Third Gen Camaro Hotchkis TVS Suspension Kit - Track Pack
Help your third-gen handle better with a Hotchkis TVS suspension kit
From the July, 2012 issue of Camaro Performers
By Steven Rupp
Photography by Steven Rupp
1. Meet our test subject: an ’88 Camaro owned by Shaun Dove. It’s powered by a badass Donovan small-block, but its handling is somewhat hindered by the stock suspension. It also suffers from a stance that isn’t as high as some third-gens we’ve seen, but still has a wheel gap bigger than we like.
2. The Hotchkis TVS Race Pack...
2. The Hotchkis TVS Race Pack (PN 80018, $1,972) contains everything needed to get Shaun’s ’88 Camaro handling like it should. As a bonus, it will also fix the third-gen’s four-wheel-drive-looking stance. The kit includes subframe connectors, but our Camaro already had some homemade ones in place. Chassis flex, especially in T-top–optioned cars, is a big problem. If your Camaro isn’t already equipped, we suggest welding in a pair of Hotchkis connectors. You’ll be glad you did.
Of all the generations of Camaros, the third-gens are the most frustrating in stock form. Blessed with sleek body lines that make the car look like it’s haulin’ ass even when parked, GM hobbled the car with mediocre power, which kept it from utilizing it’s full driving potential. Third-gens are known for great handling straight out of the box, and just like how power problems can be addressed with a new mill or a pile of go-fast goodies, the suspension can be brought up a notch or two with a few carefully chosen replacement parts.
The key is to increase the suspension’s firmness without inducing harshness to the ride. Other parts help to stiffen the chassis and keep the various suspension pieces moving in predictable ways under hard turns. The TVS kit from Hotchkis does just this. The package includes parts to tighten up the third-gen’s handling, improve traction, and make it look even better in the process. To test it out, we borrowed an ’88 from our friend Shaun Dove, installed the kit over at JR Competition in Escondido, California, and took the newly refitted Camaro to our testing facility at El Toro Field.
3. Tackling the front of the...
3. Tackling the front of the Camaro, we first removed the caliper and hung it out of the way with some wire. We then pulled the rotor to gain access to the bolts that secure the spindle to the strut.
4. Now, this part is always...
4. Now, this part is always a little tricky since the stock spring is under tension. Before removing the bolts mating the strut to the spindle, we placed a pole jack under the control arm. We then pulled the bolts and slowly lowered the control arm, relieving tension on the spring. Once the arm was lowered far enough, we were able to pop the OE spring free.
5. The new 1-inch drop springs...
5. The new 1-inch drop springs in the Hotchkis TVS kit come powdercoated gray. Besides looking good, they have a 600 lb-in rate for better cornering.
6. With the new spring in...
6. With the new spring in place, we lowered the lift and used a floor jack to carefully raise the lower control arm until the spindle could be secured to the strut. Once done, we re-installed the brakes.
7. To complement the stiffer...
7. To complement the stiffer springs, the TVS kit also includes stiffer front and rear sway bars. The 17⁄16-inch hollow front bar included bushings, brackets, and endlinks. Installation of the front bar was as simple as dropping the stock bar and lifting the new one into place.
8. Under hard turning, the...
8. Under hard turning, the stock tie-rod sleeves can flex and cause erratic steering response. These hex-bodied, black-powdercoated sleeves won’t suffer that same fate and will help keep our third-gen’s steering more predictable.
9. The rear coil springs were...
9. The rear coil springs were very easy to remove. First, we placed a pole jack under the Camaro’s rearend and unbolted the drivers-side shock. We then lowered the rearend until the stock coil could be freed. After swapping in the new 1-inch drop spring, we raised the rearend and reattached the shock. The dance was then repeated on the passenger side.
10. With the springs swapped,...
10. With the springs swapped, we then moved to changing out the lower trailing arms with the ones from the TVS kit. These are much stronger than the flimsy stamped steel stockers and will help to improve traction, reduce wheelhop, and add more stability when cornering. They’re constructed from a single piece of 0.102-inch wall TIG-welded steel tubing with greasable polyurethane bushings.
11. Along the way, someone...
11. Along the way, someone replaced the flimsy stock Panhard rod with something a bit more substantial, but it was still non-adjustable. The Hotchkis bar’s adjustability let us get the rearend centered precisely under the F-body. A Panhard rod functions to keep the rear axle stable under lateral, side-to-side, movement, which is critical if one wants to squeeze every bit of potential out of their third-gen’s handling.
12. The Hotchkis Panhard rod...
12. The Hotchkis Panhard rod came fully TIG-welded and powdercoated, as well as with greasable poly bushings.
13. The last step was to install...
13. The last step was to install the rear sway bar, which normally is just a matter of dropping the stock bar and bolting the new one in place. Unfortunately, someone over the last few decades had liberated this Camaro’s bar and the necessary brackets. After searching around online, we found the proper endlink brackets and secured them to the Camaro’s frame.
14. With the bracket situation...
14. With the bracket situation addressed, we then finished installing the 1-inch hollow rear bar. Afterwards, we rechecked all the bolts and greased the various fittings in preparation for hitting the track to see if our old dog had learned a few new tricks.
15. It’s amazing what a difference...
15. It’s amazing what a difference a mere one inch can make in how a car looks. The springs really helped tighten up the tire-to-fender gap and get it sitting like it should. The new wheels and tires are exactly the same size as in the before pictures, but the EVOD wheels and Nitto NT05 tires really help to update the Camaro’s look. Plus the NT05 tires provide excellent grip for a 200 treadwear street tire.
The Hotchkis TVS Race Pack really improved the stance, but we wanted to know how it performed, so we decided to test the car against its modern cousin, the 2011 SS Camaro. After all, the whole point is to end up with classic style and modern performance.
In our 420-foot slalom course, the Hotchkis-equipped Camaro was put to the test. According to our editor and test driver, Nick Licata: “Without any adjustments, the car felt very predictable, both in corner entry and corner exit. The handling was precise, yet it didn’t seem like it would be overly harsh on the street.” The tires were brand new so we spent a little time scuffing them in properly, and we also released a few pounds of air pressure for some more grip. Once that was done, Licata started darting between the cones and eventually knocked down a best time of 5.86 seconds (49.3 mph). Last year we baselined a bone-stock ’11 SS, which put down a best time of 6.16 seconds (46.6 mph) in the slalom on its factory rubber. Now, a betterment of 0.30-seconds may not sound like much, but in a 420-foot slalom it’s pretty substantial margin.