1970 Chevy Nova Air Ride Suspension - Pod Racer
Thanks To A Trick Pod Full Of Goodies, Installing An Air Suspension System Is Now Easier Than Ever.
From the November, 2008 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Stephen Kim
Photography by Courtesy of the manufacturers, Robert McGaffin
In the words of Al Gore, "The debate is over." Fortunately, the line we're plagiarizing from the former VP isn't in reference to apocalyptic global meltdown. That assumes men who went potty in outhouses had the technical aptitude to precisely measure global temperatures within a fraction of a degree, and how could any rational person argue with Al on that one? What we are talking about is air suspension systems. They flat out work. Just ask chaps like Boris Said and Scott Pruett, a couple of the best professional road racers America has to offer, who can't stop raving about the virtues of air suspension after flogging the snot out of Air Ride Technologies' stable of project cars. If you're the seeing-is-believing type, drop by a Goodguys Rod & Custom Association event sometime, where you'll see one of Air Ride's g-Machines handing musclecars and late-models their coil springs on a platter at the autocross.
To put it succinctly, air suspension systems offer several advantages over traditional mechanical springs. While mechanical springing is achieved through the elasticity of the metal, air is what provides the springing in an air suspension. Since air becomes stiffer the greater it is compressed, it is very progressive in nature. Consequently, the dynamic gyrations of air springs are far less severe than their mechanical counterparts, which results in improved ride quality. Furthermore, with the luxury of onboard air tanks and compressors, the spring rate in air suspension systems can be tuned at the touch of a button by adding or removing air. No such luck with coilovers.
Traditionally, as Air Ride's Bret Voelkel readily admits, the two biggest drawbacks of air suspension have been cost, and a time-consuming installation process. Although it will take some time before the popularity of air suspension grows enough in popularity to significantly impact pricing, Air Ride has hacked 10-15 hours off of a typical installation procedure with its new AirPod. "The vast majority of our tech calls relate to installing the compressor system," explains Bret. "People ask how and where to mount the compressor, solenoids, and air tank all the time. The plumbing and wiring aspect of the install, along with preventing air leaks, is also a top concern with our customers."
Which Pod's For You?
The AirPod comes in four different configurations, so which one's right for you? The biggest differences between the various units are the size of the tanks, and number of compressors. AirPods with 3-gallon air tanks have one compressor, while 'Pods with 5-gallon tanks have two compressors. "The only advantage of the larger unit is that it can raise a car more quickly," explains Bret Voelkel. "On a heavier car like the Chevelle RS, we went with the larger unit, but since SuperNova is lighter, the 3-gallon system works fine." Additionally, both 3- and 5-gallon systems can be equipped with Air Ride's RidePro or LevelPro electronic compressor control systems. -Stephen Kim
The solution is the AirPod, which combines all of the compressor hardware along with the air tank into a single integrated assembly. It comes preplumbed, prewired, and pretested. "A typical air suspension system has roughly 24 air and wiring connections to make," explains Bret. "We've eliminated all but four of them. With the AirPod, all you have to do is bolt the assembly to the car, connect four air lines, hook up three wires, and you're done. It saves a good day and a half of the labor." We briefly hit upon the prototype AirPod that was installed on Air Ride's '70 Chevelle RS (see "Good Gyrations," April 2008). This time around, we've got an exclusive first look at the first production unit, which was installed on the company's new '70 Nova project car. In addition to details on the full air suspension system that was bolted to the Nova, here's a look at how to get all podded up.
