Chassis Stiffening for Better Handling


Chassis Stiffening for Better Handling


The art of suspension tuning is moderating a tug-of-war between inherently combative g-forces. Body lean, piston speed, compression, rebound, and balance are areas of contention. Shocks, springs, coilovers, sway bars, camber plates, and custom control arms dominate the marketplace, but other components also play an important role in handling dynamics. Chassis stiffening is one of those overlooked stepchildren. Adding rigidity to the foundation of the vehicle will pay big dividends in handling response, steering feedback, and ride comfort. Knowing what these unsung heroes do will help you better understand what’s going on with your car’s suspension.

Subframe Connectors

“If you don’t have a full frame vehicle, subframe connectors are very important when trying to apply horsepower to the ground,” says Detroit Speed product engineer Dan Oddy. “They increase stiffness by connecting the front subframe to the rear frame rails. Detroit Speed offers weld-in subframe connectors that will basically convert unibody vehicles into a full-frame vehicle and accomplish this transformation while remaining barely visible when looking underneath the vehicle.”

These subframe connectors are weld-in propositions made with thick-wall steel tubing, feature laser cut brackets, and don’t interfere with seat attachment hardware. “You can always add bracing to a full frame, as well as boxing in the frame rails to increase rigidity,” continues Oddy. “Subframe connectors are the best bang for the buck as they really aren’t that expensive, they’re transformational performance wise, and don’t take that long to install. They are a great benefit for convertibles.”

Shop Detroit Speed subframe connectors here

Strut Tower Braces

A strut tower bar or brace ties the strut towers together to resist flex as the shocks/coilovers are subjected to lateral forces … think hard cornering on your favorite canyon road or a set of S-curves during track day sessions. They are predominantly designed for the front struts where they mount under the hood connected the front towers directly (two-point) or in a triangular fashion with an additional connection point on the firewall. Some applications address the flex of the rear setup and mount to the rear towers via the trunk. This type of bracing is especially beneficial in cars that are prone to strut tower deformation or cracking.

Scott Drake offers its version of a strut tower bar, the Monte Carlo Bar, and chassis braces for various Ford Mustang pony cars manufactured from 1964 to 1970. Scott Drake Monte Carlo Bars are made of steel and aimed at a restoration type of build. They are available in straight, curved or race designs and can be ordered in four different finishes. The company’s race-oriented bars feature a larger .975-inch diameter tube and are equipped with Heim joints for enhanced rigidity.

See Detroit Speed strut-tower braces now

With a well-earned reputation as an effective safety device, roll cages also make an impact on the performance side. “A roll cage basically ties both sides of the frame together to help reduce chassis flex during hard acceleration and cornering,” says Oddy. “Even just a four-point roll cage that welds to the frame rails is very beneficial.” Detroit Speed offers a roll cage with a removable crossbar so you can still use the back seat. When installed, the crossbar makes a good place to mount your five-point seat belt harness.”

Detroit Speed roll cages are designed to follow the interior lines of the car, will not interfere with interior comfort, and mount close to the headliner and back window glass for a tidy look and no hindrance of outward visibility. Kits include pre-bent floor and trunk plates to save you time and effort.

The trifecta of chassis stiffening, subframe connectors, strut tower bars, and roll cages can be employed as one-offs or used in conjunction with one another to maximize your vehicle's rigidity and handling characteristics. The key is to understand what they are and what they do so you can see the big picture when contemplating your car’s suspension setup.

Shop Detroit Speed roll cages here


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