LSX El Camino riding with Ridetech

LSX El Camino is riding with Ridetech!

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!

Tru Turn from Ridetech
The LSX El Camino is Riding with Ridetech, or rather it will be after we get some ed-u-ma-cation and stuff. We decided it was best to use the included instructions to get some of that there learn’n.

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.

Ridetech "StrongArm" Upper Control Arms for the G-body
Ridetech StrongArms will need some assembly when received. The geometry corrected upper a-arms are designed to work with tall upper ball joints along with the caster slugs and offset cross shafts to help you create a suspension setting to match your style of driving.

(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.

+ 5 degrees caster
Seen here are the illustrations to properly insert the caster slugs for the included “Centered” + 5 degree caster slug. Also seen here are there available caster slug option measurements.

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.

Rotate the upper cross shaft
This is a great illustration for understanding the upper cross shaft engineering. Simply rotate the cross shaft to change the offset.

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.

StrongArm ready
Another added benefit when replacing control arms is new bushings and ball joints. Even the Delrin bushings have some engineering worked into them! They are a composite Delrin/Teflon bushing designed to improve operation and longivity! “No more worn out components.” – Ridetech website

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:

  1. Optimized ball joint angle…
    to ensure no binding during extreme suspension travel
  2. Black powdercoated…
    for lasting appearance and protection
  3. Installed Cross shafts & Ball Joints..
    for simple installation
  4. .219″ wall DOM tubing…
    for lasting strength and reliability
  5. Shock mounts swaybar mounts, steering stops are built in…
    no fabrication needed
  6. Proper Coil-Over placement…
    component mounts are designed in, not an afterthought
  7. Proper ball joint selection…
    we use a compression ball joint in a compression application and a tension ball joint in a tension application (just like the factory engineered it) to prevent failures
  8. Optimized arm length…
    makes proper wheel alignment a breeze
  9. Jig welded…
    every part is built right, every time

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.

Lower StrongArm
This photo shows a great side view of the part. One can see the 1 inch increased depth added to the coil-over attach point for increased travel, as well as a better view of the Delrin/Teflon bushings.

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.

1top vw of lower
It’s nice to see a top view, side view, and 3/4 view of a part. We can really tell how well this piece is constructed when viewed at multiple angles. The bushings at the left will be added and will sandwich the coil-over shock when attached.

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!bolt 4 shock

 

bolt in shock
Seen here is a different brand coil-over shock. We had these at the time of publishing, so we used them. It’s pretty cool though that a different aftermarket coil-over shock bolts right up to these StrongArms!

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.

upper & lower StrongArm installed
The LSX El Camino is a super clean / driven hot rod! The Ridetech StrongArms look right at home next to some of the other amazing parts Greg has installed. This portion of the install was simple since the previous suspension had been previously removed.

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).

G-body spindle upgrade
What is really cool about the Ridetech StrongArms/Tru-Turn suspension system is that it can work with the stock G-body spindle. With that in mind, many G-body enthusiast know about the popular 1995-2005 2wd blazer spindle swap for the G-body. This will allow for the use of Corvette Style brakes and the sealed wheel bearing – both very cool / low cost upgrades!

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.

Ridetech Musclebar on HotRodRegal.com
Ridetech Musclebar for the G-body is more than just a bunch of pretty parts! It’s easy, bolt-on, effective engineering at work! This is the kinda stuff kids in school should be doing science projects on – car suspension and the science & engineering behind it!


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.

Ridetech Musclebar base plate install
The Musclebar base plate is the foundation of this install. Don’t worry, you can’t mess this up.

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.

drill frame for Musclebar base plate
Locating and drilling the base plates for the Musclebar brackets is actually very straight forward. Simply use the existing sway bar holes in the frame to center the plate and drill the new hole. This is the hardest part of the install, so if you can handle this operation… you’re good to go!

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.

Just tap it in...
The Musclebar kit comes with self tapping screws, so this step is not necessary, unless you intend on using a different type of fastener. Greg will be using some extra ARP bolts he has in the shop

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.

grease it
Grease it with the right stuff… extra lithium grease is good… If you assemble the bar/bushings and make a mess, clean it up with some WD-40.

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.

a greased bar install
The Musclebar can be installed without removing the G-body F-41 Jounce bars (frame triangulating supports). Greg has some different bracing, but either way it was super easy to bolt on! As with many sway bars, the bushing/frame mounts have grease zerks for long life.

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.

not gym equipment
This bar looks like a piece of gym equipment under here… Oh…. Now we get it… “Muscle bar”…. See, I told you these guys had a since of humor.

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!

muscle arm
Check’n out my guns bro? These “Muscle arms” are just as easy of an install as the rest of the Musclebar. 3 Bolts, 3 lock washers & 3 regular washers and done!

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?

The missing link
This may be the missing link! If you have any mechanical knowledge at all, it’s easy to understand how this articulating piece is a solid but movable connection between the 2 sides of the active suspension. These help create a very effective sway bar with instant response (which will be great for auto crossing).

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!

Positive feelings
Focus on the PosiLink attachment here. If using a coil-over shock, attach to the aft hole in the arm. If using the air ride shocks, attach to the forward hole in the arm. It’s now very easy to see the mechanical connection between the lower StrongArm and the Musclebar.

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.

Tie fighter
We pulled the complete tie rod to get a rough measurement for the new parts going on. Our thought is to start with the existing length of the tie rod to get close to a minimal bump steer setting and adjust from that point. Keep in mind though, since we changed basically every characteristic of this suspension, and we need an alignment, we will need to revisit the Tru-Turn tie rod installation to find the best possible bump steer reduction setting.

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).

a tie removed

bump ready
We like these Tru-Turn Tie Rod Adjusters because the diameter is minimal, they have large wrench flats on both ends, and they look pretty good too! Again, the measurement is a rough starting point since we will need to determine the vertical spacing on the hiem joint /spindle side and change the length at alignment time.

The tie rod stud is installed in the blazer spindle with anti-seize like any normal tie rod end.

Stud for the tie rod hiem
Liberal amounts of anti-seize will only help you later in life. This stuff gets everywhere though, so have some rags on stand-by.

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.

bs spacing

Attach the Tru-Turn tie rod assembly and add the lock nut.

bs link

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.

finished Ridetech front suspension
One last look at the front Ridetech Tru-Turn suspension installed on the LSX El Camino. Everything we have seen online and at various SCCA, USCA, NASA and GoodGuys events, this suspension on the LSX El Camino should rock the autocross!

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.

 

-Matt

 

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