Everyone we talked to for this story mentioned shock technology has helped leaf spring cars be competitive. Here is a VariShock set-up on a factory leaf spring suspension. Notice the multiple leaf arrangement. VariShock has applications for leaf spring-equipped Camaros, Novas, early Mustangs, and Mopar B-, E-, and some A-bodies. Notice the shocks are inboard, whereas on Putnam’s Nova, the shocks are in the stock location. The outboard shock location makes it tough to put any sizable tire under many cars.
In contrast, most cars today use a three- or four-link suspension using upper and lower control arms. A factory three-link has a single upper control arm, while a factory four-link suspension uses two upperand two lower control arms. Back in the ’60s, though, there were also cars that had upper and lower control arms instead of leaf springs. The most popular of those were ’64-’72 GM A-bodies like the Pontiac GTO/Lemans/Tempest, Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu/El Camino/Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass/442, and Buick’s Skylark/Grand Sport. It’s interesting that GM would have cars with both four-link and leaf spring suspension arrangements at the same time. Ford vehicles all had leaf spring suspension at that time, as did Mopar muscle cars. Arguably the most popular drag racing platform, the Fox Mustang, has a factory four-link arrangement with upper and lower control arms, just like the older GM cars.
The second benefit to the transverse leaf spring suspension design is an increased roll stiffness rate, since the leaf spring somewhat acts as a sway bar (this is both good and bad, but we will get into that later). Since the transverse spring helps to control roll, C5/C6 Corvettes can use slightly smaller and lighter sway bars to achieve the same effect as a huge sway bar and coil springs. Transverse leafs also allow for a lower right height compared to coil springs that have to sit up high in a spring pocket on the frame. Lower ride height means a lower center of gravity and better handling. As an additional benefit, the composite materials used in the Corvette’s leaf springs offer more durability than steel leafs, which have a tendency to sag over time and lose their spring rate.