Recently, while standing around at a local cruise night, a friend inquired why we always arrived in the beater du jour rather than a certain project car he'd heard tons about, but never seen. We replied that there were "still some issues to be sorted out." What we really meant by that is "the thing is just miserable to drive." The suspension and steering are shot, and the brakes are sketchy at best. We're here to tell you, it doesn't matter how fast, loud, or shiny a car is, if it's a chore to drive you're much more apt to leave it in the garage.
Of course, there are dozens of "gotta dos" on the list for any project car that quickly eat up funds, but given any limited budget, we'd opt for suspension and chassis upgrades over paint and shiny stuff any day of the week. Forty years is a long time to ride on stock suspension, and when you toss more power and modern tires into the equation, a muscle car actually becomes less safe. As Brent Vandervort at Fat Man Fabrications put it: "You'll get in trouble quicker, especially when following a modern minivan that has brakes and handling twice as capable as your Super Sport. Upgraded suspension and brakes shouldn't be an option-they should be considered a
Safety aside, no matter how radical or basic the upgrade, there's nothing that can be done to a hot rod to increase the enjoyment factor like good suspension components. Trust us on this one; it can make the difference between a car that handles like your grandma's stock Chevy II or one that can match autocross numbers with a C6 Corvette. Whether you opt to work with the subframe GM provided or trade in for one with modern structural and performance engineering, you just gotta upgrade the suspension components to truly get the most out of your car.
Not surprisingly there's a myriad of options out there, and mild to wild, there's something that will fit any budget. We exhausted ourselves pulling together an exhaustive list of packages and components on the market designed to make significant differences in driving performance. Just like there's more than one way to cook an egg, there's not just one right way to make an F- or X-body stick a corner. Truth be told, the hardest thing you'll have to contend with is the decision over which company to go with as each differing philosophy is a massive step up in performance over stock. Our one real point of advice is to pick one company and go with it, or discuss your intentions with a tech adviser since not all systems will integrate seamlessly across brands.
The short, cold days of winter are still upon most of the country, but it won't be long before the steel and vinyl warming sun of spring will return and with it will come that familiar urge to get out and just drive. Are you ready? More importantly, is your ride?
We grouped '67-69 Camaros (F-body) and '68-'74 Novas (X-body) together in this suspension guide because aside from a few minor variations in boltholes and bumpstop placement from year to year, for all intents and purpose, the front subframes are the same. Actually, all '67-69 Camaros and Firebirds and '68-74 Novas, Omegas, Venturas, and Apollos are completely interchangeable. The engine frame mounts may vary, but all subframes will have the necessary holes to accommodate any Chevy, Pontiac, or B.O.P. engine option.
If you want to get super-duper nitpicky about your subframe identification, next time you're out trolling for parts: Early '67 subframes can be spotted by their lack of access holes inside the front rail to adjust the bumper bracket, and the bumpstop for the lower control arm is mounted on the subframe behind the shock. In '68, the bumpstop was relocated to the rear of the lower control arm, and in '69 it was moved again to the front side. As for the Nova series cars, most will be identical to '68-69 Camaro, however, '73 and '74 subframes have a slightly different position to the bumper mounting holes. It's easily remedied with a drill if you happen to find a good deal, though.
As for the rear subframe, the axle housing is the same length and is a direct swap between '67-69 Camaros and '68-74 Novas. The only issues that could arise are a difference in the front spring pocket due to minor disparity in the spring eyelets on mono- and multi-leaf springs, and the spring plates and shock mounts usually aren't interchangeable between multi- and mono cars, though we've heard that some later Novas are. Generally speaking, just about any rear package designed for a first-gen Camaro can be finagled into a '68-74 Nova. Full frames, however, are a different story. Be sure to talk to a tech at your supplier of choice about your plans before assuming anything.