When we picked up our new project car, a 1966 Chevy II that we have named Maxx Street (with the goal of building the ultimate street car), we just had to accept some things about it. The Chevy II wasn’t designed to be a real performer out on any type of track. Even dumping all the money in the world attempting to revive the stock style suspension will only get you so far. Something had to be done to help this car be able to hold its own out on the autocross track and drag strip. Chris Alston’s Chassisworks agreed and to help all Chevy II owners, they engineered an all new subframe that completely re-engineers the suspension on the front – in a 100% bolt in job.
We packed up our die grinders and welder for now, and got out a good set of Cornwell wrenches and set aside about two days time to install the g-Machine Subframe system onto our 1966 Chevy II. That’s not very much time when you consider the total package from the subframe, to a Willwood brake kit designed specifically for the g-Machine setup.
Our New Deuce
For those who haven’t seen the few updates we’ve already done on the car, our Nova will be receiving the 555ci Edelbrock/Musi crate engine that was previously installed in Project Grandma. To spice the motor up even further, Pacific Performance is assisting us on installing a few new goodies. It will be getting a new set of low compression JE pistons, Edelbrock’s new XT Heads, and a F2 Procharger to help light the tires of this light muscle car. Transferring power will be a TCI 6x transmission with 6 forward gears with out the need for a third pedal. Balancing the fuel, air, and spark distribution will be the one-two-combo of a FAST XFI and MSD ignition. We are aiming for around 850hp to the wheels on pump gas.
Chassisworks g-Machine Front Clip for the Chevy II
The Chevy II has been a popular car for the Pro Touring crowd thanks to it’s lightweight body, short wheel base, and willingness to accept lots of motor – but not with out some suspension work to go with it. Our infamous, and soon to be ProCharged, Edelbrock/Musi 555 BBC will provide all the ‘GO’ power it needs, but the suspension was an area of concern for us.
We found Chassisworks’ g-Machine Subframe system and were imminently impressed with the amount of technology built into it. While at first glance you can tell it is vastly different from the stock subframe, diving into the details reveals even more design differences that allow the Chassisworks subframe to improve the handling performance of the Deuce. Lino Chestang of Chassisworks explains, “the g-Machine system was specifically designed to handle the increased cornering and braking forces that modern Pro-Touring and open-track cars are capable of generating, and provide a number of other advantages. It also allows for quick and simple adjustments when using different alignment setups for specific race tracks or participating in a weekend autocross with your street car.”
This complete system has tons of info that we want to share with you, just not in one article. In this article we will cover all the subframe related components that leads up to installing the engine. In part two, we’ll cover the remaining steps including wheels and tires completing our upgrade, and oh yeah, and all 555 cubic inches of big block ProCharged power.
Here is the COMPLETE overview of what we used on our g-Machine setup: (Part Numbers)
Chassisworks g-Machine Subframe (7700)
Chassisworks g-Machine A-Arms (6153 & )
Chassisworks g-Machine Sway Bar (6154)
Chassisworks g-Machine Power Rack and Pinion w/Billet Rack Mounts (6140-215-1)
First and foremost, the most important thing to keep in mind about this subframe is the suspension design. Chassisworks started off with a clean sheet of paper when designing this kit. That means this is more than just a revised OE suspension geometry, it is an all new thought process. Let’s start at the base of this kit, the crossmember.
Instead of reusing the stock crossmember, Chassisworks made the call to use a brand new bent-tube, billet-component crossmember instead. The billet-component name comes from the billet steel parts integrated into the crossmember such as the steering rack mounts. They claim doing so ensures a rigid structure with greater strength and resistance to bending. The process starts with a single piece of 4×2 steel tubing that is mandrel bent on each end to form the base of the rest of the system.
Chassisworks adds slots for their billet-mounts that are interlocked before being welded into place. This small detail keeps helps prevent the medal from warping during the welding process, which would throw off alignment of the parts attached to them.
