When restoring a car – or even just freshening up some things – there are certain parts that people tend to overlook. It’s easy to go straight for power adders and speed parts, but if you really want to see a difference in drivability and ride quality, maybe you should look at suspension parts.
Such is the case with Dave Dominguez’s 1966 Chevy Impala Super Sport. Dave’s Super Sport was bought from a tow yard in the mid ‘90s, and sat in storage for several years after that. Suffice to say, a car that is over 50 years old and sits dormant for a large part of its lifetime, typically requires some updating in the suspension department. The bushings were long since worn, and not much more than dust. Replacing body and suspension bushings was definitely a priority for Dave. He knew who to trust for this upgrade, and he reached for the good stuff from Energy Suspension.
Features And Benefits:
Dave’s Impala would require several component upgrades to bring the handling back to life. Luckily for him, the folks in the R&D department at Energy Suspension were hard at work developing a new kit specific to his application. Previously, the kit used on an Impala like Dave’s would have been a universal one. Now, Energy offers a specific setup for fourth-generation Impalas (1965-1970). The kit is complete, and even includes hardware to replace the corroded factory pieces.
Body Bushings: Fourth-generation Impalas have a perimeter frame, meaning the body of the car rests atop the frame. This is important because, this setup requires body bushings to absorb shock, and mitigate movement between the two surfaces. Failure to replace or upgrade worn bushings will result in increased noise and body roll. Body panels can even become out of alignment because of this.
Tie-Rod Bushings: Tie rods are an integral part of the front suspension and steering. Their purpose is to connect the steering rack to the spindle. When tie-rod bushings wear out, you will end up with symptoms like squeaking, loose steering, and even shaking in the steering wheel.
Sway Bar Bushings: The function of the sway bar is to prevent body roll during cornering, and connect both the left and right wheels. Having worn out sway bar bushings will most likely result in excess body roll, unresponsive handling, rattling, and squeaking. Using a greasable polyurethane bushing from Energy enables the user to consistently apply lubricant and increase the life and performance of the bushing.
End Link Bushings: Sway-bar end links connect the sway bar to the control arms, and further prevent body roll, to help control handling. When end-link bushings become worn, common symptoms include a rattling or clunking sound coming from the tire area, as well as poor handling and a loose steering wheel.
Upper & Lower Control Arm Bushings: Control arms connect a car’s suspension to the the vehicles frame. They do this via bushings and upper and lower ball joints. Failure to properly maintain or replace worn bushings will certainly end in steering wheel vibration. If the ball joints become worn out, it can result in wheel shimmy.
Engine/ Trans-mount bushings: As you can probably ascertain, the role of engine and transmission mounts is to secure the drivetrain to the chassis of the car. Engine and transmission mounts have a rubber or polyurethane vibration-dampening component, and once these become worn, the driver will experience excessive vibrations, and loud clunking or banging noises from the weight of the engine and/or transmission moving.
R & D, And Product Construction:
When speaking with Pete Williamsen of Energy Suspension about the materials used to create their bushings, he explained; “It’s a trade secret. Our Hyperflex material is our own formula that is unique to Energy Suspension, and is made right here in San Clemente. We have the ability to create specific materials with unique characteristics that allow us to fine tune a material to work for a specific application.”
Those finely tuned materials make a night and day difference in the handling of whatever vehicle they are applied. Factory bushings tend to be soft, and on a classic application like Dave’s ’66 Impala, they tend to be more than a little worn out. The excessive wear caused all of the suspension components on the Impala to have a tremendous amount of slop, which resulted in poor handling, and even a loss of steering response. Pete even stated that worn out body bushings, engine, and transmission mounts can also result in a loss of power to the ground.
“With new body mounts installed, the customer will notice that the chassis itself is much more rigid, making the car feel tighter and more controlled at launch. The engine and transmission mounts keep the drivetrain from twisting, putting more power to the ground more quickly. Faster throttle response and better acceleration are noticeable, since less power is being lost in the twist of the drivetrain,” Williamson added.
The folks at Energy Suspension are always developing new and exciting products, and this set up is no different. As if the performance benefits weren’t enough, customers can also expect to have better body panel fitment. With a perimeter frame car like the Impala, worn body bushings can cause movement and sagging of fenders, doors, and the body itself, in relation to the frame. After installing the bushings made of Energy’s Hyperflex material; bumpers, doors, and body panels will all fit better and line up more easily.
