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Chevy II Renovation, Part 1
Giving a Box Nova the Full Heidt's Suspension Treatment
Sep 1, 2005
Camarillo, CA 93012
Johns Customz & Performance
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Chevy II Renovation, Part 1
Here lies the foundation of Heidt's Superide II IFS subframe for '62-67 Novas. We added Heidt's optional front swaybar, and also chose a power rack-and-pinion over a manual unit. At the rear of the photo are Heidt's sano inner fender panels. All necessary hardware is included in this thorough kit, but a parts list is included so you can double-check your shipment and make sure you're ready to rock.
After supporting the '67 on jackstands placed behind the firewall, all the front bodywork must be removed. Be sure to disconnect the wiring, and save all the bolts, as they will be reused. In this photo, we've removed the radiator and we were going after the core support. Johns' Paul Morrow took a shot at drilling out the retaining rivets, but it proved easier to cut the core support off, as shown here.
With the body panels and core support set aside, the path was clear to remove the engine and transmission, which in turn allowed the front clip to be removed. Paul started with the top bolts, three on each side. Liberal use of penetrating oil is recommended; one of our 40-year-old bolts promptly snapped when we tried to loosen it.
Moving to the bottom of the Nova's empty snout, there are two bolts to remove on each side at the inner fender-to-firewall junction. On the driver side, you'll also need to remove the three bolts holding the stock steering box in place and disconnect the Pitman arm.
You'll find another pair of bolts on the opposite side of this juncture, outside the engine bay. Remove these as well.
And just like that, the factory subframe pops off. Well, not just like that . . . between the ancient factory coating and decades of road grime, it took a bit of prying. This thing is no lightweight, so be sure to support it with a floorjack.
This is an ideal time to clean and detail the firewall, and as you can see, Johns Customz did just that before installing the Heidt's subframe assembly. John and Paul had a third person help support the subframe until they got the bolts started. The Heidt's holes lined right up with those in the old Nova's firewall.
The brackets for the adjustable firewall-support tubes mount on the upper firewall, again in the stock location. Since the tubes themselves are adjustable, shims aren't needed at this location.
The support tubes were then bolted into place. Be sure to follow the directions here, or you won't be able to get these bolts back out once the engine is in place. Later on, when the body panels are installed, these tubes allow gaps in the sheetmetal to be adjusted. But at this point, Paul placed a jack under the crossmember until the unit just began to lift, and then turned the tubes until both were centered and there was no slack.
Paul then bolted up the Heidt's narrowed control arms. The top arm is adjustable for alignment purposes. Paul then assembled the Aldan coilovers. The top shock mount simply bolts into the control-arm mount.
The lower shock mount, however, doubles as the mounting point for the optional swaybar we ordered. Heidt's provides the correct long bolt for this purpose.
Opting for the swaybar means drilling and tapping mounting holes. The mounting points are 23 3/4-inches apart, centered on the crossmember, the top hole is 1 3/8 inch from the top of the crosspiece, and the holes are 1 1/2-inches apart. Paul measured and marked out the first two dimensions, then used the swaybar-mounting brackets (with the bushings installed) as a template for the last hole.
Swaybar installed, Paul installed the 2-inch drop spindles, which will help give our '67 an in-the-weeds stance. Ball joints are preinstalled in the control arms; castle nuts and cotter pins are provided.
At this point, we stopped to survey our progress. All agreed that the installation was going smoothly and that things looked good.
Next up was the power rack-and-pinion. For this application, using Heidt's narrowed control arms, the rack ends must be shortened 5/8 inch on each end. Paul cut the necessary length off with the rack bolted in place, then measured to make sure that each side was adjusted evenly--in this case, 13 inches from framerail to spindle end.
Now for a slight diversion . . . with the stock steering column out of the picture, we linked our Flaming River tilt column and Waterfall steering wheel to the rack-and-pinion with an FR steering shaft and U-joints.
At this point, Paul had removed the original column and slid the Flaming River unit into place. The new column came with a snazzy billet mount, which would have left us with a gap in the Nova's dash. Paul instead ground off the factory column-locating tab in the upper bracket, then drilled a small hole in the new column, and put a screw through the lower bracket to keep the column in place.
