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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Late March 2020. 1972 Nova, 6 cylinder car. I don't know much else about her except the title says she was grey, I see some yellow in some areas that weren't sprayed. She's currently a candy apple-orange-peel red. Running an unknown origin 350 with a TH-350 transmission. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I figured she was pretty solid for what I wanted to do and bought her. What I really should have done was go onto RacingJunk and found a retired grudge car instead of this jalopy. Tuition paid.

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Believe it or not she made a 1200 mile trip and only broke down once. I stopped for gas in what turned out to be a rather shady area. I stepped on the gas a little to get out of dodge and back onto the highway and she stalled where two highways come together at a junction. She cranked but would not start. As cars were whipping around me in excess of 80MPH and being that I would like to live long enough to enjoy this car a little and had no tools with me, I decided to call for a tow.

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Here's where things get just a little sketchy...or maybe I'm just less trusting than I ever imagined. The nice woman on the telephone asked me where I wanted the car towed to. I asked her if the tow company does repairs at their shop. She said that they did not but the tow driver would make a recommendation when he arrived. When the tow arrived, he again asked me where I wanted the car towed and I asked him for a recommendation, he then told me that we would take it back to his shop. I was a little skeptical because the tow dispatch just said they DID NOT SERVICE CARS AT THEIR SHOP.

We drove through miles and miles of back streets before finally arriving at the "shop", which was a buy-here / pay-here lot. The driver said the mechanic would be around at some point to look at it. I paid for the tow and realized I needed cash. When the mechanic arrived I asked him where the nearest ATM was and figured I'd walk down to it, get some cash to pay him for whatever needed done and get back on the road. The mechanic told me he did not want me to walk anywhere.
A few minutes later, he identified the problem was a wire having fallen off of the dizzy. He through some silicone on it, timed the motor (previous owner related it had been timed by ear when he replaced the dizzy), stated his skepticism that the car would make the trip. I paid him and I was on my way.

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Early April back in NE.
You learn a few things about yourself and the car when you spend that kind of time together, without a radio, without a source for 12v power to even charge your phone. One of the first things I noticed was when I hit a bump on the passenger side, I got a nasty "CLANK". It appeared to be the passenger side core support bushing was in need of replacement. I figured if that one needed replacement, they all did and I ordered an energy suspension bushing replacement kit to address this right off of the bat.

By April 3 I found myself ordering a water pump because the one that just made the trek had seized up. It may have had something to do with the fact that the previous owner was running straight water as coolant and the water ran red out of the radiator and engine block, but who knows. It irritated me a little because frankly, I don't want to really invest money into the powerplant of this car. The plan is to eventually replace it with something else. The key here is to do little projects on the car where I can still drive it around and enjoy it, instead of tearing into it, being OCD about every little thing being perfect and then I never put it back together. Anyhow, a put a new water pump on the motor so I could still drive it around.
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I do have to say that my local parts store must be staffed by some...challenged individuals because they claimed they needed to special order a SBC water pump. Instead I came home and ordered one from summit.
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I then wanted to address the bushing on the core support because the clanking and sound of metal on metal makes my skin crawl. So I started to tear into that. I removed the bolts on the drivers side and the mount looked perfect, a little rusty but it was in decent shape for a 49 year old car.
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Onto the bad side. The passengers side bushing.
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That's a problem and it also explains why there's a bunch of banging going on when I go over bumps. For anyone unfamiliar with these cars, I'll share a little information about how the body fits together. For any 3rd-Gen Nova experts, please don't give me too much grief if I miss something. All of the body panels on the front of the Nova are tied together at the core support. Basically there's a couple of bolts on the fender that go into the A-pillar and the cowl, the fender is bolted to the inner fender / wheel well and then the inner fender bolts to the core support which in turn bolts to the sub-frame. I don't know if the same terminology is used in the Nova world but when I had a 57 pickup truck, it was common to take the entire front of the truck off and it was referred to as "the dog house" or something like that.

Anyhow, it became evident pretty quickly that I needed a new core support OR a new bracket and a welder. I opted for the new core support and ordered it online and waited impatiently for it to arrive.
 

