Suspension Upgrade: Aldan’s Coilover Kits for C2 and C3 Corvettes and Full-Size Chevys

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography by the Author

Hot rodders and racers of all sorts have long understood the advantages to coilover suspension: the spring rate can be easily changed, the shock absorbers are available with fixed, single- and double-adjustable damping characteristics, and ride height can be quickly altered. While coilovers are often found on a variety of vehicles, it was always considered too difficult to retrofit vehicles that came equipped with coil springs from the factory. That all changed with the availability of what can best be described as hybrid coilover kits, like those available from Aldan American.

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002 Aldan coilover springs are made in the USA corvette suspension
Aldan coilover springs are made in the USA. Each is marked with the spring rate, which represents the number of pounds required to compress the spring 1 inch. These are 550-pound springs. In our case 450-pound springs were used.

Aldan has been a leading manufacturer of suspension components for well over 40 years. All their shocks and coilover kits are manufactured in the U.S. from lightweight, high-strength 6061-T6 billet aluminum, which makes them incredibly strong and light weight. All use low-friction Viton seals and O-rings, the shock’s shafts are heat-treated, chromed, and finish ground before final assembly to reduce seal friction. All shocks are fully serviceable and rebuildable and come with Aldan’s 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Now, along with shock absorbers and conventional coilovers, Aldan’s product line includes retrofit coilover kits for a long list of IFS-equipped cars.

What makes these coilover conversion kits work are the unique coil springs that fit into the car’s original upper spring pockets in the chassis on one end, with small-diameter “pig tails” that fit onto the shock’s threaded adjusters on the other. Like conventional coilover springs, these conversion springs are available in a wide variety of spring rates to provide the ride and handling qualities to fit your specific application. One of Aldan’s coilover kits that caught our attention was PN 300134 that fits ’58-70 fullsize Chevrolets and ’63-82 Corvettes—just what we needed for our split-window Vette project.

003 Here a pair of springs are mounted on single adjustable shocks corvette suspension
Here, a pair of springs are mounted on single-adjustable shocks. Note the upper end of the springs are designed to fit in the pockets of the original coils.

Read More: A Simple Overview of Rear Suspension Design From Leaf Springs to IRS

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While the Aldan kit we opted for was applicable to a variety of Chevy products, we began to wonder what other parts would have such a broad application and stumbled onto something surprising: Speedway Motors offers tubular upper and lower control arms for fullsize ’58-64 Chevrolet cars. While the upper control arms wouldn’t fit our Corvette, the lowers would—the trick is they have to be swapped side for side (and yes, we checked all the dimensions and it works). The only drawbacks to this swap are the sway bar mounts and the steering stops end up being on the wrong side of the arms, but we’ll deal with that as we’ll be using a custom sway bar anyway. So why go to all the trouble? Simply put, the Chevy control arms cost almost half as much as the Corvette versions.

004 Before the springs are installed antiseize is applied to the threads on the shock body to prevent galling if the adjusters are turned corvette suspension
Before the springs are installed antiseize is applied to the threads on the shock body to prevent galling if the adjusters are turned.

Suspension Adjustments Tips From Aldan American’s Gary Nelson:

“To adjust the ride height of a vehicle with Aldan coilovers it’s a simple matter of changing the preload on the spring. Increasing the preload by moving the adjuster up on the shock body raises the car, moving the adjuster down reduces the preload on the spring, which lowers the car.” Nelson recommends starting with a baseline setting of 1 inch of preload on the springs then making adjustments as necessary.

For the initial damping settings of Aldan double-adjustable shocks, Nelson suggests turning the rebound adjustment knob all the way clockwise to full stiff then backing off 10 clicks, which is the center of the adjustment range. For compression damping for our installation, he suggested setting the knob on number 1 of the six positions available. Be aware the compression knob doesn’t have a stop and will rotate 360 degrees. As the adjuster is a barrel valve, if the knob is rotated past 6, it returns to position 1.

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005 To make ride height adjustments easier Aldan offers thrust bearing assemblies that go between the coils and the spring seats corvette suspension
To make ride-height adjustments easier, Aldan offers thrust bearing assemblies that go between the coils and the spring seats. They are lubricated with wheel bearing grease before installation.

Read More: Giving a Well-Worn, 42-year-old Chassis a New Lease on Life

To fine-tune the shocks, Nelson has a simple-yet-effective procedure: Drive the car over a bump or through a dip in the road at 15-20 mph. If the suspension feels too soft, increase the compression damping. If it is too harsh, decrease the damping. For rebound damping use the “Nelson seatbelt test.” Using the same “compression” road test if the rebound setting is too stiff—that is, if the seatbelt feels like it tightens up on return after compression—simply decrease the rebound setting to soften the motion.

While our subject shown here was a Corvette, Aldan makes complete coilover conversion kits for GM A-, B-, F-, G-, and X-bodies. That alphabet soup means there are kits available for fullsize Chevrolets, Novas, Chevelles, Camaros, Monte Carlos, Malibus, and El Caminos. In other words, just about anything adorned with a Bowtie from 1955 to 2018 can be equipped with Aldan retrofit coilovers. The upgrade from stock suspension to coilovers is easy to do and the results will provide a better ride and improved handling as a result of the adjustability available—ride height can be easily altered as well.

Converting to coilovers will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner, no matter what Chevrolet you drive.

