Wondering what’s up with the LSX El Camino build? Well, we now have some very aggressive pro-touring suspension pieces from Ridetech being added to this bad to the bone G-body. The LSX El Camino is riding with Ridetech now! Greg Cragg enjoys getting the very best he can for this excellent LSX El Camino, for example see: Mast Motorsports Dyno -Part 4. So naturally, Greg’s suspension choice must handle all of the 700+ carb’ed horsepower being expelled by his Mast Motorsports fire breather. Enter Ridetech and their curvaceous corner carving Tru-Turn Suspension Package (Part # 11329599 ) for the G-body! We intend to make this ol’ girl cut some corners in the autocross like a nimble footed NFL player! Examine this install and the amazing engineering that is evident in the Ridetech suspension package and see if you agree with Greg’s choices for his LSX El Camino G-body!
The pro-touring scene is red hot still and Ridetech is near the center of it all with their advanced engineering, impressive shop builds, and complete involvement in the hobby! After researching his options, talking with Ridetech, and deciding on the over all use of the LSX El Camino, Greg ordered up his Ridetech suspension package. The Ridetech Tru-turn suspension offers a great balance between adjustability and simple bolt-on.
When one orders their suspension parts from Ridetech, it’s actually kinda funny after one receives them! Anxious and excited to see the goodies in the shipping boxes, we busted into them like kids on Christmas morning. Greg and I, marveled at the accomplishment and the purchase as we unpacked each item! It’s at that moment when unpacking the items, we realized these guys have a sense of humor just like the rest of us… The enclosed instructions packet (packaged in an envelope) stated in bold type “INSTRUCTIONS -DO NOT READ”. Ha!
Well, you might actually want to read these, because as simple of an install as this is, these suspension components are a little different than your typical G-body pieces. These are race-ready parts and there is some assembly required. There are decisions that need to be made prior to assembly. So, yeah, read the instructions.
(Disclaimer: We are definitely not experts in this field of suspension geometry, but rather students – consulting experienced suspension guys, and/or aftermarket vendors (like Ridetech 812-481-4787) will be your best bet when learning how to set up your G-body suspension geometry – that being said, this is how we did it and what we learned using these parts).
The Ridetech StrongArms are designed to correct a lot of the known issues for steering and handling in the G-bodies. The StrongArms use a tall upper ball joint for use with a G-body or 1995-2005 2wd Blazer spindle. From our research, using a tall ball joint along with the angle and length corrected a-arms will allow a gain in negative camber that essentially will keep more tire surface area contacting the ground as the suspension travels through its arc while not having any suspension bind issues. The caster slugs included in the kit are designed to set the car up with positive 5 degrees caster, which will give us a nice balance of steering stability for most driving yet still give us that “Snap your neck” turn quality when quick inputs to the steering wheel are made. Last bit of info on this set up – which position to place the upper a-arm cross shaft. The decision we made was based on the majority of driving this vehicle will see – street driving. The cross shaft was placed with the Ridetech logo facing outboard (away from the engine) to obtain the “Street alignment”. Using the various caster slugs in conjunction with the two position cross shaft will allow the user to adjust the alignment without the use of shims. See the below pics and instructions to help better understand.
The StrongArms are user friendly at the track. Try your settings and if you don’t like the results or want to go more aggressive, swap it around right there! This may be a nice feature at future track days.
The Ridetech StrongArm upper a-arm is ready to install. This is a very nicely constructed part with some pretty cool and simple adjustment features (see next photo for ready to install part). Greg feels very happy with the purchase, and is excited to “dial in” this part when the time comes.
Ridetech sells the upper and lower a-arms as a set for several reasons. They lower the car while keeping the wheel centered in the wheel well, they increase suspension travel, and they correct known G-body geometry issues as a pair . Also, here are some other highlights from their website:
The lower StrongArm a-arm has some pretty cool engineering incorporated also. From our research on TurboBuick.com, these lower a-arms do not change the turn radius once installed. This important fact is often not even thought about, but is great to know! The tubular, jig built construction with cross bracing creates an obviously rigid and stable part but is surprisingly light weight. The coil-over attach point is lowered to maximize shock/suspension travel. This attach point also disperses the load of the coil-over by having 2 separated and braced beams. ! Lastly, the thickness of the material of this part is designed to support the forces applied by the MuscleBar sway bar as well as the coil-over shock when auto crossing. It’s pretty cool to understand that every aspect of this piece is designed with a purpose.
