Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coil Overs for the Front

After driving the Nova for a few weeks it became apparent that the front end had settled a little too much with the 2" drop spindles and the 2" drop pocket in the A-arms, the springs settled and the ride height dropped to the point the passenger tire would rub on turns. Since only driving in a straight line was not an option I needed to resolve the issue. With an extra 1" of lift and taller bump stops are needed.

Lift Options
The easy fix would be spring isolaters on top and bottom of the springs which should give me an extra ~1" of suspension lift. The challenge with this is, since I am are right on the edge of the ride height if there is any more settling, I'd be right back in the same boat.

An interesting alternative would be Adjustable Spring Spacers from All Star Performance Racing.These would allow me to dial in ride height and the pockets in these a-arms would be the perfect spot for these to sit. For only $40 this is a poor-mans adjustable suspension. My only observation is... these do not appear to be adjustable on the car. My guess is you would need to drop the lower a-arm to turn the base also there is no lock nut to keep it from rotating.

Another option is to pick another spring. The big challenge with that is we would still be guessing at what the final ride height would be.
I decided to go with a set of QA1 coil over shock/springs. These offer the advantage of being able to dial in the ride height on the car.

The installation on these is pretty straight forward. My advice is to definitely buy the wrench set and the thrust bearings. I got the non-adjustable shocks (this is to adjust how stiff the shock valving is the ride height is adjustable with the coil-over). In addition, I also highly recommend using the anti-seize as recommended in the instructions.

After removing my old springs and shocks the QA1s are a simple bolt-in. After assembly and putting anti-seize on the bearing washers and the threads, first I attached the shock at the top of the shock tower. Then I fed two long bolts from the bottom of the a-arm up through the feet on the shock and I put nuts on the bolts to keep them from falling out. I put a floor jack under the lower a-arm and compressed the shock and spring while guiding the lower ball joint into the spindle.

The long bolts guided the shock right into place so I could removed the temporary bolts and install the QA1 supplied bolts and aircraft nuts. After securing all the bolts to attach the shocks the real fun started.

QA1 sells a pair of spanner wrenches that fit the upper and lower nuts. Turning the wrench to raise the ride height is an exercise. The instructions recommend raising the nut to the mid-point for a stock height. Since the Nova car was sitting about an 1" lower than I would like I cranked the shocks up to 3/4's of the way. But when I put the car down the ride height was just slightly higher. So I cranked the springs all the way up when I put the car down it was in the same place as before and the springs were coil bound! In essence I had just compressed the springs. I cranked the spring back down to mid way and called it a day.

The next day I called QA1 and they told me either the shock was too short and I was getting shock bind or the springs too weak and they could not lift the car. I was concerned about the shock length because of the pockets in the lower a-arms the shocks sit 2" lower than stock. I had ordered the 350 lb springs which were recommended for a small block Chevy. Update: These were too weak and would not even lift the car, so we ordered and installed a set of 450 lb springs. 

After considering getting shock extenders, I came to the conclusion that when the shocks are on and the car is jacked up the suspension left the tires with a 3-4" gap between the top of the tire and fender well. This would mean I should be able to raise the car that high with the spring before the shock reached its full extension. The shock length was not the problem. The next day I called Summit and had them ship me a set of 450 lb. springs.

While I waited for the springs to arrive I removed the QA1's and sat the suspension all the way down to just before the tire would contact the inner fender well. I found I needed a 2-1/8 bump stop as opposed to the 1" bump stop that came with the a-arms. A quick run to Pep Boys resulted in a pair of beehive bump stops from Energy Suspension. This is the perfect height and will insure we bump before we rub.

Once the springs arrived we reassembled the shocks with the new springs. Here's Scooter (my son) re-attaching the shock and getting ready to try out the cool spanner wrenches to crank up those springs. I figured I did the first set he could do these. After adjusting the nuts to just under 1/2 way up the collar we put everything back together, put the wheels back on and the car and it sat down right were we wanted!

With everything reattached and torqued down, we took the Nova for a spin around town and everything felt great with no more rubbing. Right now its maybe 1/2" too high, but we are going to leave it to see if it settles. We can tweak it in a few weeks if needed. Tomorrow its back to the alignment shop for a final adjustment and we should be good to go! Bottom line... order 450 lb QA1 springs for your SBC Nova.

After another quick home alignment, we took the Nova to the alignment shop for a "tune-up". This time I slid the tech a $20 and he quite frankly... nailed it.

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