Just because Chevrolet’s little Chevy II / Nova was considered a compact car for its day, don’t think that it wasn’t performance minded, or that modern suspension upgrades might be lost on what would become the predecessor of the Citation.
In current configuration, Aaron’s Nova definitely exhibited body roll. We were going to fix that.
GM turned out hundreds of thousands of these cars destined for daily-driver status all over North America. They even offered a few models slanted directly toward the performance-minded enthusiast. Even today, there are those who enjoy driving these cars in a highly-spirited manner. The folks at Classic Performance Products (CPP) know this, and have tailored a suspension package that not only replaces many parts that have since been worn down with age, but also improves the car’s handling.
There is a lot of force stored in a coil spring. When removing components, make sure that you have the ability to release the spring's force slowly and safely. You don't want to try and play dodge-ball with a coil spring in the close confines of an inner fender well.
Aaron Lindquist is one such enthusiast. His relationship with this particular X-body started back when he was in high school. He’ll tell you that it’s been a perpetual project ever since. When he purchased the car, it was bone stock. He has since upgraded to a better-performing engine and transmission and added other drivetrain components to better suit his driving style.
The factory control arms are stamped steel. With the coil spring and brakes out of the way, we could safely unbolt them for removal.
In the pursuit of performance, the rear now houses a set of 4:10 gears. He also swapped out the original multi-leaf rear springs with a mono-leaf setup for better weight distribution. Aaron and his Nova can usually be found on the highway, but the car also serves duty on several local dragstrips. It’s been several years since the car was made road ready, and he is now interested in upgrading the handling of his little Nova.
Pick Your Pro Touring Kit
We recommend 350-lb front springs for an all-aluminum LS engine, 450-lb for small-block Chevys, and 550-lb for big-block Chevy engines. – Javier Nunez, CPP
The CPP kits are available in “stages.” Stage I includes coils springs for the front that lower ride height of the frontend, high-performance sway bars, and gas shocks. The Stage II kit adds the adjustable coilovers for the front, and Stage III will get you CPP’s award-winning MCPV-1 master cylinder and their front and rear disc brake kit. Aaron decided that since he was upgrading, he might as well go all the way, and ordered the went for the Stage III kit.
An additional benefit of using CPP’s tubular upper and lower control arms is they cut about 10 to 15 pounds off of the front of the car compared to the stock, pressed-steel control arms. Also, CPP’s coilovers come with a bearing for the lower spring mount. Javier Nunez from CPP explains, “The bearing is normally a $40.00 upgrade with most companies, but is a free upgrade fwith CPP. This makes adjusting the ride height a piece of cake, and your knuckles will thank you for it.”
The Stage III kit comes with everything you see here. We opted for the brake upgrade for a little more stopping power.
Even though Aaron’s ride already had disc brakes on the front, due to the differences in distribution blocks when adding rear discs, he had to replumb the brake lines to match the new master cylinder and distribution block.
Does Your Nova Have Mono?
Aaron explains that his car was originally equipped with multi-leaf rear springs. He also told us that ’68-’72 cars could come either way, depending on what options they were ordered with from the factory. All four-door cars and all ’73-’74 production cars were issued multi-leaf rear springs as well.
Also, with the coilover option in Stage III, there is a certain amount of adjustability in ride height. With only the lowering springs of Stage II, this is not the case. As Aaron is planning a wheel and tire swap in the near future, the ability to tailor the stance will be a great asset. Also, since the shocks have compression and rebound adjustability, being able to adjust the shock’s damping will help in those transitional times between street and track. This means he can tighten up the shocks for those times when he wants to do a little cone carving, and lighten up the rebound and compression for a softer highway ride. It’s good to have options!
We had a clearance issue with one bolt for the upper control arm cross brace. Removing it with a C-clamp and socket allowed us to install the control arm without removing the header. If you do remove the bolt, be sure not to damage the knurling on the bolt or the opening of the hole by twisting the bolt. The lower control arms bolted right in place.
Getting To Work
Since the CPP kit is chock full of upgrades and addresses many of the worn components on Aaron’s ride, the only thing left to do was get the car on a lift. Once up on the lift at Ratchet Garage in Lakeland, Florida, we started by removing the worn front and rear pieces necessary to make room for the CPP kit.
