GM A-Body Coilover Conversion Guide

Aldan American Offers Bolt-On Coilover Kits For GM A-Bodies

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography By Brian Brennan

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, General Motors has never seen fit to use all the letters in the alphabet to identify the various designs of their cars. Take A-bodies as an example. The letter A was used to identify specific chassis platforms as far back as 1926 and continued through 1958. In 1982 GM introduced another round of A-bodies that were front-wheel drive, but the A-bodies that we are interested in are those that were produced from 1964-72.

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02 Optional POL tubular control arms and Aldan double adjustable RCX coilovers with 450 pound springs being used for installation
For this installation, optional POL tubular control arms were used along with Aldan double-adjustable RCX coilovers with 450-pound springs. This kit can be used with stock or dropped spindles.

Absent from the scene since 1959, GM revived the A-body designation in 1964 to identify the all-new, intermediate-sized, rear-wheel drive platform lineup that included the Chevrolet Chevelle (including the El Camino), Monte Carlo, Buick SpecialOldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Tempest. All these cars used a perimeter frame, conventional front suspension with unequal-length front control coil springs, and tube shocks. In the rear, all used a four-link suspension system with coil springs and tube shocks. All A-body cars had a 115-inch wheelbase except the station wagons that were stretched to 120 inches.

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03 Nelson removing the brake caliper before disassembling the suspension
Prior to disassembling the suspension, Nelson removed the brake caliper—it was hung on a wire rather than by the hose, which can be damaged.

Compared to the excesses of the previous decade, the 1964-72 GM A-body lineups were classic examples of simple and clean automotive styling. From a performance standpoint there were a variety of high-horsepower options that would shove passengers back in their seats. Even by contemporary standards these cars had it all, with one glaring exception, when spirited cornering is involved it’s obvious handling was not one of their positive traits. Arguably one of the reasons that many cars of that era had handling deficiencies could be blamed on the tires of the time, but the suspension could benefit from help as well and it’s readily available from Aldan American.

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04 A tool from Summit Racing Equipment being used to separate ball joints from the spindles
Rather than beating them with a hammer, separating the ball joints from the spindles is much easier with this tool from Summit Racing Equipment.

With over three decades of innovation and suspension performance experience to draw on, Aldan has developed bolt-on suspension kits for the 1964-72 GM A-body lineup. There are several suspension upgrade kits designed to improve handling, ride quality, and the vehicle’s stance. Aldan coilover suspension kits are designed to offer a stock-level ride or the ability to lower ride height 1.0 to 2.0 inches from stock height. Aldan coilovers and shocks are also easily tunable with the turn of a dial. Made in the USA Aldan’s GM A-body suspension kits come with options tailored to small-block, big-block, and LS swapped cars. The coilover shocks are available with single rebound adjustments or double compression and rebound adjustments.

05 Nelson removing the spindles by first removing the cotter pins and loosening the nuts
To remove the spindles Nelson removed the cotter pins, loosened the nuts, then used the tool to push the ball joints apart.

Our case in point shown here is a 1969 Chevelle. It had been previously updated with Corvette front disc brakes and we followed along as Aldan’s Gary Nelson installed a double-adjustable coilover conversion kit (PN A0007).  This kit includes Aldan RCX, double-adjustable coilovers, and Performance Online upper and lower tubular control arms. Machined from DOM tubing, Performance Online control arms are stronger and lighter than OEM variants. They include grease fittings with high-performance Delrin bushings and sway bar links. In the rear, Nelson installed Aldan’s PN ABRMD rear suspension kit that includes Striker Series double-adjustable coilovers, bolt-on mounting brackets. All the necessary installation hardware is included, as well as a spanner wrench to adjust spring preload.

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06 The Aldan front coilover conversion compatible with aftermarket tubular control arms or factory parts
Aldan’s front coilover conversion can be used with aftermarket tubular control arms or the factory parts.

When it comes to suspension tuning the RCX Aldan coilovers offer a total of 20 points of rebound adjustment. For initial settings turn the rebound adjuster all the way clockwise (the stiffest setting) then back it off 10 clicks. For compression damping begin with the knob on setting number one or two (smaller numbers are soft) of the six positions available (20 rebound and six compression settings offer 120 possible combinations) then make further adjustments on both rebound and compression as necessary.

