When the cars we all love and collect first hit the showroom floors, the suspensions supporting these highway mayhem-makers were not what could be called crude, but they did utilize a simple design. To keep the explanation simple, classic cars are traditionally supported by either coil springs and gas-charged shock absorbers or a combination of coil springs and parallel leaf springs and shock absorbers.
When these cars of the ’60s and ’70s were populating America’s highways, the rubber that was meeting the road were bias-ply tires. With these non-radial rollers, the “simple” suspensions the cars were utilizing were more than adequate. Now, performance junkies are modifying their cars, adding overly sticky radial tires, and that once “adequate” suspension is now more than inadequate. In fact, we previously upgraded a ’66 Chevelle with a QA1 coilover setup, and you can read that article right here.
However, many enthusiasts are not ready to drop a seriously large amount of cash to completely reconstruct a new chassis for their “old” car. Luckily, QA1 has a simple, bolt-on upgrade that greatly improves how your car handles—whether racing or not—and won’t break the bank.
This bolt-in option will eliminate the factory coil/leaf springs and supporting gas shocks and give the car a fully adjustable ride height. This is achieved by allowing the car owner to dial in the car’s perfect stance. I get it, the price of admission might be a little high if you were just trying to adjust ride height. However, the bolt-in coilovers also offer various spring rate options so you can adjust the ride quality and even shock-valving adjustability. Two things you cannot get from a traditional spring and shock configuration.
I wanted to get a little clarification about some things when contemplating this upgrade, so I reached out to Dave Kass, the marketing manager at QA1. The first question I needed to ask seemed logical to me, ‘when is it feasible to retain the factory parts’? “A factory shock and spring were fine when the car was new,” says Dave. “But now it’s 30, 40, or even 50-years later, and the suspension is probably worn. What’s more, performance upgrades have probably been installed. It’s time to replace these components. The performance upgrades used don’t even need to be drastic. Updating just the tires might have you driving a bit differently than before and you’ll begin to see the shortcomings of those factory suspension items.”
It’s such a good bang for the buck and very impactful to your experience driving your vehicle. – Dave Kass, QA1
If you ask me, that is actually some sage advice. However, I can already hear the comments from you guys who have a rebuilt suspension, “mine is as good as new.” With that in mind, I asked when is upgrading to a bolt-on coilover recommended?
“There are few instances where I wouldn’t recommend a bolt-on coilover,” says Dave. “There are too many benefits to mention. For starters, they are extremely affordable and easy to install. Next, coilovers allow you to get that perfect stance. It sounds simple, but stop and think about how important a car’s stance is to the overall aesthetics of your ride. Have you ever walked past a car and thought, ‘that thing sits perfectly’? With a simple coilover install, you can often adjust your ride height from the traditional stock height all the way down into the weeds. In addition to all of that, these often incorporate the adjustable valving mentioned earlier. It’s such a good bang for the buck and very impactful to your experience driving your vehicle.”
Okay, I get it, coilovers are a great upgrade. But there has to be a few downsides to them, correct? “Honestly, there aren’t any significant downsides,” affirms Dave. “They don’t require modification to the vehicle, they deliver a good ride, and again, allow for the perfect stance. There isn’t much not to like. I will add, if the wrong-rate spring is selected, the ride can be less than pleasurable. If you’re uncertain about what spring rate you might need, our team makes spring selection easy.”
After Dave made that statement, I thought that if there is one statement that gets made quite often when talking about coilovers, it’s that they do deliver a harsh ride. If you listen to what Dave stated in the last paragraph, if spring selection is incorrect, that will be the case. “The notion that coilovers ride rough has unfortunately echoed throughout the car community for years,” Dave adds. “There is no reason a coilover system needs to ride rough. When one does, we often diagnose it down to one of three main reasons.
“The first is an incorrect spring rate. This is the number one cause of a rough-riding coilover. The second is the vehicle’s ride height could be adjusted outside the range for which the shock is designed to operate. Set it too high or too low, and the shock can overextend or bottom out. Assuming one keeps within the appropriate travel range, this shouldn’t be an issue. Last is the valving. This, however, is not unique to only coilovers. An adjustable shock can be set too firm or too soft (it bottoms out). One or all of these can result in poor riding coilovers. Luckily, there is a fix for all concerns, and most of the time it’s as simple as a turn of the dial.”
Finally, Dave wanted to make sure you guys know that QA1 is a company of enthusiasts. In fact, whether your planning to keep your stock suspension or after you have installed your new components, you can continue your story with QA1’s #goDRIVEit community. This is where people can gather virtually to share their stories from the road.
Whether your hot rod is built for some serious racing action or for those enjoyable cruises through the back-country roads. Hopefully, this article helped you realize the possible benefits that a QA1 bolt-on coilover suspension can deliver to your hot rod’s ride.