my favorite drink is synthetic oil


1968 Chevelle SS396 Project:
Removing the Rear

Above is the Chevelle in my garage, awaiting surgery. Beside it is the Hot Rod Newport project.

This next photo shows the Chevelle jacked up on jackstands (two per side, just in case), with the axle supported on a transmission jack at the center and a hydraulic jack on each side:

That's Lydia kneeling in the wheelwell, wielding a 1/2" drive Harbor Freight 1000-lb/ft air impact-wrench, while I hold a massive breaker bar on the other side of the frame. The issue at hand is the upper control arm's upper nut and bolt, which WOULD NOT COME OUT. I tried using an Eastwood 600-lb/ft impact wrench to no avail, so just went nuts and got this one. BAM! Out it came, on both sides. If you ever need to do similar work, I recommend going big the first time rather than wasting money buying two tools. Also, Harbor Freight - despite its economy-store nature - has good, reliable stuff. I also got a nifty extendable-arm 1/2" drive ratchet there, and it came in so handy. Here are the tools and the parts removed (note the dime at the top for scale):

These are huge, heavy parts, and were practically welded in place. One bolt is still welded in; see to the right.

These next shots show some of the damage to the rear components, explaining why the thing was driving so awfully. If you look closely at the bushing in this first shot, you'll see that not only is the rubber wasted, but also the metal bushing where the bolt goes through the bottom mounting tab on the axle:

And in this one, check out the hole on the right side of the photo, showing the giant cut-out where the brace mounts to the lower control arm (in the above photo). That is supposed to be a little, round hole, not a massively gaping opening. I think things will work better with properly fitting and undamaged parts, don't you?

Off with the rear! That's the current step. This begins with removing the upper and lower control arms and the cross-brace that ties the two together. To get those off, though, you first need to pull the shocks and springs. The shocks were simple enough, but the springs posed an amazing challenge. Normally, they'll drop right out when you pull the shocks and lower the axle, but these didn't; I needed to get a spring-compressor and crank that puppy way down. Why? Well, see for yourself. The old ones are the GIANT black springs; the new ones are the red ones:

Sure, the new springs lower the car by 1-1/2" in the rear, but the old ones were a good 6" taller and wound using much-heavier steel. Holy Jacked-Up Rear, Batman! The previous builder clearly operated under the (mistaken) impression that truck-sized springs would help him hook up at the racetrack. Not true! What does the trick is weight shifting to the rear, enhancing traction, which the old springs actively fought by pushing weight up and forward. So not only will the car have a nicer ride with the softer, shorter springs, it'll also grip the road better while giving it a sexier stance. Notice also the destroyed spring-seat bushing. I need to get new ones.

Here's what things look like under the rear of the car right now:

This shot looks toward the passenger-side rear. What you see here, just above the jackstands, is the remaining PITA bolt holding the lower control-arm in place. The nut came off fine with the huge impact wrench, but the bolt will not move. The wet stuff is rust-dissolving lubricant, which I used generously all over back there. The wooden handle you see below the axle is part of a 10-pound sledgehammer I was using to try to budge the fused bolt. To no avail. Next up: Impact-hammer-time, with some torch-heating thrown in. OUT, DAMN BOLT.

Finally, here's a preview of the parts that'll replace the old ones. The new pieces are red powdercoated to prevent rust, and still in their foam wrapping, but you get the idea. They're fully adjustible, top and bottom, as is the cross-brace, and they're all made of MUCH beefier steel with Delron bushings, which won't tear up and wiggle like the rubber bushings. They'll also be stiffer and noisier, but, hey, who expects a muscle car to ride like a Cadillac?

You probably noticed that there's no new lower control-arm in this photo. You'd be right. I also noticed this. But not right away; instead, I only noticed when I was setting up this shot, six months after ordering the parts... and failing to notice back then. Oops. A few emails and some calls with Summit Racing resolved the problem, which was that the manufacturer simply failed to ship them! Now they're on their way, and Summit is even reimbursing me the $40 price-drop since when I ordered the parts. Here's what the lowers look like (at Summit's page). I love Summit! Not only do they have great selection and prices, but their customer service rocks.

Next: Tutorial: How to remove stuck lower control arms.