The Northeast Warrior car is starting to take shape. With most of the major chassis work complete, we've been busy designing and mounting suspension components and fabricating interior sheetmetal. It's time to get this thing off the jig and sitting on all fours. Parts are arriving daily, allowing us to step up the pace of construction. Except for a few minor details, the suspension system is in place. We have a "roller!"
Parts ParadeThere were a few details to address with the chassis before beginning the suspension installation. One of the many parts that arrived was the new 16-gallon, low-profile, steel fuel cell from Fuel Safe. This is one beautiful unit, which features a durable racing bladder contained within a steel casing. So, while we had it out of the box, admiring it, we decided this was a good time to measure and weld the necessary mounts. It's not ready for permanent installation yet, but now we know where it is going to sit. The rules stipulate that it must be mounted in a fixed, nonadjustable location, centered between the framerails, with the bottom of the cell a minimum of 12 inches off the ground. A tubing bar with a minimum thickness of 111/44x.095 inches must protect the bottom and back of the cell.
Alterations to the front clip were necessary because the engine will be sitting lower on the clip, and some areas had to be made to accommodate exterior engine components. Sections of the stock front clip were removed with a plasma cutter to make room for the fuel pump and to ensure that the front linkage would not bind. With this complete, we began hanging the suspension system.
The suspension setup on these cars is very basic, nothing elaborate-but don't be fooled by the simplicity, because the intricacies of this system must be understood. DIRT Motorsports attempts to keep the cost of this division down by limiting the number of high-performance parts allowed. It's a well-known fact that more money usually generates more wins, or at least good finishes. The rules are designed to eliminate any unfair advantage, perceived or otherwise, that may come with a thicker wallet. DIRT stipulates that all parts must remain stock, all mounting locations must also be stock, and all springs must be of original stock type and location. Only steel-bodied, nonadjustable rate shocks are allowed. Only one shock per wheel is permitted, and a stock sway bar may be used if the original street version was so equipped.
The suspension systems have very basic setups, so construction on these cars can be approached in two ways. To keep the cost down, stock components from a '75-'82 chassis may be the preferred way to go. A set of stock coil springs and rear leaf springs, new or used, can get the job done for the beginner. The ultimate goal is to get the car on the track, which generates seat time. It makes no sense to keep the car on the trailer until you can afford the preferred part.
Stock frontend hardware, such as control arms, rotors, bearing seals, and brake calipers, were acquired from our local Pep Boys. The control arms, however, were a problem. While we had a set from our local junkyard, we wanted to see if we could locate new components. Pep Boys steered us toward a company called Rareparts, which rounded up a set for us. Rareparts did mention that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find pre-'82 OEM Camaro components.
The Northeast Warrior car is sprung with AFCO Racing suspension parts all the way around. On the front, AFCO steel 9-inch shocks run up through the center of the upper control arms, attached to the chassis tubing on top with double shear mounts to minimize flexing and to ensure a solid mount. The bottom shock mounts attach about 2 inches inward of the lower ball joint on the lower control arm. This positioning will let the shock perform at its optimum rating. Two 900-pound, 511/42x911/42-inch springs were added to complete the package.
In order to run the front shocks up through the center of the upper control arm, some modifications had to be made. DIRT rules permit the center of the control arm to be cut away to allow for clearance of the shock. To add strength, we then welded steel plates around the outside of the arm and steel tubing across the inside width. We tried our best to grind these fabricated control arms into something appealing to the eye, but never got them to showroom quality. All of this would be unnecessary if DIRT would allow aftermarket control arms.
The decision was made early in the process to run weight-jacking bolts on all four corners. Along with the coil and leaf springs, we also needed weight jack bolts, plates, and cups from AFCO. With the suspension system we are running, the weight-jackers won't make any drastic changes by themselves, but offer a way to fine-tune the chassis once the base setup is in place. Regardless of how basic the setup is, you still have to know how to dial it in and give it that additional tweak when necessary. The surface at the Orange County Fair Speedway, in Middletown, New York-our home track-changes as the season progresses. We will be making changes throughout the season to keep the Warrior car dialed-in. The initial setup and subsequent refinements will be discussed in future Northeast Warrior installments.
Our Rear ArrivesLike small children waiting for Santa, the entire Northeast Warrior crew had been awaiting the arrival of the rear. With it, we could really get going on the rear suspension. We knew it had already been shipped, but we couldn't wait for the big box with "Currie Enterprises" written on it to arrive. Well, nothing is easy. Delivery was attempted at Mitch's house, however, the tractor-trailer couldn't fit up his street and away went our rear. So close! Mitch, being a true soldier, was advised of this, and at 11 p.m. was standing on the loading dock at the trucking company, putting our new rear into the back of his pickup.
For several years, the Ford 9-inch rear has been the hot setup. Our choice is the Currie Enterprises 61-inch housing with a Ford 9-inch rear, 567 gears and a lightweight disc brake package. Currie's reputation for manufacturing quality specialized rearends and components was the reason we chose this product. DIRT allows the Ford 9-inch rear to be installed in any Pro-Stock chassis as a replacement to the original, provided it uses all the same parts needed to hold the rear as the unit being replaced. It must be in the same location as the original-front to back and centered between the main frame-rails. The same type and positioning of springs must be used. Spring-mounting pads must be stock and welded in one position on the rearend housing. A steel spool can lock our rear, which we had Currie install for us.
One major advantage of the Ford 9-inch rear is the convenience of changing gears. Ford rears contain a pumpkin unit, which slides in and out in one piece. With a few team members working on this, you can do a gear change in about a half-hour. This is not the case on GM rears, however. Some racers claim that Ford rears also have a sturdier bearing retainer on the outside of the brake backing-plate assembly compared to a C-clip on most GM rears, and that GM axle flanges have also been known to crack under racing conditions.
Others report using stock GM rears with no problems, and with a good maintenance program, an original Camaro GM rear can work for you. Checking suspected weak areas regularly can save a lot of heartache at the track. By painting a white line down the spline, you can check for twist, and by pulling the axles out occasionally and checking for cracks around the flange, you can spot trouble early. Try painting the flange white. Cracks will show up early as black lines in the paint. No matter what equipment you are running, adhere to the following principle: What you bring to the track is directly proportionate to what you bring home from the track. Preparation and maintenance are key to finishing races.