006 Once ride height is adjusted the collars are locked in position with a pinch bolt corvette suspension
Once ride height is adjusted, the collars are locked in position with a pinch bolt. Aldan recommends beginning with 1 inch of preload on the springs.
007 Aldan supplies this wrench for turning the adjustment collars corvette suspension
Aldan supplies this wrench for turning the adjustment collars. Even with the optional thrust bearings installed, adjustments should be made with the vehicle jacked up, taking the load off the threaded collars.
008 The compression adjustment knobs on the double adjustable shocks are located at the bottoms of the shock bodies corvette suspension
The compression adjustment knobs on the double-adjustable shocks are located at the bottoms of the shock bodies. Turning the knob clockwise increases compression stiffness.
009 At the top of the coilover shocks are the rebound adjustment knobs corvette suspension
At the top of the coilover shocks are the rebound adjustment knobs; they are turned clockwise to increase rebound damping.
010 To begin the installation of the Aldan coilovers on our ’63 Corvette the stock drum brake assemblies were removed corvette suspension
To begin the installation of the Aldan coilovers on our ’63 Corvette the stock drum brake assemblies were removed. We’ll be replacing them with Wilwood discs.
011 A ball joint separator was used to remove the spindles from the control arms corvette suspension
A ball joint separator was used to remove the spindles from the control arms. Normally the spindle only has to be removed from the bottom control arm, but we were replacing the upper ball joints as well so they were taken loose top and bottom.
012 With the spindles removed this would be a great time to replace the upper control arms with the tubular style from Speedway Motors corvette suspension
With the spindles removed this would be a great time to replace the upper control arms with the tubular style from Speedway Motors. These fit ’58-64 fullsize Chevrolets.
013 On the left is a Speedway lower control arm for ’58 64 fullsize Chevrolets corvette suspension
On the left is a Speedway lower control arm for ’58-64 fullsize Chevrolets. On the right is a lower control arm for a C2 Corvette. Note the difference in the orientation of the cross shafts.
014 To use Speedway’s Chevrolet passenger car tubular control arms on a Corvette corvette suspension
To use Speedway’s Chevrolet passenger car tubular control arms on a Corvette, the shafts are simply reversed, allowing the control arms to be swapped side for side; strange but true.
015 To use Speedway’s Chevrolet passenger car tubular control arms on a Corvette corvette suspension
To accept the attachment bolts for the Aldan coilovers, the mounting holes in the control arms are drilled to 3/8 inch. Aldan’s front coilover conversion can be used with aftermarket tubular control arms or the factory parts.
016 An advantage to the Speedway lower control arms are the heavy duty double thick spring plates corvette suspension
An advantage to the Speedway lower control arms are the heavy-duty, double-thick spring plates. They offer plenty of support for the lower coilover mounts. These control arms come with new greaseable ball joints and Delrin bushings to remain squeak free.
017 To reinforce the stock GM lower control arms when installing coilovers corvette suspension
To reinforce the stock GM lower control arms when installing coilovers, Aldan offers these support plates for added strength. These plates can also be used to add 1/4 inch to the ride height when installed with coilovers.
018 Before the coilover assemblies can be installed the rebound adjustment knob is removed corvette suspension
Before the coilover assemblies can be installed, the rebound adjustment knob is removed by turning it all the way counterclockwise (use caution as there is a floating pin that may come out). It’s not necessary to remove the setscrews on the knob.
019 The tops of the Aldan coilovers are secured in the same manner as the original shock absorbers corvette suspension
The tops of the Aldan coilovers are secured in the same manner as the original shock absorbers. When installing the upper shock bushings, the large bushing goes on the bottom, the small bushing on the top.
020 With the spindle in place the coilovers are loosely attached at the top to make aligning the bottom attachment bolts easier corvette suspension
With the spindle in place, the coilovers are loosely attached at the top to make aligning the bottom attachment bolts easier. The shocks were positioned so the compression adjustments were easily accessible.
021 The Speedway lower control arm was raised with a small floor jack corvette suspension
The Speedway lower control arm was raised with a small floor jack until the upper ends of the spring seated in the frame and the attachment bolts would drop through the holes.
022 By reversing the mounting shafts and swapping the control arms side for side corvette suspension
By reversing the mounting shafts and swapping the control arms side for side, the fullsize Chevrolet parts bolted in place on this C2 Corvette.
023 The Aldan coilover’s T bar mounts rest on top of the lower control arm spring pockets corvette suspension
The Aldan coilover’s T-bar mounts rest on top of the lower control arm spring pockets. They are secured with the supplied Grade 8 bolts with lock nuts.
024 we used our Speedway Motors castercamber gauge corvette suspension
By no means the final adjustment, we used our Speedway Motors caster/camber gauge to make rough and dirty initial settings to get us to an alignment shop.
025 With all the attachment hardware tightened the rebound adjustment knobs were replaced corvette suspension
With all the attachment hardware tightened, the rebound adjustment knobs were replaced and set to the middle of the adjustment range.
026 To complement the front coilovers we elected to install double adjustable rear shocks corvette suspension
To complement the front coilovers, we elected to install double-adjustable rear shocks. As our upper and lower mounts were not perfectly aligned due to narrowed trailing arms, we removed the polyurethane bushings and replaced them with spherical bearings from Aldan.
027 The replacement bearings were pressed into the shock bodies corvette suspension
The replacement bearings were pressed into the shock bodies; they’re retained by snap rings that fit into grooves in the mounting loops.
028 To fit into the rear shock brackets tapered spacers are used that also allow the shock bodies to articulate
To fit into the rear shock brackets tapered spacers are used that also allow the shock bodies to articulate. Note the shoulders on the spacers that register in the id of the bearings.
029 Thanks to the bearings the slightly misaligned shock mounts won’t cause premature bushing wear corvette suspension
Thanks to the bearings, the slightly misaligned shock mounts won’t cause premature bushing wear.

Sources:

Aldan American
(310) 384-7478
aldanamerican.com

Speedway Motors
(855) 313-9173
speedwaymotors.com/allchevyperformance

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Suspension Upgrade: Aldan’s Coilover Kits for C2 and C3 Corvettes and Full-Size Chevys.

acp january 2024

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