Classic Performance Products 


  Drops and Stops a Classic El Camino 

Part 1 Lowering the front end and installing disc brakes.

 While there are many companies out there that supply trick suspension hardware for enthusiasts of mid-fifties Fords and Chevys, you might think that the classic El Camino owner has been forgotten. Wrong! Classic Performance Products of Buena Park, California, can give the Elky owner that down-in-the-dumps feeling and the reliable stopping power of disc brakes with their two-inch lowered spindle and disc brake combination kit. In addition, Classic Performance Products has the brake booster/master cylinder to match. 
For those who feel their Elkys could benefit from new bushings, ball joints and tie rod ends, Classic also carries urethane bushings that fit the stock sway bar Installing this hardware is the same for most Chevy trucks. The fact that the control arms and cross shafts are designed to fit one way is not unique, but it is best to note how they are constructed before you disassemble them (a Polaroid camera works well), because this will aid with re-assembly later. In part one, we will follow along as the crew at Classic Performance disassembles 
the front end and installs the new bushings and ball joints, the drop spindle/disc brakes and the new coil springs. Next month we will get into the disassembly of the rearend and the installation of the tailing arm bushings, drop springs and Panhard bar. With that done, the final step will be installing the booster/master cylinder and brake line kit. These kits, whether used together or individually, are a must for the classic El Camino owner, especially those who want the added safety factor provided by the disc brake kit.


The disc brake/drop spindle kit for Classic Performance comes with adapters and brake lines.  
All the bushings, ball joints and tie rod ends come straight from the Classic Performance catalog. 
Classic also carries the urethane bushings for the stock sway bar. 
With the truck sitting securely on jack stands, the shocks and brake lines have been disconnected and removed. The tie rod ends have also been disconnected. 
A floor jack has been placed under the lower arm and raised enough so there is slight pressure on the spring. The nuts on the ball joints are loosened to the last few threads but not removed. 
The lower nut is removed and the floor jack is lowered just enough to remove the spindle from the lower ball joint. Do not lower the floor jack too much at this point, or you might eat the spring. Remove the upper nut and then the spindle. The only piece that will be re-used is the steering arm, which is bolted to the spindle. It will be removed, cleaned and inspected before going back on the new drop spindles. 
With the jack lowered slightly to take pressure off the spring, a few sharp blows to the spindle are usually all that is required to separate the spindle from the ball joints.


With the spindle removed, gently lower the floor jack and remove the spring. 

There is a definite "front and back" and "side to side" when it comes to the upper and lower arms on the El Camino, so note the location prior to removing them. Better yet, take a Polaroid of the setup before you disassemble it. 
An air chisel is used to remove the pressed-in bushings, but the old fashioned hammer and chisel will also work. These shells are not going to be re-used, so it is not necessary to be too careful with them. However, be careful not to damage the cross shaft. 

If the ball joints on the upper arm are riveted in place, it means they are stock. The chisel is used to remove the heads, and a grinder and a punch will drive out the rest of the rivet. 
The process of stripping the lower arm is the same as that for the upper, except that the ball joint is bolted in. Once the arms are stripped, they will be sandblasted and checked for cracks or other damage before being painted and readied for the new parts. 
Installing the new bushings is fairly straight-forward. (A) They are first disassembled, and then the shells are heavily greased. (8) They are then driven in with a bushing attachment on the air hammer. A socket and hammer will work, but the shell has to be completely seated in the arm. 

The insert is made of a poly graphite, so it must be greased with the supplied silicone-based lubricant. It is inserted into the shell along with the inner sleeve. 


When installing the cross shaft in the lower control arm, be sure it is facing the correct way. There is definitely a right and wrong way to install it. The cross shaft has a flat side that must be installed against the frame; the two mounting holes go to the front. 
(A) The ball joint is installed with two side bolts and a nut on the main shaft. (B) One of the bolts acts as a steering stop, and it goes to the rear of the arm. A new polyurethane bump stop replaced the old rubber unit, so it was necessary to drill an additional hole in the arm. 
Now to the upper control arm. The cross shaft and bushings have already been installed, so the next step is to install the upper ball joint adapter.  (A) The stock holes are drilled out and (B) the adapter is bolted in place. (C) The adapter is necessary to properly align the caster. 
With that, it is simply a matter of bolting the arms back up to the truck. 
It is necessary to collapse the coil spring using a spring compressor tool before you can install it. 
The spring is set in place and the arm is raised slightly using the floor jack. The spring tool is removed through the shock hole. 


