My 96 Fleetwood suspension upgrade
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Suspension, Brakes and Tires Discussion, My 96 Fleetwood suspension upgrade in Item Specific Cadillac Discussion; I just purchased 1995 Impala SS (b body) springs for my 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood (D body). My next purchase will ...
  1. #1
    HotRodSaint's Avatar
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    My 96 Fleetwood suspension upgrade

    I just purchased 1995 Impala SS (b body) springs for my 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood (D body). My next purchase will be shocks. Here's a list of my proposed suspension set-up. I'm trying to balance looks, performance, comfort and price.

    1.) SS springs (X)
    2.) 1516/1517 Bilsteins
    then,
    3.) HO front/rear sway bar
    4.) BMR lower control arm
    5.) Energy sway bar/suspension bushings
    then,
    6.)18" wheels with 255/55/18 tires

    Due to budget constraints, I will do this in this progression. I hope to be done by August 2003, so I can cruise Woodward.

    So what do you guys think? Is there anything I'm not taking into consideration. Is there anything that you'd change or add, besides the knuckle fix which will be addressed after the wheels and tires.

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    Katshot's Avatar
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    You might be surprised by the SS springs. I know a lot of guys that tried them and then took them off for one reason or another.
    Also, I've heard a few guys having issues with the Bilsteins as well. And I'd be willing to bet that you have a problem with the tires you spec'd w/18" wheels. I rub with those same tires on 17" wheels.
    The SS springs may, or may not give you the ride height you're looking for but, guaranteed the ride QUALITY will not be very good. I had them on my car for 2 days before I yanked them off.

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    HotRodSaint's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Katshot
    You might be surprised by the SS springs. I know a lot of guys that tried them and then took them off for one reason or another.
    Also, I've heard a few guys having issues with the Bilsteins as well. And I'd be willing to bet that you have a problem with the tires you spec'd w/18" wheels. I rub with those same tires on 17" wheels.
    The SS springs may, or may not give you the ride height you're looking for but, guaranteed the ride QUALITY will not be very good. I had them on my car for 2 days before I yanked them off.
    From all that I've been able to glean from another board, the only issue anyone has with the shocks is that they are too soft.

    The spring issues seem to be they are either too soft or not low enough, depending on who the poster is.

    Are there any other issues with these that you know of that I should be concerned about?

    As for the ride quality not being very good. I don't expect, nor do I desire, to keep the full Cadillac 'float' ride. I'm just trying to avoid the bump and bounce on most lowered car's. If it is a non-sporting German-esque feel, I'll be happy.

    It certainly couldn't be worse than a stock SS equiped with the soft Bilsteins, could it? That set-up seems to be too soft for most Impala owners.

    I am a little concerned about the rubbing issue. Do you rub in the rear wheel well like everyone else? Is there any where else where you rub?

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    Katshot's Avatar
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    If you're referring to the Impala SS forum, I frequent that one myself (at least I did prior to finding this forum). Anyway, from talking to people there over the last year or so, I've come to one conclusion, most guys don't have a clue about suspensions. Most improperly believe that the firmer the suspension, the better the car will handle. Unfortunately, that is just not true. In fact it is quite possible to retain a large degree of the Cadillac ride quality while also vastly improving it's handleing. The car can be "tight" without being "harsh". My car is perfect proof of my theory.
    As for the rubbing tires, yes it does rub in the back slightly when going over uneven elevations. In other words, pulling out a driveway with a good incline transition between driveway and street, once the car is turned in one direction while the inside rear wheel is still up on the higher curb area, it rubs.
    Also, backing up and turning to full lock (such as backing out of a parking spot) produces a good deal of rub on the inner fender.
    As for SS springs, they produced a very harsh ride and did not give me the ride height I wanted. I'm currently running stock rear springs w/OEM airshocks, and personally selected front springs with Monroe-Matic shocks. I can't remember the number of the springs I ended up using, I'd have to look it up. I did post it on the Impala SS site awhile back. I did end up trying 3 different sets before finding the right combination of ride height and ride quality though.

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    kcnewell is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    To elaborate the point...If your suspension is too firm not only does your car bounce and ride badly but you're wheels can and do momentarily lose contact with the road surface periodicly. This is never a good thing and is under certain circustances unavoidable. A responsive suspension is not neccesarily a rough riding suspension although a rough riding suspension will create the illusion of better handling because the car will generally be flatter through the turns but will have a much greater tendancy to break traction at critical points in the same turn due to the aforementioned bounce! On the other side of the same coin...A softer yet more responsive system will hold the wheels more firmly on the road while allowing the car to float above all the commotion...Too soft isn't good either. But there is a happy medium where you can have it all...So to speak!

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    Dead Sled's Avatar
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    you wana see body roll try a 77 hearse with the shocks in the back unhooked

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    HotRodSaint's Avatar
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    I realize asking about an opinion on a suspensions set-up is like asking what is the best way to cook a steak. Rare, medium or well done. Except there is no base line to use as a reference on a suspension set-up.

    Actually a suspension set-up is more like asking Goldie Locks which pourage was best. Even though papa bear liked it hot and mama bear liked it cold, she liked baby bears.

    For confort, I'm not seeking to keep the Cadillac floaty ride. That was acheived by GM by creating a suspension set-up that leaves very little car control. It's ok for mama bear, but I don't think papa bear would like it.

