Bilstein Shock Installation and Road Report

TBT – I dug out an old email I sent to Firm Feel Suspensions up in Vancouver, Canada after I installed a set of new Bilstein shocks on my 70 440 Challenger back around New Years of 2013.

I figure you might get a kick out of it.

In the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School, the boys' gym in the background. Same building as in 1980 and many years before, but we didn't have the cool looking Viking Ship paint job back in then.

In the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School, the boys’ gym in the background. Same building as in 1980 and many years before, but we didn’t have the cool looking Viking Ship paint job back in then.

 

—-Original Message—–
From: challen yee [mailto:challenge@sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Sunday, January 27, 2013 8:55 PM
To: Dick Ross
Subject: Re: Bilstein Shocks RCD 70 challenger

Hi Dick,

I finally installed my Bilsteins on my car this weekend and have my initial report.
First, the installation was straightforward. I haven’t replaced shocks on a Challenger since I was in high school in about 1978, but fortunately, my memory came back and remembered the little techniques to make the job go smoothly. The main one was using a 10 inch cresent wrench to open up the lower control arm mount just enough to gain enough clearance to tap that lower front shock mount home.
The trick on the rear shocks is that the upper bolt needs to be hand installed from the bottom of the car, sitting facing the brakes with the head in the wheel well. Tightening happens with the 3/4 box holding the self locking nut through the trunk to hold while tightening the bolt from the bottom.

The rears, fortunately have clearance in the upper mount that no problems occurred when slipping the upper mount in.

All this was done in my driveway while my wife was out on errands.  (LOL)

First, it’s nice to hold in my hands some quality shocks and say good bye to the old monroe-matic garbage. I noticed the Monroes had some pressure in them but nothing compared to the effort required to collapse the Bilsteins.

Initial driving impressions. Getting quality shocks makes my Challenger more composed and mature.

The ride quality improvement is definitely noticeable, especially on the highway at speed. I can go 80 to 90 easily without the shuddering from all the imperfections in the road. Down here in the Bay Area we’ve got a lot of highway reconstruction going on so the pavement is a mess. Before with the old shocks, you’d need some spinal traction to stop your back from feeling every crack in the highway.

THe Bilsteins smooth things out, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a surprise, because the reputation of the Bilsteins preceded my ordering them, but definitely, they meet my expectations in terms of ride. Very nice.

The second test was stopping. Low speed and highway speed hard braking.
This is an area there is also very noticeable and welcomed improvement.

The big difference is the apparent departure of what my 9 year old son calls “Cartoon Stops.” That’s when I’m hard braking and the rear end is unweighting the back tires so they start screeching, unable to grab the road. It’s the epitome of a stereotypical big block muscle car trying to stop.

Well, that has changed after adding the Bilsteins. The car has a more mature attitude, more composure when stopping, as the shocks help keep the big e-body’s weight balanced the right amount to keep the tires planted on the road. Even the tires are some old BF Goodrich T/A’s,I’m getting some solid performance now out of them (eventually I want to get some better tires after I burn these out).

I used to auto cross a mainly-track-driven 1966 GT-350, so it’s nice to get some of this awesome handling in my street driven 1970 Challenger 440 R/T. THanks to Firm Feel, I’ve got a Mopar that is more fun and more drivable.

I haven’t taken enough turns to get solid impressions on how the car handles but I’ll send a note after I get some data together.

Thanks,
Challen

—END EMAIL

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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.

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