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1970 2-Door Barn Find
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Discussion Starter #1
I have a '70 Nova and, when I got it, the frontend suffered from saggy springs, cracks in the A-arms and worn ball joints. I decided to replace the entire front suspension from Classic Performance catalog.

Tubular Control Arms
2" Drop Spindle
500 Series Steering Box
Complete Steering Linkage Package
HD Sway Bar
Even new Subframe Mounts

Now the car is smooth, stable, tight and rides great. The problem is the steering is twitchy at highway speeds. There is no slop in the steering wheel and it reacts instantly to the slightest input. But it has zero "on-center" feel or self-centering. It makes long distance trips tiring.

I have had it aligned twice; first to factory specs and the second time to maximize caster. The first was 1 degree caster. The second was 3.25 degrees. I had asked for 6 degrees but they said that was outside the range of adjustment.

Any suggestions?

Mike

P.S. I lowered the P/S pressure by half. I an feel the difference in a parking lot but it make no difference on the highway.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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3 degrees of positive caster should have given you good highway speed stability.... but 5-6 degrees of positive caster would have been better.

I'm curious what the alignment shop meant by "outside the range of adjustment". Did they provide an explanation?

Do you know what the camber was set to?
Can you also tell us if there are any alignment shims used on the cross shaft bolts towards the front of the car on both upper control arms.
  • It might be helpful if you could post some pics of each upper control arm attachment bolts... where the alignment shims are added (see example below). Be sure to reference the front of the car in each photo.
412096
 

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I think you’d be lucky to get 5 degrees of caster maximum with a stock suspension setup. I’m not sure if the CPP arms will offer any more caster then then what you could get above stock.

Sounds like you don’t have enough toe in for your liking. Long straight highway runs with a neutral to toe out setting can feel twitchy at speed. A little toe in should give you easier to live with highway manners.

Having all new suspension parts is a good thing but there is going to be a little bit of settling in as everything gets familiar with each other.. Give it 500-1000 miles and see how it feels..
 

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I have a 1996 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer that I have had since the late 90's. I put it in storage back then because it was too nice to use and had low mileage, and I wanted to preserve it for my retirement (along with several other vehicles)
About 2 years ago I decided to put it back on the road and drive it sparingly (maybe 50 miles a year)
On my 1st ride after all these years in storage, I hated driving it. There was no steering center, just constant correction which took all my concentration to keep it between the lines.
Driving on to my alignment "turn plates", I disconnected the tie rod ends and turned each front wheel left to right by hand. The drivers side felt harder to turn then the passenger's side, so I replaced the ball joints on that side. There was an immediate improvement in steering, but still was having difficulty staying centered without constant correction.
I decided to replace the passenger's side ball joints also and this brought it back to being an enjoyable driver!
I would never had thought that factory (non-greaseable) ball joints that had 45,000 miles on them would have made such a nice vehicle flat-out ugly to drive if it didn't happen to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm curious what the alignment shop meant by "outside the range of adjustment". Did they provide an explanation?
Shims change the position of the upper control arm. Removing the forward shims moves the upper ball joint toward the rear. As you can see in the pictures, all the front shims have been removed. He said if he added shims to the back, it would increase the caster but would throw the camber out of spec.
Do you know what the camber was set to?
I don't have the printout right now but both sides were close to 0 degrees.
Can you also tell us if there are any alignment shims used on the cross shaft bolts towards the front of the car on both upper control arms.
  • It might be helpful if you could post some pics of each upper control arm attachment bolts... where the alignment shims are added. Be sure to reference the front of the car in each photo.
Right Control Arm (forward is down)
Front 0 shims
Back 2 1/2 shims
412156


Left Control Arm (forward is down)
Front 0 shims
Back 1 shim
412157
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The aliments were done at Big O Tires. I don't know the name of the alignment system but it has a dedicated rack and uses lasers to measure all 4 wheels at the same time. It spits out a report which shows Before and After and what the factory specs call for. I set the darn thing down somewhere. I am going to look for it....

The toe-in suggestion sounds interesting. My manual says it should be between 9/16 In and 3/16 Out. That sounds like a pretty wide range. I am used to more like 1/8".

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I would never had thought that factory (non-greaseable) ball joints that had 45,000 miles on them would have made such a nice vehicle flat-out ugly to drive if it didn't happen to me.
All the front suspension is brand new so I wouldn't suspect anything worn or binding. I don't have any "turn plates" but I might look into getting a couple now...
 

