Third Gen Modifications 101
For some time now I’ve been wanting to put down a list of some of modifications that I have done, and rank them according to how important I feel that each modification is. These are the first modifications that I would do when starting to modify a Third-gen.
These modifications are mainly for a third generation car. However as many of you know the third generation and fourth generation cars share some components, such as drive shafts, lower control arms, and panhard rods. So some of these modifications will be applicable for fourth generation cars as well.
- Sub-Frame Connectors
There have been many things written about sub frame connectors and their benefits so I won’t go into great detail about them. But I will say that dollar for dollar they are, hands down the best money I’ve spent on our 2 IROCs. They are the first thing that I would do when modifying any third-gen. f body. Especially a convertible! These cars were designed to have a roof. When you take that roof away, in the form of T tops, or a convertible you kill the structural integrity of the car. Sub frame connectors help restore some of that. Even the hard top cars can greatly benefit by using them.
Take for instance my 89 IROC-Z, Hard top. It used to be that when I would pull into a steep driveway there would be all kinds of flex and protest from the car. Immediately after I put connectors on I noticed an incredible difference in the stiffness of the Chassis. Now sometimes when I drive into a steep driveway, after the suspension has flexed as far as it can go the car will actually hold up one of the rear tires off the ground, instead of flexing so that it will touch.
There are a few manufacturers, that I know about that make sub frame connectors for Third-gens. Mac is one company that makes it two point tubular set that will fit hard tops, and convertibles. I got my set for just a little over $100.00 .
Kenny Brown makes a three point set for the third gen. that will only work on hard tops. They cost a bit more , approximately $250.00.
I would always recommend getting the "weld in" style instead of the "bolt in", no matter what brand you choose. The holes in a "bolt in" setup tend to elongate over time.
Regardless of which kind you use you will feel a huge difference in the way your car handles.
- Lower Control Arms & Panhard Rod
I rank these second on my list of best modifications because of the simple fact that they were fairly inexpensive and made a tremendous difference in the way my car handles. The rear end in general feels more "connected" with the car. I can’t explain it better than that.
When I looked at the Cheap pieces of stamped metal junk that GM puts on these cars, it amazed me that these cars are able to control that heavy, live rear axle so well !
There are many companies that make these parts. If you have lowered your car you may want the adjustable panhard rod. But other than that I don’t think it really matters what kind of lower control arms you buy. Just be sure that all the pieces have grease fittings on them. I bought my set from Hotchkis for about $300.00
- Aluminum Drive Shaft
For a long time I had this vibration problem that I could not diagnose. It would really start to get bad at about 90 Mlles per hour. And the strange thing about it is that it would vibrate the worst AFTER I would let off the throttle!
I have talked to several owners of fourth generation cars that have had this same basic problem.
The problem is the steel drive shaft. Everyone I know who has replaced the steel drive shaft with an aluminum one, including myself has been very satisfied because it cures the vibration. This is another very easy do it yourself project. The biggest expense is the drive shaft itself, at around $300.00.
- Strut Tower Brace
Right about now you may be asking yourself doesn’t this guy think that power modifications are important? Well the answer is, Oh Yeah! But what we’re doing right now is basically fixing the inherent flaws that were originally designed into these cars. Once we get our solid base to build on. Then fix some of the things that borderline on safety hazards, such as the drive shaft. Then we can start making power.
The strut tower brace bolts inside the engine compartment on the top of the strut towers. It braces them against the flex that can occur under hard cornering. It’s a very worthwhile investment and can be installed in your driveway in less than an hour. This modification goes hand in hand with the sub frame connectors. I got mine from Hotchkis , but several companies make them now including Edelbrock. You can plan on spending at little under $200.00.
These are the most basic modifications and I would recommend them to every third generation Camaro or Firebird owner. Once we get past this point my expertise starts to shift toward the Z28 and the IROC-Z, especially the ones that were equipped with Tuned Port Injection. But with a few exceptions what works on these variations of the car will work on them all. I would be happy to talk with anyone in greater detail on the above subjects, or about anything else for that matter. Just look me up!