Chevy El Camino Rear Bushings, Shocks, Springs & Sway Bar Upgrade - The End Result
Project Brutus Gets A Solid Foundation Out Back With Fresh PST Components
From the January, 2010 issue of Chevy High Performance
By Sean Haggai
Photography by Sean Haggai
Even though most of the effort put underneath a chassis is hardly ever seen, it can definitely be felt and more importantly provide a peace of mind that the foundation is safe and sound. Nobody likes spending endless hours underneath the car spinning a pneumatic wire wheel while particles launch into your face and eyes. Still, when it's all said and done, it's well worth it. Revamping the suspension on your project doesn't have to involve a truckload of cash. If the focus is placed primarily on swapping out the worn components, then the costs should remain relatively low.
If you recall, in our November '09 issue ("Surgical Joints," Pg. 58) we replaced the entire frontend with PST's bushing and suspension package, which included everything we needed to get the frontend buttoned up. Since PST offers nearly all the components to complete a front-to-back suspension rebuild, we took the opportunity to revive the rear components as well.
In our case, the old coils were sagging and rear shocks had seen better days. Not helping the matter were the worn-out bushings that did anything but soak up road-jarring vibrations. A closer inspection found a combination of mismatched hardware and less than stellar components that needed to be replaced. To begin, we removed the rear trailing arms, shocks, springs, and finally the complete rearend. With the rearend out, we could prep the underbody with new paint and clean up the factory 10-bolt housing and we even applied new paint there as well.
With the Elco supported by...
With the Elco supported by four jack stands, we could begin the process of removing the rearend. First we needed to take out the air shocks that were installed by the previous owner. Before we could remove the shocks, we had to disconnect the air line hose fittings with a 1/2-inch wrench from both shocks.
Our first step was to place the Elco on a set of jack stands and remove the rear tires to gain better access to the areas that required the most attention. Bottom line; get used to working on your back.
What does it take to tackle a job like this? Well, for the average do-it-yourselfer, it can be handled in a day. However, we took our time and spent an entire weekend from removal to install. We only used basic hand tools, but extra jack stands will come in handy when trying to wrangle the rearend back in.
What We Did
Added PST bushings, shocks, springs, and a sway bar
Freshen up the rear for less than you think
|WHAT WE USED
||trailing arm bushings
||G-Max solid 1-inch
||rear sway bar
Removing the rear shocks was...
Removing the rear shocks was easy. We used a 1/2-inch wrench and socket combo up top and a 3/4-inch wrench for the lower mount.
The rearend is suspended by...
The rearend is suspended by four trailing arms and all it takes is the removal of eight bolts (two on each arm) to detach the rearend. We started off removing the bolts from the upper (smaller) rear arms first and removed the bolt which attached the arm to the ears of the rearend with a 3/4-inch wrench and socket. It's important to note that an additional set of jack stands was used to support the rearend, underneath the axlehousing.
From there, we moved onto...
From there, we moved onto the lower (longer) trailing arms. Before lowering the rearend, we placed a furniture dolly under the housing to allow the rearend to slide out once everything was disconnected. With everything in place we again used a 3/4-inch wrench and socket with a breaker bar to dislodge the bolts from the frame and did the same for both lower arms.
Before, the rearend can be...
Before, the rearend can be dropped out of the car; you need to remove the rubber brake line and T-fitting from the top of the rearend. The bracket that holds the bunch together is held in place by a single rearend cover bolt.
With everything addressed,...
With everything addressed, we pulled the entire assembly out with the springs still attached. Unfortunately, the stubborn housing tabs bushings wouldn't budge. The easiest way to get them out was to use a butane torch to burn the insides of the rubber bushing. Once heated, the charred bushing practically fell out.
It's obvious the underside...
It's obvious the underside of our project car was coated with rust and the old undercoating was peeling like an orange. We decided that a couple of hours with a wire wheel would rid the underside of any rust, plus we could apply a fresh cost of paint to protect the frame and connectors in the future. We also discovered a sloppy mismatch of hardware was used to piece the rear trailing arms together. Some bolts didn't even have washers.
Using a 3/4-inch wrench and...
Using a 3/4-inch wrench and socket we removed the remaining upper trailing arms and bolts that attached to the rear crossmember. We also removed the lower trailing arms from the rearend after it was pulled out from the car. Once out, we dropped the trailing arms and PST bushing kit off at ACE Automotive Service in Northridge, CA, to be pressed in.
In the meantime we still had...
In the meantime we still had hours of work on our hands. Forty-three years of road grime made a complete mess of the rearend housing. Using a bit of elbow grease, a high-pressure water hose, dish soap, and a brillo pad we completely revived the housing. All it needed was a fresh coat of paint.
Since we didn't have access...
Since we didn't have access to a press, we made at a trip to ACE and had them press in the upper and lower trailing arm bushings.
Best part is it only cost...
Best part is it only cost us $60. Once back, we began the laborious task of wire wheeling each one to prep for paint. Free of rust and grime, we applied a couple coats of black spray paint.
Next, we got down and dirty-literally....
Next, we got down and dirty-literally. On our backs we spent the next 4-5 hours removing rust, dirt, rats nests, spider webs, grease, and grime from the underside of the car. All we had was a pneumatic wire wheel and a pair of goggles. Yes, hard work for sure, but well worth the effort. We sprayed the bare metal with a couple coats of black spray paint.
You can never be certain about...
You can never be certain about the parts and components that are added over the years. In our case, the rear springs had a backyard lift-kit installed on the perch of each spring. We don't know why and figured it may have been installed to keep the factory springs from sagging too much.
Either way we tossed them...
Either way we tossed them and replaced them with a new set of PST springs. The rear coils are rated at 135 lb/in and proudly made right here in the USA. Although our coils are powedercoated gray (prototype), the production pieces will be black.
With a bit of white grease...
With a bit of white grease applied to the outside of the PST bushing body, we were able to install them into each ear of the freshly painted rearend. Note: if the clearances between the bushing and ear seem too tight, leave the bushings in the freezer for a bit. Meanwhile, heat the ear with a torch. The heat will expand the ear while the freezer will shrink the bushing.
Our next order of business...
Our next order of business was wrangling the rearend back into place. Once there, we first installed the lower arms to the rearend. Then we installed the upper arms to the rear crossmember under the Elco. After that it was only a matter of using a hydraulic jack to lift the rearend into place and locking the bolts and fasteners down with a 3/4-inch socket and wrench.
PST's 1-inch solid antiroll...
PST's 1-inch solid antiroll bar was installed next. All we had to do was line the bar up with the lower rear trailing arms. Then, using the supplied hardware we bolted the bar in with a 5/8-inch socket and wrench. To ensure a snug fit we also installed a set of shims on either side of the rollbar to center it. Note: only tighten the sway bar at ride height and under load.
Finally, a fresh set of KYB...
Finally, a fresh set of KYB shocks were installed. While these aren't high-performance items, they will certainly absorb any bumps and potholes and give our Elco a comfortable ride. To finish the job, we locked the top mount down with the original hardware and a 1/2-inch wrench and socket. For the bottom we fastened the shock with a 3/4-inch wrench.
Our Elco is definitely on...
Our Elco is definitely on its way. Keep in mind all the components were torqued at ride height and under load. As of now we've completely rebuilt the front and rear suspension with all-new PST components. Our rear will not only track better on the road with new bushings, shocks, and springs but should be able to plant the tires at the dragstrip.