This next photo shows the position (hole aft of the ball joint) for the PosiLinks (sway bar end links) in the lower a-arm which are specifically designed to work with the MuscleBar sway bar. I think it is valuable to view multiple angles of the same part to better determine the quality and design features of the part.
The hardware and bushings are designed for the Ridetech aluminum mono-tube coil-over shocks. We had some other coil-overs available at the time of publishing this article, so we used those, but will most likely be switching to the Ridetech products in the near future. These next 2 photos do illustrate how easy it is to use other compatible parts though!
Time to start installing parts on the El Camino! The Ridetech StrongArms are assembled and ready for install. This is pretty straight forward and some common installation techniques can be seen in other suspension articles featured on www.HotRodRegal.com .
In this view, we see the upper and lower StrongArm installed in Greg Cragg’s LSX El Camino. This is a super clean car, and what makes it so cool is that he has driving the wheels off this thing before this reanimation project! I really enjoy working with Greg on his car because it is such a clean car after so many miles and years on the road! Check out that set of Ultimate Headers on that Mast Motorsports engine with these new Ridetech StrongArms – WOW! Pay special attention to some of the details in these next few photos, Greg has some pretty neat engineering ideas too.
The Ridetech StrongArm a-arms fit as advertised. We used standard Grade 8 hardware in the normal places and the hardware length/diameter sizes can be found in other posts as well. The complete hardware list can also be found in the Ridetech instructions for each part (upper Strongarm, lower StrongArm). Now that the upper and lower a-arms are installed, the coil-over and the spindle can be attached (seen in the next photo).
Seen in this last photo, the other brand coil-over shock is installed and the 2wd Chevy Blazer spindle is being attached. This spindle is stock height (not a 2″ drop spindle) and uses a sealed wheel bearing. The anti-lock brake sensor wire is plugged since this build will not have anti-lock brakes. Potentially, a larger style, cost effective caliper and rotor package will now be a breeze to source and install! (Check out Joe Hinds book GM G-body Performance Upgrades for the brake swap info.)The upper a-arm will be attached to the spindle to finish the major portion of the Tru-Turn suspension installation.
Next up: The
The Musclebar sway bar is designed to specifically work with the StrongArm a-arms and should greatly enhance cornering performance of the LSX El Camino. The straight portion of this bar is hollow to conserve weight as well as facilitate construction. The end caps that the polyurethane frame bushings and frame brackets butt up next against and 3 hole flanges (that attach the arms in a fool proof way) are welded to the straight section of the bar. The side arms are bolted to the 3 hole flanges on the center section and will provide more wheel clearance in cornering. The Ridetech Musclebar takes advantage of newer style end links, like those seen on modern corvettes.
The PosiLink end links are used here to prevent binding during suspension travel and also to provide a full time, engaged connection between the sway bar and the suspension. The PosiLink end links have ball joint style connections that do not bind or compress like some bushing type end links. Again, devil’s in the details with this system! Every part is well thought out and functional.
It’s very easy to install a Ridetech Musclebar on your G-body. One can download the instructions (go to the “instructions” tab in the link) prior to purchase to see what’s involved. In the next few photos, I illustrate how Greg installed his bar on the LSX El Camino.
Starting the installation with the frame base plate: use the 2 existing sway bar holes to mount the base plate to the frame.
Next we will be drilling a 5/16 hole in the frame. As always, drill straight to allow the fastener to seat perfectly perpendicular and evenly distribute the load of the sway bar. It’s up to each mechanic to determine their personal shop practices, but we drilled this hole using a sharp drill bit and drill lube, removed the plates, debured the holes, removed the drill shavings, then reinstalled the base plates.
Time to tap the hole or use a self tapping screw. Greg plans on using some extra ARP bolts he has extra lying around his garage, so using a tap is the way to go here.
The polyurethane sway bar bushings are like many other bushings we have seen for sway bars. It is recommended to use a synthetic / non-petroleum based grease. Using other types of grease my deteriorate the bushing and will not provide the proper level of lubrication.
