This is the original brake...
This is the original brake and suspension setup at the right rear wheel. The drum brake setup was adequate for around-town driving, but sure not up to managing the 290 ponies put out by our new GM Performance Parts crate engine.
If you've been following our '59 surprise package, you'll know that Rob Sutter's long-dormant C1 was spirited out of storage by friend and business partner Bob Yeoman who repaid a long-standing debt of gratitude by secretly having a GM crate engine installed in Rob's otherwise undriveable C1. The former dragster engine originally donated to this car was just never streetable and, as a result, Rob rarely took to the road in his '59.
You'll also recall that the project quickly escalated (as these things so often do) to many underhood upgrades and, ultimately, to new brake and suspension systems necessary to match the car's agility and safety levels to match the performance of the car's new powerplant. And so Rob's wife Bonnie secretly got suckered in (er, "volunteered") to pony up some piggy bank money to help fund the expanded budget needed to complete the project.
In our last installment we covered the installation of Independent Front Suspension (IFS) and rack-and-pinion steering courtesy of Jim Meyer Racing, as well as front disc brakes from Stainless Steel Brakes Corp. This month we'll see how the creative guys at Gardner's Automotive in Easton, PA "massaged" the rear brakes and suspension to match the contemporary front underpinnings.
The axle shaft on these cars...
The axle shaft on these cars is held in place by a retaining plate. Four bolts hold the retaining plate to the axle housing, and the axle, bearing, and retaining plate come out after the removal of four nuts behind the backing plate. Unlike newer design axles, there are no "C" clips holding the axle shaft to the inside of the differential; C1's use the retaining plate design. With the four bolts out, it's usually necessary to use a slide hammer to pull the axle shaft out, since the bearing is usually a snug fit in the axle housing.
The key components in this phase of the project included:
* First-off-the-line fiberglass mono leaf springs from Vette Brakes & Products
* QA1 rear shocks
* Rear disc brake setup from Stainless Steel Brakes Corp. to complement their front disc brake setup
* Rear sway bar from Jim Meyer Racing
The live axle leaf spring rear axle setup originally installed on C1's was functional, but was never up to the task of handling the horsepower of the 2x4 and F.I. engines that were optional in 1959. So it was certainly inadequate for the 290 ponies put out by the newly-installed GM crate engine, even with the traction bars, which GM called "radius rods," that became standard equipment on C1 Corvettes in 1959. And it was also incompatible with the high-tech new front end which included IFS, R&P, and beefy disc brakes.
Upgrade honors went to Gardner's Automotive in Easton, PA, which had performed the engine transplant along with the front end enhancements. Gary Gardner, along with his son Craig and grandson Kyle, have done much Corvette work over the years, and eagerly took on the task of bringing the '59's rear suspension into the 21st century.
The following photos and captions illustrate the key steps in the transition. The job proved fairly straightforward, thanks to very well engineered parts from the participating suppliers. And it also proved very rewarding, since the new configuration resulted in a car that handles and stops better than most of the C1's we've had the pleasure of piloting.
|Difficulty Index - 3 Wrenches|
|Anyone's Project: no tools required||1 Wrench|
|Beginner: basic tools||2 Wrenches|
|Experienced: special tools||3 Wrenches|
|Accomplished: special tools and outside help||4 Wrenches|
|Professionals Only: send this work out||5 Wrenches|