Throwback Thursday: 10 Tips To Help Upgrade Your Classic Ride

When I publish a Throwback Thursday article, I typically choose to look back at an informative piece that will inevitably help some of you with your hot rods. Usually, the article encompasses a technical article of some sort, which actually limits how many people I can help. This week, I decided to do something a little different.

For this Throwback article, I decided to put a top-five list together. That’s right, I thought we should cover a myriad of topics that can help more people. I know not all of you are working on the same aspect of your Chevy, so I thought I would cover many aspects of building a car: drivetrain, paint body, and even suspension.

The Great Overdrive Debate: Should You Use A 700R4 Or 4L60E?

I’m certain everyone has at least contemplated an upgrade to an overdrive automatic. There are plenty of good reasons to do so. Do so means you need to make a choice between the 700R4 or the 4L60E. Both offer the benefits of an overdrive; the choice comes down electronics or no electronics. We won’t make excuses; convenience comes at a price.


You can’t tell the difference between a 700R4 and a 4L60E by the oil pan as they are nearly the same. If the transmission has a large 18-pin electronic connector above the passenger-side pan rail, it’s a 4L60E, as seen here. If it has a cable connection near the cooler lines on the passenger’s side, it’s a 700R4.

In the original article, Jeff Smith breaks-down the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision. Whichever you choose to incorporate into your hot rod, you’ll be more than happy with the extra low-RPM cruising you will inevitably enjoy.

Carbureted LS Crate Engines: Modern Horsepower For Your Classic Ride

Engine swapping has been going on for as long as any of us can remember. Stuffing a different engine with more power under the hood of a classic ride is commonplace, and almost mandatory to receive any street credibility. When GM introduced the LS engine, that single event made swapping a better engine into your classic ride a whole different ballgame. That is because an LS-engine swap requires more than just sliding it in place and connecting a few wires and a fuel line – or does it? While a lot of guys completing an LS swap opt to keep the fuel injection and beef up the fuel delivery system, some others still like the simplicity of a carburetor and a stock fuel system.


Swapping an LS engine has become common practice, and many of those swaps are in classic cars and still incorporate a carburetor.

Installing a carbureted LS engine means that an EFI-specific fuel system is not required. Also, the ignition controller is an easily overcome modern piece of the puzzle. To help those wanting a modern engine with an old school carburetor, The original article enlisted the help of BluePrint Engines, Edelbrock Performance, Late Model Engines, Pace Performance, and Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center – some of the best crate engine suppliers in the business – to provide us with the information you guys need to help you upgrade your ride with carbureted, LS-crate motivation.

Installing A Heidts Performance Suspension: Is It For You?

Upgrading suspension components is a staple in the aftermarket hobby. People have been modifying the underpinnings of their cars and trucks for decades. The improved ride, handling characteristics, and suspension geometry makes upgrading an easy decision. But, is there anything you should take into consideration before you decide on an upgrade like a full subframe or even a coilover conversion?

In the original article, we posed that question to the experts at Heidts Suspension Systems to see what we could learn. While Heidts produces some of the finest front and rear suspension components on the market, we wanted to know what is necessary for an average person to install a Heidts subframe in their hot rod. There is a myriad of options available when discussing car suspensions, so to limit our scope, we will focus on the popular early Nova (’62-’67) and the first- and second-generation Camaro (’67-’81).

Choosing Coilovers: Do You Know Which Is Best For Your Car?

If you want to update the suspension on your hot rod by adding coilovers, read on. It’s a great idea and choosing coilovers offers a myriad of options regarding adjustability. But, one of the first questions many people ask is, “what spring should I use”? That is a valid and sometimes tricky question, as there are so many options. To help you make an informed decision and get the correct spring with the correct spring rate, we spoke with Steve Smith, the lead technical writer at QA1.


We all know that adding coilovers to your ride can improve handling. But, choosing coilovers with the wrong spring rate can make the ride not so enjoyable.

In the original article, Steve says, “there are a couple of considerations when choosing the right spring for a given application. Most coilover-shock lengths will determine the length of spring to be used. However, within that spring length, there are other considerations like the spring’s design, features, and spring rate to consider. A captured-spring coilover with an upper spring cap will use a spring with the same inside diameter on top and bottom. A GM-style front coilover will use a tapered spring, where the upper part of the spring sits in the factory spring pocket within the frame.”

The term spring-rate refers to the amount of weight that is needed to compress any spring 1-inch. If the rate of the spring is linear, that rate is not affected by the load placed on the spring. As an example, if you have a 200 lb-inch spring, it will compress 1-inch when a 200-pound load is placed on it. If another 200 pounds is applied, the spring will compress another inch. At this point, the load on the spring is 400 pounds, but the rate of the spring, however, remains constant at 200 lbs/inch.

Muscle Car Braking Systems – What To Consider With A Brake Upgrade

One of the most important systems of any car is the braking system. The binder design has become far more advanced since our classics were on the showroom floor. That means, they could all benefit from being upgraded in one form or another.

