimal and easily corrected so we could move on to our modifications.
03 Since this Challenger...
03 Since this Challenger was originally equipped with a Hemi, we really don't need to change much and can retain the factory K-member and steering column. We'll use a 904 transmission in this car and show you how easily it bolts to the late-model Hemi in an upcoming issue.
04 The forward support bars...
04 The forward support bars of the rollcage go through the upper dash vents and tie into the floor and frame connectors. To stiffen the front suspension, Steve Miller Fabrication also welded bars from there to the shock tower, then from the shock tower down to the frame forward of the suspension. The frame connector is welded directly to the K-member.
|Eibach Coil Springs set of four. we only used two||$271.99|
|Lakewood Drag Shocks||$159.95 each|
|Aerospace Components Front Disc Brakes||call for pricing|
|Fabricated Chrome-moly chassis tubes||labor varies by shop|
05 The Lakewood drag shocks...
05 The Lakewood drag shocks we got from ART will allow the front suspension to lift easier, and stay lifted to keep weight on the rear wheels during the launch. Down track the shocks will slowly compress, making the car more aerodynamic. This is an old traction trick that should work great on this modern Mopar.
06 Assembling front struts...
06 Assembling front struts takes the proper tools to compress the springs. The Eibach springs we will be using, will lower the car by close to two inches. The springs come in sets of four, but we'll only be using the front ones. Anyone need a set of rear springs?
07 Aerospace Components makes...
07 Aerospace Components makes great lightweight brakes for drag race cars. They hadn't produced a kit for a late-model Challenger yet, but were happy to put together a custom brake kit for us. The calipers aren't just lightweight; they offer reduced friction levels when compared to factory disc brakes. The included brackets allow the calipers to bolt directly to the factory spindle, and we had standard 1/2-inch studs installed as well.