The Musclebar is a very easy install because it’s installed in pieces. One doesn’t have to work around the suspension with the curves of normal sway bars. It’s straight in and bolt-on with the greasable frame brackets here.
In the next photo below, the install of the straight portion of the Musclebar is shown completed. We think this thing looks good under here! The next step will be to attach the arms to the 3 hole flanges. The hardware was called out in the instructions again and included with the kit.
The passenger side and the driver side arms really can not be mixed up. I guess if you really tried, or maybe if your on a lift and confused about left and right, or if you have been enjoying some choice beverages; anything is possible, but it’s pretty fool proof. As seen in the next photo, Greg likes changing hardware out to his preferences and will be using ARP bolts on the arm and 3 hole flange as well. The arms will bolt up with the supplied hardware, use the lock washers provided and the arms are ready to attach the completed sway bar to the suspension with the PosiLink ends. These arms are very strong, they are the thickest metal in the whole kit. There will be no unwanted deflection in this piece. How about that painted frame Greg has here? Yes, that’s a reflection of the bracket!
The previously introduced PosiLink end links are a real “wow factor” of this kit. This next photo shows a close up of the ones used on the G-body. Using modern suspension parts on a 30+ year old car is cool! You wanna be one of the cool kids don’t you?
This photo illustrates the connection of the Musclebar arm to the lower StrongArm using the PosiLink. The instructions state to use the aft hole in the Musclebar arm for coil-over springs. These holes are NOT a stiffness adjustment point like seen in rear sway bars. Once both sides are connected, the Musclebar install is complete!
So, we are not quite done with the front suspension yet. Taking a couple steps back in time (and photography), another feature of the Tru-Turn Suspension Package Ridetech offers, is the actual Tru-Turn tie rod sleeves. These help reduce bump steer associated with a G-body/blazer spindle. A bump steer kit will need to be adjusted to the correct vertical spacing at the spindle, and the correct length of tie rod end to help reduce the bump steer throughout the suspension arc. From our research, seeking a near zero bump steer is a daunting task. We will not be covering that task in this article (it would be a freak’n novel if I tried), but intend on coming back to this topic in the near future. Both the LSX El Camino and the Hot Rod Regal will need bump steer adjustments with their respective installed kits. Until then, check out this article from Hot Rod Magazine to help understand what bump steer is and how to reduce it. (See the diagrams at the bottom of the article for a quick understanding). In this next photo, we are removing the complete tie rod end from the LSX El Camino to get a measurement to start the install of the Tru-Turn tie rod sleeves. Take extra care not to damage the inner tie rod if you choose to remove the complete tie rod because it will be reused. Seen here we are taking our time with the correct puller so as not to damage the grease boot.
The “originals” removed are Moog parts with energy suspension grease boot cups and billet tie rod sleeves, which is pretty good stuff! The inner tie rod will be reused with the new Tru-Turn tie rod sleeve parts, so this is also a good time to check the condition of other the steering parts (centerlink, tie rod, pitman arm, idler arm). We took the measurement as a rough starting point for the new parts that will be installed next (compare both pics).
The tie rod stud is installed in the blazer spindle with anti-seize like any normal tie rod end.
Keep the tie rod end stud in place by threading the top nut in place. Add the 2 spacers to start with and adjust later. In the instructions it states one on top and one on bottom, but we know this will need to be adjusted later so we are not to worried about it here.
Attach the Tru-Turn tie rod assembly and add the lock nut.
To finish, torque the top nut to 35 ft lbs, cotter key it, and torque the bottom lock nut to 100 ft lbs. Here we only snugged everything up though because we are certain to revisit this portion of the install at a later date.
Greg had this to say after his successful installation, “The only people that complain about the Ridetech coil-over suspension are the ones that don’t own it…” -Greg Cragg
I feel very fortunate to have been able to document Greg’s installation of his Ridetech suspension, and I am certain he will have a blast using it! Hopefully, we have illustrated a detailed assembly of the parts and actions involved with the Ridetech Tru-Turn suspension package enough to help you decide if this system is in the cards for your build. We will visit this again in future articles showing Ridetech coil-over installs, bump steer reduction settings, and a completed stance of the LSX El Camino that is now riding with Ridetech.