Detroit Speed 1968-’74 Nova Mini-Tub Installation
Going deep to make room for Pro Touring rubber
As the nation’s strategic reserve of first-generation Camaros continues to dwindle and drive up prices, the X-body–based 1968-’74 Nova offers an affordable and competent alternative for Pro Touring builders.
In fact, they’re dynamically similar. Comparing ’68 models, the Nova’s 111-inch wheelbase is 3 inches longer than the Camaro, while a little additional junk over the trunk gives it about a 5-inch-longer overall length than its F-body second cousin; but the cars have comparable track widths, along with similar suspension systems: traditional coil springs/A-arms in the front and leaf springs in the rear. And each features a unitized body structure with the engine and front suspension mounted to a bolt-on subframe.
They also share the same challenge when it comes to laying down a bigger footprint. Half a century ago, a 15-inch wheel riding on F70-series rubber was about as big as it got. That’s about 8 inches wide, while the 325-series tires on the sixth-gen Camaro ZL1 measure nearly 13 inches in width.
That’s the sort of tread width that’s popular these days in the still-growing Pro Touring movement, where contemporary performance capability is matched with immutable vintage style. Mini-tubs for the rear wheels are typically the solution to maintaining the careful balance of modern and classic. When it comes to most popular GM platforms, including the early X-bodies, Detroit Speed, Inc. has been the go-to source for chassis and suspension upgrades, as well as the mini-tubs to keep it all tucked neatly inside the quarter-panels.
If you’re even a casual observer of the Pro Touring trend, we’re not telling you anything you didn’t already know; but while most projects are focused on the fashionable F-bodies, we decided to delve into the installation on a Nova. Based on the structural similarities of the F- and X-body, it’s not surprising that the installation procedures are largely the same.
Detroit Speed’s mini-tub kit for 1968-’74 Nova models (and other GM X-bodies) provides enough rubber room for 315-series tires, which is right around 12.4 inches; and includes a shock absorber mounting crossover, replacement rear leaf springs, offset shackles for the springs, shocks, and related hardware. The kit also allows the use of the stock-type staggered shock arrangement or a custom symmetrical arrangement.
We’re focused strictly on the tubs and shock crossover installation in this story. But make no mistake; there is real sheetmetal surgery involved here. It’s not for the novice and we’re telling you right up front that it would be nearly impossible to show every cut, trim, and weld involved with it, but we’re providing a good overview of the major steps involved, including notching the framerails.
The kit includes directions and there are great, detailed videos on Detroit Speed’s website: detroitspeed.com. Watch them before you pick up that plasma cutter or fire up your welder.
There are a couple more things to keep in mind before jumping into this project. First, the original fuel tank cannot be reused. It simply won’t fit between the wider wheeltubs, necessitating an aftermarket or scratch-built replacement. Second, it’s a good bet that after the tubs are installed, the rear seat will need to be modified for the bottom cushion to fit.
Finally, Detroit Speed’s recently introduced heavy-duty leaf spring pocket kit is a smart upgrade. It adds reinforcing strength that’s a must in higher-powered vehicles and those that really spend much of their time carving corners at speed.
The mini-tubs kit lists for $1,820, while the upgraded spring pocket kit costs another $411, making the parts investment in the project comparatively inexpensive, at least in the grand scheme of a full-tilt Pro Touring build. It’s a labor-intensive project … very labor-intensive. That means if you’re having a professional shop handle the surgery, expect perhaps two full days’ worth of labor charges, maybe more.
That’s the price of Pro Touring today, but to run with the big dogs on the track you need the paw prints to match, and these tubs give you the room for them. CHP
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