Modern Rodding TECH
1. Our objective is to remove the factory IFS and replace it with a more modern, better functioning system coupled with the latest in braking capabilities.
Double Upgrade title image

1. Our objective is to remove the factory IFS and replace it with a more modern, better functioning system coupled with the latest in braking capabilities.

Heidts Front Suspension and Wilwood Brakes Upgrades on a Tri-Five Chevy
By Tommy Lee Byrd Photography by Brian Brennan

e’re sure you can relate when we say an old car is never truly finished. There is always a way to continue refining and upgrading your project car. Such is the case with this ’56 Chevy Nomad, a mildly modified street cruiser that has plenty of miles under its belt. The car recently rolled into Hot Rods by Dean, and the intention was to upgrade its suspension and braking system. Although plans involve a complete front and rear overhaul, we’re focusing on the front in this installment and will cover the rear suspension upgrades in a future issue.

For this series of upgrades, the guys at Hot Rods by Dean called Heidts, as the Illinois-based company is known for its Tri-Five suspension components. With numerous options on the table, the Nomad would receive Heidts (PN CA-203-M) polished stainless steel upper and lower control arms, adjustable coilovers (PN CB-120), drop spindles (PN SP-002-A), and Wilwood Dynalite 12.19-inch disc brakes. This is a large improvement over the car’s existing setup, which consists of stamped steel lower control arms, generic tubular upper control arms, conventional coil springs, and ’80s GM disc brakes. While this setup offered many miles of service, it was time for an upgrade and the combination of Heidts and Wilwood parts were up for the task.

You can expect to install this collection of parts in a few evenings of shop time, as all the parts simply bolt in place of the originals. Obviously, painting and cleaning add to the time line, but you can expect a straightforward install with the components featured in this article. It made a huge difference in the stance and ride quality on this classic Nomad, and we’ll be ready to tackle the four-bar rear suspension soon.

