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1967 Camaro Suspension Upgrade

Turning the Camaro Back Into A Hugger

Larry Weiner - September 16, 2011 12:00 PM

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Here’s a comparison of an original 1967 Camaro front coil spring and one of the new replacement springs from Eaton Detroit Spring. The actual original GM assembly line ID tag identifies the spring code and part number. We carefully removed the tag prior to removing the spring from the vehicle to prevent it from being damaged. 

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These are the suspension, sway bar and steering rebuild kits.

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We found the original riveted upper ball joints on the Camaro when it left the factory were still there. The lower ball joint boot is torn and pulled away from the joint allowing water and debris to contaminate it. The lower control arm rubber bushings also appeared to be the originals and exhibited deterioration consistent with the other bushings and the age of the vehicle.

 

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Measure the vehicle’s ride height before beginning to establish a baseline for comparison between old and new springs.

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There’s extreme deterioration of the stabilizer shaft end link rubber bushings. Remove the sway bar. Disassemble the link by removing the nut at the top of the bolt that attaches from the bottom of the control arm and runs through the link. Remove two bolts from each of the stabilizer shaft brackets mounted to the front subframe. One of the stabilizer shaft brackets had previously broken. The sway bar bushings were badly distorted. 

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Remove the front shock absorbers. They are located inside the coil springs and are bolted to bottom of the lower control arms and at the top of the subframe with access through the upper control arms.

 
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To separate the tie rod ends from the spindle arms, first remove the cotter pins, followed by loosening the castellated nuts until they reach the top of the threads. Using the correct size pickle fork, drive the tool into the tie rod end stud using a hammer to separate the joint from the spindle arm. Loosening the castellated nut to the top of the threads allows the joint room to separate from the spindle arm. Unscrew the nut and remove the tie rod end from the spindle arm. Follow the same procedure on the opposing side and the joint where the center link is attached to the steering arm.

 
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The idler arm is attached to the right frame rail with two nuts and bolts. The bolts are accessed through holes on the outside of the frame rail and extend though the frame and idler arm. Once removed, the entire relay and tie rod assembly can now be removed from the vehicle.

 

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Separating the ball joints from the spindle is the same as the procedure used on the tie rod ends. First, remove the cotter pins, followed by loosening the castellated nuts until they reach the top of the threads. Drive the correct size pickle fork into the ball joint stud using a hammer to separate the ball joint from the spindle. Loosening the castellated nut to the top of the threads will allow the ball joints room to separate from the spindle. The red paint at the top of the spindle is trace evidence of the original assembly line paint dab indicating the upper ball joint had been completely assembled.

 
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With a floor jack positioned under the lower control arm supporting the weight of the suspension, remove the castellated nuts from the upper and lower ball joints. Slowly lower the floor jack so that the upper and lower ball joints separate from the spindle and remove it.

 
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Lower the floor jack and remove it from beneath the control arm. Carefully pull down the lower control arm to release the coil spring from the spring pocket. The coil spring will be under tension, so be cautious when removing it. Be sure to wear gloves, safety glasses, protective clothing and shoes.

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The coil spring has been removed from vehicle. The original coil springs have a production indentation near the edge of the first coil. This indentation is located at the top of the spring as removed from the vehicle. The new spring has a similar indent. Use the indent to identify the top of the spring when installing in the upper spring pocket.

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Each lower control arm is bolted to the frame with two bolts. Both of the bolts were installed at the factory with the retaining nuts facing out.

 
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To remove the upper control arms, loosen the end bolts on the cross shaft bushings so that the control arms move freely. Remove the nuts from the two bolts that attach the upper control arm inner shafts to the frame. When removing the alignment shims, we suggest putting them in labeled bags and reusing them in their original positions during reassembly of the suspension for a baseline alignment setting. This Camaro is still equipped with the original factory motor mount recall bracket and braided wire cable. The cable must be disconnected from the bracket to remove the left upper control arm.

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To remove the upper control arms, loosen the end bolts on the cross shaft bushings so that the control arms move freely. Remove the nuts from the two bolts that attach the upper control arm inner shafts to the frame. When removing the alignment shims, we suggest putting them in labeled bags and reusing them in their original positions during reassembly of the suspension for a baseline alignment setting. This Camaro is still equipped with the original factory motor mount recall bracket and braided wire cable. The cable must be disconnected from the bracket to remove the left upper control arm.

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The front suspension components are removed from vehicle. At this time, we sent the control arms out for sandblasting prior to having the old bushings and ball joints removed and the new parts installed. 

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The rivets in the upper ball joints are drilled out. 

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The original upper control arm inner shaft bushing was removed. The new inner shaft and inner shaft bushings are installed in the upper control arm.

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This step shows the removal of one of the original lower control arm bushings, prepping with grease and installing new bushings.

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This is the process of pressing out one of the original lower ball joints, prepping with grease and pressing in the new ball joint.

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This is the process of pressing out one of the original lower ball joints, prepping with grease and pressing in the new ball joint.

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With the bushings and lower ball joints installed, we cleaned, prepped and painted the upper and lower control arms the correct color of chassis black.

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This is the ball joint and hardware for the upper control arm. Unlike the originals that were riveted, the replacement ball joints are attached with nuts, bolts and lock washers.

 
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We installed new rubber upper control arm bumpers.

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This is the end bolt and retainer for inner upper arm shaft. The end bolts screw into each end of the inner upper arm shaft. Do not tighten at this time.

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Here is the reassembled upper control arm ready for installation.

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Reinstall the upper and lower control arms. At this time, you will reinstall the alignment shims on the upper control arm inner shafts that were removed during disassembly and tighten the nuts on the bolts to the correct torque specification.   

