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A Schwartz Performance chassis can inject modern performance into your classic Chevy

Get Framed!

Jim Smart Apr 4, 2018
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Unitized auto body construction has always been a way to save weight and reduce manufacturing costs for automakers. However, 50 years ago unit body construction was never much on strength due to its sheetmetal monocoque demeanor. Throw a lot of power and aggressive handling at these boxy compacts and they bend and flex significantly. Body panel gaps change as you round the turns and the alignment settings suffer ever-changing geometry, which adversely affects handling.

Schwartz Performance pioneered the very first bolt-in full frames for classic muscle cars like the 1962-’67 Chevy II, 1967-’81 Camaro, and 1968-’74 Nova. What this means for you is a completely different driving experience when body and frame become one. Once you bolt this chassis to your Chevy, you’ll never go back to pure unit body again. The benefits transcend what you get from just using subframe connectors since chassis flex is greatly reduced. The Schwartz Performance full frame is a great option for those wanting to greatly enhance their car’s handling prowess. As a side benefit, it looks pretty damn good. These are just a few reasons why we went this route on our ’63 Chevy II project.

Jeff Schwartz, founder of Schwartz Performance, explained that their full frame chassis bolts onto the classic Chevy II/Nova unit body without having to cut the floorpan or perform extensive modifications. Some OE brackets have to be cut off and minimal drilling is required into the Nova’s rear framerails. If you want wider rolling stock, the G-Machine chassis allows fitment of up to 345mm-wide rear tires if you mini-tub the wheelwells. What’s more, we had our full-floating Moser 9-inch rear axle narrowed to 56-inches hub-to-hub, allowing for a deeper dish in the rear wheels.

Schwartz Performance full frames are not bulky, Jeff tells us. In fact, the Schwartz G-Machine chassis reduces overall vehicle weight by 50-70 pounds because it employs an aluminum power rack while getting rid of heavy leaf springs and other bulky items not needed anymore. A 50/50 weight distribution is possible when you use an aluminum LS engine and do simple tricks, like relocating the battery to the trunk.

Schwartz Performance doesn’t mass-produce these bolt-in frames. They’re built to order one at a time by a team of skilled professionals. What you get for your money is a fully welded chassis built on a precision jig. The transmission crossmember is fully adjustable and available for anything from a two-speed Powerglide to a six-speed TREMEC Magnum. The coilovers they use are unique because they’re 16 1/2 inches tall in front and 14 1/2 inches in the rear for full suspension compliance. Jeff tells us his approach to smoothness is minimizing friction in the suspension, which vastly improves ride and handling. The control arms are fitted with needle bearings instead of polyurethane bushings, which allow the suspension to move freely without binding.

Contributing to the smoothness and crisp handling is the Schwartz Performance enclosed tubular sway bar, which is housed in a tube and fitted with nylon bushings. It is a fully adjustable race-style sway bar that reduces roll, working more like a torsion bar. As you would expect, the suspension geometry is optimized for proper camber gain and the steering rack pivots are lined up with the lower control arm pivot points to virtually eliminate bumpsteer.

Both the front and rear suspensions are fully adjustable fore and aft to center the wheels in the wheel openings; adjust the pinion angle; and features separate alignment adjustments for toe, caster, and camber, which greatly speeds up the alignment process.

Schwartz Performance offers a variety of brake options depending upon your driving agenda. The standard brakes they offer are great for cruisers and those that want to dabble in high-performance driving. They also fit wheels down to 15 inches. The next step up is the 14-inch Baer 6P Pro-Plus disc brake package, which can do anything you’d like it to do, including open track days. One of the baddest Schwartz Performance brake kits offered is the Baer 6S, which is a one-piece forged caliper and is ready for anything. This brake kit is for the hard-core road racer while also being suitable for street use. These huge 14-inch Baer brakes require an 18-inch diameter wheel. Additionally, the Baer calipers are available in many colors. Hey, there’s no rule that says you can’t look good while going fast.

Schwartz Performance offers quite a few shocks from different makers. This allows the customer to pick the shocks that best fit their driving habits, along with their budget. The QA1 double-adjustable shocks chosen for our Chevy II project can be tuned for performance, ride comfort, and, of course, ride height. These will suit the weekend autocrosser/road racer, as well as a daily driver.

Once the chassis was done it was shipped to the Super Chevy tech center where we will slide it under our ’63 Chevy II project and see just how easy it is bolt under a car that was never designed to have a full chassis. But that’s another story for another day. For now let’s take a look at how a Schwartz bolt-in chassis is fabricated.

