Detroit Speed Engineering Tubular Control Arms and Coilover Install on a 1969 Chevy Nova – Hot Rod04/07/2020
When it comes to updating the handing of classic American muscle cars, there’s no bigger buzz words on the internet than tubular control arms and coilover install. So, what’s all the hype about?
To find out, we upgraded the front suspension of our 1969 Chevy Nova with Detroit Speed Engineering’s Speed Kit 2 Front Suspension Kit, which we installed in conjunction with their Steering Service Kit. But, instead of just showing you the step-by-step install process—because that’s what their instruction manual is for—we are going to try and answer some common questions we see floating around the interwebs regarding tubular control arms and coilovers.
Pros and cons of tubular control arms
- More ridged than factory control arms
- Sleek, modern design
- Ability for upgraded ball joints and bushings
- More expensive than factory replacement control arms
- Can sometimes require other modifications to accommodate
Are control arms easy to replace?
Yes, control arms are relatively easy to replace because you only need basic tools. The most difficult aspect of replacing control arms tends to always be breaking loose the stubborn, old ball joints. You could rent or buy a specialty ball joint separator tool, or just use a really big hammer to shock them loose.
As far as timeframe, it would realistically only take about half a day to complete if you aren’t trying to make more modifications, like doing a disk brake conversion.
Why use Detroit Speed Engineering tubular control arms?
- They use billet instead of welded upper and lower ball joint pockets to resist stress fractures
- Lower ball joint pockets are clearance for running big brake rotors.
- TIG welded assembly for more precision and clean appearance
- Delrin bushings with grease grooves to keep the grease in
- Stringent quality control between each step of the assembly process.
- More expensive than some other brands but you get what you pay for
How to install tubular control arms
Installing tubular control arms is a relatively straightforward process that begins with removing your brakes and stock spindles. The actual installation process of the tubular control arms can vary per application because every manufacturer is different. In our case, new Delrin bushings and ball joints came already installed in the control arms from Detroit Speed, which made life nice and easy.
If we had to pick an aspect of installation that was the most challenging on our 1969 Nova, we’d say just getting the lower control arm in place. But even then, all it took was a rubber mallet and some patience to get it lined up correctly so we could install the supplied bolts.
Detroit Speed coilover install
The main thing you need to know when installing Detroit Speed coilovers on your GM X-body car is that it requires the upper shock mounting hole to be drilled out a little bigger using a stepped drill bit.
Although we were installing the single-adjustable, variable ride height JRi coilovers as a part of Detroit Speed Engineering’s Speed Kit 2 Front Suspension Kit, they do offer them separately. That means you could to do the coilover shock conversion while maintaining your other factory suspension components if you wanted.
Because we were also planning to do a disk brake conversion, we ditched our stock drum brake spindles. We picked up a set of 2-inch drop, disk brake spindles from Performance Suspension Technology (PST) and installed them with the Detroit Speed upper and lower control arms.
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