Classics in Bloom

Spring has finally hit Portland, and it’s great news for me, as I’ve been itching to get my Caprice back on the road. I finished up installing poly bushings and boxing the rear control arms about a month ago, and I’ve been watching and waiting for the rain to lift, if only for a day, just to see if the upgrades made any difference in the way the car handles going down the highway.

The goal of the project was tightening up the rear suspension in the hopes of lowering the car’s 60-foot times at the dragstrip. But the car was also getting scary to drive on the road, and that made it hard to use. You never really knew when it might react differently to a bump in the rear than it did in the front — sometimes a dip or a pothole would cause it to change lanes on its own. Running the drag tires just made the problem worse, since they’re wider than the front tires and tended to make the car track funny anyway.   

Since I was only working in my garage late at night, after my daughter went to bed, the project took longer than I’d hoped. In total, I had about three months in it, doing each of the four arms individually so I didn’t have to pull the rear end out of the car. But the time didn’t really matter, since I wasn’t driving the car anyway. Portland winters are gray and rainy – not much fun for an overpowered rear-wheel-drive car with a so-so defroster. There wasn’t a real push to get it done, other than the fact that nice weather was coming.

And it’s finally here. Yesterday was one of the first 70-degree days of the year in the Pacific Northwest, and I was able to get the freshly reassembled car out and drive it to ACC’s world headquarters. I’m happy to say that it feels 100% better – it tracks straight and true and finally behaves like it should over bumps in the road. And thanks to a UMI adjustable panhard rod, I was able to center up the rear end to keep my 275-60-15 drag tires from rubbing, too. Not bad for a $250 total investment, minus my time.

The real test is coming – I’ll head out to the races in the next few weeks to see if there’s any measurable improvement beyond overall feel. With any luck, I’m one step closer to the 11-second barrier. We’ll see.

Has the weather broken in your part of the world? Have you already taken your classic out for its first drive of the year, or are you still waiting for that first perfect day? Let us know in the comments below, and post pictures if you’ve got ’em.