The front consists of coilover shocks. They have a bearing on the bottom of the spring that allows for adjustment, but be sure to put anti-sieze on the threads to prevent galling. Also, the front spindles come assembled, but you will need to dismantle them to install the steering brackets and check that the bearings are greased sufficiently before installation.
It bears noting that safety is key when working with springs and the forces they hold when it comes to the suspension components. Make sure you understand how to safely remove coil and leaf springs, and have the necessary tools to do so.
Aaron’s Nova has had some upgrades since it left the factory. He previously installed a monoleaf spring and C-clip eliminators to the rearend.
With that said, the kit comes with several sets of instructions addressing each area of the upgrade. We were soon under Aaron’s car, taking the sway out of our way.
The kit comes with urethane bushings to replace the factory rubber units. You can see how pliable the rubber bushings are, as Aaron can distort them with his fingers. The urethane bushings are much sturdier and even the spring shackles are much more sturdy than the factory units. We lubed the new bushings and installed them.
We installed the rear housing on the new springs and because we had C-clip eliminators, there was a gap between the housing and the C-clip eliminator (2nd photo). We used CPP's BOP (Buick, Olds Pontiac) spacer to take up the difference and then sealed it to the housing. If you do not have C-clip eliminators, the BOP spacer might not be needed. The new, adjustable shocks were mounted with the knobs inward for easy access behind the wheels. The BOP spacer is not needed on all rearends, and is not sold with the kit.
Changes Can Effect Changes
There may be some variations due to the fact that these cars rolled off of the assembly line more than forty years ago. During that time, parts have been changed and possibly upgraded over the years. You would do well to know what changes might have already taken place on your particular car and plan accordingly.
The brakes and sway bars went on next. The kit comes with a clamp-on bracket for the rear brake lines, but our saddle mount for the rear springs interfered with its placement. Aaron simply tack-welded the bracket to the rear housing. Also, the rear sway bar needed holes drilled for its front mounts to the body of the Nova.
In our case, C-clip eliminators were previously installed on the rearend of Aaron’s ride. This, coupled with the fact that we removed the drum-brake backing plate gave us some unwanted clearance between the housing and the eliminator kit.
The new disc brakes feature an emergency brake via the caliper. Aaron ran the e-brake cables to finish the install on the rear and note the welded brake hose mount to the axle housing.
Also, the disc brake rotor surface is much thicker than the drum face, so the wheel will stick out a little further (about 1/8-inch on each side). Make sure you have sufficient clearance at the fender for your wheel and tire combo.
Aaron's car was already equipped with power brakes, but the kit had a new master cylinder, brake booster, and distribution block. We needed to run new lines to mate up with the new distribution block.
The Bottom Line
So how does the car handle? When asked if there was any difference, Aaron was quick to say, “Oh yeah! Now there is no body roll at all!” Of course, we would expect that, coming from a worn street/strip setup to a new Pro Touring configuration. It is also worth making mention that the ride will be considerably firmer depending on the shock adjustment that you choose. There will be some testing to come to see how the new setup works under timed situations and how the adjustability of the new shocks and springs will fare during track time with a little highway driving to and from the track.
The new master cylinder and brake booster installed. Note the line-lock for when Aaron runs his Nova at the track.
Other upgrades like the brakes made themselves apparent almost instantly. Aaron said that as soon as he hit the pedal, he could tell a difference with the new four-wheel disc brakes.
Oh yeah! There is no body roll at all now! – Aaron Lindquist
He continued, “The difference felt like pulling a trailer with and without trailer brakes. Now when I hit the brake pedal, it feels like the rear is actually helping to help slow the car down.” That will surely be a huge help whenever Aaron wishes to bring his Nova back from a thrash down the strip or now, whenever he wants to carve a few corners for fun.
Aaron did also mention that the ride is a lot more firm than it was before. That is to be expected when a performance-oriented suspension like this is employed. But with the adjustable shocks and coilovers, the ride can be adjusted to suit any driver’s comfort level.
Whether you are building a dedicated racecar, or you want your street car to handle better than it ever has, it’s time to check out Classic Performance Products (CPP), and get a little suspension salvation for your classic.