Tech Corner: Trim the Fat and Lighten Up Ride Weight

Tech Corner - IntermediateWe’re just gonna go ahead and say it. It’s not all about making more horsepower. Sure, a hot engine and drivetrain setup are major contributors to an awesome ride experience. However, all of that juice may be made in vain if the vehicle has been eating too many carbs. An enemy of horsepower and torque is weight. And no matter how powerful the engine you’re working with is, it will always have to overcome the weight of the vehicle. The good news is that weight solutions are everywhere. In some cases, they’re even bundled in with other modifications that you’re likely to make anyway.

The Engine

The engine bay is a great place to start when looking to save weight. When putting a muscle car together, most throw aftermarket parts on the engine. When this is done you’re actually killing two birds with one stone if using aluminum parts. We were lucky to get August Cederstrand of Edelbrock to sit down and give his two cents on the matter.

“Obviously, a lighter weight vehicle with the same given horsepower goes faster. You’re increasing the power to weight ratio … ‘60s and ‘70s muscle car engines were predominantly cast iron, (at least most of them were). By going to an aluminum intake manifold, aluminum cylinder heads, and aluminum water pumps you can save hundreds of pounds. Case in point: the big block Chevrolet. A complete big block Chevrolet cylinder head assembled weighs 94 pounds. Our aluminum cylinder head fully assembled weighs 54 pounds. That’s a lot of weight right off the top,” shared Cederstrand.

The Suspension

Aside from the engine bay, it’s a good idea to look for other ways to lighten up the whole package. In the spirit of killing birds efficiently, consider the suspension. For the most part, factory suspension components are heavy stamped pieces that aren’t always cut out for performance. Suppliers like QA1 and Hotchkis provide an abundance of aftermarket tubular suspension components for just about any muscle car you could want to upgrade. Going tubular means you will have stronger, lighter components that can even correct the geometry of the suspension in some cases. The combination of weight savings plus performance gains make these parts worth every last penny.

Wheels and Tires

If you’re after even more birds, take a look at the wheels. Early muscle cars came fitted from the factory with short thin wheels. If any sort of performance is on the line, builders will swap these out for taller and wider wheels. Going to a bigger wheel and tire can make cutting weight a little tricky, but it can be accomplished with the right materials.

Steel wheels are tempting from the pricing standpoint, but they are super heavy in comparison to their aluminum counterparts. In terms of strength, less aluminum is required than steel. This could mean two wheels of the same dimensions, one steel and one aluminum, can vary by a few pounds. So by saving up for a nice set of American Racing or Cragar wheels, that are constructed from aluminum, you’ll be adding styling points, helping performance, and even saving a little weight.

Interior

The seats in most vehicles are definitely sources of excess weight. Racing seats don’t just look cool–they do a great job of keeping things nice and light. RCI and Scat by Procar offer a ton of great options for those looking to swap out the original equipment. Additionally, for appearance purposes, lightweight interior panels can be installed. They keep things looking nice and neat, while still offering that race car feeling.

Trim the Fat

These are just a few areas where weight can be reduced. The idea is to cut off the excess fat. Removal of accessories like heating and AC systems, the rear seat, and that old spare tire and scissor jack also go a long way when it comes to cutting off a few extra pounds. The best part is that many of those mods cost literally nothing to make, aside from a smaller belt from the engine. But hey, a smaller belt size means you’re headed in the right direction.

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