    I'm still seeking feedback from the impala forum. I made this post here too, so that we can become a source of knowledge for future members, without the need to search other forums.

    And so far, the only guy who seems to know what heck he's talking about on that forum, recommends I do 1-4. Although I think I may have placed to much emphasis on comfort, which is why he suggested I not to do the wheels and tires. Which I will do anyway.

    Since no one here (or there) has any real saftey issues or adverse handling effects with soft Bilsteins or SS springs, I'm going to go ahead and let my seat of the pants form my own opinion. I hope Goldie Locks likes it too!

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    Originally posted by Katshot
    And I'd be willing to bet that you have a problem with the tires you spec'd w/18" wheels. I rub with those same tires on 17" wheels.
    I'm am rethinking the 18" wheel. Mainly due to price of 18" wheels and tires.

    You're running the SS wheel, which is 8.5" wide vs the stock 7" Fleetwood wheel. It also has a 5" back space vs the 4" for the FW. The SS back spacing puts .5" on the outside of the wheel and 1" on the inside.

    Everyone who runs the SS wheel on the FW has had to cut the length off the rear skirt mounts. (About .5") While you are the only one who has stated that they rub while driving, I'm sure everyone else does too. Have you located where you rub on the rear? I would think the added 1" on the inside could create a problem.

    Because of your rubbing issues, and the fact that a custom offset costs so stinkin much (and with very little effect), I'm thinking of using a 17"x7" with a 4" back spacing.

    I could use a 17" x 8" with a 5" back space. But that would put the 1" on the back side of the wheel and this might create that 'rub' you experience. Plus, on the outside it would look exactly the same as the 7".

    The rest of my suspension is on order. I've also decided to go with airbags on the rear. So my wheels and tires will be coming faster than I had planned.

    Now, what do I do after that? Engine or stereo? (Maybe an alarm after the wheels!)

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    The C4 Vettes have the problem where the wheels come off the ground on some bumps. The back of the car is too light - no engine back there. So... Some of the C4 guys softened things up in the back and they say it's working way better than expected... Just an FYI...

    edit:
    Actually.. Here's the exact message I've saved in case I can keep my Vette along with a luxury car:

    I can second the comments on stock c4 handling. I owned a 78 Alpina BMW 535 between 2 Vettes (69 and 95). Alpina is the BMW equivalent of Doug Rippie or Lingenfelter, and was the forerunner of the M5 today. The characteristic of German high performance handling most missing from a stock Vette is that the rear end stays put. It tracks the front without fail unless you induce power-on oversteer with the throttle. What the track guys call transition handling. Stock C4 Vettes are twitchy and tend to lose the rear end in a corner, IMHO.

    The good news for Vettes is that Doug Rippie figured this out years ago. A few years back in a Road and Track test of 7 modified Vettes on a track, the DRM car "felt like it was on rails" and outhandled all others, turning in the best lap times. The secret is three mods to the rear suspension- new trailing arm brackets, new camber brackets and a rear steering knuckle modification. Together these tame the Vette's rear end. Shocks, springs, sway bars, coil-overs alone won't do it. The basic geometry of the rear end needs improvement. I am sure other Vette tuners now understand this as well.

    With the DRM modifications on my 95 (as well as the Camber Brace and a Roll Bar), it now feels like a German BMW, but at a higher level of hp and g forces. My BMW felt in control at 0.9 G. My Vette now goes 1.1 G on Goodrich KD's with the same feeling of being in control. 0-60 in the BMW was about 5.7 sec. The Vette is 4.0 sec on a cool day.

    I am so envious of your being able to let it all hang out anytime you want on the highway. Texas roads are too straight and way too crowded.

    Keep it on the pavement.

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    Just one more FYI.. My girlfriend's Brother is a total ImpalaSS freak. He's spent so much time and money on that car it's unreal. He has an '02 Z06 and his Impala is definitely faster AND he says he thinks it handles better as well.. Who knows if that's definitely accurate or not - but the car handles REAL well. So, a big Caddy can handle just the same...

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    Katshot's Avatar
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    As I've said many times before, with enough money you can make anything fast.
    But I must admit, it would take a lot to get a SS to beat a ZO6. And as far as out-handling one, I'm thinking that's a little exagerated. Maybe SOTP, but I doubt if it were actually tested with a professional driver, that it would stay with a ZO6 on a road coarse.

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    HotRodSaint's Avatar
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    Originally posted by HotRodSaint
    I could use a 17" x 8" with a 5" back space. But that would put the 1" on the back side of the wheel and this might create that 'rub' you experience. Plus, on the outside it would look exactly the same as the 7".
    UPDATE:

    I've decided to use the 17"x8" w/5" back spacing. This should allow me to use the 255/55/17 tire without any clearance issues.

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    HotRodSaint's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Sal Collaziano
    He has an '02 Z06 and his Impala is definitely faster AND he says he thinks it handles better as well.. So, a big Caddy can handle just the same...
    I'm not sure that I'd want a big Caddy that rides like a Z06 though! I'll settle for the truck like ride of an Impala SS myself, rather than the go-cart ride of the Z06.

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    As long as it's close to the Z06, I'd be more than extremely happy.

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