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1972 Chevy Nova Suspension - The No-Bull Nova, Part 1

We're Building A G-Machine To Take On All Comers.

By Mike Ficacci, Photography by Mike Ficacci, Steve Ficacci

We're taking on all challengers and even going fishing for some big dogs with our balls-to-the-wall, no frills '72 Nova. It's being built for speed and absolutely nothing else.

Who says you need a Camaro to go fast? I live in Jersey and despise the Yankees. I want nothing to do with the beach or tropical islands and avoid clubs like the plague. What am I getting at? A third-generation Nova built for the road course is something you don't come across everyday in these parts. Similar in weight and slightly longer in wheelbase than its more popular brother, the Nova has revamped its image from the red-headed stepchild to worthy adversary in only a few short years. But most around here are built for straight-line acceleration only.

We started to conceptualize our Nova last November and decided to build a pro-touring car above all, something that we can take to any road course or autocross and come out a champion. Power will be provided by a GM Performance Parts LSX warhead. Stopping power is coming from one of the best in the business, Baer Brakes. Our front and rear suspension is from Speed Tech Performance, a relative newcomer that is making waves with its new torque-arm design.

Last issue, we teased you with the installation of Detroit Speed & Engineering mini-tubs in the very same Nova we are transforming into a road racing rocket ship. This issue, we'll show you the concept and even get rockin' and rollin' on the assembly of the complete front suspension from Speed Tech. But before we do, let me explain some of the plans that have my painter, body guy, and interior shop up in arms.

In my pursuit of speed and cornering, I am doing away with some of the very essentials the Pro Touring crowd has come to love. Taking a page from drag racing heritage, we will be installing solid body mounts up front rather than using polyurethane. Will this help in the corners? Not really sure, but we will find out. We will not be installing any sort of sound deadening material to take away from the awesome rumble we expect to emanate from our 400-plus cubic inch powerplant.

The back seat has gone bye-bye since the chrome-moly rollbar makes it near impossible to get to the rear anyway. We called up some friends at Auto Metal Direct and picked up an aluminum hood for added weight savings. Stereo systems are for street cars, as are heat and air conditioning so we left those products on the shelf and saved ourselves approximately 150 pounds. I would like to see this car around the 3,100-pound mark when we hit the track.

In the first part of this intense build, we'll be assembling Speed Tech's front suspension, complete with tubular control arms, QA1 double adjustable coilover shocks, a Unisteer rack-and-pinion, American Touring Specialties AFX spindles, and LSX conversion kit.

The bonuses of this complete suspension kit are 10-fold over a stock setup, including box-frame construction, added adjustability, weight savings, and high-clearance control arms. Follow along as we take the first step towards the podium.

Speed Tech Performance, a division of Killer Customs, is hitting the pro touring aftermarket with authority thanks in part to its torque arm rear suspension and matching front subframe for the '67-69 Camaro and now for the '68-72 Nova. We received our front suspension powdercoated and ready for assembly. A direct replacement for stock, the box-frame construction provides much-needed strength and will accept all other aftermarket suspension components.

Made of 1.25-inch tubing, Speed Tech's tubular upper control arms are mandrel bent and machined to exact tolerances. Positive caster is built in to improve handling and suspension geometry. The lower control arms are made to match out of 1.5-inch seamless tubing and are powdercoated from the factory. These lowers are designed to accept the standard coil springs and shocks or QA-1 coilovers. Both the uppers and lowers have Acetron squeak-free bushings and come with all the hardware for installation.

We chose QA1's double-adjustable coilover shocks all the way around for easy adjustability in a proven design. Their dual adjustability allows for 12 spring rate changes in both coil and rebound. Upon ordering the Speed Tech complete front suspension kit, QA1 will tailor the design to meet your needs specifically based on the engine used. The 450-pound spring rate for our small-block application will match our expected weight distribution and also allow us to adjust ride height.

Also provided in the kit is American Touring Specialties' AFX spindles, which are made of lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum and are based off the C5/C6 Corvette design. These spindles accept stock and aftermarket control arms for the third-gen Nova and will accept C5/C6 brake packages much like our Pro-Plus design from Baer Brakes. We chose the tall spindle option, which improves negative camber gain under suspension load and has provisions for wheel speed sensors. For mock-up, we used a stock spindles and Speed Tech's aluminum hubs as we await the arrival of our AFX spindles.

