When the rubber meets the Road

Observations on the suspension, tires and handling

With the updated suspension, the Challenger drives straight while staying pretty level and even around turns.

I’m running the standard arc Firm Feel Industries (FFI) HD leaf springs, 1.00 FFI torsion bars and Bilstein shocks. FFI 1.25 front sway bar with lower control arm braces, FFI factory style 0.75 rear sway bar, factory manual steering, and Mopar Performance frame connectors. If I had to characterize the new suspension in just a few words, I would say it feels like the car “acts as one unit” and not the front end feeling like it’s in one city and the rear end is in another.

The straight line road feel is good and reasonably comfortable. The suspension feels tight and a lot quieter with the new leaf springs. After having taken the car out for a few drives, the one thing that I found uncomfortable was the sort of bumpiness feeling of the tires when driving pulling some G’s around a constant radius turn.

 

tire

One thing about my BF Goodrich Tires are they are NEW. Which is terrible for best traction. So I want to put some wear on them before I fully judge them. Yet this weird feeling with the tires jogged my memory from a past experience.

I remember from open-tracking my old 1965 Mustang was the tire pressure can have this effect.

When I first started open-tracking, I was under the wrong notion that having a higher PSI is better for racing or track driving, and some fear of tires coming off rims. On my Mustang (a red GT350 clone with white stripes) I ran 225/50×15 BF Goodrich Comp T/A’s and ran 40 psi in front an 38 PSI in the back. The result was the car felt a little bit like a sidestepping hobbyhorse going around turns. Instead of a nice smooth controlled slide/drifting around turns, the car seemed to be be stupidly bouncing sideways. It felt terrible. It felt like being in Bozo the Clown’s car at Sears Point Raceway.

 

A Ford Interlude

MoPar fans, please excuse the Ford photos ;), but that is what I had to do in the 1980’s, when my brother and I picked a Mustang for a platform, a car that had lots of available parts at the time to do what I wanted at reasonable cost.  I still had my first Challenger up until about the mid 80’s, but sold it when it was idle in storage – I was serving in the Navy overseas at the time. My brother drove the Mustang while I was away.  Also I want to give thanks to the influence of a good friend, Scott Douglas, who was one of my original car fanatic buddies in junior high school. He grew up becoming an expert on Mustangs and Shelbys and was always willing to lend a helping hand when I was home on leave.

Photo at left is my first open track at Laguna Seca, using 235x60x15 Goodyear Eagles on steel magnum 500’s, and photo right is with the 225x50x15 BFG Comp T/A’s on Torq-Thrust D wheels plus side exit exhaust.

lagunasecaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I lowered the tire pressure to 35#(F)-32#(R) everything completely smoothed out and I had complete confidence in the ability to feel the car drift very smoothly around turns. Absolute control.

 

Okay, okay… and back to the Challenger!

Anyway, back to my Challenger. I checked the pressure on all 4 tires cold, and they were all at 36 PSI. I immediately lowered all of them to 33#. I’ll see what happens the next time I’m out. The max recommended pressure in 35#.

[one day later]
Okay, took the car out for a spin with my son and we mildly terrorized the local highway and cloverleafs and what did I discover? Ahh… I got that loving feeling back between me and the road. I can tell the bumpy drifting is gone and the BF Goodrich, while not sticking as long as a lower profile tire with racier tread, was acting consistently and predictably. I was able to control the drifting with the accelerator pretty easily without feeling like Bozo the Clown.

The E-body was staying very level around constant radius turns and the tires feel like they’re drifting with just a little oversteer. The manual steering is giving me some decent feedback and feel. Definitely would like to take on turns where I can stab the front end into a tight corner and see how it handles going through and out of the turn. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the handling of this big E-body that’s packing a 440.

I’m watching my 10 year old son riding shotgun. He is more interested in Minecraft, watching TV and listening to the local rock station, so he’s not too much of a motorhead yet, but I can catch him out of the corner of my eye when I’m getting on to the highway and bringing the RPM’s high enough to engage the outboard carbs, the exhaust is roaring while our bodies are getting pressed back on the seats. It gives me some sort of weird fatherly pleasure as he’s bracing himself in the presence of horsepower.

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

 

Copyright © 2014 ChallenYee.com. TheDodgeKid.com  All Rights Reserved.

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