When I got the call from Jim Ries at Classic Performance Products, I was already working at a fever pitch on Snake Eyes. I had just installed the new supercharger from TorqStorm and I was working on finishing all of the accessories needed to get it up and running again – the boost referenced ignition box and fuel pressure regulator, the new electric fuel pump and filters, trunk-mounted fuel cell, all new fuel lines, colder spark plugs, and plumbing and wiring the new boost and air-fuel ratio gauges. You can read about that install, here.
Jim and I conceptualized the project a while before, but since the whole COVID thing had thrown a wrench in the mix, Snake Eyes ended up on the back burner. But, the time came to reignite that flame, thus the reason for the welcomed phone call.
But, as is often the case when you rush, things just have a way of going wrong. The day I was to be at CPP’s Placentia, California headquarters I had just finished tuning the blow-through carburetor after having flooded all eight cylinders with gas and almost hydro locking the engine because of an improperly and hastily tuned fuel pressure regulator – my fault, not the regulator’s. I subsequently needed to swap all the spark plugs and blow all of the fuel out of the cylinders.
As if that wasn’t putting me behind schedule enough, Snake Eyes’ decided it was time for her driver’s side hood hinge to call it quits. Just as I’d buttoned everything up, closed the garage, and got ready to head out, the hood hinge buckled as I attempted to slam the hood shut. What a nightmare!
Fortunately, I was able to get it closed and pinned down. With that out of the way, it should have been smooth sailing, right? Nope. The driver’s side door lock, latch, and handle-mechanism all quit on me, so I was forced to enter through the window – a la “Dukes Of Hazzard”. What a day!
In any case, the Monte Carlo made the hour trip north to Placentia, although I must admit I was limping it the whole way there because I had yet to really fine-tune it. When I arrived I was introduced to Danny Nix, lead engineer and all-around tech badass at CPP. He walked me over to the research and development department where they test fit new products and work on project cars like Snake Eyes.
We quickly got the car on one of the lifts and began inspecting the raggedy, worn-out factory suspension components that sat there since 1972.
To say the bushings, ball joints, and tie rod ends were busted, cracked, and worn-out would be an understatement. You can see from the photos just how bad they’d gotten. They are almost 50 years old, after all. Nevertheless, it made the comparison all the more striking.
By the time I got there, Danny and his crew had already laid the new parts out so I could shoot some detailed photos of all the components that make up the Pro-Touring Four kit CPP is known for. The kit for GM A-bodies ranging in year from 1964-1972 is comprised of
- CPP’s front upper and lower Totally Tubular Control Arms
- rear upper and lower Totally Tubular Trailing Arms
- Front Sway Bar Kit, Rear Pro-Touring Sway Bar Kit
- front and rear lowered coil springs
- front dual-adjustable coil-over kit
- rear dual-adjustable aluminum-body shocks
- complete 13-inch front, and 12-inch rear big brake kit with drilled and gas-slotted rotors
In our case, we opted for CPP’s aptly named, Street Beast Hydrastop and master cylinder, effectively converting our vacuum brake booster to a hydraulic version.
With this being our first installment in a three-part series, I’ll walk you through what it was like on day-one and two of Project Snake Eye’s complete brake, suspension, and rear end overhaul.
Danny and his team made quick work of disassembling the factory brakes and suspension, removing the front control arms with the spindles and rotors still attached. They dropped the rear end out of the car quickly as well. By lunchtime on day one, the car’s suspension, braking system, rear end, and driveshaft were completely taken out of the car and stacked neatly next to the shiny new parts waiting to go on.
I took that opportunity to speak with Danny about some of the features and benefits of the new parts we would install on days two and three of our overhaul. He pointed out some of the glaring problems and inefficiencies of the stock parts, making note of bushing failures, and component wear.
Working with Danny on this project was a real pleasure because I had a chance to work one on one with a guy who has had a direct hand in developing most of, if not all, the parts we put on Snake Eyes.
