Anyone crawling under an early Nova for the first time certainly has some questions about the subframe and suspension's design. The driving concept behind the "tub," which constitutes the front suspension clip, was certainly low cost to manufacture and assemble on the line. Remember, the Chevy II was a low-price entry in a market that included the Falcon and the Valiant, and it did quite well in that segment. It was only when Chevy began shoehorning small-block V-8s in that tub and hot rodders started making these engines move the car down the dragstrip at speeds not originally envisioned for this chassis that the adventure began. Soon there were heavy-duty components available for the Nova front clip, but that still didn't address the basic design problem. This was not a high-performance suspension. Even achieving proper front end alignment was a difficult proposition with the stock components, and adding aftermarket springs and shocks didn't always help.
Some very good minds have created solutions to the Nova front suspension by designing front clip replacements, which we have installed and tested and found to truly do wonders for the handling of the early models. The installation of these clips is a major process, and they aren't inexpensive. However, we recently learned of an alternative kit from Classic Performance Products that is very affordable, easy to install, and essentially redesigns the front suspension to eliminate the factory strut rods, adds adjustable forward control arms, eliminates the need for a lock-out plate to maintain alignment, and installs without cutting or welding. The retail cost of a complete Mini Subframe kit is under $700, which includes the following:
- 2 tubular lower control arms, one piece, 1 1/4-inch 120-wall D.O.M.
- 2 tubular upper control arms
- 1/4-inch-thick steel crossmembercoil springs
- 4 alignment cam kits
- Grade 8 hardware, premium upper and lower ball joints, and low-friction bushings
The A-arms are 3/16-inch shorter than the stock A-arms, have a wider range of adjustment, and allow for a larger tire/wheel combo. The one-piece crossmember only adds 2 pounds to the weight of the car after the heavy factory strut rods and mounts are removed.
The entire job could be done on a weekend, depending on your skill level. We included a new master cylinder with a built-in proportioning valve, and a new set of rotors, discs and spindles, which CPP has engineered to retain the stock wheel position, giving much needed fenderwell clearance. The rotors are a new item, measuring 10.8-inch diameter and allowing the use of a 14-inch wheel. The spindles can be used with the stock steering linkage, as well as any rack-and-pinion with a separate steering arm (although some changes are necessary if you're planning on using them with '62-63 four-bolt wheels. Call for specific info). However, a brake change is not necessary with the Mini Subframe kit. An average owner/builder will need some help with front end alignment, and possibly the installation and removal of the coil springs. When in doubt, get some help.