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
April 23, 2021
Friday the core support arrived and I spent a little bit of time doing what I could to start the process of replacement. I didn't get much done at all and called it a night. My sons arrived to visit the next morning and my oldest went to technical school for auto body. I figured he might enjoy spending some father / son time replacing the core support and demonstrating what my tax dollars paid to teach him at school. We spent longer than we probably needed to tearing down the front of the car, loosening up fenders etc. to get the new core support in place.
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It appears that this car suffered from some water infiltration on the passenger side that rotted out not only the core support but also the inner fender.

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She went back together and no more clunks when she hits a bump. Thanks for the help son. We didn't need to take the hood off and probably should have scribed it before we did...didn't they teach you that in class? No big deal, I'll spend some time aligning the new hood when I get one.
 

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Early May 2021.
Body mount bushings. Probably one of the easier things to do but it needed done. Loosened up all of the body mounts, the 2 core support bushing I had just installed along with 2 others on each side. Get the jack and the 2x4. Remove a bolt and bushings, replace the bushings and bolts. They were pretty nasty.

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Surprisingly, they all moved pretty easily. The downside? Need to make an adjustment on the steering column now because it binds a little. That's alright because it's off into another project pretty soon anyhow. Oh, on the drivers side mid-mount, near the firewall, I had a heck of a time because of plumbing that was in the way, I was able to loosen up the inner fender well and fish the old bushing out that way instead of tearing more stuff apart.

Big project ahead. We're going to replace the front suspension!
 

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@unstable Looks like a solid project! Looking forward to seeing your progress along the way too :) . As mentioned before, when you get the chance, buy yourself (if you haven't already) a factory GM shop assembly manual. they're not too expensive (got mine on Ebay for abt. $28 USD shipped) and it's been a terrific investment. Saved me countless hours of searching and asking for help.. just need to tab the book with the different chapters and sections you repeatedly access for quick reference (y):p:geek::geek::geek:

Again, nice ride!!

~Andy
 

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@unstable Looks like a solid project! Looking forward to seeing your progress along the way too :) . As mentioned before, when you get the chance, buy yourself (if you haven't already) a factory GM shop assembly manual. they're not too expensive (got mine on Ebay for abt. $28 USD shipped) and it's been a terrific investment. Saved me countless hours of searching and asking for help.. just need to tab the book with the different chapters and sections you repeatedly access for quick reference (y):p:geek::geek::geek:

Again, nice ride!!

~Andy
I have one. I actually bought a Chiltons also! These cars are pretty simple. I'm figuring by the time I'm done there won't be much that is stock anymore. Thanks for the kind words and support. Looking forward to seeing what you're wrenching on too sir.
 

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Easy to get down on the project at the beginning, especially when a car has been neglected. But I like the cut of your jib: knock out projects one at a time. If it's a leak, go get that, if it's a bad bushing, get to the front end, if it's floor rot, go get it. For any of these cars that I can get into at entry level or near entry level, I'm going to need patience, some $, a broad learning curve and this site for Q & A. You're headed in the right direction, building back up rather than chucking it in.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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Enjoyed reading along... your story brought back a lot of memories (and a couple nightmares I'd like to forget).

I agree that it is best to set goals and tackle one project at a time, while trying to keep the car in "driving" condition... whenever possible. When things don't go right, just take a deep breath (... after you've already thrown some tools and created some new words) and pick up were you left off. I have also learned to do some research before starting any new car project... even when I'm sure that I know what to do. There is always something that I learned during the research phase that often saved my a$$. Oh, and take lots of digital photos (that can be used for re-installation reference) before taking anything apart.

Just a bit of friendly advise... I would replace the glass fuel filter above the water pump with a steel fuel filter. One bad "jolt" and this glass filters can easily shatter. I heard of a few horror stories of these types of glass fuel filters breaking while the car was running and caused an engine fire.
419241

I use the fuel filter linked below.
 

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Rif RAF you beat me to it. That fuel filter is a bad day waiting to happen. When I first saw the picture I thought the next paragraph was going to say it broke. Please don't think we are picking the car apart, it looks nice and want it to stay that way
 

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@RifRaf definitely my choice in fuel filter but I have to admit I wasn't aware of the dangers of the glass / see-through filters. I'll definitely address that in the near future. She's not currently in a state where she can be driven anyhow, so it can wait a few days. I'll actually grab a new one when I go to the autoparts store today, I need to get one of those magnet deals to fish a washer out of the crossmember. Thank you for the insight!
 