|System: ||Dimensions: ||Weight: ||Part Number: ||Price: |
|3-gallon AirPod w/RidePro ||20x12x9.5 ||24 lbs ||APOD4000E2 ||$1,895 |
|3-gallon AirPod w/LevelPro ||20x12x9.5 ||24 lbs ||APOD4000L ||$2,395 |
|5-gallon AirPod w/RidePro ||32x12x9.5 ||29 lbs ||APOD4100E2 ||$2,095 |
|5-gallon AirPod w/LevelPro ||32x12x9.5 ||29 lbs ||APOD4100L ||$2,595 |
The Best Giveaway Car Yet
Just call him a philanthropist. Giving away a car as nice as Air Ride's '70 Chevelle RS-which was featured in our July issue-is plain nuts, but Bret Voelkel is doing it again with his company's '70 Nova. While the Chevelle was quite the machine, Air Ride's sequel, dubbed SuperNova and also built by Precision Coachworks, may be just a smidgen better. "Goodguys liked the Chevelle so much, they asked us to build another giveaway car for them," says Bret. Originally a 307 car shifted by a Powerglide, SuperNova now boasts a 615hp World Products 427ci LS-series crate motor. "It makes as much power as the 540 big-block we put in the Chevelle RS, but the fact that it weighed 200 pounds less was an enticing proposition. That much horsepower coupled with the weight savings has to be a good thing." In fact, according to Bret, the Nova had no problems showing the Chevelle RS its hiney during an impromptu freeway sprint. Likewise, to live up to Air Ride's reputation of building track-proven g-Machines, it sports tubular front control arms, a four-link, an Air Ride ShockWave air suspension, 13-inch Wilwood brakes, a paddle-shifted Bowler 4L65E trans, and an AirPod in the trunk. Visual kick comes courtesy of Intro wheels, a slick yellow and matte-black paint scheme, narrowed bumpers, and custom fender vents. The Nova will be given away at the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, on the weekend of July 10-12 in 2009. There are three ways to win: Join Goodguys, submit your car into any Goodguys event, or mail in an entry form available online at www.good-guys.com. Stay tuned for future articles featuring SuperNova. -Stephen Kim
Designed to fit all '68-74...
Designed to fit all '68-74 Novas, Air Ride's nonparallel four-link rear suspension (PN ABAR20800, $2,054) was installed on SuperNova. Installation is a 95 percent bolt-in affair, and the only parts that need to be welded are the upper control arm mounting ears, which attach to the rearend housing. The kit includes tubular upper and lower control arms, Shockwave spring/shock assemblies, and an upper cradle that serves as an attachment point for the upper control arms and air springs. Although it's almost indistinguishable visually to a first-gen Camaro rear suspension, the setup is not interchangeable between the platforms. Air Ride offers a nearly identical four-link system for F-bodies (PN ABAR20100) for the same price.
It may look like a daunting...
It may look like a daunting pile of parts, but installing the four-link kit is very straightforward. After removing the factory leaf springs, bumpstops, shocks, and tailpipes, Air Ride removed the pinion snubber and mount with a cutoff wheel. Next, the upper support cradle was positioned into place by using the bumpstop bolt hole in the frame as a guide. Finally, a series of holes was drilled using a 5/16-inch bit, and the cradle was bolted into place with 3/8-inch self-tapping bolts.
Here's a trick worth noting....
Here's a trick worth noting. To help position and support the rearend while bolting the control arms into position, Air Ride fabbed a stock of steel and bolted it to the spring mounts. The factory upper shock bolts, bumpstop bolts, U-bolts, and front leaf spring mount and bolts were all reused. With a mono-leaf car, the billet ShockWave mount should be bolted to the lower holes on the axle bracket. On a multileaf car, the ShockWave mount should be positioned flush with the axle bracket. This Chassisworks Fab 9 rearend housing came with the control arm mounting ears already in place, eliminating the need to weld up the ears that Air Ride supplies.
Common sense goes a long way...
Common sense goes a long way when routing air lines, and applying thread sealant to the air fitting will help eliminate leaks. Air Ride also suggests routing the lines away from heat, sharp edges, and moving suspension components. A quick and dirty method used by many hot rodders is simply attaching the lines with zip ties to fuel or transmission lines.
The AirPod can be mounted...
The AirPod can be mounted just about anywhere in a vehicle as long as it's protected from the elements. Air Ride opted to build a trick base for this unit, but the AirPod can be mounted directly to the trunk or any other flat surface with either self-tapping screws or bolts. Knowing a thing or two about optimizing the polar moment of inertia, Air Ride positioned the 'Pod in the center, and as far forward in the trunk compartment as possible.