Installation/ Tips & Tricks:
Speaking of installation and ease of fitment, there are a few things that anyone looking to install one of these kits should keep in mind. First, on a vehicle that is over 50 years old, installers should expect a level of corrosion when dealing with old hardware. It is recommended to soak the old hardware with penetrating oil before attempting removal. While that is going on, it is also a good idea to remove the bumpers, front wheel wells, and disconnect the steering column and parking brake cable. Pete also suggested replacing the rag joint at this time, which is not included in the kit.
Once all the hardware is removed, the body can be lifted from the frame. It is a good idea to do one side at a time, by removing the hardware from one side, and loosening the other side in order to fit the new, larger bushings in place of the old worn out components. Once the new bushings are installed, the steering column and parking brake cable can be reconnected, and the hardware tightened to factory specifications.
Replacing the bushings in the front suspension requires a bit more patience, but is still fairly straightforward. Following the factory service manual when disassembling the frontend will be any would-be installers guiding light. Once the front knuckle assembly is taken apart, installers can hang the brake caliper out of the way. Now is a great time to service the brakes, or replace worn tie-rod ends, ball joints, and hub bearings.
Next comes the removal of the upper control arms and lower strut rod. Retaining the factory hardware is important, because it will be reused. Once the control arms are off the car, the factory bushings can be removed, along with the control-arm shaft and the shells that hold the bushings in place.
With the old bushings out of the way, the new shells can be pressed into place and greased. This will allow the bushings to be set in place and the shaft inserted afterward. Finally, the control arms can be reinstalled with the factory hardware.
At this point, you will want to check the ball joints and install the supplied dust boots. Once that is done, the lower control arms can be removed. It is important to note that the lower control arms retain their factory shells and outer thrust washers on the outside of the bushings.
There are a couple of ways to remove the old rubber bushings from the shells. You can accomplish this by heating up the shell with a torch until it releases a hint of smoke. Once smoke is present, the bond between the shell and bushing is released and the whole thing can be pressed out. The other option is to soak the whole bushing in penetrating oil, press the sleeve out, and then pry the rubber material out with a pry bar or blade.
If the factory bushings are badly corroded or cracked — like those on Dave’s Impala — the latter choice may be the way to go. After the old components have been removed, it is time to install the new Energy bushings. A liberal application of lubricant is recommended on all surfaces to aid in the pressing-in of the new bushings and thrust washers.
The last part of the frontend rebuild is replacing the sway bar bushings with the new greasable versions provided in the kit. Installation of the sway bar bushings is fairly easy. One side at a time, unbolt the old rubber bushings, wrap the new Hyperflex material around the sway bar and bolt back in place.
Moving to the rear of the car, the Impala has control arms and coil springs rather than leaf springs. Much like the front, you will want to remove the old bushings and shells, and press in the new ones with plenty of grease. You may notice the orientation of rear, upper control arms has changed, becoming more offset from the mount. Fear not, this is part of the design. Go ahead and reinstall.
With the suspension buttoned up, it was time to focus on the engine and transmission mounts. The mounts on Dave’s Impala were in bad shape, which, if left unaddressed, could have resulted in some issues in the future.
Replacing the mounts is fairly easy. You loosen the hardware, lift or lower the engine and transmission, remove the old mount, slide the new mount into place, and reinstall the factory hardware. Now is a good time to check the bolts that connect the mount to the frame of the car, as they can become stretched and worn out over time as well. Finally, once everything is reassembled, it is a good idea to make a trip to your local alignment shop.
After the installation, we gave Dave some time to test out his new hardware before he gave us his impression of the kit, but once we caught up with him, he was singing Energy Suspension’s praises. When questioned about the performance of his Impala after the install, “It worked out great, the handling has been amazing, and so has the cornering. It doesn’t drive like a boat anymore. Not at all,” Dave said.
When asked where he has seen the most improvements, he said, “The cornering, handling, overall drivability, and turning radius. This thing has also quieted down quite a bit. No squeaks or rattling anymore.”
There you have it folks. Energy Suspension produces some of the finest polyurethane automotive components around, and it shows. Unlike factory rubber components, Energy Suspension’s Hyperflex material will stand the test of time. Whether you plan to use them on-road or off, Energy makes something to suit your needs.
Energy’s patented Hyperflex material is the result of more than twenty years of experience in the automotive industry. They have been proven on the race track, the street, and off-road, in the some of the harshest conditions. Whether you’re looking for a replacement that will last longer and provide better performance than your stock components, or building something from the ground up, look at Energy Suspension first.