From the very beginning, the whole point of our 1968 Nova project car was to see if we could equal the performance and handling of a late-model muscle machine without breaking the bank. In fact, that's one of the reasons we chose a Nova instead of a Camaro. In hashing out our suspension mods, we chose to retain the basic leaf-spring arrangement over a four-link conversion or IRS. For the engine, we chose a strong but reasonably priced Dart 400 SHP over an LS motor, and for the steering we came to the conclusion that a factory-style steering box would work just as effectively as a rack-and-pinion conversion. We can hear you say, "Whoa there, son!" Everybody knows rack-and-pinion is better. We say prove it. In this case, we were already familiar with Classic Performance Products' Series 500 steering box, which we installed on our Project Laguna in the Dec. '09 issue.
Meet Craig Chaffers, our R&D...
Meet Craig Chaffers, our R&D contact deep inside the Classic Performance Products organization. Here, Chaffers points out the centerlink in our old '68 Nova steering linkage-the only part we retained. The rest was junk.
What we learned from installing the CPP Series 500 box in the '75 Laguna is that this thing is super simple, and it feels great on the road and on the track. The first fact you need to know about the Series 500 box is that it bolts right into most GMs using the three chassis bolts from your existing box. (Besides our Nova, CPP also has it to fit '55-57 Chevy, '58-64 Chevy, Camaro, Chevelle, '73-77 GM A-body, and fullsize Chevy through 1970.) Even if you're swapping out all the worn-out, grungy steering components with the box upgrade (like we did), it's only going to take you half a day in your home garage. The second thing is that the CPP Series 500 only costs $379 versus $1,100 and up for a basic rack-and-pinion conversion. The thing that puts the Series 500 on par with a rack-and-pinion is that it's got a 14:1 steering ratio, making it the perfect compromise for street and track work, plus the feel on the Series 500 is absolutely fabulous. And let's not forget the full turning radius that most racks can't touch. We've spent plenty of time behind the wheel of the Series 500 in the Laguna at autocross and road race circuits, and we are amazed at how well it works. It was an easy choice to pick the Series 500 box for the '68 Nova, because we will be thrashing it just as hard on track!
CPP's Series 500 steering...
CPP's Series 500 steering box isn't the same one in your grandpa's car. Although it does feature a universal three-bolt GM bolt pattern and a 3/4-inch 30-spline input shaft, the ratio is much quicker at 14:1. It also features a modern spool valve for razor sharp steering response. The fluid lines are 11/16-18 and 5/8-18 inverted flare, making them leak free; CPP provides the necessary hose conversion fittings so your original-style hoses will work.
Whether you're replacing or rebuilding your steering box, it's a good idea to inspect and replace any worn steering components while you're at it. Our '68 Nova was a disaster, with worn-out endlink bushings, idler arm, and frozen corroded adjuster sleeves. Fortunately, CPP carries those pieces as on-the-shelf items, so we replaced those, along with the pitman arm, hoses, and rag joint coupler. With the exception of the centerlink, we replaced all our steering pieces; this is going to give us the confidence with our 43-year-old classic that we need when diving into a high-speed sweeper. Check out the installation photos for all the details, and watch as Craig Chaffers of CPP helps us in the rejuvenation.