Our Project 899 Camaro Gets Steered In The Right Direction

By now you’ve likely read about our ambitious project dubbed the Project 899 Camaro. If not, the scope of the project hinges on taking our roller 1969 Camaro and, with the help of Summit Racing and a bevy of other aftermarket suppliers, turning it into an 899-plus horsepower ride that will cut an E.T. of 8.99 (or better) in the quarter-mile. Oh, and the team has only nine days to build the car to make it happen! For this installment, we’re focusing on getting Project 899 steered in the right direction with help from Flaming River, ididit, Classic Performance Products, Strange Engineering, and QA1.

You could say that 899 is a blank slate of sorts since there is not much more than a frame, body, and an 8.50-certified cage to keep its occupants safe at speed. Not having the engine and transmission in place greatly simplifies the installation, all the work being done at Big 3 Racing in Hinckley, Ohio. It also offers a few surprises down the road, but let’s get started first.

Precise Steering Starts At The Top

Going in the right direction starts with the driver, and to make sure the car gets precise info about the driver’s wishes, we’re starting with ididit’s Pro-Lite steering column.

If saving weight is a concern, then ididit's Pro-Lite column is the right choice.

Coming in at just under 6 pounds, the Pro-Lite steering column is less than half the weight of other columns and still offers self-canceling turn signals, 4-way flashers, horn circuit wiring, and uses a one-inch, 48-spline lower shaft. At the top, the Pro-Lite column is designed to work with most quick-release steering hubs, a feature that will make getting in, and out of our Camaro much easier.

The folks at ididit stuffed all the street-going manners of a standard column into the lightweight Pro-Lite offering. Our column works with quick-disconnect wheel mounts, has a 48-spline shaft, and features all the wiring for turn signals and other niceties.

Our team quickly began installing the steering column by fastening the application-specific mount to the column’s body. Then, it was over to the car, where the column was bolted in place and the team turned their efforts to installing the steering rack.

Flaming River Pro-Lite steering column

The Pro-Lite column has an ingenious, removable mount at mid-point. This allows the column to be fitted for various applications and still be a direct fit.

Flaming River Rack & Pinion

Things happen fast at speed, and precise handling is essential. That is why we’re getting rid of the half-century-old, cross-shaft steering that came with Project 899 when it left the factory so many decades ago. Instead, the Project 899 team is installing a Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering designed specifically for the 1969 Chevy Camaro.

Flaming River rack and pinion upgrade

The Flaming River rack and pinion upgrade is a bolt-in application with its own mount that utilizes all the factory mount holes.

The Flaming River Rack upgrade is engineered as a direct bolt-in steering system that utilizes a power rack-and-pinion. The kit installs easily within a couple of hours. Even quicker in our application, due to the lack of an engine and drivetrain in our project vehicle. The unit is designed to utilize the existing factory chassis hole locations for mounting and offers lifetime serviceability. Each rack and pinion is fluid- and pressure-tested before leaving the factory and features a stronger (1-inch diameter) rack gear.

The old steering box was removed and the new Flaming River rack and pinion was installed on the first day before the engine and transmission were slid into place. This allowed for easy access but did have a few surprises down the road.

The rack and pinion steering sends driver commands to the left and right sides of the front suspension and it wasn’t long before our team followed that path and branched out to under the wheel wells of the Camaro.

Improved Handling Through Coilovers And Dropped Spindles

A nose-high ride may be a signature stance for a gasser-style hot rod but it doesn’t help handling at all when trying to wrangle an 8-second car down the dragstrip. To that end, our team chose to limit the amount of air passing under the car by lowering the front suspension a couple of ways. A set of QA1 coilovers and 2-inch dropped spindles from Classic Performance Products (CPP) will help improve the handling of our first-gen Camaro.

The QA1 double-adjustable coilover shocks allow adjustment of the car's ride height as well as the compression and rebound of the shocks to help tune the suspension for both the street and the dragstrip.

The bulk of the heavy lifting of the Camaro’s front end will be done thanks to QA1’s Level 2 Drag Kit which includes double-adjustable shocks surrounded by 300 lb/in GM Pro Coil springs. These coilovers are designed to use the factory upper spring pockets and, as part of the Drag Kit, fasten to the QA1 tubular drag race lower control arms via a T-bar. You can read all about the QA1 Drag Kit in the complete suspension installation story of Project 899.

CPP's dropped spindles allowed us to keep some travel in our shocks and still drop the front end of the Camaro another two inches. The guys continued bolting everything up under the car.

We wanted to lower the nose of our first-gen Camaro but still needed sufficient travel of the suspension without bottoming out the shocks. That’s why we also utilized Classic Performance Products’ two-inch dropped spindles. The newest of CPP’s dropped spindles, this design lowers the vehicle two inches, yet still allows the use of the stock steering arm. The spindle is machined for this specific application from 1045 alloy steel.

The spindle doesn’t work with drum brakes but does fit with the factory 11-inch, single-piston disc brakes. It fits within most 15-inch wheels, so long as they do not exceed a 4-inch backspacing. This spindle also allows for multiple brake upgrades. Since the goal for our Camaro will be sub-nine-second quarter-mile runs, you can bet we’ll be upgrading the brakes on Project 899!

Plan On Stopping From The Start

It’s easy to focus on increasing power, but you also must plan on containing all that thrust and speed when the need arises. With 899, we planned from the start of this project to balance all that go-fast with an equally sized anchor. Today, 900 horsepower might seem a bit passe in an overall horsepower war, but in reality, it’ll get you well into speeds that can be downright scary.

The mounts for the Strange Pro II H/D brakes were added to the spindles and the bearings were packed with grease and stuffed into the hubs.

To keep control, even when decelerating, we opted for Strange Engineering’s Pro II H/D front brake kit. These beefy stoppers are designed solely for drag racing and feature vented, two-piece rotors and Strange Engineering’s four-piston calipers. We ordered our kit in black powder coating and they look great with the rest of the suspension and will blend nicely with the wheels we have chosen for Project 899.

Strange Engineering Pro II H/C two-piece drag racing brakes

The brakes were then assembled onto the spindles with the pads and four-piston calipers.

In The End, Project 899 Came Together!

While part of the team was working on the front suspension of Project 899, other members were focusing on situating the engine and transmission. It was at that point they realized that while the steering assembly was designed to fit either a traditional small- or big-block application, it was a little tight for our GEN-V-based installation.

rack and pinion removal

Once the engine was installed, the rack was a bit too close to the oil pan for comfort. Rick from B3R removed the rack and milled the mounts down a bit for some additional clearance.

The guys at Big 3 Racing were quick with a resolution. The rack was removed once again from its mounting plate and Rick milled some material off of the billet brackets that held the rack onto the plate. This moved the rack forward ever so slightly and gave just enough breathing room between the rack and the oil pan so they could live long, productive lives near to each other but not touching.

Project 899 rack and pinion

With a sufficient safety margin, the rack was reinstalled onto the mount and the team was off to the next item on the checklist!

Our team finished the front-end installation and did a rough alignment to get everything close before going onto the alignment rack. There is still a lot to do before the car goes WOT at Holley’s LS Fest, so be sure to stay tuned to see how our team progresses!

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About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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