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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 The steering arm and brake bracket assemblies are held on with the same mounting hardware, and torque to 40 lb-ft.
6 The rotors come with the races and studs installed, but you will need to pack the wheel bearings and install the seals.
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.
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.
9 The new clip uses the stock core support, so that is extracted from the inner fenders.
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
11 The subframe can now be installed using supplied Grade 9 12-point hardware, 3/8-inch for the top supports …
12 … and 7/16 at the bottom. Once the subframe is installed, check to make sure it's square, then tighten all the bolts.
13 Now the axle assembly can be slipped under the subframe. While not necessary, having help makes this a bit easier.
14 The leaf spring/axle assembly mounts to the subframe with 1/2-inch bolts in the rear and 3/8-inch on the front. Once installed, go and tighten the axle to leaf spring bolts.
15 A brand new, not rebuilt, Vega steering box is supplied with the kit, and converts the car to a front steer configuration to eliminate bump steer. The pitman arm is preinstalled and set.
16 Tie rods and draglinks are installed with 5/8 Nylock nuts. Each end has a heim joint for smooth motion and strength.
17 B'z even supplies these cool through-frame brake line fittings …
18 … That the DOT stainless lines connect to. It's up to you to bend up new hard lines from the master.
19 The chrome shocks are installed with 1/2-inch hardware. These are a street shock that will provide a nice ride and control the bounce.
20 The beautiful motor mounts connect to these tabs on the crossmember. Big and small-block versions are available.
21 The subframe is set to accept the stock core support. The core support needs a small notch cut into it so it can sit flat on the new framerails. New 5/16 hardware is provided to mount the core support.
22 The subframe is set to accept the stock core support. The core support needs a small notch cut into it so it can sit flat on the new framerails. New 5/16 hardware is provided to mount the core support.
23 Now you can either reassemble the rest of the sheetmetal to the car using the original hardware, or leave it off till you complete the brake lines.
24 The clip is even made to accept the stock bumper brackets, making this task super easy.
25 With just one day worth of wrenching, this Nova has a completely different look. Brian from B'z says