From there, Chassisworks adds their Billet Steel A-Arm Mounts to the crossmember. These CNC machined parts include threaded bosses at each end that accept screws to lock the pivot pins into place. Again using a slot-tab style of mounting, these cap off the end of the crossmember by fitting into tabs in addition to being welded all the way around.
The One-Piece Clevis Shock Mount is attached at the top of the A-Arm mount that includes a gusset across both the top and bottom for extra support. Chassisworks designed it to work with their complete line of VariShock coil-overs as well as the ShockWave air suspension thanks to its 1-5/16” wide opening and 1/2” mounting bolt hole.
The lower control arms are mounted in place to a one piece bar that runs the entire length of the control arm for added strength and support. To add an extra level of insurance, Chassisworks used the placement of the sway bar mounts on each side as support gussets of the lower control arm mounts. Just one small example of the engineering detail that went into this system.
Close up showing the sway bar mount acting as a gusset for the lower control arm mount.
Holding the power plant in place is their side-mount brackets. Chassisworks understands that engine swaps are common and has options for small blocks, big blocks, even LS engines all with or without motor plates. These come with the correct bolt hole for each engine already drilled out, and welded to the crossmember to maintain correct engine placement.
Forward of the crossmember, the subframe design is braced with the use of a fabricated frame horn that widens the frame rails for even more support where the forward struts connect as well as the bumper supports. It is here that Chassisworks places one of their Gemini Connector Systems on each side. This slip-fit joint uses a 5/16” socket-head screw to hold its two sides together. Besides letting everything be packaged into one nice clean box for shipping, it makes installation easy by breaking down the large subframe system into three easy to handle bits.
“Instead of going with a welded joint or bolt-on tabs, we use a CNC-machined male base that provides a larger contact area at the welded connection to the subframe rail,” Lino told us. “This not only creates a simple slip-fit joint that is significantly stronger than the tubing itself, but also takes advantage of the additional internal bracing within the subframe rail to create a rock-solid joint,” he added.
To eliminate any chance of chassis deflection froward of the firewall, Chassisworks uses 1-5/8” tubing for front struts to keep things in line. Besides bumping up the strength even more, they’re mandrel bent in just the right spots to route the tubes right against the inner fender. This gives you more room in the fender, while still leaving plenty of room in the engine compartment for a monster like our 555 BBC.
Bottom line here is the stock factory front clip is like most components unibody cars are built from. They’re flimsy, weak, and not suited for spirited performance driving. This Chassisworks front clip provides a quality base for which to install a performance suspension that you can trust won’t act like it’s made from soda cans.
The rest of the components all install onto the subframe which is why it is the most important piece to this puzzle. Let’s take a look at the rest of what is included as we install it.
We mentioned that this swap was a 100% bolt in job, and that you wouldn’t need a single special tool to make the change. This makes the system even more attractive as it doesn’t require years of welding or fabrication experience to install – Chassisworks does all those steps before the unit is shipped. What’s really amazing was the level of detail both in the parts and the instructions. There is nothing to figure out, or that isn’t in these instructions – these are some of the best we’ve seen.
The install started off with the removal of the stock parts. This was easily done without even pulling the wheels off. We first yanked the motor and transmission, along with the fenders and bumper, letting us simply unbolt the stock clip from the firewall and roll it forward.
Installing the Chassisworks subframe was even more painless. It only took eight bolts total to mate it to the firewall. We used a floor jack to both balance it, and lift it up to the car.
Next were the front struts that we first attached via the Gemini connectors. To mount these to the firewall, we had to measure the width of the shims used to align the stock clip. Chassisworks includes new shims that install the same way. We just matched the width of the stock spacers, and installed them accordingly.
The Gemini Connectors were easy to use and made installing the subframe a cake walk.
Starting to take shape, our Nova was already looking better.
With the foundation of our new front end installed, we moved onto the suspension itself. Chassisworks designed the g-Machine Subframe to accept their new g-Machine Control Arms.