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
May 6th, 2021 - 14th Front Suspension, Control Arms Etc.
Seeing the state of the bushings and such on this rig, I knew without a doubt that the control arms would need new bushings also. I actually have all of the bushings I need in the energy suspension kit, but I do not have a press. Yes I could have taken the control arms to someone who had a press and probably paid them a few dollars to put in new ones but I wanted to splurge a little and invest into some control arms that were a little trick, a little lighter and might improve on steering and alignment, after all the existing control arms are 49+ year old technology and could probably be improved upon.

I ended up going with the following components:

-QA1 Street Performance Upper & Lower Control Arms for 67-69 GM F-Body and 68-74 X-Body
-QA1 Front Sway Bar for 1967-69 Camaro/Firebird & 1968-74 X-Body
-QA1 GS401 Pro Coilover Single Adjustable shocks with thrust bearings
-New tie rod sleeves

I've served as the mechanic for my family's fleet of vehicles for over 20 years. I've done brake jobs, replaced blown out airbags with coils, pulled motors, installed motors, replaced various mounts, timing chains, seals, brake lines, fuel lines, gas tanks, etc. I even have a little experience with sheetmetal and bodywork. I've NEVER undertaken a job like this but I figured it shouldn't be outside of the scope of my abilities with a little patience. No special tools are required except maybe snap-ring pliers, oh and a ball joint separator of some sort.

I started the tear down. Loosen the wheel lugs, jack her up and put her on jackstands. Remove the wheels. I could have tried juggling the spindle between the control arms by doing one at a time but I figured it would probably be easier to just tear it completely down. Remove the calipers and brake lines. Remove the rotor, backing plate and the doo-bob that attaches to the back of the backing plate to connect the spindle to the steering linkage.

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It's worth remarking that I was a little appalled at the shape of the ball joints. It seriously looks to me like the previous owner prioritized putting disk brakes on this car and separated the joints using a pickle fork. Yes, I drove this car a long way with it like this. The good news? Upgraded front brakes. I guess it's a Pirate Jack kit and I just got a response from them this morning about what components they use: 72 Chevelle. Now I know what I'll need for pads and rotors when I need to replace them. Continuing with the inspection of the existing components:

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She's looking pretty ratty and unloved. I guess I'm not the first person to hate this car. Onward and upward. How do you separate a ball joint and is the spring pressure on a coil over comparable to a full coil spring where I need to worry about it shooting my eye out? The instructions state that I am to remove the welcome-back cotter pins from the spindles, back off the castle nuts and then use a ball joint separator to make this happen. At this point, I was really wishing that I paid more attention in auto class. Fortunately for me, the internet has kind of blown up since the days I was in high school and I can look on YouTube and Steves Nova Site for help. I put the separator on the balljoint and started cranking...BOOOM! It sounded like a gun went off. I checked myself for holes in my body and despite the unexpected sound, I figured I was on the right track. I separated the other balljoint, disconnected the shock from the upper mount and questioned whether after removing the lower mounts if the spring was going to fly out from the pocket like diarrhea flies out of my hindquarters after consuming fast food. I figured I didn't want to live forever anyways, I reasoned that the control arm was hanging down at full extension and it didn't look like the existing coilovers could be adjusted. I removed the two bolts, removed the shock, breathed a sigh of relief and moved onto the next task of removing the control arms.

Not a huge deal to remove the first, forward-most bolt. The second one was another story. I was able to get the nut off without incident but couldn't drive the bolt through the control arm and crossmember. I realized it was seized inside of the bushing in the control arm. Heat would be my friend here but my torch is still at my ex-wife's house. Fun, fun, fun. Out came the sawzall and I put the blade between the frame and the control arm, cutting into and through the bushing. This actually took a little longer than I expected it to take, probably grade 8 hardware or something. Passenger side control arm had definitely seen better days. It looks like she was holding onto water for quite some time and the lower shock mount had started rotting out. Drivers side removal went about the same. I ended up using the sawzall once I realized the bolts were seized in the bushings and weren't going to come out.

