David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/13/19 1:06 p.m.

Is your classic no longer delivering the razor-sharp handling promised by the reviews penned decades ago? Is there just a bit too much disconnect between the tires and the driver? It might be time for a suspension refresh.

 

In an ideal situation, the only parts of the car actually touching the ground are the tires–four relatively small contact patches that are asked to do so much. First question: How old are these tires? If the reply is more than six to 10 years, then it might be time to shop. Older tires, as we have shown before, don’t handle like newer ones–they simply offer less capability, especially when pushed to the limits.

Here’s the challenging part for those driving older cars: The mass market is no longer awash with smaller sizes. Even finding a 185/60R14 tire, so popular back in the ’80s, has become a challenge. However, there are some contemporary tires that do come in 13-, 14- and 15-inch sizes favored by older cars: General Altimax RT43, Vredestein Quatrac 5, Hankook Kinergy ST and Kumho Solus TA11. Then add in the retro Vredestein Sprint Classic.

Like tires, shock absorbers are also tasked with managing a car’s turning, braking and acceleration. Old, blown-out shocks will allow a tire to simply bounce along the pavement–and a tire that’s in the air isn’t going to offer much traction.

So, like tires, a similar question: How healthy are your shocks? If the dampers are leaking fluid while your car bobs and weaves, it might be time for replacements.

Springs tend to last for decades, but they don’t have an infinite lifespan. Have the years–or even rust–taken a toll on yours? One end of the car sit lower than it should? We’re not saying that you need the stiff rates seen on track, but if something’s amiss, then fresh, OE-type springs will generally outperform ones that are past their prime.

When’s the last time that you had the suspension aligned? Is everything at least set to the factory specs, or do you have a tire or two heading their own direction?

A car’s suspension is secured by a network of bushings that are often made of rubber–soft rubber that deteriorates over time. How do yours look? Are they dried-out, split or simply missing? Replacing bushings isn’t the quickest job, but it beats having control arms that are just flopping around.

 

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