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I have replaced all of the wear components on the front of my 65 Nova, and the springs many times to find the ride and drive height/feel I wanted. Some of the new components I've installed have already been replaced, because they were garbage quality China poo.
I have home-aligned my Nova probably 25+ times because spring changes, component replacements, control bushings settling. After every alignment, it is driven several times and goes back on the alignment plates with blocks of wood under the rear tires the height of the turn plates to have it sit level. I do this several times until the bushings find their "happy spot" and I get consistent readings. "The Tree Man" referred to these front ends as a "Gong Show", was 100% accurate!
I've replaced the control arm bushings 3 times trying different types, made my own camber lock-out plates, every idler arm set up available. I'm even contemplating installing ball bearing control arm bushings to try and get some sort of alignment consistency with this gong show, but I know that will end up with every pebble in the road feel will be transmitted right back into the car.
I've had several friends tell me to replace the complete front end with an aftermarket one, but my Nova is too rare to go that route. I look at it as a challenge, making this car steer half-way decent with stock components...

One thing I've learned about auto parts nowadays, is to question everything. If it's a replacement part, it's not going to last like an original so keep a close eye on it!

I feel that the other guys are correct leaning towards a caster issue, however, I would still make sure that the ball joints turn smooth with the car's weight on them. As the saying goes, leave no stone unturned!
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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Shims change the position of the upper control arm. Removing the forward shims moves the upper ball joint toward the rear. As you can see in the pictures, all the front shims have been removed. He said if he added shims to the back, it would increase the caster but would throw the camber out of spec.
The information provided by the alignment shop is correct... and based on your photos, they followed these procedures.
As Nova Thug mentioned earlier, the CPP arms may not offer any more positive caster than stock control arms, so... 3 - 3.5 degrees of positive caster is probably the best your going to get with maintaining a decent camber.

See if you can find your current alignment readings and get back to us with your actual camber and toe.
On a side note, never use the older, stock alignment specs when driving on radial tires.

Sometimes when you replace all of the front steering components, they will feel a little stiff at first (especially when the steering wheel is at center) ... until you get some mileage on them.
 

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Has everything ben lubed? I cant tell from the pictures you posted for sure, BUT your control arm pivot points show no grease.... I had a lot of issues with my front end and although the alignment was spot on, and it rode good It was twitchy and no on center feel. 20 minute with my grease gun and she's much better. Not as good as a modern car, but pretty close. I CRS the specs but I also made sure to use specs for radial tires vs factory bias specs. I do remember adding camber, I think around 1.5+. I did the alignment then got it checked.
GL
 

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Are you sure it is supposed to be “toe out”..? That sounds like a track or autocross type of setting.. Neutral to 1/16-1/8” “TOE IN” would be more like what I would expect to see for a street driven vehicle..

If it is Toe’d out like that it’s no wonder you have no center feel.. It’s looking for the next corner to carve.. Toe out is for faster turn-in. Think autocross, road corse, or slalom situations where the vehicle is pretty much constantly in a corner or transition. A toe out alignment facilitates that transition process by making the front inside wheel point into the corner more aggressively.. It won’t make for a stable straight line run or highway outing..
 

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Discussion Starter #13
See if you can find your current alignment readings and get back to us with your actual camber and toe.
Found the alignment report. This is what I am working with. The "Before" is what he aligned it to the first time. Green means it is within factory specs which are listed in the next column. The "Actual" is the results of his second attempt when I told him I wanted the maximum caster the suspension could provide. When I picked it up from him, he was very frustrated, saying that the suspension did not have enough adjustment range. Each time he made an adjustment to increase caster, it would throw the other settings way out of whack. The final adjustment was for the best caster without pushing camber too far out.

412168


The guy was older and seemed to be very experienced so I trust his opinion. So this is where I'm at.

From what I can see, I need to physically move the upper control arm to the rear to get more caster. I am toying with the ideas of either slotting the holes in the control arm shaft or relocating the bolts in the frame to get that movement. Both actions are pretty extreme and not without risk.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Just thought of another option... Find a slightly longer control arm. A longer control arm would require additional shims to get the ball joint back in place. More shims means more adjustment range.

Here's the kicker: How do I find a "slightly longer" control arm for a '70 Nova?

Mike
 

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In order to know how to get where you want to be is to know where you started. If you still have your original upper control arms you can an take some measurements and then measure what you have now. You need to measure the distance from the cross shaft to the ball joint this will give you the length of your arm. Next dimension you want is the offset of the ball joint on relation to the cross shaft mounting holes. Sometimes tubular control arms are just a tubular control arm with the same basic dimensions as the factory arms. These old cars typically had bad geometry from the factory. The factory upper arms are too long and the spindles are too short so as the suspension compresses the top of the wheel tilts out at the top going to positive camber. That no good deal if you’re going in a straight line but the suspension also compresses when going around a corner and when the body rolls to the outside of the turn the front outside suspension compresses and the wheel outside wheel cambers out at the top making that tires contact patch on the outside of the tire. This is a condition called understeer. You need to figure out what you have now and determine where you need to make the changes. Simply putting a longer control arm on probably isn’t going to get you the desired result. I suspect that would be a step in the wrong direction. Taller spindles or a taller 1/2” upper ball joint would be a way to improve the camber issues. 68-74 novas used the same short spindles and they all had same geometry as did the Camaro’s up to 1969. In 1970 the Camaro’s got a completely new front suspension built around new taller spindles. The A-bodies got the new spindles in 73 ant the X-bodies got the new subframe and suspension in 75.