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Now we move onto the upper control arms, where I managed to complicate the removal. For anyone who is considering this job, do NOT start your morning by eating lead paint chips. The instructions clearly state "do not turn the cross shaft bolts or you will strip them out." Guess what I did? I got ahead of myself, seen a bolt head and a nut on the other side and figured these had to come out the same way that the lowers did. DON'T DO IT! Here's the thread where I ask for help on this SNAFU (do you know what SNAFU means?) I did a stupid thing. Upper control arm cross shaft bolts.

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So I ordered new cross shaft bolts with the hope that there was still enough meat left in the hole that new bolts could grab onto. I wasn't so lucky. The new bolt spun. I haven't decided what to do about this if anything. I guess it's not a huge deal it just irritates the living crap out of me when I break something and then it's less than perfect. I'm halfway tempted to just throw a tack-weld on the drivers side cross shaft bolts so they don't spin. If it's 10 years down the line and someone else has this car, I doubt they'll ever want to remove the cross shaft bolts and if they do, cutting through a tack wouldn't be that big of a deal. A tack wouldn't put a ton of heat into the bolt either where it might tweak it or anything. I guess there might be a concern about it screwing with the strength of the bolt. I wish I wasn't so stupid some times. Let me rephrase that, all the time I wish that I wasn't as stupid as I am sometimes.

Oh, one small problem on the passenger side with removing the upper control arm. I couldn't get it out with the header in place. I unbolted the collector and fought with the stupid allen head bolts. Some of the tubes interfered with a regular allen key and a socket-allen wasn't fitting on them either. A pair of vice grips did the trick and for the one I couldn't reach with vice grips, I gently shaped and massaged the tube in an elegant way to allow me to fit the key into the allen bolt enough to back it out. Again, I don't care too much about this motor because it's coming out at some point in the fairly near future.

The next part of the adventure involved removing the T-BARS from the shocks and putting bearings in instead. This took me much longer than I would like to admit, profanities and vulgarities were a plenty, especially since I made the mistake of coating the shocks down in anti-seize per the manufacturers instructions and being absolutely covered in this silver goop. I had a few thoughts about how it looked like I had an inappropriate relationship with the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz. The procedure involved removing two snap rings, pressing out the t-bar, cutting out the bushing, inserting a snap ring and the bearing and then another snap ring. I actually almost called it a day at this point but after a little breather I got back to it.

Now it was time to toss the sway bar in. I need to double check the placement of this but if memory serves, it sits just below the crank pulley but over the cross member. Easy. Upper control arms go in easy, except for the drivers side where I stripped out the holes for the bolts. Shocks get mounted to the lower control arms BEFORE attaching to the subframe. So far so good. I figured that the new lower control arms would slide right up into place, align the holes and push the bolts through. NOPE, these things needed muscled in. I had the jack out there with a 2x4 kicking on this darn thing and trying to apply force to get it where it needed to be. I finally got it aligned and QA1 instructions have the bolts coming outside in with the nuts on the inside. I initially did this and realized it wasn't going to work for me because getting a washer and a nut onto the rear-most bolt which is INSIDE of the crossmember just wasn't going to happen, I was most certainly going to drop a bolt into the crossmember and my neighbors would soon be calling the police for the frequency and amplitude of vulgarities that would be coming out of my face...so I removed this bolt, forgetting that I had the washer on it and I dropped it inside of the crossmember. Now I need one of those magnetic things to try to fish it out. I just used a washer from the drivers side. Passengers side upper and lower installed, all that is left to do is drop the thrust bearing onto the shock, drop the coilover on, bolt up the shock and re-attach the spindle. Drivers side I got partially aligned and one bolt partially in before darkness struck and I decided to call it a night.

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Great choice on parts, glad that spring didn't decide to perform any dental or maxillofacial work on you. They're full of energy. Typically, they don't shoot too far, just cares the bejeezus outta you when it happens. Just ask Horschack :p. I wouldn't stress on the knurled area holding the bolt or the stripping of it. Just use a wrench on it when reassembling (as others here have stated) and you will never know the difference. Move on... don't lose sleep over it. Even though you're a jarhead, it's not FUBAR, so... live to fight another battle. (y)(y)(y):p:cool: Looks like this should be a nice build and a great handling car when you're done. Check out that Guildstrand mod for the upper control arm mounts. It makes a big difference. Many here have touted it as quite the mod to do and I've researched it myself to quite an extent and yeah, as soon as I have my front end apart, it's happening. Here's a link to some if you didn't see them already, and thanks for sharing! Lookin' great!