There is tons of small technology packed detail in these arms that make them a better alternative to stock style suspension. Besides, once you make the jump to the g-Machine subframe, stock control arms will no longer bolt up to the car. Check out a few of the highlights on the lowers right after the next photo.
Chassisworks g-Machine Lower Control Arms (PN: 6152)
• Broad lower control arm increases load capacity and stability during braking and cornering.
• Longer lower control arm length reduces track-width change and roll-center movement during suspension travel for smoother transitions entering and exiting turns.
• Lower shock mount is located very close to the balljoint for better shock-motion ratio. A higher shock-motion ratio allows use of lighter, lower-rate springs for better suspension control without degrading ride quality.
• Includes mount for anti-roll bar and screw in ball joint.
These installed using the supplied bolts that threads into the lower mount. When done, the arm should stay in the same spot you leave it and not pivot down.
Chassiworks PN: 6153
The uppers are just as impressive as the lowers. Their advanced, rigid design has more advantages than you might first see. “The added bridge of the upper arm and diagonals on the lower reduce deflection throughout the arm, resulting in more immediate vehicle response and predictable braking and corner entry,” explained Lino.
Besides the billet eyebolts and double-adjustment couplers that give you an almost endless amount of adjustment, Chassisworks designed them to give the most possible clearance for large shocks such as the ShockWave air suspension and their Varishock Coilovers. It also has the right amount of positive caster built right into it thanks to an rearward offset balljoint. It is only about a 1/2-inch, but that different makes this control arm perform so much better than the stock control arm. It is stronger, lighter, plus it looks a heck of a lot better.
We easily and quickly assembled the upper control arms with all the supplied hardware, and made sure that both lengths of the rod ends of each arm were exactly the same. Even though we will soon be aligning the suspension, we wanted to make sure we had a good starting place.
Up next were the spindles (PN:6186), where once again Chassisworks found another area to improve upon the stock offering. Starting out with a state-of-the-art finite element analysis software, they looked at the molecular level to see where they could improve the design. This resulted a 2-inch drop spindle that is actually taller than some of the more commonly used OE spindles. That gives a quicker camber curve for cornering as well as a lower center of gravity. “The spindle height and axle location work in conjunction with the control arm geometry to offer improved negative-camber gain and lower ride height than what is typically found in OEM designs,” adds Lino.
They install just like every other spindle, with two castle nuts and the same amount of cotter pins to lock them in.
From there it was time to add the steering rack (PN: 6140-215-1). Anyone that has ever owned a Nova, regardless of year, can attest to the issues with the stock setup. Chassiworks does away with all of these issues with their g-Machine Power Rack and Pinion. This setup not only adds the modern touch of power steering in the compact package of a rack and pinion, but the subframe relocates the steering system to the front of the crossmember. That leaves you plenty of room for large sump oil pans behind the crossmember. It also leaves you plenty of room up front as well. The hard lines are routed as close to the rack body as possible that Chassiworks combines with a low-profile rotatable banjo fittings give you a compact package with great performance.
Mounting the rack is just as nifty. Chassisworks uses their own billet aluminum assembly (PN: 6139-215-2 ) to hold the rack in place. Besides being a simple bolt in job to attach the rack, the design promotes being able to clock the rack in an almost endless amount of positions. This results in the ability to point the input shaft of the steering rack in the perfect position to clear things like exhaust without the overuse of U-Joints.
The different angles you can set the input shaft for the steering rack are endless.
To kick off the alignment process, we then installed Chassisworks’ included shock simulators. These simple bars help so much when it comes time to align the system. The holes are positioned perfectly to hold the suspension at ride height, even when the car is in the air.
Again turning to Chassisworks’ awesome set of instructions, we performed the necessary steps to insure that the car was sitting level before following each step in the book to align the suspension. This is an important process that should not be skipped, and besides, right now is the easiest time you will have aligning your car.