Caster is great but it is no the biggest problem with the earlier suspensions. Camber and understeer is a bigger issue.. More caster doesn’t have as much of an effect on cornering. It will help improve the steering wheel return to center after cornering but that is not going to get you through the corner.
D8C67D28-67F2-43D3-AA82-0FB583EC1120.jpeg
54EB0E7F-6506-4CA3-9E82-6EDA772B86D6.jpeg
39EB99CA-3B6C-424C-99D8-17EA21E2FEC6.jpeg
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Caster is great but it is no the biggest problem with the earlier suspensions. Camber and understeer is a bigger issue.. More caster doesn’t have as much of an effect on cornering. It will help improve the steering wheel return to center after cornering but that is not going to get you through the corner.
Hmmm... Well, the control arm comparison isn't in the cards. I started this build over 2 1/2 years ago and the front suspension and subframe were the first things I tackled. The original control arms are long gone. But thanks for including the pictures. At least I'll have something to reference.

As for the spindles, since mine is a '70 model, I assume it came with the taller spindles. In any case, the originals were replaced with CPP 2" drop spindles. Just found an interesting note, these spindles are listed to fit 68-74 Novas and 67-69 Camaros so does that make them tall or short?

Caster is great but it is no the biggest problem with the earlier suspensions. Camber and understeer is a bigger issue.. More caster doesn’t have as much of an effect on cornering. It will help improve the steering wheel return to center after cornering but that is not going to get you through the corner.
Good to know but I am not building a corner-carver. It will be more long-distance touring so return-to-center is my priority right now.

One last question: What is the suspension difference between a '69 Camaro and a '70 Nova? I found control arms for 67-69 Camaros (they don't list the Nova) that have inserts which allow you to move the mounting holes in one of two positions. Could these arms fit the Nova?

Mike
 

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From what I can see, I need to physically move the upper control arm to the rear to get more caster. I am toying with the ideas of either slotting the holes in the control arm shaft or relocating the bolts in the frame to get that movement. Both actions are pretty extreme and not without risk.

Mike
Google for the "Guldstrand mod", this is both lowering and moving back the holes for the upper control arm. Pioneered back when teams were racing the '68-69 Z28 in Trans Am competition. Same front subframe is under the '68-74 Nova.
There are easy to download location templates online and from sources like Classic Industries.

'67-69 Camaro and '68-74 Nova fromnt suspension is all the same.
 

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I have had it aligned twice; first to factory specs and the second time to maximize caster. The first was 1 degree caster. The second was 3.25 degrees. I had asked for 6 degrees but they said that was outside the range of adjustment.
Results Posted
412191

I'm looking at the results of both of your alignment attempts... and I am only seeing a positive caster of 1.8°(left) and positive 2.2°(right). I do not see the 3.25° of positive caster that you previously mentioned.

It looks like the alignment shop was trying to stay within stock alignment specs for your car. I would have also told the tech to shoot for about .5° of negative camber... that would have also resulted in providing a little more positive caster. A negative camber of .5° will not hurt tire wear. I am not sure if the Toe listed is "In" or "Out"... but that is normally the last adjustment made after caster and camber are set.

You can do a quick check of your front end toe-in with a long tape measure... and if your tire has a straight tread profile similar to the image shown below.
You will need to make sure that your car is on a level surface, the tires/wheels are facing straight ahead. It is also a good idea to put the car in neutral and push the car back and forth a little bit to be sure the front suspension is in its normal position. Remember to put the car back in park (or in gear) before proceeding.
264289

Using the photo above as a guide... take the tape measure and hook it to one of the center treads on the front side of the passenger side front tire and measure across to the same spot on the drivers side front tire (red arrow and line). You may need to pick a lower spot on the tire tread so the tape measure will avoid suspension/frame components.
- Record your measurement to the closest 1/32 of an inch.

Now perform the same exact procedure, but measure the back side of the tire using the same tread spots to attach... and read the tape measure.
- Record your measurement to the closest 1/32 of an inch.

The difference between the front measurement and the rear measurement should be no more that 1/16"- 1/8" difference. The rear of the tire measurement would be the larger of the two for a "toe-in" scenario.
 

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Your spindles would be the short spindles unless your replacement 2” dropped spindles were tall 2” dropped spindles which do exist.. You can easily measure what you have. The outside distance from the top to bottom ball joint surfaces I believe the short ones are 7” and the tall spindles 8.75”.

The "Guldstrand mod" that Ericnova has referred to basically has a similar effect on the upper control arms as the taller spindles. It drops the cross shaft mounting points on the chassis to improve the Camber characteristics.
 
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