Chassis Engineering offers...
Chassis Engineering offers a bracket kit that allows you to easily position a '68-74 Nova rearend into a '49-54 Chevy. The brackets are available separately or you can opt for a complete kit that is supplied with new leaf springs, brackets, U-bolts, shock mount, and shocks.
We have the car, we have a pile of old parts, and we have a bunch of new and used parts. If you recall, we introduced you to our '51 Chevy Sport coupe in the Oct. '10 issue and started to strip it of its original drivetrain. In this issue we tackle the rear suspension with the help of a Chassis Engineering kit and a used Nova rearend.
To recap, the goal is to build the car into a comfortable, safe driver, so suspension and a drivetrain swap are the first order of business; not to mention that stance is going to be imperative to the overall appearance of the coupe. However, budget and time are the rulers of this project so we've decided to build this '51 into a reliable driver for under $15,000-including the purchase price of the car. Our original goal was under $10,000 but when we put pen to paper and made a list of things like a transmission, radiator, brakes, and engine, things added up quickly.
Thumbing through the Chassis Engineering catalog introduced us to a bracket kit that would allow for a '68-74 Nova/Camaro rearend to be swapped in. A little more research unearthed a kit that includes the new CE brackets, a fresh set of their Slider Springs, U-bolts, shocks, and the shock mount. The car will handle better, parts are plentiful for the rearend, and the new springs will lower the car to a comfortable, good-looking height. This sounds perfect for our plan and we found a Nova rearend on craigslist within days.
Before you begin wrenching...
Before you begin wrenching off 50-plus year old hardware, hit 'em with some lube to ease your pain! That is, unless you're breaking out with the torches or cutting wheels.
The deconstruction of the factory parts obviously includes dropping the original rearend, as well as removing the factory mounts. It quickly became apparent that factory rivets are strong; big-time strong. Be ready to take on some serious grinding, whether you're using electric grinders, drills, or compressed air tools. While you're grinding away though, make sure not to damage your factory 'rails! Once the old parts were cut away, the Chassis Engineering brackets bolted in place with the aid of a few well-placed holes.
With the brackets mated to the frame, the new CE Slider Springs raised right into place and accepted our used '74 Nova 10-bolt rearend. When you're looking for a rearend, be sure to find an 8-1/2-inch multi-leaf model (many had single leaf). There are ID numbers on the passenger axle tube of the rearends that will also give you a clue to the original gear set. Another key is to measure from the center of the leaf spring mounts-it needs to be 42-1/2 inches in order to fit.
The new rear suspension went together much easier than the old one came out. When we dropped it down on the wheels for the first time it was apparent that we made a good choice. Chassis Engineering noted that it will come down another inch after a few hundred miles. From what we can tell, that should be perfect. Now to get thrashing on the front.
|'51 Chevy Sport Coupe
|Mount kit (PN) AS-1021CCG
|Used '74 10-bolt, Nova 3.08:1
|Rearend gears, brake shoes, drums, bearings, seals, paint
|Sold the 235 and trans
So far, so good. Our new rear suspension came out to just over $600 thanks to the fact that we sold the engine and trans from the '51 for $125.
Since we didn't have access...
Since we didn't have access to torches, the wrenches came out. Thanks to the pre-lube (and southwest living), the rusty hardware, our '51 bolts and nuts, came loose without much trouble. Chassis Engineering supplies all new hardware, so our extra bolt bin got a little bit deeper. Chevy loved fine thread bolts in the early '50s.
After removing the four leaf...
After removing the four leaf spring bolts, the shocks, and brake lines, the rearend dropped away from the frame.
The solid driveshaft and complete...
The solid driveshaft and complete rearend assembly failed to sell on craigslist so it was finally pawned off to the engine shop down the street for scrap. Sure we hate to toss aside cool old parts like this, but we just don't have the room to store any more.
With the rearend assembly...
With the rearend assembly out of the way, it was time to start grinding ... and grinding some more. Followed by drilling, prying, hammering, and some more grinding, it took some persistence and shaky arms, but we finally got the 16 rivets out of the frame.
GM used some sort of mega-rivets...
GM used some sort of mega-rivets in the '50s. Even when the brackets finally pulled off, we were stuck working the rivets loose. Use care not to damage the chassis when working the rivets and brackets away.
We traded the grinder for...
We traded the grinder for a drill and started installing the Chassis Engineering brackets. The front brackets use three of the original rivet holes, so we bolted them in place and then marked the location of the fourth hole. Note the location of the indent on the bracket as they point rearward and in.
The date code on the axle...
The date code on the axle tube was JB G 194 2 which equates to: JB (gear ratio and in this case it's a 3.08:1), G (built at Detroit Gear and Axle), 194 (the day of the year), 2 (assembled by the second shift). We were tickled with the gear ratio as we won't have to fret about highway rpm and can go with a cheap and easy TH350.
The rear brackets use two...
The rear brackets use two of the original rivet holes and require two more to be drilled. Also note that the indents on the bracket face in and forward. Also, when you're working on the passenger side, the spare tire well requires some nimble fingers to get a bolt in place.
We were able to score a rearend...
We were able to score a rearend from a '74 Nova for $125. You'll need to make sure to find one that was originally fit with multi-leaf springs. Also, the correct unit will measure 42-1/2 inches from the center of the spring perches.
With all of the holes drilled...
With all of the holes drilled it was time for assembly. We bolted the front brackets in position with the new hardware supplied from Chassis Engineering. Lock washers were in place but we added a drop of Blue Loctite just for peace of mind.
We used the help of a bottle...
We used the help of a bottle jack to support the new leaf springs to align the front brackets in location to get the bolts installed.
We opted to install the springs...
We opted to install the springs and shackles to the rear brackets and then lift them into position on the frame. This seemed to make the process a little easier, again taking full advantage of the heaving little bottle jack. Be sure to lube the bushings and the through-bolts to ease the installation.
With the leaf springs installed,...
With the leaf springs installed, we supported the rearend assembly on a floor jack and maneuvered it into position over the springs. With a little tugging and urging it fell into position over the new Slider Springs.
The Chassis Engineering U-bolts...
The Chassis Engineering U-bolts were put to work and the assembly was bolted in place using the shock mount plates. The shock mount stud is positioned facing the inside front.
The next step was to locate...
The next step was to locate the mounting location of the shock bracket. The bracket from Chassis Engineering is only spot-welded due to the variances they've come across in a 50- to 60-year-old chassis. We clamped the bar in place 2-1/2 inches forward of the OEM rebound rubber pad and marked the mounting locations of the six bolts.
Once we confirmed the fit...
Once we confirmed the fit of the shock bracket, we ground the primer away and dropped by a friend's place to do some welding.
Welded and painted, the new...
Welded and painted, the new bracket was bolted to the old chassis and pair of fresh new shocks joined the entire assembly together.
Something new, something old,...
Something new, something old, and something used, our rear suspension update was complete.