G-body or metric chassis cars are one of the most popular Street/Hobby Stock platforms in
Racers are a resourceful bunch. We're always looking for that extra little advantage, sometimes within the rules, sometimes not. Then there's that little gray area of the rule book, you know, "it never said that I couldn't do it." That's the spot Smokey Yunick thrived in and in homage to him, that's where we got the idea for this little story.
Stock racing classes often have restrictive rules designed to keep costs down, competition fair, and make it "easy" for newbies to start racing. That said, visit any track in the country and usually you can find some pretty interesting innovations in the stock classes. In fact, some of the more creative gray area modifications can be found in these classes.
The idea for this story actually came from several of us pondering the fate of an '88 Monte Carlo SS. Being one of the most popular stock class platforms out there, yours truly was all for building a Street Stock, but then someone said we should build it into a multi purpose race car—an anything, anywhere, anytime Cannonball Run/Gumball Rally-type of thing.
This shot shows the right side tie rod, idler arm (which attaches to the right front frame
Regardless of what we choose to eventually do with the car, one thing is clear. Our Monte Carlo's steering system is badly rusted and really worn out. We surveyed a number of stock class rule books from different tracks and didn't find anything that said we couldn't upgrade the steering components on this car. They just had to remain in the stock location. It got me thinking. And as I was surfing the Internet for parts, pieces, and ideas I came across the website of Hotchkis Sport Suspension.
This California-based company specializes in suspension components for road racing, drag racing, and autocross—basically street legal cars (for the most part). Definitely not the place you'd think of when looking for parts for your oval track stocker. But then again, why not?
Like we said, the rules we surveyed all said that steering and suspensions must remain in stock locations, stock dimensions, and so on. None of them said that we couldn't swap out parts that looked stock. See where we are going with this? It's the old "stock appearing" loophole.
Back to our steering, we found out that Hotckhis makes what it calls a Premium Steering Rebuild Kit specifically designed for GM's A/G-body cars from 1978-1988, such as the Monte Carlo, Regal, Cutlass, and so on. At $375, the kit would be the perfect upgrade for this car, still look totally stock (if not brand-new), and give us added performance in the steering category.
This picture shows the difference in the cups where the ball joints sit; left is Hotchkis,
Hotchkis' kit includes two inner tie-rod ends, two outer tie-rod ends, the idler arm, and the centerlink. You'll have to reuse your tie-rod sleeves, although you could buy Hotchkis' heavy-duty sleeves but they look a little more aftermarket than we wanted for this build.
The kit features heat-treated 4140 forged ball studs on the tie-rod ends for improved wear resistance. The triple-lip-sealed ball joint boots come preinstalled and will keep all sorts of dirt and track debris out. Everything is manufactured from hardened steel and features forged housings for added strength. Hotchkis even CNC machined the threads on the ball joint studs. Then it tops everything off with a corrosion resistant finish.
As you'll see from the accompanying pictures, installing the kit is a simple task. Once we had the old steering system disassembled and removed with the salvaged parts cleaned up, it took less than an hour for us to put it all back together.
When it's all said and done, if you're going to go hunting for parts from premium automotive performance companies like Hotchkis make sure you read your rule book first and seek out those gray areas. You know you want to!