Hotchkis Sport Suspension Install - Rebound Rock-Solid
Being able to corner isn’t an option
From the September, 2011 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Randy Bolig
So you’re cruising down the highway, and the speedometer is ticking off numbers a little higher than the posted speed limit. But you’re not worried—your Mopar is factory stock and can handle anything you throw at it. Are you sure that your stock suspension can handle that corner? What if your stock suspension is 30 years old—not just in design, but in actuality, because you have yet to rebuild it? Even if it is rebuilt, are you sure that it can handle anything? What about that fast-approaching corner that you just noticed? Even when they were new, our muscle Mopars were not known for their cornering capabilities. We could go straight at a very fast rate, but cornering and stopping was not considered one of our car’s strong suits. So as you try to decelerate while going into the corner, one of the thoughts that might be going through your mind could either be, I hope I make it, or I hope I don’t roll over!
Body roll was never much of a thought when our cars were new, but now, in the 21st Century, we’re used to cornering characteristics that are better than that of a box of marbles on a sheet of ice.
Although the car needs to...
Although the car needs to be resting on the suspension at ride height to complete the install, we needed to jack the car up to place the sway bar through the k-frame. On earlier model A-Bodies, the bar is mounted below and slightly forward of the k-frame, and you shouldn’t have to jack the car up for this step.
Like I said, the suspension might not be what it used to be, and that corner is still coming up quick. You managed to apply the brakes hard and get it around the corner, but you also scared the bajeezes out of yourself. If only there was a way to upgrade your Mopar’s suspension without breaking the bank. There are many upgrade suspensions available, but many utilize a completely new k-frame, and sometimes serious modifications. What if you still want to upgrade but don’t want to completely change your Mopar? That’s where Hotchkis Sport Suspensions comes in.
According to the guys at Hotchkis, their sport suspension advantage is improved handling for your car, SUV, or truck. Not only are Hotchkis Sport Suspension components engineered to fit properly, they are finished in durable finishes including gloss powdercoating, bright polish, colorful anodizing, silver zinc, and gold cadmium plating.
A couple of months ago (February ’11 issue), we showed you how easy the Hotchkis subframe connectors are to put in, so we thought we would Hotchkis-ize the rest of the car by adding their upper control arms, leaf springs, and sway bars. The arms and leaf springs are a direct bolt in, but the sway bars will need to have the brackets welded in. Overall, the job was easy, and we even did it without the use of a lift—just a couple of jackstands, and some wrenches.
The Hotchkis front sway bar...
The Hotchkis front sway bar requires welding a tab to the lower control arm. The directions give you a measurement to go by. The welding is the hardest part of the install—especially if you don’t have a welder—and if you are not sure of your welding skills, a friend or shop should be able to handle this.
Once you have the tab welded...
Once you have the tab welded in place, finish attaching the bar as required. The bar comes with all of the brackets you need, and since our bar goes through the k-frame, spacers are supplied to properly locate it through the opening so it doesn’t rub.
The Hotchkis upper control...
The Hotchkis upper control arms are specifically designed to correct excessive caster gain and create the proper negative camber curve.
The arms are TIG welded, light...
The arms are TIG welded, light weight, and are gusseted for strength. They also feature adjustable rod ends for maximum adjustability.
We skipped over the step about...
We skipped over the step about how to get the old control arms out, because it’s pretty straight forward. One thing to keep in mind is that the Hotchkis arms eliminate the soft bushing used in the stock control arm. Eliminating this bushing makes the car handle better and the ride firmer. The arm is attached in the factory location, and other than your original caster/camber bolts, the hardware needed is supplied.
After removing the old strut...
After removing the old strut rod—either by removing the nuts and the lower control arm, or cutting it in half and prying it out—the new, adjustable strut rod can be installed. Since your car is at least 30 years old, removing the lower control arms and replacing the lower control arm bushing is highly recommended. It wouldn’t make any sense to replace all these items and then leave the worn-out bushing on the lower control arms.
The factory Mopar lower strut...
The factory Mopar lower strut rod has limited adjustability—and once again, bushings. The bushings make for a softer ride but don’t do much for helping the handling characteristics. The Hotchkis strut rod dramatically improves the cornering performance and steering response of your ride. Designed to positively locate the lower control arm, these strut rods will improve responsiveness and driver control. The adjustable design features 5⁄8-inch rod ends, CNC bent brackets, and lightweight TIG welded 7⁄8-inch tubing. We measured our old strut rod’s length before we removed it, to get us close. A trip to the alignment shop when we’re done will be required.
Out back, we installed a set...
Out back, we installed a set of what Hotchkis calls their Geometry Correcting Sport Leaf Springs.
According to Hotchkis, the...
According to Hotchkis, the springs are specifically designed to reduce roll steer, and the kit features a new front spring bracket and high-Durometer Polyurethane and rubber bushings. The springs are 130 lb/in lightweight spring pack to improve handling, performance, and balance.
The springs and included front...
The springs and included front mount are designed to lower the ride height 1-inch, which reduces the vehicle’s center of gravity.
The rear sway bar is another...
The rear sway bar is another easy install. Loosely hang the bar from the rear axle using the supplied hardware. Don’t tighten anything yet, as you will have to adjust and center the bar.
The next step involves locating...
The next step involves locating the frame bracket for the sway bar links. We attached the links to the frame bracket and the bar and located the bracket that way. We were then able to mark the bracket location for welding.
Once located, remove the link...
Once located, remove the link bars, clean the area on the frame to be welded, and hit it with the welder. Again, if you’re not sure about your welding skills, a friend or competent shop can do this for you.
Once welded, paint the bracket...
Once welded, paint the bracket and surrounding area to protect it from rust.
Once the paint dries, it’s...
Once the paint dries, it’s time to attach the bar to the bracket. You want to keep the link bar as vertical as possible.
Once the bar is attached on...
Once the bar is attached on the ends, locate the sway bar axle-mount to be level, and then tighten the U-bolts.
Just because we happened to...
Just because we happened to do our install on an A-Body, you B- and E-Body guys don’t need to feel left out. Hotchkis has complete Sport Suspensions and subframe connectors for you as well, and the install is just as easy.
For you late-model guys, parts...
For you late-model guys, parts are also available to make your new LX and LY car corner like it’s on rails.
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