Danny is the captain of the smooth and well-oiled ship that is CPP’s research and development department. Even as we walked through all the other sections of operation in the massive warehouse, Danny joked with the men and women working control arm jigs and brake assembly stations. We passed the shipping clerks, the research and development engineers, welders, and forklift operators, and Danny knows each of them by name, asking about relatives and weekend plans – you can tell he is a well-liked and respected guy at CPP.
As he gives me the grand tour and introduces me to everyone he’s also dropping tons of knowledge on the parts they make.
Totally Tubular Control Arms:
So, I now have the pleasure of sharing all that knowledge with you. We’ll go into more technical detail about the individual components in the next two articles in this overhaul series, but to get us started, we took all the parts we removed and juxtaposed them with the new parts in the kit to show just what a difference we are going to be making.
Beginning at the front, one of the key components of the front suspension is the totally tubular upper and lower control arms. When we place them next to the stock, stamped-steel control arms, it’s easy to see why they’re aesthetically better. But what about performance? Many people assume tubular control arms are a common upgrade for weight savings, but if there are any, they’re negligible. Danny explained why they’re superior to what was in there before.
“The Chromoly tubular construction offers rigidity the stock, stamped-steel version can’t compete with. Not only that, but CPP’s proprietary Duralene bushings offer much better articulation out of the suspension. The bushings don’t squeak, bend, wear out, or break the way factory rubber or polyurethane bushings have a tendency to do.”
A more frugal enthusiast might replace the factory bushings in the stock control arms with poly units, but that doesn’t get rid of the worn-out factory ball joints, and if you’ve never changed a set on GM A-body control arms, it’s more than worth it to just purchase some like these from CPP. Unless you like to have your teeth rattled out of your head as you sweat over an air hammer.
Big Brake Kit and Hydra Stop:
Moving on to the brakes, the PT4K comes with C4-style dual-piston brake calipers which are already a vast improvement over the stock single-piston binders these heavy A-bodies came with. To add some bling to the setup, CPP includes some stout 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors. The kit is rounded out by CPP’s Hydra Stop hydraulic brake booster. Since Snake Eyes’ small block is boosted, we didn’t want that interfering with the vacuum brake booster, and it was a logical upgrade considering we were upgrading everything else.
American Legend Wheels and Falken Azenis Tires:
The larger rotors require a larger wheel than the 15-inch slot mags I had on there before. But that’s just another excuse to stuff some serious rubber into the wheel wells. Speaking of, CPP recently acquired American Legend’s line of wheels. It only made sense we throw some of their Racer style wheels on, shod in some serious Falken Azenis 695kp tires. These will be great for the street and the occasional autocross event, and the new suspension will aid in that as well. Of course, we can always throw some slicks and skinnies on when it’s time to head to the drag strip. Dare I say it? Could Snake Eyes really become a triple threat, no longer limited to only the street and strip?
Well, the Viking double-adjustable coilovers will surely aid in the Monte’s handling. Frankly, I like the idea of having a car that can do it all, rather than be a one-trick-pony. Besides, adjusting the shock and rebound for weight transfer is easy with the adjustment knobs. As is spring tension and ride height – spanner wrenches are included.
CPP High Clearance Front Adjustable Sway Bar:
The next major component of the front end rebuild to go in was the high-clearance adjustable front sway bar, which Danny calls, “Racey as heck!” Seriously, this thing is a major improvement over factory in terms of, not only rigidity, but wheel clearance as well. By tucking the legs alongside the frame rails, it allows us to fit a much wider wheel and tire combination than a stock sway bar would. The hollow construction saves weight while the precision laser cut legs are solid, ensuring a solid, durable construction. not only that, but the working portion of the bar is smaller to further increase roll resistance.
While we were up front, the team also replaced all the steering components, center link, end links, etc., save for the power steering box, although CPP does make one. But, since we had previously replaced the factory unit with one from Borgeson, we thought it unnecessary.
By the end of day two, we’d already accomplished a ton of stuff, but there was much more to come. So, stay tuned for the next installment where we tackle the rear of the car with an all-new modular rear end. For now, check out the video where Danny recaps day’s one and two, below.
Check back with us for more updates on Project Snake Eyes. In the next installment, we head to the back of the car for Day 3 of our overhaul at Classic Performance Products!