Here was our Saturday Night Nova as it sat in its new home in Las Vegas. Hot Cars Cool Trucks has taken on the task of bringing the prolific Pro Streeter to fruition. This phase included tearing out the rest of the floor and firewall and connecting the front and rear Chassisworks subframes. Chris Alston also contributed a few other goodies that will be molded into the car at HCCT. Notice the aluminum firewall, mid-mount motor plate, and cool bracket kits for mounting the seats and transmission.
In the mind of every hot rodder who's ever dreamed of creating the preeminent ride, it's a safe bet that one of the most-wished for parts of that project is a full-tube chassis. Think of it, every form of sophisticated performance machine-whether it be a high-end European street car or a lightning-quick Pro Stock drag racer-has a tube frame beneath its outer skin. It only makes sense to build a car from the ground up if it's going to incorporate the trickest of components. And if you start there, why not do it right.
As you know, that's been the credo from the get-go for the Chassisworks Saturday Night Special Nova. First it was the state-of-the-art back half with the innovative Fab 9 rearend. Then the awesome bolt-on No Fab front clip came along and revolutionized the Nova cult following. Additionally, from the blown "big" small-block to the tough Jerico gearbox, every other aspect of this car has been top notch or groundbreaking. Therefore, when we got the opportunity to haul the Deuce to 'Vegas for a stay at the fab shop known as Hot Cars Cool Trucks (HCCT), we didn't hesitate a second.
The plan in "Sin City" was to connect the rectangular-tubed front clip to the rectangular-tubed rear section with none other than round tubing. Then, the round tube frame rails were to be integrated into the 10-point roll cage for strength and configured to allow direct mounting of the transmission crossmember, seat brackets, harness tabs, and aluminum floors. We're also planning an ultra cool pedal installation using the latest hydraulic components from Wilwood and a transmission swap that will knock your socks off. Add it all up and what we'll have is a lighweight warrior that will be able to harness everything the supercharged 421-inch mouse can throw at it.
To do that, HCCT's manager Richard Luchette and ace fabricator Armand (Mando) Alvarez went full throttle with the HTP America plasma cutter and removed the balance of the firewall and floor sections that remained after beginning this phase of the project ourselves (see May '01 SUPER CHEVY, p. 116). As you'll see in the following photos, the first step to connecting the frames was to square up the car and since the roll cage was already installed, make the new frame rails conform and attach to the cage. Two main tubes were welded in place on each side, one along the inside of the rocker panel, the other straight back from the No Fab front end's mounting plate. Then the front downtube, which ran from the stock firewall to the front frame rail, was connected to the roll cage by snaking a piece of tubing under the dash.
A slip joint was fabricated on a lathe and attached the two pieces of tubing together so they could be welded to make one continuous bar. With the basic frame connections completed in this segment, the next steps will be to mount the aforementioned Wilwood pedals and reposition the engine further back in the engine bay. Then, the seats can be located and the transmission crossmember will be created. But, like most good things that happen on Saturday night, this segment came to an end sooner than we'd like. But, don't fret, next month is only a few days away (for us anyhow). So rest assured we'll have more exciting coverage for you on this star in our next issue.
Ace fabricator, Mando Alvarez, made good use of the trick HTP America welder and plasma cutter. The Micro Cut 250 easily sliced through the floor and firewall, and the Mig 160 made connecting the tubes a piece of cake.
When Mando was done under the dash, the only sheet metal remaining was the dash itself. All of the underlying metal that protected the interior from the windshield wiper cowl vent is gone.
Making sure that the Nova was level to the floor was of paramount importance. Here, shop top dog, Richard Luchette, positioned the level on the top of the rocker panel.
With the floor removed, a disc grinder was used to clean up the sharp edges left along the inside of the rocker panel. With a clean surface a new piece of tubing can rest right along its inner face.
This is where the old rectangular frame connector was attached to the rear crossmember. After the connector was removed, the point where it was cut off from was ground smooth and a gusset was made to fit from the bottom of the upward frame rail. This gave it a cleaner look and added some structural integrity.
After taking some measurements and determining the angle of the bend, Mando went about making the first tube connector. Without an hydraulic bender, this was a hard task to complete.
Another precision operation is cutting the "fishmouth" notch required for the tubing to fit up to another piece of tubing. A holesaw-equipped notcher is the best-and an economical-way to accomplish this job.
As it turned out, experience paid off, as the round frame rail fit perfectly behind the front clip's mounting pad and at the rear crossmember.
When the floor was removed and the bottom of the main roll bar hoop was cut away from it's mount, it sprung inward. To mate it with the new rocker rail, Mando had to pull outward on the bar as Richard tack welded it in place.
Here's what the connection looked like once it was fully welded in place. Note how nice the rail fits at the rear crossmember.
The inner frame rail goes straight back from the front pad to the rear crossmember. Note the Chassisworks frame connector was still connected on the passenger side. In order not to disrupt the alignment of the front-end clip in relationship to the car, we did one side of the new frame rails at a time.
Here's the mounting point of the inner rail at the rear crossmember. At this point it was important for Mando to make sure that the two rails were at the same height level and parallel to one another. A small piece of box tubing did the job well. This level is where the aluminum floor will sit, so it was also important to make sure it wasn't so high that the driver would hit his head on the underside of the roof.
With the driver's side frame rails in place, the attention was directed at removing the passenger side unibody structure and frame connector. This is the mounting pad that the Chassisworks front clip bolts to.
A torch was used to sever the box tube connector from the rear crossmember.
Once cut off, the piece was simply lifted out and another gusset was made to cap off the rear frame rail.
A small bottle jack was employed to get the right-side, inner frame rail level with the car and the other side. Nothing's worse than to have one side different from the other. The only problem we ran into was that the roll cage was inboard of the right rocker panel about 3/4 inch more than the left. This was negligible, though, and didn't pose any alignment problems.
From this view you can see just how much of the floor and firewall was cut away and where the new frame rail attaches to the front clip and the existing roll bar.
Again, the importance of making sure everything is correctly aligned is prime. Here, Mando measures the distance from the rail running alongside the inner rocker panel to determine where the center rail would fit. With the cage off the aforementioned 3/4 inch, he had to shorten the distance the same amount as the driver's side.
Once the four front-to-rear frame rails were in place, work was begun on connecting the front strut rails to the roll cage. First order of business was to cut some more sheet metal from the windshield wiper cowl. When complete, this area will be trimmed back as far as where the hood ends.
Chassisworks' famous Gemini Connector was loosened and the strut connector was removed.
The idea here was to keep the existing connector tube and attach it to the roll cage upright beneath the dash. To do this, Richard cut off the mounting pad and turned down a piece of tube to fit in the inside so that two pieces of tubing could be connected.
Then, with the other piece of tubing bent to fit under the dash connected by the turned down sleeve, the whole strut connector could be welded in place. This is designed to give the car an extremely solid feel, with no flex front to rear.
It took both Richard and Mando to come up with the correct bend and length of the tubing so that the front of the strut tube could be bolted back down with the Gemini Connector. The rear, of course, was welded to the roll cage upright.
On to the other side. This was a mirror image of the driver's side. Before any final bends were made or tubing cut, Richard went about making sure that the bar would be at the same height as the driver's side.
These two views show how the front strut was fabricated and welded in place. Next month we'll show the engine being installed, including moving the mounts back by nearly six inches. Plus, you'll also see a few more tricks with round tubing.