With the alignment complete, we were ready to move on to the antiroll bar. Chassisworks included one of their g-Machine 1”-diameter Antiroll Bars (PN: 6154) for use on our Deuce. The design uses short style end links that let the performance effects of the bar be more linear and predictable – two words not normally associated with the Chevy II. It is held on the to crossmember with another beautiful looking billet mount and a graphite-impregnated black urethane bushing to keep things moving smoothly.
Once the sway bar was installed, we could remove the shock simulators and install the real things. First, we had to assemble the shocks. We’ve dealt with Varishocks before and are still impressed with their quality and ease of assembly. Chassisworks recommended their part number VAS 11222-425 shocks for our application. They features the same great qualities as every Varishock including improved heat dissipation and fluid control.
What really got us was it is equipped with their Quickset 2. This adds a double-adjustable feature to the already stout shock. The two knobs at the base of the shock, one controlling compression or bump, the other handling rebound or extension, work together to provide 256 different adjustment points to dial in the setting that works best for your vehicle.
Over that, we added Chassisworks’ Varisprings of the 9-inch length configuration. These 650 lb/inch springs will be just what our Nova needs according to Chassisworks, but if we even want to go back and change them, they are labeled right on the spring to let us know which ones we have on the car, and they can be quickly changed the same way they were built.
Having the spring rate on the spring sounds like a small thing, but when you build up to a box of them, it comes in handy to know which ones you got.
Installing them into chassis took only two bolts per side and they were in.
The complete suspension and subframe assembly.
Here’s a close-up of the installed spindle and suspension assembly before we added the brakes.
With the suspension handled, we moved onto the brakes. Chassisworks recommends and sells Wilwood rotors and calipers for the installation using their billet aluminum hubs and hats. Starting with the rotor, Wilwood choose to go with their SRP Drilled Performance Rotor for use with the g-Machine System. We agreed because we knew that it featured a directional cross drill and slot pattern on the surface of the rotor to help prevent brake fade from heat. “The rotors used in the Alston g-Machine system where specifically matched to that system,” says Michael Hamrick of Wilwood, “It gives you that big brake look, with lots of performance to go with it.”
Before installing them on the car, we had to mate the Wilwood rotor to the Chassisworks hub. This was done using the supplied bolts. Then the rotor was attached to the spindle with plenty of grease on the wheel bearings.
Providing the clamping power for the front brakes is Wilwood’s Billet Narrow Superlite 6R Radial Mount 6-piston Caliper. “The size of this caliper lends it to be used in tight fit applications normally associated with big brake conversions,” says Hamrick, but there were a few other reasons we were happy to see Chassisworks select them for their kit. Each caliper has six of Wilwood’s Termlock pistons, a multi-part piston design that boasts creating a thermal barrier between the caliper body and the pads. That means a longer service life and less pedal fade to go along with the even pad wear qualities known to be associated with six piston brake set ups.
We easily installed these onto the front of the new subframe with the included Chassisworks caliper brackets to bolt them onto the spindle.
The caliper also features easy to remove bridge bolts, that will allow us to swap out the brake pads, without removing the calipers from their mount. Remember, brake pads are an excellent brake adjustment to make, but many people shy away from doing so due to the amount of work it takes to swap pads. Wilwood knows how important it is to be able to ‘tune’ your brakes and wanted to give the user the best chance to make that change.
With the new subframe installed, our ’66 is starting to look more and more like a serious street machine with every bolt tightened. Overall, we were really impressed with the Chassisworks g-Machine System. The fit was exactly as described, and the function of every little piece will help our ’66 be one step closer to cutting the cones out the autocross track.
Sneak peak on what is to come in the next article.
While that might seem like a lot of work, it was really nothing. Thanks to the 100-percent bolt-in job, the entire process went along quickly and smoothly. With day one complete, up next we will wrap up the install of the Chassisworks G-Machine Subframe System by installing the engine, fenders, and a prime set of Billet Specialties Wheels to get this Nova rolling again.