The Nomad lumbered through...
The Nomad lumbered through the slalom course at 7.53 seconds at 38 mph. After the suspension upgrades it powered through at 6.51 seconds at 44 mph. Significant improvement. (Photo by Steven Rupp.)
After installing a new Strange rearend in Don Prieto’s 1956 Chevy Nomad (STREET RODDER May ’12 issue) it was time to tackle the front suspension. The Nomad had undergone a conservative hot-rodding in the past, riding on basically stock suspension. While the car was serviceable in this configuration, good enough to act as a push car for Prieto’s fuel dragster, the fact of the matter is suspension and braking components have come a long way since 1956; it was time for an upgrade.
The stock ’56 Chevrolet suspension provides a reasonable base upon which to build, so there would be no real fabrication required. The car had no antiroll bar from the factory so we will be adding a complete suspension kit from Performance Online that includes tubular control arms, a new sway bar, new lowering springs, dropped spindles, adjustable shock absorbers, and power disc brakes. This sounds like a lot of work but actually it is almost a complete bolt-on operation. You’ll need to drill a few holes and weld two tabs in place, but beyond that it is a matter of grabbing some hand tools and getting to work. Since the stock steering box will remain in service, all of our work will be confined to the wheelwell area.
New tubular control arms with...
New tubular control arms with urethane bushings will lower un-sprung weight and minimize bushing deflection for good handling. The new ball joints bolt to these control arms.
Any time you are working on suspension, be safety conscious. Remember, springs store energy and can come flying out with tremendous force, so work slowly and carefully and consider the use of a safety chain through shock mount holes and through the center of the spring.
With the car safely supported we began by removing the front wheel. This allowed us to remove the brake drum (you may have to back off the brake shoe adjuster), which saves a lot of weight when it is time to remove the spindle. Next we removed the tie rod and draglink to the steering arms. Then the two nuts holding the steering arm to the backing plate were removed, along with the steering arm itself. The tired original-style shock absorbers were also removed.
With no pressure remaining...
With no pressure remaining on the spring, we can lift it out of the spring pocket and put it on our “swap meet” pile.
We removed the brake hose to each wheel cylinder and captured the brake fluid in a container for future recycling and covered the open end of the brake line with a rubber cap.
Now we are ready to remove the spindle from between the upper and lower control arms. Since the compressed coil spring is under pressure between these two pieces we used a floor jack to provide upward pressure on the lower control arm. This prevents the spring from flying out of the spring pocket.
We used side cutters to cut the cotter pin in the lower ball joint and pulled the remaining piece of the cotter pin out of the ball joint shaft. We loosened the castle nut and performed the same operation on the upper ball joint. Removing the ball joint from the control arms can be handled in several ways; one is to simply give the side of the spindle a good whack with a hammer at the ball joint socket. This will often free the tapered ball joint from the spindle if you can get a clear shot at the ball joint area. If that doesn’t work a “pickle fork” can be used. This tapered fork drives a wedge between the ball joint and the control arm forcing them apart, the downside of the pickle fork is it often destroys the ball joint boot.
After bolting the new ball...
After bolting the new ball joint to the upper control arm it was installed using the original mounting holes in the framerail.
With the ball joints freed from the control arms, we removed the loosened castle nuts and lifted the spindle, hub, and brake assembly off as one piece and put it in a pile along with the brake drums marked “swap meet.”
With the spindle removed we can now remove the coil spring. Slowly, very slowly, lower the floor jack to relieve the pressure on the spring. Once the spring is loose between the control arms you can remove the spring.