02 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 2/19

Schwartz Performance started out in a 1,600 square-foot facility where it introduced the first bolt-in muscle car chassis (for the GM A-body). Today, Schwartz has over 23,000 square feet in Woodstock, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The shop does it all, going from raw materials to finished chassis.

03 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 3/19

Here, chassis stiffeners are tack-welded and measured before being permanently welded in place. The use of frame jigs ensures that each chassis comes out exactly as designed.

04 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 4/19

Nothing is mass-produced here. Every frame is built to order based on the customer’s order with each chassis taking just under a week to produce. All those inches of welds add up to many feet in the finished product. Some areas are MIG welded while other sections are TIG welded.

05 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 5/19

Here’s raw tube stock waiting to be cut and welded into a custom full frame chassis. Schwartz also makes extensive use of laser- and water-jet-cut brackets and tabs.

06 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 6/19

Initial full frame setup is happening here where the cut pieces are clamped together in preparation for welding. The fixture jig ensures that all the pickup points for the control arms are precisely located to maintain the proper geometry.

07 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 7/19

Transmission crossmembers are available for any application. This one is for a Tremec Magnum s-speed.

08 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 8/19

Here’s the forward framerail area where the front suspension pieces attach. Note how beefy and thick this steel is. No bend or flex from this stuff when you head for the road course.

09 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 9/19

Well over 30 hours of welding and work goes into each chassis that Schwartz crafts. Since opening its doors in 2005, Schwartz Performance has developed over 28 track-tested chassis for GM, Ford, and Mopar muscle cars, and are constantly researching new products.

10 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 10/19

There are also quite a few rearend options for customers to choose from. For track use we chose this Moser 9-inch setup for a Baer floater system. Since all of the chassis are built to order, Schwartz can handle anything from a mild cruiser to an all-out Pro Touring build.

11 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 11/19

These are the Moser full-floater axleshafts designed for serious horsepower and hard track use. The 31-spline end will slot into the Detroit Truetrac posi while the 24-spline end will find a home in Baer’s floater drive plate. Floaters are great when performance driving since one of their major benefits is eliminating brake pad knock-back.

12 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 12/19

Schwartz has a few different shock offering to fit varying budgets and driving styles. For this chassis, QA1 double-adjustable shocks were chosen. Jeff Schwartz worked hard to ensure that his chassis have extensive shock travel.

13 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 13/19

In front is this lightweight aluminum power rack-and-pinion steering unit. This chassis is set up with LS engine mounts, but Schwartz offers engine mounting options for just about anything you could want to install.

14 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 14/19

Instead of a traditional lower control arm, the Schwartz chassis uses a set of fully adjustable strut bars. This allows the end user to center the front tire in the wheel opening and also allows for caster to be changed independent of camber.

15 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 15/19

This completed G-Machine chassis has been powdercoated, which is optional, and a real time saver since the chassis shows up ready to install. Powdercoating is more durable than paint so it’s perfect for chassis parts. The triangulated four-link arrangement of the rear suspension provides excellent tire bite and allows for the rear to be properly located in relation to the wheel openings.

16 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 16/19

The Schwartz Performance G-Machine full frame is an across-the-board design engineered for specific applications. It is a versatile race-engineered chassis perfect for any application.

17 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 17/19

Big 14-inch Baer binders installed on a rear floater kit are a terrific Schwartz Performance option for your full frame order. Ours came with extra-long ARP 1/2-inch wheel studs installed. Again, Schwartz offers different brake kits to fit your budget and performance needs.

18 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 18/19

The completed Schwartz Performance chassis is powdercoated, assembled, and ready for shipment. This one will be sliding under a certain ’63 Chevy II we’ve been rehabilitating over the last few months.

19 1962 1967 Schwartz Performance Chevy Nova Gmachine Chassis 19/19

Each Schwartz G-Machine chassis gets an identity—a chassis identification number. Jeff Schwartz told us his chassis ship all over the world to gearheads looking to bring modern handling performance to their vintage cars.

Photography by Dominick Damato

Sources

Eaton
Cleveland, OH 44114
800-386-1911
http://www.eaton.com
Baer Brakes
Phoenix, AZ
602-233-1411
www.baer.com
Moser Engineering
Portland, IN 47371
260-726-6689
www.moserengineering.com
Schwartz Performance
812-206-2230
www.SchwartzPerformance.com
ARP
Ventura, CA 93003
805-339-2200
arp-bolts.com/

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