While it began as a quiet street trend, big-wheel Donks, Boxes, and Bubbles are more popular now than ever, even garnering their own national TV shows. The street contingent remains huge, and now the enthusiasts that race these machines have pushed the boundaries of vehicle performance, with the quickest cars now clocking 8-second elapsed times. Up until now, these racers and car builders have gotten by with various upgraded or modified parts here and there, but QA1 saw an opportunity to step in and develop purpose-built suspension packages for the popular big-wheel Donks (1971-76 GM B-body, Caprice, Impala), Boxes (1977-90 GM B-body, Caprice, Impala), Bubbles (1991-96 GM B-body, Caprice, Impala) and even 1978-88 GM G-bodies.
The key component of any of these big-wheel machines is the massive wheels, usually measuring 26 to 28 inches in diameter. Most of these cars came stock with 15- or 16-inch wheels, and the wheel wells were designed and manufactured to accommodate that size, so stuffing something 10 or more inches in diameter larger requires a number of modifications. These usually include a suspension lift, and sometimes wheel well clearancing.
Like any crafty hot-rodder, many enthusiasts simply modified things to get them to work, and often manufactured their own components to achieve the desired result. Then, some QA1 dealers began to realize that a few of the aftermarket parts would fit the platform.
Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention
QA1 received a surge of requests from customers about five years ago, asking for suspension systems that could accommodate 26-28 inch wheels on their cars. These were not typical hot rods, so they posed a unique challenge. To tackle this, QA1’s engineers collaborated closely with experts in the big-wheel racing arena to develop a complete line of suspension systems tailored to achieving the desired wheel fitment. As a result, QA1 not only gained a deep understanding of the market’s specific needs but also created several new parts to support it.
The Challenges To Overcome
With the QA1 package, you can raise or lower the vehicle up to 2 inches in the front, and you can raise the rear by 2 inches or lower it by 3 inches. A side effect of lifting the vehicle with the factory trailing arm rear suspension, is that the wheel placement will move based on the amount of lift. QA1 designed an adjustable lower trailing arm for this allowing the customers to locate the wheel in the wheel-well where they need it. Doing this does change the pinion angle, but QA1 includes adjustable upper trailing arms to allow the pinion angle to be corrected.
Another key component that QA1 offers with its suspension package are new front anti-sway and rear anti-roll bars.
QA1 had to make modifications to the sway bar system to accommodate the unique needs of the big-wheeled vehicles. According to QA1’s Steve Smith, “We created an anti-roll bar that attaches to the axle with U-bolts and is fixed to a crossmember in the frame. The end links are adjustable to compensate for ride height.” This modification was necessary, and something that will appeal to drag racers looking to better their 60-foot times.
With the newly engineered and platform-specific components, QA1 notes that the car’s front-end geometry is improved for better drivability. The components are also lighter and stronger than stock.
Drag Racing Heavyweights
One thing that surprised QA1 when it began researching and developing suspension components for big-wheel cars is that there usually was a large disparity between the manufacturer’s estimated curb weight and the actual weight of some of the vehicles they were working with. Most of these vehicles have been accessorized a good bit with things like a large sound system, extra batteries, and of course, the incredibly large wheels.
QA1 spent a good amount of time working on spring rates and offering three different options for enthusiasts. Getting the proper spring rate not only takes the vehicle’s weight into consideration, but also the vehicle’s performance, both on track and on the street. Additionally, some components, such as the rear coilover bracket, needed to be beefed up substantially.
“We needed to make sure we did the right amount of analysis on some of the brackets,” said QA1’s Dave Kass. When you’re launching 6,000 pounds with 1,000 horsepower under the hood, and and a tire that can hook, you want to make sure it can handle that.”
Part of that learning process involved going to the subject matter experts and finding specific racers and combinations to research and develop and fine-tune the company’s products.
Each of QA1’s big-wheel suspension packages is offered in three levels.
Level 1 is a reduced kit with four coilovers and upper and lower trailing arms. “This just gets you sitting up on the big wheels and gives you the adjustability to position the rear wheels in the wheel well,” Smith explained.
“On the Donk, Box, and Bubble kits, we’re clearing 28-inch wheels. The G-body kits coming out next allow up to 24-inch wheels.
Level 2 steps the shocks up to QA1’s double-adjustable units for improved performance, and Level 3 gets you the ultimate setup, with QA1’s MOD-Series shocks.
“The double-adjustable or MOD shocks will definitely help the drag racers of this segment,” Smith said. And for sure, the QA1 anti-roll bar that the company has engineered for these platforms is just what a drag racer needs to plant the rubber down.
All of the parts in the QA1 big-wheel packages come powdercoated and ready to install with all necessary hardware. They also point out that the company worked hard to ensure that there is no cutting, grinding, or welding required to install the parts — they just bolt right on in your garage, or your local shop can easily install them.
First To Market
In conclusion, the process of designing a new product is a crucial aspect of any successful business, and QA1 understands this well. By placing a strong emphasis on understanding the market and identifying the specific problems that need to be solved, QA1 can design unique and effective solutions that meet the needs of their customers. As a result, QA1 continues to maintain its position as a leader in the industry, delivering innovative and high-quality products to customers with even the most unique of applications.