Making an olds man happy

Cars built during the mid 20th century offered a vast improvement in steering and suspension over their predecessors of even 20 years earlier. Fast forward 50 or 60 years, however, and theywoefully inadequate for todayroads and highway speeds, especially when fitted with more modern engines and powertrains. While some lend themselves to easy suspension swaps (think of the myriad of Mustang II-based crossmembers and clips available in the aftermarket), others arenso easily adapted.

This ’Olds is a perfect case in point. Jules Engoren bought this 455-powered coupe that already had a rack-and-pinion and disc brakes installed, yet he was less than enamored when it showed a tendency to swap lanes on the freeway at the sign of any slight deviation in the road surface. Zero (or even positive) caster made steering lighter in the days before power steering was common, and highway speeds were a lot slower back then. There is no way to adjust the caster on the Olds, yet the owner didnwant to go to the expense and amount of work involved to ”the car.

Mustang II

Having had ”Steve Davies of Kiwi SteveHot Rod Shop in Brea, California, perform work on his ’phaeton in the past, he asked Davies if he could modernize the suspension and steering without resorting to a front frame swap. The Olds has a chassis that doesnlend itself easily to such a job, as the firamerails are not parallel and the front crossmember is a hefty affair, to say the least.

After a lot of trial and error, and much planning, the result is a vastly improved ride that instills driver confidence, not fear. Italso an upgrade that could be performed with stock parts from other cars, though aftermarket upper control arms and spindles were used from Classic Performance Products, offering the benefit of improved strength with new parts.

Mustang II

However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the swap, there are a couple of things to bear in mind. Firstly, this isna job for a novice, as plenty of fabrication and a thorough understanding of suspension and steering geometry are required to complete the task. Secondly, this swap represents an improvement over the stock Olds components, not a perfect front suspension on this platform, as so much is inherently to start with. It is, however, with the right knowledge and skills, easier than stripping the car and grafting in a front clip from the firewall forward, as the engine, transmission, sheetmetal, and bumpers donrequire removal and remounting. The use of Chevelle spindles means there is a vast selection of rotors and calipers that can be used, from stock versions all the way up to six-pot calipers and large-diameter vented rotors.

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