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.
Tighten everything up, starting...
Tighten everything up, starting with the three chassis bolts, then the two bolts mating the rag joint halves, and finally the pinch bolt where the rag joint coupler slides over the input shaft. Once you've got that under control, put your pitman arm back on. Here, Chaffers is putting on a new one.
Here, you're looking from...
Here, you're looking from under the car up at the frame and firewall. You want to guide the rag joint coupler onto the steering shaft while lining up the three steering box holes with the corresponding holes on the frame. It goes without saying-make sure your steering wheel is straight and the sector gear/output shaft is reasonably centered before this step.
One piece you'll need to get...
One piece you'll need to get before installing the Series 500 steering box is a 3/4-inch 30-spline rag joint coupler. This will mate to the corresponding half already on the steering shaft. CPP sells these for $45 under PN RJC-730R. You'll want to slide it over the shaft before bolting the box in place on the Nova's frame.
The idler arm on the passenger...
The idler arm on the passenger side mimics the geometry and arc of the pitman arm on the steering box, keeping the centerlink parallel to the crossmember. While there's not a huge amount of stress on this part, it can cause a ton of problems if either of the two articulated joints gets worn. A new one from CPP is $49.
We cleaned and painted the...
We cleaned and painted the original centerlink, and bolted it back on. These pieces are pretty sturdy, and unless it's bent, it can be reused with no problem.
Replacing your tie-rod ends...
Replacing your tie-rod ends is a good idea if the joints are loose like ours were (top). We got new ones from CPP and assembled them with CPP's billet aluminum adjuster sleeves (PN ES350SP-AB, $69). These hexagonal-shaped sleeves make alignment tweaks much easier.
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT
|Series 500 power steering box
|Rag joint coupler
|Universal hose kit
|Inner tie-rod end
|Outer tie-rod end
|Power steering pitman arm
|Aluminum tie-rod sleeve kit
Replacing any part of the...
Replacing any part of the steering linkage will necessitate getting an alignment, but you'll be able to get it close enough by duplicating the lengths of the left and right side tie rods by comparing them to the original ones. Note that the inner tie-rod ends are left-hand threads, so it's a good idea to thread both sides in by a similar amount of turns.
A new set of hoses can be...
A new set of hoses can be a lifesaver at triple-digit speeds on a road course-especially if the alternative is a pair of swelled and cracked 40-plus-year-old hoses. We've had a high-pressure hose unload on us before, and it's no fun; CPP offers a universal set (PN CPUHK) for $55. Here we're clocking the side that attaches to the Series 500 box so that the hose lies flat when hooked to the pump.
You'll need an 11/16-inch...
You'll need an 11/16-inch line wrench to tighten the high-pressure line and a 5/8-inch line wrench for the low-pressure return side. These lines do not require any Teflon sealant, which could actually cause blockage down the line. Once you tighten the lines, top off the power steering pump reservoir with a high-quality power steering fluid (we like Royal Purple Max EZ in our projects).
Here's the completely updated...
Here's the completely updated and restored steering system on our '68 Nova after we tightened all the linkage points. All we need now is an alignment. Note the CPP 13-inch Big Brake kit-we'll be giving you all the details in a story real soon.
The fitting on the left is...
The fitting on the left is the original male fitting that attaches to the high-pressure feed side of the power steering pump. We're replacing it with the female fitting on the right; this will allow us to use CPP's universal hose kit.