The prewired AirPod assembly...
The prewired AirPod assembly eliminates the need to mount and wire the solenoids and compressors separately. Consequently, feeding juice to the system is a simple three-wire hookup. The red wire from the plug-and-play harness connects directly to the battery, while the yellow ignition wire connects to a switched ignition source, and the black wire serves as the ground. It's preferable to position the fuse in the hot wire as close to the battery as possible. A 10-gauge-or-larger wire should be used if the power wire needs to be extended. Afterwards, the molded plastic cover can be attached to the base.
Further simplifying installation,...
Further simplifying installation, the AirPod features DOT-approved push-to-connect-style air fittings. Firmly pushing the line into position secures it, and releasing the line is as simple as pushing the collar on the fitting downward. To prevent leaks, cutting the lines as straightly as possible with a razor or tubing cutter is recommended. The fittings, from left to right, are for the right-front, left-front, right-rear, and left-rear springs.
The only five remaining connections...
The only five remaining connections at this point are for the four plug-and-play harnesses for the ride height sensors (white), and the plug for the onboard electronic air pressure controller (black). Again, from left to right, the white connectors are for the right-front, left-front, right-rear, and left-rear spring LevelPro sensors.
For ease of serviceability,...
For ease of serviceability, the AirPod's air and electrical connections can be accessed with the cover in place.
Up front, Air Ride opted for...
Up front, Air Ride opted for a Chassisworks bolt-in front clip, which includes a robotically welded 3x4-inch square steel-tube subframe, tubular control arms, a front-steer rack-and-pinion system, 13-inch Wilwood brakes, a sway bar, and drop spindles. Chassisworks also offers your choice of small-block, big-block, or LS-style motor mounts in addition to optional motor-plates and mid-plates. The clip fits '68-72 Novas as well as '67-69 Camaros, and lists for under $1,600 without options. As for crossmembers, Chassisworks has one for just about every trans ever offered in a GM vehicle.
Although SuperNova runs a...
Although SuperNova runs a complete Chassisworks front clip and suspension, Air Ride offers a complete tubular control arm and air spring kit for both '68-74 Novas and '67-69 Camaros (PN SKW1033_LUCA; $1,646). The ShockWave spring/shock assembly features an anodized billet aluminum body, rugged Firestone Bellows, and 16-way adjustable shocks. The StrongArm control arms are built from CNC-bent .219 DOM wall tubing, and sport integrated sway bar mounts and optimized ball joint angles.
As with the rear springs,...
As with the rear springs, a dab of thread sealant goes a long way in preventing leaks. Note the gobs of clearance around the ShockWave assembly afforded by its compact design. The Chassisworks' unequal-length control arm design helps build maximum negative camber gain under compression. The coilpacks were relocated from the valve covers to inside the framerails to pretty-up the motor.
Should you decide to go the...
Should you decide to go the all-Air-Ride route up front, the company offers 2-inch drop spindles (PN SPINDLE1000; $299), in addition to front sway bars (PN SWA6400; $225) for X- and F-body Chevys.
Placed side by side with the...
Placed side by side with the compressor system it supersedes, the space savings of the AirPod become very obvious. The older system (PN ARC4000L) retails for $1,995, while the AirPod lists for $2,395. According to Air Ride, over half of its customers opt for the AirPod due to its compact dimensions and dramatically simpler installation process. Plus, with its molded cover in place, it just looks slick.
Every AirPod comes with an...
Every AirPod comes with an electronic controller that can be mounted in the cockpit for quick and easy air pressure adjustments. The system has three presets, and allows adjusting pressure to each spring individually. This flexibility lets the driver compensate for uneven passenger and luggage loads.
Air Ride Technologies
350 S. Charles St
Chris Alston's Chassisworks
8861 Younger Creek Dr.
Goodguys Rod & Custom Association