The Unisteer steering rack is based off the late-model GM design, but is highly modified to prevent bump steer, replicate stock steering dimensions, and increase driver feel. Supplied in the kit are bolt-on brackets, mounting hardware, steering arms, tie rod ends, and a specifically-designed steering shaft kit to work around large headers and big-block dimensions.

Our lower control arm bolts into place much like a factory setup. We lubricated both the bolts and installed them from the front of the car to the back. The supplied bolts both get washers on each side and once installed, there was no binding. Installing the bolts from the front offers piece of mind in a worst-case scenario. Both the control arms and subframe are powdercoated silver per our order, as we will be painting the underside of the car black, creating a contrast of colors.

The upper control arm installs just as easily. Once on the alignment rack, we will have to go back and do our fine-tuning as specified in the Speed Tech directions. For now, we tightened the bolts snugly after some assembly grease so we will be able to complete the installation of the entire suspension and get the car over to the alignment rack. It is at that point we can go in and see what changes need to be made.

Once we assembled the QA1 front coilovers, we were able to slide them into place with the coil completely extended. The mounting hardware for the lower control arm installs from the bottom and attached to the lower link of the coilover. Take your time installing these and make sure to follow the instructions, as they can appear to install in more than one way.

The AFX spindles also install much like a factory design. The Moog ball joints on both the upper and lower control arm are designed with both performance and durability in mind and bolt to the spindle using a castle nut and locking pin. Once installed, you can see the positive caster we achieved that is much higher than the factory ever was. Positive caster helps the geometry of the suspension and causes the steering wheel to come back to center upon exiting a turn. The AFX spindles are made of 6061 aluminum and are considered by some to be the best aftermarket spindle on the market today.

Given the exceptional power-to-weight ratio we expect with our No-Bull Nova, we needed some serious brakes to put a stop to all the fun. Luckily, Baer has a system tailored just for our needs at an affordable price. Its Pro-Plus six-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors will provide all the stopping power we will need. The two-piece rotors are slotted and drilled and have crossover tubes to expel heat and making life easy, the pads are identical to those found in the C5/C6 Corvettes. The Pro-Plus brake package is available in red, black, and silver at no additional charge.

First, we installed the caliper bracket to the AFX spindles, followed by the rotor itself. Next, the caliper bolts to the bracket using the supplied hardware and also comes with shims to center the brake pads around the rotor. Once installed, make sure there is no bind between the rotor and pads by spinning the rotor so that it completes a few rotations.

Check out the front Baer brakes in their finished form. Providing racing ingenuity in an affordable package, the pads are available at any local parts store and after you go through a set of front rotors, you can move the back rotors forward and simply buy a set of two rotors as opposed to a complete kit.

Next, we attacked the front sway bar, which is made of 1.25-inch steel and provides a much stronger anti-roll link than the factory (if your car actually came with one). Speed Tech supplies all the hardware and mounting links to make installation quick and painless. The endlinks attach directly to the lower control arms and provide two pivot points tying the suspension together as one unit.

The Unisteer rack-and-pinion kit installation is a little tricky in that both the right and left mounting blocks must be installed at the same time. Once placed on the subframe, the tie-rod ends can be installed on the AFX spindles. Aligning the spindles at this point can be done by eye, but must be adjusted and tightened on the alignment rack. At this point, we will be leaving the steering link unattached until we decided on a steering shaft and get our engine and headers in place.

At this point, our front suspension is all but complete aside from alignment, brake lines, and the beautiful set of 18-inch wheels we will be bolting on. The kit also comes with engine mounts per your request and we have supplied a sneak peak of the powerplant we will be using

In the next issue, we will be tackling the rear suspension and diving even further into our attempt at building the quickest road race automobile around. Plus, our torque arm setup should work like a dream on a dragstrip because we will also be putting the screws to this hot rod on the 1,320.

SOURCES
American Touring Specialties
7-02/-245-6306
www.t56kit.com
Unisteer Performance
8-00/-338-9080
www.unisteer.com
Speed Tech Performance
8-88/-467-1625
www.speedtech-performance.com
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By Mike Ficacci
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