G-body steering and suspension mods

From: Steve Orlin

This past week I changed the front springs and steering box
on my '81 Buick Regal (G body) from wimpy stock parts to
better performing parts.  The following is a brief description,
for those who may benefit.

After installing the ZZ3 350 engine in place of the original 231 V6,
the front end of my Regal began to sag and was very sloppy.  It took
bumps in the road horribly and felt like it was coming apart.  The
stiffness of the stock front springs, according to the Moog Spring
catalog, was 345 lb/in.  The stiffness of the heavy duty replacement
springs for all G body cars was listed as 420 lb/in.   According to
the Moog catalog, only these two stiffnesses were used in ALL G body
cars, including high performance versions such as the GN and Monte
Carlo SS.  However, different spring lengths were used as needed to
obtain various ride heights for specific engine-vehicle combinations.

A little searching in the Moog catalog by a friend (name witheld to
prevent email bombardment:)) yielded an interesting discovery...

Several other springs were available with much higher spring stiffnesses
(500-700 lb/in) for similar load heights and the SAME spring end

Two such applications were for S-10 pickups and '85-92 IROC Camaros.
The spring for the S-10 application, Moog # 5660, gives a stiffness
of 639 lb/in at a ride height approx. between stock and 1 inch lower 
than stock for G body applications.  The spring for the IROC Camaros,
Moog # 5662, gives a stiffness of 706 lb/in at a stock ride height
for most G body applications.

After thinking this over a bit, I decided to replace my front springs
with the 5662's, basically doubling the stiffness.  This past week
I bought the springs (same part number, but TRW brand, CS 5662) for
$43 at a parts store in Akron.  I also bought new front brake rotors,
pads, and lower ball joints, as they all needed to be replaced.

I also decided to replace my stock steering box (16:1 ratio I believe)
with a box out of an '82-'92 F body with the performance suspension
package (any with 15" or 16" wheels as stock equipment).   I got lucky
and found one of these in a junkyard.  An '82-'85 Firebird SE with
15" wheels.  From a chart I have in an old magazine, I knew I was looking
for the ID code "WS" or "XH".    After finally getting the box out
of the car, I was relieved to see the letters "WS" on the front, although
they were very faded.   The box was easy to remove for hte most part.
Only three bolts hold it on, plus the pitman arm link to the drag link
(need a ball joint separator to remove), the PS h oses, and the steering
column spline connection (very easy to remove).  The PS hose connections
are 18mm, but if you're pulling out a junk box, you might just clip the
hoses as I did and use your stock ones over again.

Need to be careful though, often times the stock hose flare nuts are
frozen to the steel lines and will twist the line when you try to
remove them.

Before I replaced the steering box in my car with the new quick
ratio box (12:1 constant), I replace the front springs, ball joints,
and brakes.

Luckily, my friend is a Tech. teacher at a high school in Parma and
he gave me access to a lift, which made the work much easier.  But
it still took most of the day.

Two valuable tools for doing this job were a spring compressor (professional
quality) and a ball joint press.

My friend screwed up one of the sway bar links that day so I ended up
driving away with the sway bar not attached.   However, I was surprised
to find out that my car only rolled as much as it did with the old
springs and the sway bar (1.25") attached!   In addition, the new springs
gave the front end a GREAT, new car feel with just hte right amount
of stiffness.  I should note that for a car which mostly sees the drag
strip, these springs would be PERFECT without any roll bar at all.
The car was very manageable on the street without the roll bar attached.

In my car, the ride height with the new springs is between stock and
very very slightly above stock.  I am still not sure about this, because
I have been used to looking at a sagging front end, but it definitely
looks good to me and everyone who has looked at it.

For someone who wants to lower their front end about 1" from stock, I
would recommend the 5660 springs instead of the 5662 springs, which
will give you a stock ride height.   Keep in mind that I have a lighter
front end to begin with, because my engine has aluminum heads, intake,
no AC, and lightweight headers (Hooker Super comp thin wall).

For a stock monte carlo SS with AC, the 5662 springs I used should give
a perfectly stock ride height, with the slight possibility of a 0-.5"

The next day, I bought another end link for my sway bar and installed it.
I was pleasantly surprised.  Now my Regal hardly rolled at all.  It
was very hard to notice any body roll, I had to turn the wheel very fast
on dry pavement, and even then hardly anything..   I did notice, as I
did these maneuvers, that you could actually feel the tires flex, and
cause the roll.  I have 215/70SR14 tires all around.   This will be
eliminated this summer as I switch to 245/50/16's on all fours.

I should also note that with the springs and the roll bar attached,
the car eats up bumps and bad railroad tracks with MINIMUM disturbance
to the passengers.  It's great!

The following day is when I actually installed the new steering box.
It was also made easier with teh automotive lift at my friend's shop.
It took about 2 hours to replace, and only so long because it was
quite a hassle trying to save my old PS hoses.  It's probably a good
idea to install new hoses with the new box.

I drove away and immediately noticed that I didn't match up the splines
perfectly. -But no problem!!  It takes about 2 minutes to fix!  Simply
lift back the blue cover at the steering box, take out the attachment 
bolt, and pry back the spline connection, and reattach at the right
spot.  (I haven't done this yet though).

The performance of the new steering box was also a dramatic improvement
over the stock slush box.   I hardly have to turn the wheel now when
I make any turns.  It feels great!   Plus, the quick 'roll maneuvers'
are a lot easier to make with the quick ratio box.   I found myself
trying to do a lot of dangerous things :)    Oh, did I mention the
new box only cost me $35? :)  (probably the best part).

I am not sure how many turns lock to lock it gives, but the steering
feel is a bit firmer than the stock box.  It definitely gives it
the feel of a new Camaro/Firebird/Vette, any sports car.

However, that steering wheel wander (driving on the highway, you can
still move the steering wheel a bit without it doing anything) was
only slightly reduced.  A little bit is still there, but I do blame
that on other sources of slop in my steering linkage, and possibly
just in the box itself.   The ball joint in my center/drag link
indicates that it needs to be replaced.

I'm not sure what the ratio of the steering box in the Monte Carlo SS's
are, but I think they are still greater than 12:1, so improvement is
still possible.

I don't know if these upgrades have been published by any of the
popular hot rodding magazines, but I would recommend them to
anyone.  Email me directly if you have any questions.

(orlin-s at rclsgi.eng.ohio-state.edu)

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