Volume X, Issue 6, Page 113

Almost 40 years ago, racers throughout the Northeast made the trek, with race cars in tow to a little Amoco service station in Dundalk, Maryland (a Baltimore suburb). Why the pilgrimage? It was simple: To get the car on Jack Arnew’s alignment rack. Arnew was (and likely still is), the king of drag race wheel alignments for stock bodied cars. Not only did he align the front ends, he modified various bits and pieces so the race cars (typically legal Stockers, Super Stockers and Modifieds) could get down the track with little or no added excitement. And remember, there was often plenty of drama with those early high horsepower SS or MP race cars. As a big bonus, cars with an Arnew front suspension system were regularly quicker than those without. Arnew’s work was legendary. So legendary you’d often see transporters with names like “Sox & Martin” or “Truppi-Kling” festooned somewhere on the doors.

Today, for many fast “door” cars (race cars that actually originated on a factory assembly line), you really don’t need to ship the entire car to Maryland for front suspension work. You can simply pick up the phone and purchase a set of aftermarket upper and lower control arms with considerable tricks already built in (obviously, not a NHRA/IHRA legal swap for a Stocker or Super Stocker, but those are another story). There are plenty of companies offering tubular a-arms that simply bolt right into place. But what should you look for? Some companies are, for the most part building road race style hardware. Others are just copy cats building quick and dirty bits and pieces in an effort to turn a buck (and it certainly shows). Yet others, like Jack Arnew of years gone by are dedicated to students of the straight and narrow.

When it comes to a-arms we’ll show you what to look for in the accompanying captioned photos. There’s a whole bunch of irony here too: The upper and lower GM “G”
body a-arms were using as examples for this article came from Autofab Race Cars, located in (you guessed it) Maryland. Actually, they’re located in Elkridge, roughly 17 miles southwest of Jack’s old gas station. In truth, they have no physical relationship with Arnew, other than considerable front end expertise. Who’da thunk? Maybe its in the Maryland water, but I digress. For drag racing, this is an initial look at what you should look for in a bolt-in a-arm arrangement. Next month we’ll conclude our examination, taking a peek at adjustments, and how to properly use a set of travel limiters. Read on:

I’m using these a-arms on a GM G-Body (Buford the bad ass Buick, but we’ll go into that another time). Typical for these cars, there’s plenty of camber change as the stock suspension goes through its travel. That means the wheels sort of flop as the nose of the car rises. Not good on a drag car. Worse if it wheelstands and then comes crashing down to earth. To fix the camber change, Autofab’s Rob Hamilton tweaked the dimensions of the arms. This also gave him the opportunity to build in more positive caster. What’s the big deal with positive caster? It allows the car to track straight and true while at speed. FYI, Hamilton advises you should shoot for 0-degrees camber and 2-4-degrees of positive caster when aligning the front end (this set will allow for a maximum of 8-degrees of positive caster – that’s a bunch).

Speaking of setting up the front end: In order to adjust the Autofab a-arms for caster and camber you back off the jam nut, and turn the rod end in or out. For the top, this means you have to remove the billet aluminum cross shaft (as shown here), then adjust the bearing. Because of this, you don’t need shims as per the factory setup (and in some cases, a one-inch stack of shims). One major reason this a-arm is not intended as a street piece is because the cross shaft is aluminum. For the bottom a-arm, you simply remove the attachment bolt on each side of the lower and pull out the a-arm (keeping in mind there’s a spring enclosed). From this juncture, you can turn the rod end in or out. Remember, the most common adjustment location is at the top a-arm. The point is, having big adjustment capability top and bottom means you can work out the kinks in the camber curve, then fine tune it from there.