It was on the Hot Rod Power Tour a couple years back when this 1967 Nova was motoring from stop to stop not unlike most every other vintage muscle car on the cruise. The car sports a healthy 400+ horsepower small-block, so it’s got plenty of juice to have a little fun. That was all was good until the owner spotted some of the other classic rides on the tour cutting up the autocross that was laid out at a few of the tour stops. It was then that he realized it was time for a suspension change.
Although the ’67 has a little attitude in its stance, the suspension is basically stock with just a set of lowering springs and shocks front and rear. Now, if you’ve ever driven a vintage Nova with its stock suspension, then you know the original underpinnings and stock subframe don’t take too kindly to spirited driving on a twisty road or dodging cones on an autocross. That’s no surprise since the Chevy II platform was originally built with a price point in mind—not performance. Let’s just say the early Nova has some unique handling characteristics, none of which are particularly good.
So when we got the boxy Chevy in our hands, we put together a plan to get the car up to speed, so to speak, in the handling department. That plan consisted of a new front subframe, subframe connectors, upgraded rear suspension, and to accommodate some wider rubber out back, we’ll be grafting in a set of mini-tubs—all from Detroit Speed Inc. We’ll also be installing a new 9-inch rearend from Strange Engineering because it’s just a matter of time before the stock 10-bolt gives up. And being there’s a good chance this car will see an engine swap in the future, it’s best to make the change now so we’ll only have to deal with installing the rearend housing bracketry one time.
So, to get things started we’ll begin work up front by installing a Detroit Speed Inc. subframe, down bars, and inner fenders, and disc brakes from Baer. To make life super simple, the DSE front frame comes with upper and lower control arms, “Detroit-tuned” DSE/JRi coilover shocks, Torrington bearings, coilover springs, rack-and-pinion steering, splined antiroll bar, control arm cross-shafts with caster tuner bushings, forged DSE spindles, composite antiroll bar bushings, and a spanner tool for easy spring height adjustment.
Ready to accept small-block Chevy and LS engines, the subframe is a great blending of OEM technology with today’s aftermarket performance, which is perfect for the car’s current small-block. And with the option of one day bolting in LS power, this subframe will have no problem handling the swap.
Also included in this upgrade are DSE stamped front inner fenders. They look great and will cover up the down bars for a clean-looking engine bay.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the installation process of the front subframe more so than tearing the car down. So, with the engine already removed, TEN Tech Center technician Chris Arriero will take off what’s left of the front suspension and inner fender frame assembly and dig right in to bolting up the new DSE front subframe.
Stay tuned as we’ll tear into the rear and get going on the mini-tubs in the next installment of our Nova suspension upgrade.
1. The subject of our suspension and rearend upgrade is this 1967 Chevy Nova SS. A couple of years ago the car was treated to lowering springs for a nice stance, and the rear ladder bars indicate it was built for some straight line action, but we have a lot more in mind for this ride.
2. With the fenders removed, you can see the original suspension was recently outfitted with lowering springs and a disc brake kit. The strut bar also looks like it was recently replaced.
3. TEN Tech Center technician Chris Arriero dug into the project by removing the shock towers and shocks.
4. Chris then removed the front springs. Because these springs are shorter than stock, there was not much spring tension. Still, we used a jack under the lower control arm to gradually release any spring tension before pulling them out.
5. Next, Chris unbolted the lower control arm from the front subframe assembly.
6. A pry bar was necessary to help break loose the lower control arm.
7. Chris then loosened the upper control arm bolts from the inner panel.
8. From there, the control arm assembly was easily removed. All these parts fall into the swap meet pile, as none will be reused for this project.
9. Don’t forget to remove the brake lines from the inner fender.
10. With the suspension out of the way, it was time to disconnect the steering box from the steering shaft. With the steering shaft collar loosened, a pry bar was used to break it loose from the shaft. Add this to the swap meet pile, too, as the Detroit Speed front subframe comes with a new power rack-and-pinion steering system.
11. With all the old hardware out of the way, Chris was then able to remove the inner fender and frame assembly.
12. Here’s the Nova all ready to accept the DSE front subframe, which will bolt directly to the original mounting points.
13. The DSE front subframe comes in bare metal or powdercoated. The bare metal version comes unassembled. If you go with the powdercoated option, it comes assembled just like you see here. Ours has the Base Stock Options, which includes DSE/JRi aluminum body coilover shocks with Detroit Tuned Valving. You can also order single-adjustable, double-adjustable, and remote canister coilover options.
14. Here is a good look at the DSE/JRi shocks, 400lb springs, splined antisway bar mount, and spindle. As you can see, it’s quite a bit heftier than the stock parts, and the system is designed toward providing the best in street and track performance.
15. For instant driver feedback and no lag in performance, DSE uses spherical bearings on the top and bottom of the shock mounts.
16. The new stamped-steel inner fenders from DSE come in a raw finish. We sent ours out to Eddie Motorsports in Rancho Cucamonga, California, for a black satin powdercoat to match the frame.
17. The DSE down bars came powdercoated and ready to bolt on to the front subframe and firewall.
18. DSE supplies all the necessary hardware to ensure the installation goes smooth with no trips to the parts store.
19. TEN Tech Center manager Jason Scudellari starts the installation by lining up and bolting the DSE subframe to the existing subframe holes. (We knew this furniture dolly would come in handy some day.)
20. With the bottom of the subframe loosely bolted to the existing mounting points and supported by jack stands, the body was aligned to the subframe using a two-post lift.
21. From there, Jason tightened up the frame via the supplied hardware. Now that the subframe is bolted in, the down bars will tie the subframe to the firewall’s fender mounting point.
22. DSE includes a down bar shim kit that replaces the stock shims. Included are four 1/16-inch and four 1/8-inch shims to help square up the subframe. We used two 1/8-inch shims on the driver side, but every one of these cars will likely line up differently, especially after 50 years of use and abuse.
23. Here are the subframe and down bars all bolted up and looking sweet. This illustrates just how easy it is to bolt on this piece. The strength of this system combined with the car’s new lower center of gravity will ensure this car handles light years better than stock.
24. The front subframe was designed for LS and small-blocks to bolt right in starting with the DSE engine mount stands. Be sure to let DSE know what engine you’ll be using in order to get the correct engine mount bracket kit.
25. For excellent stopping power and performance, we went with Baer Brakes 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors and six-piston calipers. We also ordered Baer’s new brake master with proportioning valve and brake lines. This kit will help bring our Nova down from speed in a jiffy and look great in the process.
26. Installation is about as straightforward as can be. The Baer Brakes caliper bracket bolts right up to the DSE spindle.
27. Next, slide the brake rotor onto the hub.
28. The caliper bolts right on to the mounting bracket installed earlier.
29. By connecting the brake line to the back of the caliper, this portion of the install goes into the “finished” column.
30. With the engine installed, Chris began the process of bolting in our freshly powdercoated inner fenders.
31. The supplied fender mounting hardware makes bolting in the inner fenders to the down bar plate a piece of cake.
32. As you can see here, the inner fenders look great and give the engine bay a fresh, updated look while allowing easy access to the upper control arms should we need to tune the suspension by adding or removing shims.
33. Moving forward, Chris got the fenders lined up and ready for installation.
34. With the small-block in place and the inner and outer fenders bolted up the car is starting to take shape. Next up for our ’67 Nova’s suspension upgrade we’ll move out back and get cracking on the mini-tub installation so we can make room for some serious rubber and that Detroit Speed Inc. QUADRALink suspension system.