Turn a First-Gen Nova into a Gasser - Up, Up, And Away

How to easily turn your first-gen Nova into a gasser with B'z Rods' bolt on straight-axle front clip.

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Back in the late '50s, a trend started to show up at dragstrips across the country, as horsepower and speeds began to climb. Racers were looking for any way possible to lighten their cars, and change the center of gravity to transfer more weight to the traction limited tires of the time. Guys were taking out factory independent front suspensions and grafting in straight-axles from trucks and other heavy duty vehicles. This was a simple way to shed weight from the front end, and change the stance of a car and transfer more weight to the rear wheels. And so, the gasser look was born. It exploded during the early '60s, and if the owner added fenderwell headers, bright paint, colored Lexan windows, and some sort of name like "Widow Maker" or "Gas Attack" in gold leaf lettering, the cars really stood out. The trend continued until tire technology negated the need for such radical weight transfer.

Given enough time, just about any trend or fad will return, and we can tell you with no uncertainty gassers are back. What's great about a trend coming back into the spotlight is the parts get better, thanks to today's modern manufacturing processes. So, instead of scouring a junkyard for a rusty truck with a straight axle under it, then scabbing it onto your factory framerails, you can order an entire front clip ready to go, straight axle and all.

Brian Bell, proprietor of B'z Rods, has over 30 years experience building hot rods and race cars of all types. Brian says, "We are builders and fabricators of custom hot rods, street rods, and classic race cars, including gassers, vintage drag, modified and sportsman stock cars. My guys, Gene Pennington and Pat Norton, are the most meticulous builders/fabricators I have ever dealt with."

Brian and his crew have just put the finishing touches on their gasser front clip for first-generation Chevy IIs. The clips are all made in-house at B'z Rods. The geometry, spring rates, and steering has been perfected, and B'z even equips the clips with disc brakes. One thing that plagued older gassers was bumpsteer, but this new clip has a front steer configuration, effectively eliminating bumpsteer. The clips are made to completely replace the existing front clip, and allow for all the sheetmetal to bolt right back on, with the exception of the inner wheelwells. This story will show you what it takes to install one of the B'z Rods Gasser front clips on a clean street/strip car.

1310 First Gen Chevrolet Nova Bz Display Unit 2/26

1 Here is what the front clip looks like assembled but off the car. This is B'z display unit, so it's been given a silver powdercoat finish. The clip comes in raw steel, but B'z will powder coat it for an additional charge. As you can see its complete, and even has motor mounts. This is also shown with optional DOT approved brake lines. B'z recommends a Strange master cylinder and proportioning valve to complete the brakes.

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2 The subframes are built on a jig and fully TIG welded in house. They are made from thick rectangular tube and DOM round tubing. These guys even go as far as installing threaded inserts into all the necessary holes and cap the end of any exposed tubes for a clean look.

1310 First Gen Chevrolet Nova Bz 4/26

3 The clip will come to you fully assembled. B'z does this to ensure you will have no issues at home. You will still need to tear it apart to grease what you need to grease, thread lock some of the hardware, and poweredcoat stuff if you didn't opt for B'z to do it. Step one of reassembly will be the axle to leaf spring bolts with 7/16 Nyloc nuts. Leave them finger tight for now, you'll come back and tighten them once the subframe is on the car. These springs are set up for a big-block with iron heads, but a leaf can be removed for aluminum headed small-blocks.

1310 First Gen Chevrolet Nova King Pin Spindle 5/26

4 Bearing and shim (0.005) are installed with spindle to axle. Spindles and king pins come as a kit. You need to make a mark on the top of the king pin with a Sharpie to know where to align the setscrew, which is on the other side of the spindle. Once you have the king pin driven down into the spindle, there is an inside snap ring to hold it in place. Then tightening the setscrew will lock the pin to the spindle to prevent wear.

1310 First Gen Chevrolet Nova Steering Arm Brake 6/26

5 The steering arm and brake bracket assemblies are held on with the same mounting hardware, and torque to 40 lb-ft.

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6 The rotors come with the races and studs installed, but you will need to pack the wheel bearings and install the seals.

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7 The caliper, which is similar to what you would find on a '70 Chevelle, mounts up with the supplied slide bolts with 3/8-inch Allen heads. Wilwood brakes are also available at additional cost.

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8 With the pre-assembly done, we turned our attention to the car. Everything in front of the firewall needs to go. It's good to keep all the hardware organized, as you will be reusing a lot of it. The grille, bumpers, and sheetmetal should be put in a safe place to prevent scratching.

1310 First Gen Chevrolet Nova Stock Core 10/26

9 The new clip uses the stock core support, so that is extracted from the inner fenders.

1310 First Gen Chevrolet Nova Remove Stock 11/26

10 Now you can unbolt the stock subframe and remove from the vehicle. Make sure to support the car with good jack stands. Since these Novas have a one piece steering shaft, so you'll need to remove the steering wheel and slip out the box and shaft in one or just cut the shaft right above the steering box. You will need to either modify the original column to accept the new steering box, or purchase an after market unit. Brian says

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