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Thread: Daniel's handling tips, and OEM Rim fitement guide

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Daniel's handling tips, and OEM Rim fitment guide

    One of the biggest gripes owners of our cars have is the sub-par handling. The chassis is about as stiff as a wet noodle in stock form. Even with fresh shocks and struts there's a significant amount of body roll and understeer (inherent in most FWD cars). I thought I'd post some tips on making these cars (and vans) handle a bit better.

    First off, rear sway bars. Amazingly, there is an aftermarket piece, made by Addco and sold by Summit Racing.

    http://www.summitracing.com/parts/ACO-325/
    For A and X cars, all years. 3/4" diameter. Kit includes all necessary hardware and easy-to-follow instructions. Will require drilling holes in the body to mount the end link brackets. A right angle drill must be used. In addition to the bolts, welding the brackets to the body is recommended. Looks to be in stock.

    http://www.summitracing.com/parts/ACO-465/
    For U vans, 1990-1996. 1" diameter. Kit includes all necessary hardware and easy-to-follow instructions. Will require drilling holes in the body to mount the end link brackets. A right angle drill must be used. In addition to the bolts, welding the brakcets to the body is recommended.
    When I added one to my cart, it said it is a special order item, about three weeks out.

    If you want to stiffen up the front to match, I don't know of any aftermarket bars. At least, Summit Racing doesn't list one. A sway bar from an FE3 car will swap in if you also swap the proper bushings. It's 26 mm, which is 4 mm larger than an FE1. Vans appear to have the 26 mm bar stock. Going further than that, skalor and SilentWing have each built their own strut tower brace. It doesn't appear to be too difficult to do. There is no aftermarket brace. Custom only. Same for a rear shock tower brace. Vans probably can't use a strut brace, since the wiper arms interfere.

    Shocks and struts are next. Cars can use KYB Gas-A-Just shocks number KG-5555, and GR2 struts number 234019l. Sedans can use rear springs from the wagons (dependent on the year; pretty sure the springs were changed starting in '94), and vans can use cargo springs from the APV on any trim level. I don't know of any lowering springs. I did some poking around on Rock Auto's catalog, which lets you see what other cars used a given component.

    After that is tires. No A car got a wheel larger than 14", other than the 1986 Century GS and 1988-90 6000 AWD (15"), and most had tall, skinny economy tires to match their target demographic. My opinion is aftermarket wheels are gaudy as hell, so I like to stick with GM wheels. Moving up to a 15" wheel gives you a lot more selection when it comes to tires, and 16s give you more performance-oriented choices. Depending on your brakes, your choices are:



    JA1/JM4, 5 x 100:
    • J platform cars, 1982-2005. 13 to 16 inches diameter, width up to 6 inches.
      Chevrolet Cavalier; Oldsmobile Firenza; Buick Skyhawk; Cadillac Cimarron; Pontiac 2000/J2000/2000 Sunbird/Sunbird/Sunfire.
    • L platform cars, 1988-1996. 14 to 16 inches diameter, width up to 6 inches.
      Chevrolet Beretta and Corsica.
    • N platform cars, 1985-1998. 14 to 16 inches diameter, width up to 6 inches.
      Buick Somerset (Regal) and Skylark; Oldsmobile Calais, Cutlass Calais and Achieva; Pontiac Grand Am (up to '98).
    There seem to be other non-GM applications, such as the Dodge Neon and Volkswagen Jetta, that may work. I haven't yet done any research regarding that. I have seen a second-gen Cavalier with Jetta wheels tooling around Las Vegas, but that doesn't mean too much without being able to inspect the car up close.