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07 Nelson using a homemade tool to expand deformed mounting points of lower control arms
It’s not unusual for the mounting points of the lower control arms to become slightly deformed over the years. Nelson used the homemade tool (threaded rod, nuts, and washers) to expand the openings.

In the rear, turn the rebound adjustment (top knob) all the way counterclockwise (softest setting) then come back clockwise three clicks. For compression damping start at setting one or two (softest settings) then adjust to optimize the ride quality. Be aware the compression knob will rotate 360 degrees. As the adjuster is a barrel valve, if the knob is rotated past six it returns to position one.

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08 Lower control arms being placed into the frame after minor adjustments
With minor tweaking of the frame, the lower control arms slipped in place.

Installing an Aldan bolt-on coilover kit is not only easy to do, it’s a cost-effective method getting the sophisticated suspension that ’64-72 GM A-bodies are as nice to drive as they are to look at.  MR

09 POL lower control arms with improved geometry for better handling and stability
POL lower control arms use an improved geometry matched to the upper arms for 2.0 degrees of added caster, which noticeably improves handling and straight line stability.
10 Aldan springs made of cold wound high tensile chrome silicon steel powder coated in black
Aldan springs are USA made of cold-wound, high-tensile chrome silicon steel. Springs are black powder coated and labeled with the spring rate—these are 450 pounds.
11 Aldan s quality Grade 8 hardware large washers and bearings for coilover springs
Aldan supplies quality Grade 8 hardware with mechanical-style lock nuts. The large washers and bearings are installed between the coilover springs and the adjusters on the shocks.
12 Nelson applying lubricant before installing the bearings
Before the bearings were installed Nelson gave them a liberal coating of lubricant.
13 Nelson applying copper antiseize and wheel bearing grease to prevent galling
To prevent the threaded adjusters from galling on the aluminum shock bodies copper anti seize while wheel bearing grease is applied to the thrust bearing rollers.
14 The front coilovers being installed by Nelson with the upper end of the spring seated in the spring pocket
Nelson installed the front coilovers, ensuring the upper end of the spring was properly seated in the pocket for the original coil spring.
15 The front coilovers positioned for easy access to the compression adjustment knob
When the front coilovers are installed they should be positioned so the compression adjustment knob (arrow) is easily accessible (that’s usually toward the outside of the frame).
16 The upper ends of the front coilovers being secured in the same manner as the original shock absorbers
After removing the rebound adjustment knobs, the upper ends of the front coilovers are secured the same way as the original shock absorbers (note the lock nuts).
17 The rebound adjustment knobs being replaced after securing the upper ends of the coilovers
With the upper ends of the coilovers secured the rebound adjustment knobs are replaced.
18 POL s American made upper and lower control arms with high quality ball joints
POL’s American-made upper and lower control arms are powder coated gloss black and come with high-quality ball joints in place.
19 The completed frontend installation with new links for the anti roll bar
Here’s the completed frontend installation. The kit includes new links for the anti roll bar.
20 The original frontend shims being reinstalled for temporary alignment
The original frontend shims can be reinstalled, but only to get the car to a shop for a proper alignment.
21 Aldan s A body rear coilover kit similar to changing shock absorbers
Like the front, Aldan’s A-body rear coilover kit is completely bolt-on. It’s not any more complicated than changing shock absorbers.
22 Aldan s rear coilover brackets being bolted in place using original shock absorber mounting holes
Aldan’s rear coilover brackets bolt in place using the original shock absorber mounting holes by drilling them oversize to 3/8 inch.
23 The lower brackets using a combination of the original control arms and shock absorber holes
The lower brackets use a combination of the original control arms and shock absorber holes.
24 Aldan double adjustable coilovers with 140 pound springs installed in the rear
In the rear, Aldan double-adjustable coilovers with 140-pound springs were installed. The small top knob is the rebound adjustment, the larger knob on the bottom is the compression adjustment.
25 Ride height being adjusted with adjustable spring seats and the supplied spanner wrench
Ride height is established with the adjustable spring seats. Adjustments with the supplied spanner wrench should be made with the car jacked up (and on jack stands, of course).
26 The final step of tightening the cinch bolt on the adjuster and enjoying improved road manners
Once ride height is set, the cinch bolt on the adjuster is tightened and it’s time to enjoy the improvements in road manners.

Sources
Aldan American
(310) 384-7478
aldanamerican.com

Summit Racing Equipment
(800) 230-3030
summitracing.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of GM A-Body Coilover Conversion Guide.

mr sept 2023

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