Suspension upgrades are a staple in the aftermarket hobby. People have been modifying the underpinnings of their cars and trucks for decades. The improved ride, handling characteristics, and suspension geometry makes upgrading an easy decision. But, is there anything you should take into consideration before you decide on an upgrade like a full subframe or even a coilover conversion?
We thought that would be a good question for experts, and reached out to Heidts Hot Rod and Muscle Car Parts to see what we could learn. While Heidts produces some of the finest front and rear suspension components on the market, we wanted to know what is necessary for an average person to install a Heidts subframe in their hot rod. There is a myriad of options available when discussing car suspensions, so to limit our scope, we will focus on the popular early Nova (’62-’67) and the first- and second-generation Camaro (’67-’81).
What Will You Need?
“We get calls every day from people asking preinstallation questions,” stated Scott Diedrich of Heidts. “One of the most frequently asked is to see if it’s something they can tackle in their garage, or if they’ll need to take it to a shop.”
For the Camaro, we offer only one front suspension subframe, our PRO-G. It’s a bolt-on kit that comes complete with the subframe, tubular control arms, Wilwood brakes, adjustable coilovers, PRO-G 2-inch drop spindles, and a power-steering rack.” This lighter and stronger kit offers more adjustability when compared to a factory-stock subframe that utilizes aftermarket bolt-on control arms and coilover shocks.
“The Nova kits come in three flavors: an entry-level Mustang II, our mid-level Superide II, or the PRO-G, affirmed Diedrich. “Again, all three kits are hub-to-hub units, and which one to use for a particular application depends on what the end-user is looking to do with the car. A Mustang II upgrade is great for a daily driver. A car used mostly on the street with an occasional trip to the local autocross is better served with the Superide II. The weekend racer would definitely want to check out the PRO-G system.”
If you want to completely upgrade your car’s suspension, Heidts also offers a PRO-G independent-rear-suspension (IRS) kit for the Camaro and Nova. The bolt-in PRO-G IRS is designed to provide excellent autocross and/or road-course handling. The IRS kit will keep the drive tires firmly planted during acceleration, cornering, and braking.
Requirements For Installation
If you are building a new ride, removal of the front sheetmetal will likely already be done. However, if the car is currently a driver or roller, the front-end metal will have to be removed. Before the disassembly begins, an area must be prepared to ease the disassembly and reassembly procedures. You’ll need a level floor that is wider and longer in length than the vehicle. This is where disassembly will take place.
Additionally, proper documentation and storage of all the fasteners is required. Using Ziploc baggies and a Sharpie will organize the small parts. Quality digital photos of each step of the disassembly will also assist you during reassembly. No specialty tools are needed, as the use of basic hand tools is sufficient to remove components.
The bumper, grille, core support, fenders, wheels, shocks, tie rods, brake lines, and eventually, the subframe will all be removed. The use of pneumatic (or electric) impact guns and ratchets may speed up the disassembly time. An engine hoist is necessary to pull the engine and transmission assembly from the chassis.
In preparation for reassembly, a 1/2-inch drill and a 1/2-inch drill bit are required. These will resize the firewall holes for attaching the Heidts subframe. During the assembly process, a level will be critical to ensure the subframe is properly installed. Eventually, you will need to compress the coil springs during the assembly process. Therefore, a quality spring compressor is also required. Do not skimp and pick up a cheap spring compressor. Breakage of the spring compressor could lead to serious personal injury if a coil spring were to cut loose.
Additional tools include a tape measure, center punch, and a hammer. These are required for the installation of the sway bar frame-mount bushing brackets. During the assembly process, the use of pneumatic or electric tools may be tempting, but basic hand tools will provide better control to ensure the fastener torque is not exceeded. To guarantee the proper fastener torque, the installation requires a torque wrench with a torque range of 20 to 200 ft-lbs.
With many different engine and transmission combinations available to enthusiasts, how does a customer know if their drivetrain will work with a Heidts subframe kit? According to Diedrich, “The biggest customer concerns we get calls about are engine and transmission fitment, and header and oil pan clearance.”
While Heidts has engine-mount kits for the small-block Chevy and LS engines, new engines such as the LT, have required Heidts to remodel its engine mounts. “We test fit different engine and transmission combinations and work with many headers and oil pans to see what will best fit,” Diedrich relayed. “But new engines mean redesigns, which is what we are in the middle of right now. The new LT engines don’t bolt right into the old subframe kits, so we have to make changes for firewall and hood clearance.”
Heidts Rear Subframe
Heidts offers plenty of quality four-link rear suspensions for vehicles, but we kept our focus on the IRS installation requirements. An IRS upgrade seems to be the install asked about by many. The same hand tools used to disassemble and assemble the front subframe can be used on the rear subframe. However, the IRS does require a large amount of bench assembly before installation into the chassis. Therefore, a clean, clutter-free workbench will be necessary.
Finishing the IRS installation requires two torque wrenches. One is the same 20- to 200- ft-lb torque wrench used on the front. The other is an inch-pound torque wrench adjustable to 180 in-lbs. Regardless of whether installing a front subframe or IRS, upon completion of the installation, the vehicle requires a wheel alignment by a professional. Heidts provides the alignment specifications (caster/camber/toe for the front end and camber/toe for the rear end) to align the vehicle to maximize the new suspension.
How to Get a Subframe
Is there a Heidts subframe kit in your future? The most significant selling point of these units is that anyone can install one in the course of a weekend. Heidts sells its products to enthusiasts because the kits can be installed without expensive tools. There is no requirement for a car hoist or welding equipment to install the products. With the use of simple hand tools, a customer can unbolt and remove their existing subframe, make minor modifications to the vehicle, and install a new subframe.
The new subframe increases the safety and reliability of the vehicle. In addition, the new subframe provides an immediate improvement in ride quality and handling. If you want a better handling Chevy with a performance suspension, yet, great road manners, give the representatives at Heidts a call. You can also check out the website for more information about improving your Chevrolet’s handling.