The spindle is placed on the lower ball joint, and the nut is threaded onto the first few threads. (A) The floor jack is then raised, the top of the spindle is set in place, and the nut is applied. (B) The nuts are then tightened down. 
The stock steering arm, which has been cleaned and inspected, is bolted onto the spindle
With the spindle in place, (A) the wheel bearings in the rotor are greased up, (B) and the rotor and caliper are installed on the spindle. 
The adjustable Doetsch Tech shocks are set on the firmest setting and then installed. 
Now is the time to fully grease the ball joints and tie rod ends. 
New tie rods are also part of this rebuild/upgrade and are bolted in place. 
Because the Chevy had a stock sway bar, the old rubber bushings were replaced with new urethane bushings. 


Part 2 Lowering the rear end  

Part two will concentrate on refurbishing the rear suspension and installing one of Classic's adjustable Panhard bars, as well as their lowered springs, new bushings and a set of Doetsch Tech shocks. And last but certainly not least, the addition of the front disc brakes required that a new power assisted master cylinder be added.  The stock unit was a single reservoir design that had a hard time with the stock drums, let alone the new discs. 
 Classic also carries pre-bent stainless steel brake lines for a variety of vehicles, so naturally a kit was installed too.  While there are not as many pieces to remove and replace as with the front end, disassembling the back half of this project possesses a few quirks of its own. For instance, the rear suspension on the '59 Elky is a 3-link configuration. A what, you ask? You've heard of 4-link, and trailing arms such as on later Chevy trucks, but what is a 3-link?
Well, this suspension consists of short trailing arms, and a single upper arm that is connected to the right of the pumpkin, and runs to a frame mount lust below the bed. The Chevy also came stock with a non-adiustable Panhard bar (which was bent), so the rearend was hooked up, it's just a little different than the usual.  Classic Performance Products has a complete line of parts for your classic Elky, so for more information on these or other products that Classic Perfor- mance sells, give them a call at (800) 522-5004 or (714) 522-2000.

Classic offers this power booster/master cylinder that is designed to work with the front disc brakes installed in part 1 above. Also available are stainless steel brake lines that are pre bent and ready to install.
With the truck securely up on jack stands, the dismantling began. The Panhard bar is removed and the upper link will be next. The floor jack was used to take pressure off, but a punch was still needed to remove the bolts. 
By gently lowering the jack, the springs are easily removed. 
The lower shock mount also acts as the lower trailing arm mount. Again, a punch may be needed to dislodge the assembly. 
In their infinite wisdom, Chevrolet decided to use two styles of bushings on the trailing arms. One style is the standard shell type, and the other is vulcanized to the arm. The shell type is removed in the same fashion as the front a-arm bushings were: drive out the center sleeve and use an air chisel to drive out the shell. 
The vulcanized type is a little more difficult to remove. A welder's torch is used to heat the rubber bushing, which can then be pushed out with a screwdriver. One thing to be aware of is the odd fact that when the torch is heating the rubber, the metal inner sleeve will launch out of the bushing with surprising force, so be careful with your legs and feet. This is also a job to be done outside, or your garage will smell really bad. 


After that it is simply a matter of re-assembling the components. The use of Loctite is recommended. 
A pair of adjustable Doetsch Tech shocks are set on their firmest setting and then installed. 
When installing the Panhard bar, careful measurements are taken to ensure the rearend is centered. The bushings are also well greased. 

Classic Performance installed this new power booster/master cylinder that comes complete with the correct valveing mated to the demands of the new disc brake system. Vacuum was taken from the center carb. This is not an option as the stock single chamber master cylinder was barely able to stop the truck when it had drum brakes, but will have no chance with the new front discs in place.
The completed job. 

Classic Performance Products  378 E Orangethorpe Ave.,  Placentia CA 92870  Tech Line 714-522-2000


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