If you tuned in to this story last time, you saw us tear into the front suspension of Tom Argue’s spotless 1969 Coronet. Tom’s dad loves this powerful boat, but despite some modern-day upgrades like a sweet Vintage Air setup, he hasn’t been driving it much as of late due to its 1960s handling and driving characteristics. Tom – who owns a high-end restoration shop in St. Petersburg, FL – wants his dad to enjoy the old Mopar, so he contacted a few performance companies to help him get this big machine handling and driving like a modern-day car.
A huge part of this car’s transformation comes courtesy of Mr. Norm’s Garage and their Classic Front Suspension kit, so we contacted Mike Staveski to tell us about it.
“Our tubular front end and rack and pinion steering kit is offered in two versions,” Mike says. “The one has street-friendly tie rod ends, and another, slightly cheaper one uses heim ends for more racing-oriented enthusiasts. It comes standard with AFCO coilovers, with double-adjustable coilovers and upgraded spindles for a specific aftermarket brake package for an additional cost.”
As any handling enthusiast knows, the right shock valving is critical to a great-handling car. For this task, Mr. Norm’s Garage relies on AFCO.
“I’ve worked with AFCO for several years now, and we’ve had great success with their products,” Staveski explains. “Their double-adjustables are terrific shocks: you can really dial in both compression and rebound for great handling and ride quality.”
Additionally, Tom was concerned about this big beast’s braking power; especially since the factory brakes were still attached. To remedy that problem, he contacted Wilwood for an upgrade. Wilwood is the manufacturer of some of the finest disc brake systems in the industry, and utilizing their 6-piston calipers and big rotors at all four corners should make an amazing difference.
With techs Ron Harding and Rick Pfeiffer turning wrenches, the stock front cradle, suspension, and brake pieces are out – let’s start upgrading!
1. Mr. Norm’s Garage’s Classic Front Suspension kit includes a tubular cradle, tubular control arms, rack and pinion power steering, coilovers, tie rod ends, steering arms, motor mounts, and spindles for the stock brake system. In addition to better driving/handling, this kit takes about 150 pounds off of the car!
2. Their control arms are strong, lightweight, and come with bushings and ball joints installed.
3. The AFCO coilovers will be a huge improvement over the factory shocks; the double-adjustable (compression and rebound) shocks come with the springs and mounting hardware.
4. Jumping into the job, three Allen bolts on the upper part of the engine-side motor mounts are removed.
5. The suspension bump stops/brackets need to come off. Ron could just as easily cut them off, but instead he’ll remove them the right way in case Tom ever wants to put the car back to stock. The spot welds were drilled, then the factory spot welds were ground so the entire piece could be removed.
6. The Mr. Norm’s cradle is lifted up to test-fit it on the car. Ron and Tom are looking for any areas of major interference, as well as minor things like plastic splash guards, etc. that may need to be adjusted/removed for the cradle to fit perfectly.
7. One major change that will have to be made to use this cradle is a switch to an off-the-shelf Milodon oil pan; give Mr. Norm’s Garage a call for specific questions about your application. With a jack holding the cradle, Ron installs it using the included bolts.
8. Tech Rick Pfeiffer bolted up the front swaybar, bolted in the steering rack, and disconnected the front brake lines.
9. The lower A-arm is installed. Rick used a screwdriver and small hammer to tap a washer into place before threading the bolts in. A ¾-inch socket tightened the bolts down.
10. The upper A-arm was placed, and washers were put into position. In this design, two bolts go through the center and out into the engine bay. Nuts were placed on the ends, and they were tightened with a ¾-inch socket.
11. This is the rear A-arm bolt, being tightened through an access panel in the Coronet’s engine bay.
12. The AFCO coilovers were oriented with the top adjustment knob facing out. The coilover was bolted in with two washers and a nut.
13. The bottom coilover mount was secured through the lower A-arm with a bolt, two washers, and a nut. Tom will dial these in once the build is finished.
14. Something we didn’t know about the spindles: they won’t work with the aftermarket brake kit Tom chose. An upgraded spindle design had to be ordered and installed, unfortunately without our cameras present. So here’s a quick rundown of what was done: The new spindle was placed on the lower A-arm’s ball joint bolt, and a castle nut is loosely spun on. The upper A-arm ball joint bolt is dropped down through the spindle’s mounting hole, and secured with a castle nut. The sway bar end links and tie rod ends are installed, and the steering arm is bolted up to the tie rod with one castle nut, and to the spindle with three bolts. Everything was tightened down and cotter pins were placed in the castle nuts for safety.
15. Wilwood was the natural choice when it came to choosing a brake system capable of yanking the Coronet down from speed. Argue chose 6-piston Dynapros all the way around, with massive drilled and slotted rotors and Wilwood’s pads on friction duty. Shown is part number 140-10739-D.
16. The caliper mounting bracket is installed with two bolts and a 5/8-inch wrench.
17. The Wilwood rotor, with its rear bearing and seal already in, is installed.
18. Now, the front wheel bearing is installed.
19. Its washer goes on, and the nut goes on over it.
20. A 1 1/8-inch socket is used to tighten down the nut until it “spins with a little drag.” Wheel bearings are usually set up by feel, so that’s what Rick does.
21. The cotter pin is secured, and bent back to keep the bearing assembly in.
22. The dust cap goes on next.
23. Lunchtime. The Tom Argue Design crew works hard, but they eat harder! This day’s grub: HoneyBaked Ham and all the fixins, courtesy of Tom (right) and the lovely Mrs. Argue.
24. Back to work: the caliper’s spacer shims were installed between the caliper and the bracket to give proper operational clearance between the rotor and the brake pads.
25. The caliper is slipped on and adjusted.
26. A 14mm socket is used to tighten the caliper bolts; seen here just to the left of the Wilwood system’s braided brake line, and on top above the brake fitting.
27. Here are the fully installed Mr. Norm’s Garage suspension and Wilwood brake upgrades. Can you say “light-years ahead of the stock system?”
28. Complementing the new parts up front are a set of great-looking, 18x8.5-inch Modern Muscle (through Mr. Norm’s Garage) rims and 245/40 BFGoodrich tires. Note how the wheels were custom painted to match the Coronet’s flawless exterior – how sweet is that?
29. Massive 295/35 BFGs roll on 19x10-inch rims out back. Note that Argue also did rear Wilwood 6-pistons as well. This Mopar’s braking now equals many of today’s best sports cars!
30 and 31. Comparing the Coronet’s stock and modified look: this Mopar is not only a capable driver and handler, it looks killer as well!
32. Tom’s dad is thrilled with his revamped ride. “This car brings back some great high school memories for me! What I didn’t realize when I bought it was just how far the automobile had evolved since 1969. The car looked great but was a handful to drive. But now it looks great and drives like a dream!”
Mr. Norm’s Garage
Tom Argue Design