Five Reasons You Need Coilovers On Your Classic Muscle Car

By now you should know of some of the benefits of modern suspension on classic cars, but for those of you who have been living under a rock, we thought it a prudent thing to repeat loud and clear. What better way to illustrate the importance of modern handling performance than to speak with one of the industry’s top manufacturers in the arena.

We reached out to the experts at Aldan American to get a better understanding of what they’re doing to bring some of our favorite muscle cars into the modern era. Aldan Owner, Garrett Harmola, touched on this and explained the common reasons for upgrading to coilovers really come down to five-basic principles.

1. Handling 

The first of those principles has to do with the differences between the antiquated systems of back-in-the-day and a proper adjustable coilover of today – focusing specifically on leaf-sprung cars, converting them, and the handling and performance implications that provides. 

​Garrett expanded on the concept, “From the 1950s to the 1980s, many of our favorite muscle cars came equipped from the factory with leaf springs, heavy coil springs, and antique shock absorbers. Big horsepower coupled with a suspension system designed in the ’50s has many classic car owners striving for better handling and cornering for their classic cars. 

An autocross course is a perfect example of somewhere you’re going to see real-world results from an upgrade to coilovers. The tight turns illustrate the amount of body roll that’s mitigated by switching to coilovers.

“​With modern advancements in suspension technology came the fully adjustable coilover shock. Coilovers allow for a wide range of shock tuning and adjustability to lower your center of gravity and tune your suspension to get the ride quality and handling you’re looking for.”

By addressing the outdated systems of yesteryear, an autocrosser or spirited driver can reduce the amount of body roll and suspension sag experienced in the corners under heavy G’s. ​

2. Stance

The second principle addresses the lowered ride height associated with coilovers, and how things have changed drastically in the past 30-40 years in terms of style. From dedicated racecars to enthusiast-level builds, it’s all about getting these classics low and handling well – no more stink bug stance.

In the past, people raised the rear of their cars to accommodate wider tires and to max out their shock stiffness to better transfer power to the ground. Nowadays, aftermarket companies like Aldan American make it easier to bring the cars down to ground-level while maintaining a stiff ride and improved suspension travel. Mini-tubs and coilovers are a much better solution than overinflated air shocks and tires sticking out past the fenders. While the former might feed into your nostalgia, the latter will certainly aid you in weight transfer and cornering.

Garrett touched on this more, “Coilovers allow for ride-height or stance adjustment to raise or lower your vehicle. Lowering your classic car’s center of gravity will help in reducing body roll that exists in muscle cars equipped with factory style leaf springs and hot wound coil springs.”

​”Springs on factory muscle car suspension are what determines the car’s stance or ride height. If you’re running lowering springs, you’re dedicated to that spring height. With a coilover suspension, you can raise and lower your springs which will raise or lower your car.”

“Also, if you’re updating your wheels and tires to a larger size or profile – clearance is key. Eliminating the wheel gap offers a much more appealing look for your new setup. Being able to turn the wheels and not have anything rub is another way in which coilover suspension will allow you to raise or lower your stance, offering additional clearance for larger wheels and tires.”

3. Adjustability

Whether an enthusiast is tuning for the drag strip or the autocross, it all comes down to adjustability. Let’s touch on what some of those adjustments might entail and why there are different options for cars with a big block or small block, spring rates, preload, shock valving, etc. 

​”Performance coilovers typically come in single or double adjustable variants. These types of adjustments make it possible to tune the shock’s speed. Tuning shock speed will affect how your suspension reacts to varying road conditions. If you want the suspension to react faster, you can soften the shock adjustments. If you’re looking for a firmer ride quality for the track or heavy cornering, you can control the rebound and compression adjustments with a double adjustable coilover.”

​”Spring adjustability also comes into play with coilovers. Linear springs are what we find on most custom chassis and pro-touring vehicles. Cold wound, high tensile steel is what to look for in a high-quality set of coil-springs. Setting your coil-spring preload will change your car’s stance as well as change how the car handles.”

​”Having that wide range of adjustability is one of the best advantages of running coilover shocks and springs.”

4. Simplicity 

With modern technology allowing manufacturers like Aldan American to crank out conversion kits that are bolt-on, there’s no reason not to go with coilovers instead of leaf springs or even a hot wound coil and staggered shock combination. 

“Over the years if you wanted to run coilover shocks, you’d have to heavily modify your existing chassis. Now, companies like Aldan American have developed complete bolt-on coilover conversion kits that use factory shock and spring locations for OEM like fitments of coilovers.”

Below you can see a short video from Aldan American covering a coilover conversion kit going on a ’69 Chevelle.

“​Shock tuning is also made easy with easy to tune and adjust coilovers. Larger adjustment knobs, one-piece spring retainers, and adjustable thrust bearing kits make coilovers today easier than ever to adjust and set to your liking.”

5. Longevity

If you’re serious when you get behind the wheel of your car, you’re going to beat on it, break things, and wear them out. Leaf sprung cars are notorious for having a short service life in terms of their rear suspension. Whereas, a serviceable coilover is a part that will last a long time, can be rebuilt, take some abuse, and offer the end user a much better performing, cost-effective solution. 

​”A high-quality set of coilovers will last a lifetime. Buying coilovers made in the U.S.A. ensures you have a local source for shock support and service should you ever need it.” 

​”Many performance coilovers are fully rebuildable, tunable, and serviceable. Instead of throwing out shocks and replacing springs, performance coilovers with a high-quality performance set of springs will last the test of time.”

So, there you have it – five reasons you need coilovers on your classic ride. Tell us about your experience with conventional and aftermarket suspension systems in the comment section below.

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About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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