By Al Engel
The all-time, best car I ever have owned (or driven on the street) as measured by cornering, was my ’86 C-4 coupe. I have had the opportunity to own, or have spent significant time driving: Z cars (78, 82 & 84); 911’s; 328 Ferrari; RX-7; a few BMW’s; a ’92 Vette and my current ’99 C-5 Roadster. The ’86 rode harsh, rattled and squeaked, but it could corner like it was on rails.
My ’92 was good. A much "nicer" car then the ’86, but it was not quite as strong in the cornering department. It would not pull the same G’s in the corners, and throttle input changes would require steering adjustments. Changes in tires, tire pressures, shocks, sway bars and alignment specs just never produced the cornering confidence I appreciated in my ’86. That ’86 had the closest feel to a racing suspension than any other street car I had driven.
The ’99 C-5 Roadster is a very good car! But… the cornering did not inspire confidence. Significant steering adjustments were required when throttle input changed. My ’99 has the FE-3 suspension. The ’92 had the F-45 adjustable suspension, and the ’86 had the "cinder blocks for springs" Z51 suspension. When I ordered my ’99, I was very tempted to go for the Z51 option, but my back was just starting to feel good again. The magazine writers were claiming the "standard" FE-3 suspension was perfect for all but the boy-racer. I was ordering the Roadster, for "street" use… no intention of racing it, soooooo, I wimped out and passed up on the Z51 option.
EVERYTHING about my ’99 C-5 is fantastic…except cornering feel. When the 2000 C-5’s rolled out of Bowling Green, they has a "New and Improved" Z-51 option. Softer springs (in fact, the spring rates were very close to those on my standard sprung ’99). Sway bars, links and bushings were all substantially upgraded from those used on the ’99 Z-51 package. Idea… get the 2000 Z-51 pieces and put them on the ’99.
After some research in the Goodwrench Parts Catalogue and a phone call to my local Chevy Dealer (in Montana?!?!?), the parts appeared at my front door. Installation of the Z-51 parts was accomplished in about one hour. An easy, backyard project, with basic tools. The difference in cornering performance was awesome! Flat cornering, pull more G’s, and complete stability regardless of throttle input (until the rear end breaks lose and then you’re steering the car from the rear with the gas peddle).
The parts needed for this conversion are:
1 Front Sway Bar Shaft 10424741 $146.00
1 Rear Sway Bar Shaft 10424743 $224.00
4 Sway Bar Links 10424745 $168.00
2 Front Bushings 10424742 $ 23.36
2 Rear Bushings 10431951 $ 12.90
TOTAL LIST PRICE $574.26
If you are in the good graces of your local Goodwrench Parts Guy, you can get the pieces for just under $350, and he will still make a "respectable" profit!
Anyone with a ‘97 – ‘99 C-5, with the FE-3, F-45, or even the earlier Z-51 suspension options, should consider this upgrade… in my opinion. It’s a fun, easy, cheap project, yielding excellent results. You could even call it "an investment"!