How Four Holes and a Bit of Time Can Dramatically Improve Your Car’s Performance in the Turns

Guldstrand Mod Templates
 

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1972 6 Cylinder Dragster :)
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Check out that Guildstrand mod for the upper control arm mounts. It makes a big difference. Many here have touted it as quite the mod to do and I've researched it myself to quite an extent and yeah, as soon as I have my front end apart, it's happening. Here's a link to some if you didn't see them already, and thanks for sharing! Lookin' great!

How Four Holes and a Bit of Time Can Dramatically Improve Your Car’s Performance in the Turns

Guldstrand Mod Templates
Custom Jim posted that in my "I did a stupid thing" thread. It looks interesting and actually now would be the time to do it if I were going to do it, it would fix my knurling problem too. Frankly, it just freaks me out. I mean it looks easy enough to do but with my luck, I would screw it up and the car would never drive straight ever again and probably would handle in a freakish way that would make me hate the fact I did it. Maybe I'll research it some more and see if I can actually make sense of it. Also stay tuned, rear suspension parts came in yesterday.
 

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Custom Jim posted that in my "I did a stupid thing" thread. It looks interesting and actually now would be the time to do it if I were going to do it, it would fix my knurling problem too. Frankly, it just freaks me out. I mean it looks easy enough to do but with my luck, I would screw it up and the car would never drive straight ever again and probably would handle in a freakish way that would make me hate the fact I did it. Maybe I'll research it some more and see if I can actually make sense of it. Also stay tuned, rear suspension parts came in yesterday.
Well, it's a totally straightforward conversion and, if you decide you totally jacked it up, you can always revert back to the old holes and keep driving, no worries :). I think you have the skills to perform the mod without a hitch. Just don't forget about that alignment... and with all the new QA1 parts, it should really wake up your handling!
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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Sorry for hijacking this thread... but I just wanted to point this out for those attempting the Guldstrand Mod AND using the stock upper control arms.

I have read that you may also need to trim away some of the upper control arm mounts (red circle) due to interference between the stock control arms and the mounts during control arm movement.
419284

I decided to go the easier... yet more expensive route to improve my Nova's handling. I installed new tubular upper control arms with additional positive caster designed into the arms... AND also installed 1/2" taller upper ball joints for improved negative camber gains.
  • NOTE: A cost effective compromise would be to remove the existing cross shafts in the stock upper control arms and install offset cross shafts in their place... along with installing 1/2" taller upper ball joints.
Which ever route one goes with the above suggestions, you should also install taller tie rod ends to reduce the bump steer with the improved suspension geometry.
 

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Adding to RifRaf's info, you may want to check the QA1 parts for that offset and see if the Guildstrand mod is even necessary. They may have already performed the changes into their LCA/UCA assemblies so no need to drill anything but your head... to let those demons out! :p :devilish:

Great advice @RifRaf Mike! Looks like more added to my build now too... So many things to consider when rebuilding for performance. Not just "BIG ENGINE, GO FAST, DON'T DIE!"

(y)(y)(y)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
you may want to check the QA1 parts for that offset and see if the Guildstrand mod is even necessary.
It looks like the Guildstrand mod is the cats meow for any sort of economy build, you get a lot of benefits for the time and effort to drill 4 holes. I guess my chief concern with all of this would be if too much positive caster could be a bad thing because with the Guildstrand mod you're getting more positive caster + QA1 design for more caster.

edit: I guess I don't know enough about this aspect of cars to know whether caster can be adjusted and this just allows for more of an adjustment or not. ALSO one thing I do not love about the Nova was the steering, it almost felt too snappy and too easy to oversteer. I stepped on it a little coming out of work and almost lost it in a turn. I would actually like a little more resistance. I don't plan on rally racing this car, if anything I'll drag it and cruise it at 55-65 occasionally for short hauls.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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I guess my chief concern with all of this would be if too much positive caster could be a bad thing because with the Guildstrand mod you're getting more positive caster + QA1 design for more caster.
If you are installing replacement upper control arms that provide additional positive caster, you do not want to do the Guldstrand Mod too. Too much positive caster can push the front tires too close to the fender's wheel opening.

Sorry if I missed it... but what QA1 front suspension system are you installing?
 
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