Getting more power from an engine is something all racers are familiar with. Getting that power to the ground, however, is a science that few racers really understand. For those of you just starting out in drag racing, we’ve put together a basic overview of how chassis and suspension systems are affected by sudden acceleration. The Chassis PeopleTM at Competition Engineering want you to understand the relationship between engine power and the chassis, suspension and driveline systems of your car. By doing so, you will be in a better position to select equipment that allows you to hook up and lower ET’s!
Without the right chassis and suspension setup, all the horsepower in the world will only go up in tire smoke! As you’re trying to understand how modifications to the chassis and suspension systems improve traction, it helps to keep one thing in mind. Power produced by your engine must take a direct path to "planting" the tires and "launching" your car forward. Any power that gets absorbed by the chassis and suspension is power that can’t be used to get you to the finish line as quickly as possible.
There’s a basic law of physics that states "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Relating this principle to a game of billiards is relatively easy. But applying it to chassis and suspension systems on a drag race car is more complex. When trying to understand how chassis and suspension setups affect traction, keep the "action/reaction" concept in mind. It will make things much easier to understand.
While race cars are designed for racing, street cars are designed primarily for carrying passengers safely and comfortably. From the factory, passenger cars are not equipped to handle high rpm launches from a standing start. This instant release of power places great strain on stock suspension systems and usually results in unwanted wheel hop, tire spin and parts breakage. Controlling this unwanted reaction is the job of a traction device, which limits the rotation of the rear axle housing and transfers forces to the track surface.
For example, the installation of traction bars is a popular way of limiting rotation of the rear axle housing. Traction bars mount directly to each side of the axle housing and extend forward like long arms or levers. When the housing begins to rotate during initial launch, the traction bars stop this action, holding the housing in place and converting some of the applied torque to a force which pushes the rear tires into the track surface. By stabilizing the axle housing, wheel hop is virtually eliminated, acceleration is smoother and parts breakage is minimized.
STREET PERFORMANCE AND MILD BRACKET CARS
Our first stage is our entry level stage intended for those looking to get more performance from their street machine that may see some track time occasionally as a mild bracket racer. In this stage, horsepower levels are stock or slightly modified. All of the equipment can be easily installed with simple hand tools. No welding is required. All of the bolt-on equipment included in Stage I is intended to strengthen the chassis, suspension, body and drivetrain. By making the car more rigid, power is transferred directly to the wheels for improved traction.
To control wheel hop on older cars with leaf or coil springs, Competition Engineering offers Bolt-On Traction Bars. These bars limit rear housing rotation, thereby eliminating wheel hop and improving rear wheel traction. For better handling and improved traction in rear coil spring equipped street cars, we offer Tubular Rear Control Arms. These rugged control arms are direct replacements for flimsy stock units, and serve to strengthen the suspension for quick launches and stable cornering. The Mustang and GM A&G Body versions have three adjustment settings to suit changing track conditions. Additional components for this stage include Competition Engineering’s Solid Aluminum Body Mounts that help eliminate chassis twist, and Solid Motor Mounts and Transmission Mounts to keep the engine from wasting torque by twisting in the chassis. For uni-body cars, Bolt-On Subframe Connectors create a rigid structure for direct transmission of power.
BORDERLINE STREET LEGAL AND BRACKET RACING CARS
As horsepower levels start to increase, so does the need for stronger traction control. The components that make up Stage II, along with the other stages that follow, will require skills in both welding and fabrication. Installation of this equipment will also cause street driveability to be affected. Stage II cars may need to be trailered to the track.
An 8-point Roll Bar and Bolt-On Driveshaft Loop should be among the first components added when deciding to build more horsepower and go faster. A roll bar not only offers increased protection in the event of a crash, but also adds rigidity to the chassis which results in quicker ET’s.
The rear suspension also needs to be reinforced in order to handle the higher torque loads produced by the engine. The installation of Weld-In Ladder Bars and a Tubular Crossmember will help control the transfer of power to the rear wheels. If you’re retaining leaf springs, you’ll also need a Housing Floater to keep the springs from working against the Ladder Bars. To provide additional suspension adjustment without going through the trouble of installing a 4-Link, Competition Engineering offers the Ladder Link™.
This popular traction device gives you more adjustability over standard Ladder Bars. Its 33" length is ideal for most applications.
More power also requires larger rear tires. To fit larger rear tires into a passenger car body, you’ll need to enlarge the wheel houses and move the rear springs inboard. This can be accomplished by installing a set of our Rear Fenderwells, available in either steel or aluminum, and using our Offset Spring Hangers to relocate the leaf springs. You’ll also need Weld-In Subframe Connectors to tie the front and rear subframes together in a uni-body car. For maximum strength on uni-body vehicles, our Formed Rear Frame Rail Kits provide a solid base for mounting a variety of traction components.
Additional components that make Stage II complete include computer-designed Front Coil Springs for maximum front end lift and weight transfer, 3-Way Adjustable Shock Absorbers to control suspension movements, and Front End Travel Limiters to prevent the front end from rising too high.
PRO-STREET AND SPORTSMAN CLASS CARS
Stage III includes all-out race cars that require fabrication skills to complete. Higher horsepower and larger tires also require that a dedicated racing suspension be installed. Installation of components included in this stage mandates that the car be "back-halfed" to accept a fabricated rear frame and 4-Link rear suspension. The backbone of this stage is the 2" x 3" mandrel bent Formed Rear Frame Rails and the 2" x 3" Dropped Crossmember. This will give you a sturdy base in which to install our 4-Link Kit and Coil Over Shock Mounts. In addition to this setup, a Stabilizer Bar is required to keep the rear housing centered in the chassis. The installation of a 10-Point Roll Cage is mandatory to support the new back half, as well as to help protect the driver at increased speeds.
Other components that complement Stage III include the Narrowed 9-inch Ford Housing, the 9-inch Ford Back Brace and Sheet Metal Battery Tray. Professional Wheel-E-BarsTM are also required to control excessive wheel stands.
PRO-STREET AND PRO MODIFIED TYPE RACE CARS
We have designed this final stage for the professional racer. Hardcore components for Stage IV include a 12-Point Roll Cage for maximum protection and chassis rigidity, and our Magnum Series 4-Link to handle brute force horsepower levels. Our Wishbone Rear Axle Locator improves chassis stability. To locate the engine in tube chassis cars, Aluminum Motor Plates and Steel Mid Mount Plates are computer machined for precise fit and alignment. Fabricated Rear Axle Housings and 43" and 46" Monster Wheel Tubs are designed exclusively for Funny Car size slicks. To keep everything on a level attitude we strongly suggest our Universal 60" Wheel-E-BarsTMor our NEW 80" Wheel-E-Bars™ . Additional components include Tubular Front Control Arms, Fabricated 9" Ford Housing, Steering Column Kit and Rack and Pinion Steering Gears for the front end.