Project Install: SS to 1LE
Installing The 1LE Track Pack From Chevrolet Performance
When our Shop Manager’s 5th Gen Camaro was finally paid off and out of warranty, the itch to modify the car became too great. “I knew there was a ton of untapped potential with the car and I knew it’s limits. The time came to push the car to new heights,” explained Barry.
The question came about on where to start these modifications and in what order. We knew that the car needed some more horses under the hood and to handle a bit better – some style sprinkled in there as well. With the Shop Manager’s daily drive taking him through a canyon, we knew that the clear choice for the first upgrade was the suspension.
Fortunately we didn’t have too look far. We simply opened up our Chevrolet Performance catalog and saw the answer in front of us, the 1LE Track Pack part number 23123397. The 1LE kit has a stiffer 27MM solid front sway bar and 28MM solid rear sway bar for improved body control while cornering. The front struts are redesigned with revised damping for improved body control and faster response times. The rears are a monotube design that replace the factory twin-tube struts combined with the stiffer upper shock mount the ZL1 is equipped with. Lastly, the kit includes new rear toe links that use spherical bushings to eliminate compliance in cornering, another part borrowed from the ZL1. In addition to that we ordered up a new factory strut tower brace, part number 23120485.
We wanted to get some more information on this kit so we called up and talked with Aaron Link, Camaro Lead Development Engineer for Chevrolet. “I recall driving the package on Nurburgring in 2011 and being impressed at how well the rear dampers maintained authority/consistency over multiple laps on that extremely challenging track. The decision to use monotubes was for situations like this, where precise wheel control and body control are crucial for driver confidence and consistency,” explained Link.
Continuing on Link stated that “The ZL1 had more rear lateral squirm than we wanted because of the amount of tire grip and engine torque. The ball jointed rear toe link fixed a majority of the squirm and translated well for the 1LE package to help precisely place the rear wheel and reduce toe change under acceleration, deceleration, and cornering.”
Another great part of using genuine Chevrolet Performance parts is not only is it a name you can trust, but the factory warranty remains intact. We asked Link about the strut brace and he filled us in with some details on it. “I recall driving the Camaro SS on the street with the tower brace installed and really sensing how well the bar tied the front end of the car together for shake control, and then doing steering maneuvers on the Oval Track at the Milford Proving Grounds, the tower brace really enhanced the steering response at low steer angles/low lateral accelerations. It helped achieved the ‘valley feel’ we strive for in steering feel without changing the tires, damping, bushings, etc., which is rare to find.” We figured that since we were going to be installing the 1LE Track Pack, the strut tower brace would be a great addition to the kit.
To keep a true blind test of the car, we grabbed the Camaro and did this entire installation without our Shop Managers knowledge. He knew we were upgrading something on the car, but had zero clue what it was. We wanted to finish the install, toss him the keys and see if he could tell the difference. Since he’s driven the car daily since 2011, this should be an easy task for him.
Goodbye SS Suspension, Hello 1LE
While the kit came with very clear set of instructions, being the typical guys we are we tossed those and went to town on the car. The only difference in our steps compared to the instructions is we did the front then the rear, while in the instructions you complete the work front and rear at once. After jacking up and removing the front wheels, we removed the tie rods from the front spindles. Once that was done we removed the strut assembly by removing the large nut on the inside of the engine compartment and the two bolts on the spindle. Before removing the strut assembly we carefully marked the spindle alignment to ensure proper alignment upon assembly.
After unbolting the sway bar end links, we started to wrestle the sway bar out. After fighting the sway bar for awhile we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t happening without moving the motor. What we did was loosen the passenger side motor mount nut as much as we could. Then we completely removed the drivers side. Using a floor jack with a piece of wood, we carefully raised the motor up a bit which allowed us to slide out the factory sway bar and slide in the new sway bar. Then we simply bolted down the new sway bar into the factory position.
