Does it seem like we run a lot of suspension stories? It sure does, doesn't it? But there must be a reason for it, right? I was finishing the last few sentences of this article when editorial duties took me to our New Jersey offices. Living in the Los Angeles area, I thought I was prepared for the onslaught of traffic, the New York and New Jersey turnpikes, and toll roads. Not quite. I was amazed at the circle-track style of driving in this part of the country, with people zipping left, zipping right, and applying major force to the brake pedal for a better pole position. This was quite the norm, and I thought to myself, "Damn, I'm glad I'm driving a rental and not my Camaro!"
But what if I was driving my prized possession, or what if you were driving your prized possession and found yourself in this kind of traffic climate? While many of us may not drive on these particular roads, we still drive our favorite cars, right? And driving the roads of Anytown, USA, can present its own challenges. Thirty-plus years ago, this was not even an issue, as most cars on the road had the same lousy braking and suspension capabilities. As time marches on, even the lowest-grade production cars are equipped with better-handling suspension and braking than our favorite '50s-70s rides. Let's even the playing field, shall we? The mostly stock '66 Nova SS that is the parts recipient in this story is meant to be a driver, so let's make it that way.
When Flaming River informed us it had a new bolt-in rack-and-pinion system for the early Novas, we decided we'd see for ourselves just how this setup worked. For the most part, installing the new steering system went according to plan, but we did encounter some bumps along the way. Our test Nova already had a set of 2-inch drop spindles installed (Flaming River recommended using the stock-height spindles), and when it came time to attach the tie rods to the drop spindles, the angle at which they bolted on could have created some bumpsteer issues.
Our second bump in the road was the exhaust clearance issue. This Nova was still using the original center dump ram's horn-style exhaust manifolds. After installing the rack-and-pinion, it was obvious the new steering shaft would not clear the old exhaust system. The solution? We called Flaming River, who informed us that a set of later-model rear dump-truck headers would work. They also informed us they were in the process of developing headers for this particular application. Now that we have discussed the snags, let's take a look at what comes with this kit.
The system replaces the early long-shaft steering box with a new tilt column, according to Flaming River, and the kit includes a cradle, quick-ratio manual rack-and-pinion, mounting clamp for the rack with a bushing, grade 8 fasteners for the cradle installation, a tilt column with a mount, wiring connectors, and chrome-moly universal joints for an improved angle with the intermediate shaft. The true fixture-welded mounting cradle fits between the framerails and bolts in place using the original chassis location. Some modifying is required, and the system installs with hand tools.
The price is the most attractive part of the Flaming River setup. At $1,190, this will improve your '62--67 Nova's handling at a reasonable cost. Now about that exhaust header clearance issue-at the writing of this story, a set of exhaust headers was on its way from Flaming River. When they arrive, we'll give you the blow-by-blow of how well they fit and how you can adapt the same system to your Nova should you decide to go the same route.