View of '56 Nomad with tubular control arms and 80s GM discs
2. Our starting point for this project is a ’56 Chevy Nomad, which has already been upgraded with tubular upper control arms and ’80s GM disc brakes. Now it’s time to overhaul the suspension and brakes with Heidts and Wilwood components.
Bottle jack used to raise front suspension
3. Hot Rods by Dean handled the install and utilized a drive-on lift, but you can accomplish the same results in the floor of your garage. A bottle jack is used to raise the suspension and then the front tire and wheel can be removed.
Removing stock shock absorbers
4. Shock absorbers are a great place to start the disassembly process. The upper nut and two lower bolts are removed, and the shocks are lowered out of the control arms.
Removal of installed brake calipers
5. The ’80s GM disc brake calipers are removed, as well as the rotors to expose the aftermarket spindles. The caliper can be tied up out of the way to keep the fluid system sealed up until it’s time for the new calipers.
Air hammer used to break ball joint loose
6. Hot Rods by Dean utilized an air hammer with a fork attachment to break the ball joint loose. It’s a good idea to remove the cotter pin and loosen the castle nut, but do not remove the nut completely until the lower control arm is supported with a jack.
Lower control arm after spring removal
7. The coil spring is under a tremendous amount of pressure, so it’s important to support the lower control arm when the ball joints are broken loose. In this case, the lower ball joint can remain connected to the lower control arm.
Removing lower control arm and spindle
8. The lower control arm and spindle are removed as a unit. We’re retaining the sway bar and steering linkage that’s already in place, so these components can be lowered out of the way while we prepare for the new parts.
Installing new Heidts control arms
9. Heidts offers numerous lower control arm options, including raw steel and polished stainless steel versions. The control arms are also available with standard coil spring pockets, as well as provisions for coilovers.
Installing Heidts polished stainless steel control arm
10. We opted for the Heidts (PN CA-203-M) polished stainless steel control arm, designed for coilovers. The control arms bolt into the factory locations, using the provided grade 8 bolts and nylon locking nuts.
Heidts billet aluminum coilovers
11. Heidts billet aluminum coilover shocks (PN CB-120) provide ride height and ride quality adjustability. Specially designed springs fit the aluminum body shock absorber, while also fitting into the original upper spring pocket.
Installing coilover assembly
12. The Heidts coilover assembly fits nicely in the original pocket. The crew at Hot Rods by Dean have installed many of these kits, so they pre set the ride height before putting any weight on the coilover. You may need to adjust the ride height to your liking after the car is resting on the ground.
Lower bolts of coilover assembly
13. Using the provided grade 8 bolts and nylon locking nuts, the lower portion of the Heidts coilover is bolted into place.
Tightening upper coilover nuts
14. After the lower bolts are tightened, the upper nut can be installed and tightened. Since it is a locking nut, you’ll need to use an Allen wrench to hold the shock stud for proper tightening.
Polished stainless stell Heidts upper control arm
15. Heidts offers four upper control arm options, and we went with the polished stainless steel version (PN CA-201-SS-6) with an additional 6 degrees of caster built into the arm. We also upgraded to Heidts ball joint caps (PN CA-210) for a nice finishing touch.
Test fit of upper control arm
16. The upper control arm simply slides onto the original studs on the upper frame mount. The cross-shaft bolts are installed hand tight and will not be tightened until the car is sitting at ride height. Tightening the bolts with the suspension unloaded can result in damage to the bushings.
Wilwood front spindle
17. Since our parts selection included a Wilwood brake system, we chose this optional front spindle (PN SP-002-A), which is a 2-inch drop spindle designed specifically to work with the Wilwood brake kit. Heidts also offers spindles to work with GM caliper brackets.
Bottle jack used to compress suspension
18. As the assembly process continues, the bottle jack is once again used to compress the suspension. This allows for easy installation of the spindle. Once the castle nuts are tightened, the cotter pins are installed.
Machined brake hub
19. Now the guys at Hot Rods by Dean can begin assembling the Wilwood brake system, a Dynalite Front Brake Kit with 12.19-inch vented rotors (PN 140-12306). It all starts with this beautifully machined hub.
Threading wheel studs and greasing wheel bearings in brake hub
20. The assembly process starts by threading the wheel studs and torquing them to 77 lb-ft and packing the wheel bearings with grease.
Mating brake hub, hat and rotor
21. With the rotor clamped in a vise, the hub, hat, and rotor can be mated with the provided hardware. Wilwood suggests using red Loctite 271 on the threads and then torquing the rotor bolts to 25 lb-ft. Then, the hub bolts are torqued to 45 lb-ft in an alternating sequence.
Brake castle nut
22. After packing the outer wheel bearing with grease and sliding the keyed washer in place, the castle nut can be installed. Tighten until you feel tension on the rotor and spin the rotor a few times to seat the bearings, then back off slightly until you can slide the cotter pin into place.
Test fit of new Wilwood calipers
23. The Wilwood calipers bolt to the provided caliper bracket; it’s important to note that shims are provided to ensure proper centering of the caliper and rotor. Before sliding the pads into place, measure the distance and shim accordingly.
Reattaching tie-rods and steering arm
24. Now, the rest of the steering and suspension pieces can be re-installed to the new Heidts and Wilwood components. Here, the existing tie-rod end is fit into the steering arm and fastened with a castle nut. The cotter pin can now be installed.
New endlink and bushings
25. One of the final reassembly steps is bolting the existing 1-inch sway bar to the new tubular control arms. New endlinks and bushings provide a firm connection to complement the new suspension setup.
Fully assembled new brakes and calipers
26. Finally, the brake flex hose can be installed on the new caliper and the system can be bled and checked for leaks. The threaded Wilwood dust cap is the finishing touch on the upgraded disc brakes.
Test fitting wheels on new brake assembly
27. The Wilwood 12.19-inch rotors fit some 15-inch wheels, so it’s always a good idea to measure your wheels and compare them to Wilwood’s illustrations. Luckily, this wire wheel and wide whitewall from Coker Tire fits nicely over the new brake system.
'56 Nomad on new brake and suspension assembly
28. With the car sitting on the ground once again, we can check out the new ride height and enjoy a testdrive around the block after double-checking all the hardware. This ’56 Nomad is ready to ride!
(800) 841-8188
Hot Rods by Dean
(800) 362-9709
Wilwood Disc Brakes
(805) 388-1188
(800) 841-8188
Hot Rods by Dean
(800) 362-9709
Wilwood Disc Brakes
(805) 388-1188
Modern Rodding

VOLUME 3 • ISSUE 26 • 2022