The next step was to swap the struts themselves. This does require compressing the coil spring which we did by renting a tool at our local auto parts store. With the spring compressed we removed the nut at the top of the strut, and slid the spring along with the other hardware off the strut. After sliding them onto the new strut, we carefully released the coil spring. This is a very easy job if you done it before, but for the first-timer it’s a dangerous process. You could take the strut assembly to a professional if you don’t feel comfortable enough.
With the new strut completed, we slid it back into it’s home. Here’s where the marks on the spindle assembly came into place. After lining up the strut bracket and spindle perfectly, we tightened down the two bolts. What was left at this point was to connect the new sway bar end links to the strut along with mounting the brake hose and ABS wiring. The last step was to reattach the tie rod to the spindle.
Onto The Rear
After buttoning up the front suspension we started by tackling the rear suspension. After jacking up the car and removing the wheels, we started by disconnecting the rear sway bar. Then we removed the toe bar, which is two bolts and a single wire that mounts onto it. Putting the new ones in took a matter of minutes, an easy upgrade.
With the toe links installed we removed the bolt holding the lower control arm onto the rear spindle, followed by removing the strut assembly from the arm along with removing the arms from the car. An important note is that since this is a 2011, we had to replace the lower control arms to a newer style for the sway bar mounting position, part number 23484878. The bolt that holds the lower control arm to the subframe is also how you make alignment changes, so we marked it before removing it.
After unbolting the strut, we repeated the process from the front of compressing the spring, removing the nut and sliding everything carefully from the old strut to the new one. Before installing the new lower arms and struts, we took this time to remove the SS sway bar, which is two bolts per side like the front. Once that was removed, we slid in the new sway bar in and mounted it in place. Installing the new lower control arms we made sure to install the camber bolts and align them with our markings during removal.
Lastly we put the new strut assembly in place by tightening down the three bolts on the top and the single bolt on the bottom. The last two steps were to bolt the lower control arm back to the spindle, then install the sway bar end links.
With the hard work out of the way, we moved to the strut bar installation. On the 2012 and up 5th Gen’s, this is a simple bolt on product that takes ten minutes. We weren’t that lucky as this Camaro is an early built 2011 that doesn’t have the provisions for the sway bar.
However with a little mounting kit we found online from Total Performance, we were able to install the strut bar. This did require us to drill three holes each side into the strut towers, but overall this process only took about an hour to complete. With the machined spacers from Total Performance, it was an easy installation and has a very professional look when finished.
Testing It Out The 1LE
With the installation complete, we were like a kid on Christmas morning. We had to go test out the car! Driving around we could feel how solid the car felt but we were dying to see if Barry could tell the difference. Hopping in the car he took off, thinking maybe we had done some sort of motor modifications. “Once I turned the first corner, I knew something was different. The car handled much better than before, but I wasn’t sure what was done,” Barry told us. Once we explained what was done, he then wanted to test the limits of the car a bit.
Near the shop is an extremely tight corner that he had taken several times a week for the last five years. Putting the pedal to the metal, went went flying around the corner like the car was on a set of rails. “Normally I go around that corner about 40MPH and the rear end feels really loose. We just did that corner doing 60MPH and it was so smooth it was uneventful,” exclaimed Barry.
The real test was when Barry took the canyon back home that he takes five to six times a week. “The car is totally different now, in a fantastic way. I know what they mean now when they talk about a slot car, I love it!” But he wasn’t done there yet. If you’ve ever been in Southern California, you might have heard of the Ortega Highway. This is a long, very winding road from the beach to inland, cutting straight through mountains. After driving this winding road he reported back that “there’s little to no roll, the car is extremely responsive and tight. It’s fun to drive the car again, I was giving it my all on that road!” Right there is when we knew that this was a great suspension upgrade.
For more information hop on the Chevrolet Performance site! To order up these parts yourself head to Scoggin Dickey which carries these parts and many more. Check out the full gallery of pictures below as well.