    JA2/JM4, 5 x 115:
    • C platform cars, 1985-1996. 15 or 16 inches diameter, width 6 inches.
      Buick Electra (FWD) and Park Avenue; Cadillac Deville, Fleetwood (FWD) and Sixty Special (up to '93); Oldsmobile 98.
    • H platform cars, 1986-1999 15 to 17 inches diameter, width up to 7 inches?
      Buick LeSabre; Oldsmobile 88; Pontiac Bonneville.
    • N platform cars, 1997-2005. 15 and 16 inches diameter, width up to 6.5 inches?.
      Chevrolet Malibu and Classic; Oldsmobile Cutlass ('97-99) and Alero ('99+); Pontiac Grand Am ('99+).
    • U platform vans and CUVs, 1990-2005. 14 inches (early) and 15-16 diameter, width 6 inches.
      Buick Rendezvous; Chevrolet Lumina APV and Venture; Oldsmobile Silhouette; Pontiac Aztek and Trans Sport/Montana.
      Note: CUVs are included for completeness. I don't really know if they will fit properly, but they should since they're derived from the vans.
    • W platform cars, 1988-2001, 14 to 16 inches diameter, width up to 8 inches.
      Buick Regal (up to '96); Chevrolet Lumina (all years) and Monte Carlo ('95-99); Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme; Pontiac Grand Prix (up to '96, some 8" wide, can't recommend).
    • Non-GM wheels
      Chrysler LH platform, 1993-2004. 15 or 16 inches diameter, width 6 to 7 inches.
      Chrysler Concorde, LHS, New Yorker, 300M; Dodge Intrepid; Eagle Vision.
      IMPORTANT NOTE: These wheels are compatible, but some of the relevant measurements are different. Lug spacing is 5x114.3mm, or 5x4.5". Center bore is 71.3mm. Offset and backspacing are close enough.

    Bigger wheels means new tires. For the best handling, you want to go wide and short, meaning as much tread as you can fit inside the strut, and a short sidewall. In a general sense, the less treadwear, the better. That means the tire will wear faster, but will be stickier. In 15 inches, I had a Fisk Classic in 205-65-15, which seems to be a house brand at Discount Tire. Very good economy tire which happened to have a good amount of grip. In 16 inches, the only experience I had was with 225-50-16 Kumho Ecsta ASTs on my Celebrity. Loads of grip accelerating, cornering and braking.

    You'll need bigger brakes to fill in the backs of those wheels! A-body-based vans will likely have you covered, if they have 15" or bigger wheels stock. I can't find the page right now, but a guy in Canada on Cardomain with an '84 Celebrity (who swapped a Cadillac 4.5 V8, by the by) put on van brakes front and rear. If you absolutely must have discs in the back, you have a couple options. If you don't have ABS, the 1986 6000 STE is ideal, but becoming increasingly rare. Second is the 2005 Uplander. Reports are the caliper mounting bracket is welded to the axle, so it'll have to be cut off, and is not available over the counter at a dealership. I haven't heard anything positive about W-body brakes, but having never owned one, I cannot vouch. As for the vans, the front hubs are used by many cars, including A cars. The front disc brakes are shared with C, F and H platform cars, among others, up until about 1997. The rear drums are a parts bin special, used by damn near every car GM made from the mid-80s to 2005.

    UPDATE: Apparently someone makes a drilled and slotted front brake kit for JA2 cars! Really seems like overkill, but the price looks good for what you get, which is both rotors and matching pads. They're directional, so you have to install them on the correct side, it would appear.

    UPDATE: Last year, lemons bob installed van brakes on his Ciera race car. The process is relatively straightforward. Thread here.

    UPDATE: turbokinetic has installed van struts on his '84 Olympic Century. Van struts are designed for a heavier vehicle, so they are stiffer and improve handling without compromising ride quality.

    UPDATE: Ray_McAvoy shows us how to make a strut tower brace with some scrap steel plate and a C-body brace. Of import is that he notes how the design of the tower is different for 82-89 and 90-96 cars.

    UPDATE: Bilstein rear shocks. Pricey but probably worth it!
    Last edited by Duke George V; 08-13-2018 at 08:13 PM.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 214k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 132k miles.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.



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    Just an addition to the rear sway bar, I've been looking around for these and I found a place online that has it about $35 cheaper than Summit, or Jegs. Same bar and they seem to have good online ratings.

    http://www.autopartsdealer.com/addco..._content=rank3

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    Senior Member CuttyC 3.3's Avatar
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    That is a much better price than summit .. But here is the link to the front sway-bar . http://www.summitracing.com/parts/ACO-781/
    They dont stock these so they have to order them right from Addco . takes a couple weeks :/

    My biggest suggestion other than the front & rear sway-bar is a front & rear strut-tower brace like DGV said .. you can see mine in the strut-brace thread .... I just got done winding through some country roads and i still cannot believe how much different the car handles with the strut-braces ... and i still dont have the front sway-bar yet ....

    I think with these mods alone most a-body owners would be much happier with their cars handling .. Shocks , brakes & tires would just make it better ...

