As much as we relish mashing down our right foot from behind the steering wheel of a muscle car, there comes that inevitable moment when you have to alter the direction of all that exhilarating forward momentum. However, as muscle car guys already know, the chassis doesn’t always want to cooperate.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the handling on muscle cars can be a handful. Part of that was due to the rudimentary state of suspension science back in the Sixties, but there were other factors, such as keeping costs down and the ride comfy. (After all, many muscle cars started life as fairly docile sedans that were pressed into performance duty.)
For the reasons above, the control arms were made of stamped steel and cushioned with soft rubber bushings. The result was a car that was both affordable and comfortable, but swayed like a fishing trawler in ocean swells.
Not only that, the factory stock suspension from that era is no match for today’s grippier radial tires and the high-output current-technology engines. (Even so, for that period look, the GM LS2 crate engine in the ’67 Malibu shown here, owned by Terry Stevens, was converted back to carburetion from EFI with a 650cfm Demon unit.)
Bringing your muscle car’s suspension up to date can be entirely appropriate (assuming you’re not looking to win a concours event). New chassis parts won’t change the look of a classic muscle car—note the stance of Stevens’ Malibu—but certainly can give it a whole new feel on the road.
For that, we went to Hotchkis Performance
Performance and checked out the company’s Total Vehicle System (TVS). That label is not merely some clever piece of marketing to sell more stuff, because it’s important that suspension mods not be done in a piecemeal fashion. Just bolting on a bigger swaybar or stiffer springs doesn’t consider the camber curve or caster angle. You need to have an integrated system and overall strategy.
That was thinking behind the company’s development of tubular control arms, among other suspension components, with significant differences in both material and design. The front arms are not only stronger so there’s less deflection under load, but also lighter to reduce unsprung weight. They also have a taller spindle to maintain negative camber, and are adjustable for precise chassis tuning.
The lower control arms in the rear are boxed as well for greater rigidity and to provide an attachment point for a rear swaybar. To reduce body roll, Hotchkis added stiffer, large-diameter swaybars with a hollow configuration. Custom-calibrated Bilstein shocks provide improved damping of the upgraded suspension parts.
The result is a Malibu that preserves a Sixties style, but is far more nimble on the curves, along with a better ride on both the street and freeway. These changes improve the car’s overall balance, steering response, stability and safety, and don’t require any modifications to the chassis for installation. What’s not to like?
12035 Burke Street Suite 13
Santa Fe Springs, Ca 90670
The Hotchkis TVS package (Total Vehicle System) is just that—a complete system engineered to work together as a package, upgrading both the front and rear suspension on the ’64 to ’72 GM A-body models. (Similar systems are available for other makes and models.)
At the front is a much larger swaybar that measures 1 3/8 inches in diameter. The hollow construction is much lighter but just as torsionally stiff as a solid factory swaybar.
At the rear of the Malibu is Hotchkis’ Extreme Rear Sway bar kit, which is an upgraded and adjustable unit. While the Hotchkis TVS dramatically improves handling, it’s barely visible from behind. Only the one-inch, high-carbon steel swaybar and Bilstein shocks are visible.
This closeup shows how the Hotchkis boxed trailing arms fit into the stock chassis with no modifications required.
A display chassis provides a clearer view of how the Malibu’s factory suspension has been upgraded with Hotchkis components (painted orange), with the exception of the airbags inside the one-inch lower springs. Additional adjustable bracing is provided for the differential as well for better hookup and quicker launches.
The adjustable trailing arm braces (adjacent to the forward end of the trailing arms) are designed to reinforce the trailing arm mounting points on the chassis.