A long time ago, when our now classic Chevys were new, folks didn't know any better when it came to handling. The cars wallowed through the curves, but most cars handled poorly, so there was nothing to compare them to. Thus the term, "ignorance is bliss."
Today we climb out of our newer daily driver and into our classic Chevy, and we become immediately and painfully aware of how badly the old cars find their way around corners. To make matters worse, many of the old musclecars suffer from worn out parts that only magnify the problem.
Our idea was to find a tired Chevy-in this case a '69 Nova-baseline the car with stock junk, and then bolt on the new gear and test it again. Simple. To make this a true suspension test, and not a tire test, we were sure to do the before and after runs on the same Nitto tires and Vintage Wheel Works rollers.
We also wanted to use parts that the average guy could afford and be able to bolt in place. The front would get some tubular control arms, new springs, and a beefier sway bar while the back would get a shiny new set of leaf springs. We had a plan, a car, and for parts we cruised over to Classic Performance Products (CPP) for some suspension TLC.
Time To Thrash At The TrackSure, the new parts look a ton better, but the real question was, how much would they improve the handling of our '69 Nova? As stated earlier, we did the before testing of the old suspension on the same 17-inch Vintage Wheel Works wheels wrapped in Nitto 555 rubber, just to keep everything fair. This way it would be a suspension test and not a tire test, since we already know that any car's handling is improved with a good set of tires mounted up.
During the before testing, our Nova laid over when pushed though the cones-to the point where the front tires dug into the inner fenders. This caused the car to lurch and made maneuvering though the cones that much harder. It also suffered from too much understeer.
After many runs we ended up with a best average speed through the 420 feet of cones of 41.7 mph. With the new CPP goodies installed, we had another go at dodging cones and were rewarded with a best run of 45.1 mph! That's a huge improvement over the previous number, but more important, the car just felt better. The Nova stayed much flatter and it transitioned through the cones much more smoothly.
The main players in our front rebuild are these tubular control arms (PN 6774TCA-ULK-S, $733). The arms are designed to provide full wheel travel and minimal friction. The upper control arms are made from 1-1/4-inch x .120-inch wall and the lower is 1-1/2-inch x .120 wall D.O.M. tubing. The pivot barrels are thick 1-1/2-inch .188-inch wall D.O.M. tubing to eliminate distortion from welding and hard use. The geometry has been approved as well, since the upper control arms allow for 5 degrees of caster.