We spoke to several brake professionals In the original article, companies like Master Power Brakes, Classic Performance Products, and Baer Brakes to answer our questions. One aspect we dive into is identifying problems. When looking at restoring or upgrading the performance of your brakes, there are two main categories where your system’s performance can be lacking.

“The apply-side issues would stem from single-reservoir master cylinders, a hard brake pedal on power systems, and a too-firm pedal in general when applying the brakes,” explains Mark Chichester of Master Power Brakes. “On the mechanical side, the big issue we hear from customers is inconsistency when applying the brakes, fade during braking events on drum-brake-equipped vehicles, and an overall lack of feeling safe when applying the brakes.”


The keyword in brake system is “system.” All of the components must complement one another in order to end up with a properly functioning, well-balanced brake system. Some people mix-and-match parts from various companies, which can complicate the install and exacerbate issues. The best avenue a customer can take is to go down one road and buy products from one vendor.

Alternator-Upgrade Wiring Tips for Popular GM Charging Systems

One of the most overlooked aspects of swapping a late-model engine into a classic Chevys is upgrading the charging system. It was in the early ’60s when alternators replaced generators. Since then, a landslide of charging-system and alternator enhancements have followed. We decided we needed to focus our attention on some of the more popular alternator conversions and wiring harness modifications necessary to accommodate them. We wanted to get input from a few professionals in the world of automotive charging, so we reached out to Tuff Stuff Performance and Painless Performance.


While your classic’s charging system might have been adequate in the ’60s or ’70s, times have changed.

In the original article, we discuss four of the most popular GM alternators that can be used as an upgrade. The best way to upgrade the charging system on a ’60s or ’70s Chevy is to step-up to the latest model versions like the CS130D. Even a stock replacement CS130D will offer more power at low speeds than previous models.

With the original review of the alternators and wiring harness differences, updating your charging system should not be very intimidating. It’s simple once you understand how the system works.

DIY Tech: Reupholster Your Seat At Home – It’s Easy

A lot of people change their own oil and/or belts. Many can fix a stalled engine. Some can even smooth dents and eliminate rust holes. However, very few people think they can reupholster their own car seats. Hopefully, we can alleviate any concerns you have about this task, and you will feel confident to tackle this simple project at home.

The original article, we worked with Classic Industries to get into what it takes to replace your seat skins at home. In the article, we worked on a C10 truck seat. However, the process is basically the same for any seat. While it might seem like a daunting task, if you take your time, you can do this.

Cockpit Therapy: Interior Rehabilitation On An Early Chevelle

Like many of you guys, we have a small shop where we work by ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t tackle some big jobs. One day, we decided to apply our short attention span to attacking the interior on a primered ’64 El Camino. At first, all we planned to do was repaint the dash. But like most plans — that quickly evolved into an interior rehab because the new paint just made everything else look shabby.


This is our interior in the completed form with a freshly painted turquoise dash, new door panels, carpet, and custom color-matched steering wheel. It took some effort, but the results were well worth it.

While we could have coerced a professional painter to apply his custom paint skills to our dash, we decided to do it the way most driveway artists would and use spray cans. To complete the original article, we learned about a company called AutomotiveTouchup that offers factory colors in 12-ounce spray cans that looked enticing. We contacted them and soon had a box of spray primer, base coat, and clearcoat ready to apply.

In a matter of a few days, the interior went from shabby to show-worthy and we did it all (well almost all) with a little sandpaper and handful of spray cans.

Restoration 101: Which Type Of Paint Is Right For Your Project?

When it comes to painting a car, do you take an old-school approach and cover it with lacquer or enamel, or do you dive into the 21st century and go for a waterborne paint? All these options have their own strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, it is a personal choice.

The goal of the original article was to try and give home restorers a general understanding of each paint type and their specific applications so that an informed decision can be made. With that in mind, when talking about a period-correct restoration, the real issue is restoring with the correct technology and type of paint system.

Whatever paint system you ultimately decide to use, there are many steps and processes that need to be adhered to.

How To Measure For Installing Larger Wheels And Tires

Wheels and tires can make or break the look of a car. You can have a clapped-out, rusty Camaro with a nice set of wheels, and it will typically look pretty cool. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a bad wheel choice can make a fully-restored and painted showpiece look less than spectacular.

If your car is close to stock, then you can probably find a lot of opinions about what will fit a certain application. But what if you have modified things like spring location or widened wheel tubs, then what? What if you want to stuff the largest wheel and tire package possible under your car? Do you know what measurements you need to take? If not, you had better educate yourself on how to measure the car to find the right specs for your new rollers. That is exactly what we did in the original article.


Keep in mind, when measuring, the car needs to be at ride height. We have the car on a lift to make it easier for you to see where we take our measurements.

Hopefully, we answered your questions with the basic guideline of how to measure tire and wheel clearance. The only task left for you to do is to go out to your garage and find out how big of a tire will fit under your ride.

Although this Throwback Thursday is a little longer than normal, I hope you find a lot of useful information to absorb while you’re planning your next upgrade or improvement to your classic ride.

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About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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