Long story short, Paul installed the steering U-joints and cut the steering shaft to the proper length, making sure the shaft didn't interfere with the U-joints' movement. We don't have space to show you here, but the shaft was drilled with locating holes for the U-joint setscrews, and we put Loctite on them to boot. The shaft is close to the Nova's headers; we'll show you what we did about that later.
The tilt and signal levers were then installed, followed by the wheel adapter, and finally the wheel and horn button (not shown).
To wire the new column into the Nova's electrical system, the factory half-moon connector must be cut off and new female wire ends crimped on. Each color wire has a designated slot in the provided flat plug end, which mates to the steering column's male plug.
Our column concerns dealt with, we turned to the brakes. Heidt's supplied a 12-inch Big Brake kit, featuring Wilwood Dynalite components that include three-piece, slotted and drilled rotors, featherweight four-piston calipers, and an exquisite aluminum master cylinder.
The caliper-mounting bracket was bolted up . . .
. . . followed by the rotor installation. As you can see, we've already assembled the rotors, including the inner bearing and grease seal. The discs are directional, and marked appropriately. New 13/16-inch fine-thread spindlenuts are provided.
With the calipers bolted in place, we've got great- looking brakes that should stop us on a dime and make change. But first, we need brake lines. These must be ordered after the brakes are installed and measurements are made.
From the "Do as we say, not as we do" department, be sure to install the wheel studs in the hub, which is drilled for traditional 5x4 3/4 GM configuration.
The master cylinder Wilwood sent us is a work of art. Paul had to finagle the stock pedal assembly a bit to make it work, cutting about 3/4 inch off the actuator rod, then adjusting it to contact the piston. The Wilwood piece comes with a small piston "extension" insert, which we used to get the right combination.
At this point, JCP's Andy Henry took over. The Wilwood master uses one chamber for front braking and one for rear. The back brakes utilize a proportioning valve, which we'll show you next time; the fronts run directly off the master cylinder. Andy ran a hardline down to the framerail.
At the framerail, Andy ran the hardline into a "T" fitting. Our 14-inch flex line then ran to the left front brake (arrow), while a second hardline feeds the right-hand brake.
The line ran right along the crossmember. Andy pop-riveted it into place using these foldover brackets. The line bends right up to meet the flex line on the passenger-side brake.
Again, it's time to take a step back and look at our work. It'll almost be a shame to cover all this cool-looking stuff up with body panels . . . but we weren't building a museum piece, so that's exactly what we did.
Andy started by reinstalling the original core support. The frame pieces that remained attached to it during removal were cut off, before the support was cleaned and painted.
The fenders were then bolted back onto the firewall; if you labeled the original bolts and shims, this is pretty easy. The very clean Heidt's inner fender panels were then slid into place.
Johns put body-panel nutserts in place to bolt the upper edges of the panel to the fender. All but the last two bolts were put loosely in place.
The hood-hinge braces were then bolted in. The two outer bolts on the support-tube mount must be removed, while the top two side holes bolt through the inner panel to the fender. Again, everything was left loose.
The front section of the panels came next; the lower holes should line up with the bumper's rear mounting holes. Heidt's notes that some fitting may be needed, but we only found two holes, up on the fenders, that needed clearancing.
The lower section of the fender panel mounts to the framerails. There's one hole for locating purposes, but the other three must be drilled for 5/16x3/4-inch self-tapping screws.
At this point, with things still loose, the hood hinges are mounted with bolts that run through to the inner fenderwell. An assistant to hold a nut on the inside is helpful, as Andrew Serrano and Denny Choi demonstrate here. With this in place, everything but the hood-hinge bolts can be tightened--this should wait until the hood is fitted, of course.
Earlier, we mentioned Flaming River's column-mounting bracket that we couldn't use; Paul Morrow created another bracket to attach it to the firewall, which enabled him to keep the column securely away from the Nova's headers.
Finally, we hooked up the new power-steering system. GM pumps of this vintage are designed to run at 1,000-1,200 psi, while the power rack works at 700-800 psi. Heidt's came up with this adjustable power-steering valve. Using a simple needle and bleed-off port, fluid is bled from the pressure line to the return line, so there are no pressure-buildup problems. The steering system can now be adjusted from full-power to almost-full-manual, or anywhere in between.
Except for reinstalling the hood, bumper, and grille, we're done for Part I. In Part II, we'll build up the '66's rear with one of Heidt's Nova Rear Subframes, dial in the suspension and steering, and head back to the track.
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