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    Senior Member LordDurock's Avatar
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    also note 1 5/16 sway bar can be had from helwig though summit.
    http://www.summitracing.com/parts/HEL-5700/

    as well a 1" rears from helwig though summit
    http://www.summitracing.com/parts/HEL-5815/

    these are the thickest swat bars i have been able to find

    Quote Originally Posted by LordDurock
    most great ideas will lose the original luster and wonder of their profound expression, when subject to the masses, for all ideas are building blocks on the greater truth, not the whole truth
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    The Helwig look like they are for the cutlass not the cutlass ciera. So the older rwd model, so I don't think they would mount right up to an a-body

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    Senior Member CamoDeafie's Avatar
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    the Helwig application guide specifically states Buick century FWD on the first page...?
    "All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of the same manipulation."
    -N.S.K. Neuer Slowenian Kunst
    proud former owner of 83 Ciera Brougham Coupe (may her new owners repair her and get her on the road as she deserves to be!)
    Pics of MAxine here! 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Brougham Coupe

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    on the summit application list it says RWD and for chevy it lists the malibu, El Camino and the Monte Carlo, so I would definently want confirmation before purchasing.

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    Senior Member CamoDeafie's Avatar
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    interesting. so best bet would be just go to yards and find the U-van sway bar and get new bushings?
    "All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of the same manipulation."
    -N.S.K. Neuer Slowenian Kunst
    proud former owner of 83 Ciera Brougham Coupe (may her new owners repair her and get her on the road as she deserves to be!)
    Pics of MAxine here! 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Brougham Coupe

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    you could always go addco too, since people have purchased that and they are known to fit fwd a-body's

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    Oh and for the wheel fitments the safest way to look would be to find out what the a-body's wheels stock backspace is and just match that up with the wider wheels backspaces. We seem to have space to go out a bit and still stay in the fenders so if you keep the default back space you should probably be ok, well as long as you don't go a ridiculously wide, but I would bet a 7" wide tire with the same backspace would fit in our wheel wells. You would want to go back space and not offset since the offset is based on the center of the rim so an extra inch of rim would be an extra 1/2" inside and not sure how much clearance you would have with all the suspension components.

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    Senior Member CamoDeafie's Avatar
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    I agree with the above; however...the problem comes up when the aftermarket wheels all have a backspacing of 5.625 for the 5x115 wheels which sounds as though as they're much greater than our 5something backspacing... or when the greater positive offsets results in a deeper backspacing than needed..I've wanted to run 6 or 7 wide wheels with either 0 or +25mm offset as that would result in a 3.5-4" backspacing compared to 5+ backspacing lol.
    "All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of the same manipulation."
    -N.S.K. Neuer Slowenian Kunst
    proud former owner of 83 Ciera Brougham Coupe (may her new owners repair her and get her on the road as she deserves to be!)
    Pics of MAxine here! 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Brougham Coupe

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    Nicely done Daniel, I'm sure that took a while to type up. It's nice to have it all in one place so when someone asks about handling we can just point them here

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilentWing View Post
    Nicely done Daniel, I'm sure that took a while to type up. It's nice to have it all in one place so when someone asks about handling we can just point them here
    Thanks. Once I got a hold of the pages for the sway bars, I think it really only took me about an hour to write. I'm probably gonna do a performance write-up soon here, since that's the other thing we have 7835457 threads about.

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    Senior Member LordDurock's Avatar
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    update:

    helwig bars are like lemons bob though, there for G bodys. i hate how parts house can get that stuff strait. hellwig catalog states 78-87 a/g body

    Quote Originally Posted by LordDurock
    most great ideas will lose the original luster and wonder of their profound expression, when subject to the masses, for all ideas are building blocks on the greater truth, not the whole truth
    82 Buick Century 4.3lt diesel
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    00 vw beetle 1.9 TDI

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordDurock View Post
    hellwig catalog states 78-87 a/g body
    That's because the G platform was the A platform prior to our cars being made.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    The General Motors A platform (commonly called A-body) was a rear wheel drive mid-size car automobile platform designation used from 1964 to 1981. In 1982, GM introduced a new front wheel drive A platform, and existing intermediate rear wheel drive products were redesignated as G-bodies.
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_A_platform_%28RWD%29
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 214k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 132k miles.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.

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