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Install the spring compressor inside the new coil spring. There are several different styles of spring compressors, so be sure to follow the instructions for correct use. Tighten the spring compressor to the point where the coil spring can be inserted into the upper and lower spring pockets. Using the floor jack, lift the lower control arm up to further compress the spring and facilitate the installation of the spindle. With the spindle installed, thread the castellated nuts securely onto each ball joint stud.

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After removing the spring compressor, tighten the castellated nuts on the upper and lower ball joints to proper torque specifications. Line up the holes in the ball joint studs with the slots in the castellated nuts, then insert the cotter pins and bend appropriately.

 

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Here’s a comparison of the original and new tie rod and relay assembly. This includes inner and outer tie rod ends, adjusting sleeves, center link, and idler arm. We adjusted the new steering linkage as closely as possible to match the adjustments on the original, as the alignment had been correct at the time of disassembly.

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Install the new tie rod and relay assembly. We started by attaching the idler arm to the right subframe using the proper bolts and nuts and tightening them to the correct torque specification. We then attached the center link to the steering arm on the steering box, tightened the castellated nut to the correct torque specification, lined up the hole in the joint stud with the slot in the castellated nut and installed the cotter pin.

 
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Attach the tie rod ends to the spindle arms. Tighten all castellated nuts on the tie rod and relay assembly to the correct torque specification, and install cotter pins. (We installed the steering arms on the spindles at this time without brakes for illustration purposes.)

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This shows a comparison of old and new shock absorbers. We chose to use reproduction Delco spiral shocks from YearOne. 

 
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Install new shock absorbers. Be sure the lock nut on top is installed with the flanges facing up to avoid crushing them.

 
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Install the stabilizer shaft. We started by slipping new rubber bushings onto the stabilizer shaft that seat in the mounting brackets that bolt to the frame. Next, install and bolt the stabilizer shaft mounting brackets to the frame rails. This photo illustrates the installation of the end links and bushings.

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Double check to be sure that all of the nuts and bolts on the suspension and steering have been correctly installed, tightened to the correct torque specification, and that each of the cotter pins have been installed and bent. After the brakes are installed and the system bled, mount the wheels and tires and lower vehicle to the ground. With the weight of the vehicle on the suspension, tighten the end bolts on the inner upper control arm shafts. At this point, a wheel alignment should be performed by a professional. 

 
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With the suspension and steering refreshed on the Camaro, it’s ready to carve corners with agility and live up to its moniker, the Hugger.  

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There comes a time in the life of all vintage vehicles when some parts have to be replaced as a result of the combination of the ravages of time and accumulated mileage. In the case of the front suspension and steering on our 1967 Camaro, it was both.

We recently rebuilt the rear suspension utilizing new leaf springs, rubber bushings and shock absorbers. The bushings were shot, the mono leafs were tired and the shocks were way beyond their useable life. Needless to say, the parts that comprise the front suspension and steering were in similar condition and in need of a complete refreshing. It’s time to breathe new life into these vital components on the 1967 Camaro SS.

This ’67 Camaro is a true period piece with just 95,000 miles on the odometer. The front suspension and steering was all OE, other than the shock absorbers that appeared to have been replaced at least 30 years ago. In fact, the suspension on the Camaro was so original that it still had a GM production line ID tag on one of the coil springs. While finding an unmolested 1967 Camaro SS is akin to the proverbial needle in the haystack, and the thought of owning a car like this sounds romantic, the truth remains that this vehicle is 44 years old. When you factor in the mileage and years, it becomes painfully obvious that all of the front suspension parts were well past their normal life expectancy.

Reviewing each of the components revealed the truth. All of the rubber bushings were either completely ruined or in an advanced stage of deterioration. Adding insult to injury, the boots on several of the steering joints and ball joints were torn, resulting in contamination from repeated exposure to dirt and moisture. Driving the Camaro also revealed a slight shimmy, the cause of which appeared to be a worn idler arm. In short, it was time to replace all of the suspension and steering components.

We contacted Eaton Detroit Spring in Detroit, Michigan, for a new pair of stock height replacement coil springs. Eaton Detroit has been manufacturing automotive springs of all types since 1937 and offer a wide range of spring choices for first-gen Camaros, depending upon which engine and options the vehicle is equipped with, in addition to a variety of heights. YearOne Inc. in Braselton, Georgia, had just what we needed in the way of new suspension bushings, ball joints and replica Delco spiral shocks in the correct shade of gray, matching those that we used on the rear. YearOne also had all of the replacement parts we needed to restore the steering and the stabilizer shaft (sway bar) so the Camaro would feel just like it did when it rolled off the assembly line in Los Angeles back in December of 1966. With everything in hand, we were ready to begin.

At this point, it’s important to mention a few words concerning safety. We strongly recommend wearing safety glasses or suitable eye protection when working on your vehicle. In addition, be sure to exercise caution when removing the coil springs, which may be compressed and could eject abruptly during removal, possibly causing injury. Wearing heavy-duty work gloves, a shop hat, a long sleeve shirt, trousers and proper shoes, especially during spring removal and replacement, is recommended. Use jackstands with the correct rating to support the vehicle, and chock the rear tires to prevent the vehicle from moving. We used a 2½-ton hydraulic floor jack for several of the tasks outlined in this story and recommend you use a similar device with adequate capacity.

We had upgraded the Camaro from front drum brakes to disc brakes using a bolt-on conversion kit from SSBC. With that thought in mind, we begin this project with the drum brakes already removed. We will conclude at the point where the disc brakes would be installed to avoid being redundant.

Join us as we breathe new life into the front suspension and steering of this early production first-gen Camaro, and make it a true Hugger once again.

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