The suspension system that supports any car is a vital network of components that contributes to handling, road manners, adaptability, and overall attitude. In the case of our theft recovery project car dubbed Lucky 13, our 2013 Camaro will not only get a new lease on life as a modern musclecar, but as a well-tuned corner-carver.
The end goal of Lucky 13 has always been to bring the Camaro back to SS status, and push the envelope a little further with a selection of performance modifications for the track. We started our suspension foundation with some much-needed chassis bracing care of LG Motorsports, control arms and swaybars from BMR, and bushings from Whiteline.
With these hard-parts in place and establishing the mounting points and geometry, we were left with one puzzle piece to bring it all together. For our damping and spring rate needs we turned to performance suspension purveyors Vogtland. Having been around as a spring manufacturer for more than 100 years, this German-based company quickly found it’s ways into many forms of motorsports.
Supplying springs for the NASCAR, IndyCar, and other road-racing fields, Vogtland developed proprietary materials and manufacturing processes to optimize its springs to the demands of racers. “Our focus is to design all kits to maximize the drivers’ enjoyment and confidence while behind the wheel,” explained Leila Vizzari of Vogtland.
With reborn American musclecars making their way into the European scene, Vogtland began to service more than just the import and European markets of performance car. The Camaro and Mustang have become incredibly popular platforms for modification and enjoyment on the European market, and Vogtland has responded with supporting products.
“These models are now sold worldwide and are more popular than ever in the U.S., as well as Europe and Asia. We took the chance to develop both springs and coilovers for these late models to offer both a budget and high-performance solution,” Vizzari continued.
Vogtland takes great pride in the material and design of its springs. Implementing chrome-silicon, and chrome-silicon-vanadium alloys to cold roll their springs means that Vogtland can achieve desired spring rates while using less material. What this ultimately translates to for racers is weight savings. If a spring only needs to be a percentage of a normal spring thickness to deliver the same performance characteristics, those weight savings are pocketed by the weight-conscious builder.
“Vogtland coilovers are height adjustable, and with an increased spring rate and custom damping characteristics, the car will have reduced body-roll while on the track or street,” Vizzari explained.
The quality control and manufacturing doesn’t stop there, however. After cold-winding (which is the industry standard-preferred method compared to hot winding) Vogtland springs are tempered. Tempering is a process by which a formed part is stress relieved slightly, balancing the hardness and spring force, with malleability to promote longevity. Finally the springs are shot-peened. The surface of the spring is bombarded by metallic BBs work-hardening (a process by which mechanical stresses are indued to the part increasing hardness) the surface to prevent the development and propagation of fractures. After the springs are pre-set to a given length they are factory settled to that length. Vogtland reminds us that inferior springs may take a set, after a break-in period and change drastically throughout their lifespan. After all mechanical processes are complete, the springs undergo a phosphate and powdercoat finish, sealing out the elements.
The damper units that accompany Vogtland’s springs are paired accordingly for compression and rebound valving. The shock bodies are threaded for spring preload and height adjustment, and are plated for further corrosion resistance. One of the most important features a coiler suspension system offers the consumer is the ability to maintain and the adjustability.
“Twin-tube dampers with high quality components specifically made for the vehicle encourage maximum longevity,” Vizzari concluded.
No one track or driving locale is the same, and adapting to the surroundings is chiefly important among handling-performance enthusiasts. To serve this demand, the Vogtland struts feature twin-tube internal construction and compression/rebound adjustment at the fingertips of the user.
With a turn of the knob we can take our Camaro from a comfortable street setting in the mid-range of damping, to a firmed up and positive valving bias on the track.
As with any install of this nature we start with a delicate disassembly. The first step involved disconnecting the ABS sensor wire from the retaining clip on the OEM strut assembly. We have had enough cut and ripped electrical systems to deal with on this car, as a result of the haste with which the thieves broke it down, we don’t need to add ABS to the list.
With the wire out of it’s tab we broke free the bolt anchoring it into the cast aluminum knuckle and extracted the sensor. Stowing the wire and sensor safely out of the way the real parts could start moving.
The OEM lower front strut mounts consist of the typical McPherson Strut-style captured damper. The lower few inches of the strut are clamped in a formed steel clamp which is bolted to the aluminum knuckle. With a trusty impact wrench, and a box-end wrench on the bolt head we broke loose the firmly attached hardware — freeing the strut from it’s lower mount.
Moving to the top mount, we popped the hood and removed the dust covers protecting the hardware retaining the threaded strut top. Loosening the jamb-nut frees the dust cover which we will later repurpose. After wrestling the strut free of the top perch and lower knuckle we proceeded to the bench.
The rubber bushing unit and dust cover that cushion the strut interface with the upper pocket need to be removed from the OEM assembly, and transferred to the Vogtland strut. With a spring compressor we securely gripped the stock progressive rate coil, and unloaded the bushing so that when we release, it doesn’t fly across the room.
Because the Vogtland springs are linear rates, and that is reflected in the architecture (consistent wind diameter) some of the layered bushing unit is discarded. We replaced this white rubber ring with the supplied aluminum spring retainer and completed our layer cake of industrial materials. Passing the threaded top of the shock shaft through the new assembly we used the original hardware to complete the strut.
With the new complete Vogtland coilover ready to be installed the following steps are just a reverse of the original disassembly. Feeding the strut up to the top pocket from the fender well, align the lower bolt holes with the knuckle, and torque the hardware for a final fit.
The threaded shock shaft protrudes into the engine bay just like the OEM strut, and is affixed with the same dust cover and hardware. Lastly, not to forget our ABS sensor, we feed it back into the spindle and using the built-in tab on the Vogtland shock body, and clipped the wire up out of the way of road debris.
The rear suspension of Lucky 13 will receive the same treatment as the front. Adjustable coilovers will help tame roll, bump, and rebound over Southern California’s bumpy roads and demanding race tracks. With the Fifth-Gen Camaro’s transition to an independent rear suspension, this 2013-year model Camaro should offer us more adjustability than it’s predecessors, especially in the corners.
We started by removing the bolts securing the sheetmetal top perch to the unibody. With these four bolts out of the way, the top of the OEM rear strut drops free of the car.
The lower stock mount is a simple and conventional rubber-isolated doughnut that is encapsulated the inner sleeve of the shock boss. This assembly is recessed in the lower control arm, but hardware is easily accessible thanks to exposed hardware on the outside of the control arm. Removing this lower bolt frees the complete strut.
Back to the bench, we use our spring compressor once again to relieve the pressure on the top disc, and liberate it from the OEM unit. Once again we transfer the stepped rubber bushing, and the stamped sheetmetal hat to the new Vogtland coilover, torquing the stack to the shock shaft with our pneumatic impact.
The last step brings everything together as we place the Vogtland coiler up against the body and align the four bolts, tighten the hardware, and allow the assembly to hang. We dropped the lower eyelet of the shock into the control arm and thread the bolt through the hole for the final mounting point. Clamping everything down we have fully secured rear suspension.
With our newly installed Vogtland adjustable coilers, we gain much more control of how our Camaro handles. As the project progresses we look forward to finding the sweet spot in terms of compression and rebound, both on and off the track. With previously installed chassis bracing and control arms, we will be able to get the most out of this addition.