X-body Novas like our Project Swinger were designed with a uni-body construction. This means the rear frame rails were integrated into the body, with an independent front sub frame attached at 6 points to the body with rubber bushings. Body flex and age causes deterioration in these bushings that lead to lack of steering response, more body flex and the annoying SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL of a worn out car old Muscle car.

In this article on Street Legal TV – we are going to review how to correctly change body bushings. We used an excellent set by Energy Suspension – Polyurethane bushings, and we’ll discuss the improvements we expect as we prep our ride for a complete Air Ride front and rear suspension.

We chose Energy Suspension polyurethane body mounts. Other options include the stock rubber replacements – which will distort for Pro Touring applications such as ours, or Aluminum, which has been a popular option but can be a little rough for daily driver street use.

We chose Energy part #ENS-3-4142R for our 1971 Nova X-body. You can download the instructions here.

THE PROJECT CAR – Project Swinger

We’ve got some really huge plans for our Swinger project car. In every sense the 1971 Chevy Nova two-door sedan is an everyman’s car. It came to us with a license plate that read SWINGER, and the name seemed to fit, so we kept it as the Swinger project. One can only imagine the action that took place in the back seat of project car. I know, you’re wondering if you could get three or four bodies in the back seat. Not to worry, she came with a front bench seat as well.

Future mods include:
• Complete Air Ride Suspension
• Currie 9-inch Rear End Conversion
• Stainless Steel Brake Upgrade
• LS3 Corvette Engine from GM Performance Parts
• 6 Speed Manual Transmission

Typical of the “Swinger” stereotype, our project car had been reupholstered in a gaudy, semi-brothel type fashion. On the floor was shag (no pun intended) carpeting and the side paneling was covered with a fuzzy type fabric. We wasted no time pulling out the Heidi Fleiss interior.

The exterior was in equally appalling condition. The body tub was listing to the front right (worn body bushings), plus it squeaked and rattled when it moved, much like the legendary swinger Hugh Hefner must sound in this stage of life. Unless you’re a plumber or a wanna be rap star, a sagging wardrobe that shows more than most people want to see is not a good thing. Come to think of it, even if you’re a plumber or rapper, sagging clothes registers “bad” on the good/bad meter.

Rust Never Sleeps – analyzing our Muscle Car

Currently the project car is completely stripped. The brothel interior has been removed, the worn out 350 engine and transmission have been scrapped, and every piece of electrical wiring removed. Completely exposed, we could now take a better look at what we had to work with. The floorboards were rusted through in the Driver and passenger’s foot well area. Not surprisingly, the suspension was pretty worn, and technology had passed this ole gal long ago.

If you are interested in restoring your own Muscle Car, you need to start with a real hard look at what you are starting with. Your chassis, floor boards, frame rails, and yes, your body bushings that attach your frame to your body, are your foundation for your project.

Since the majesty of this muscle car seemed to have been stripped away, (tore up from the floor up comes to mind), we decided to start with a solid foundation. Classic Industries manufacturers all the replacement parts that we would need to bring our Nova back from it’s decent into decadence. We also contacted our friends at Air Ride Technologies and ordered a complete Air Ride Suspension for our would be cruiser.

However, before we started replacing our floorboards (and both sides needed replacement badly) and attaching the Air Ride Goodies, we needed to take a look at the body bushings as well as the areas where the body bushings attach.

The Nova’s were ugly. Tore up.

The Plan

To start the build, we knew that we had to replace the front sub frame bushings that groaned every time the car was moved with the Energy Suspension pieces. Much like cartilage acts in the human body where two bones are joined, the body bushings align the parts and cushion the metal to metal contact. To install the new suspension without changing the body bushings is like not washing your hands after you use the bathroom. Repulsive to say the least.

How to Change Body Bushings

When talking about suspension bushings, one of the first names that comes to mind is Energy Suspension.

A trip to the local parts store will bear out the fact that Energy Suspension seemingly makes performance bushings for any and every type of vehicle. Mike Papazian, sales director for Energy Suspension, explained “we’ve been manufacturing bushings for everything from tractor trailer rigs to street cars since the early 80’s. The reason we are able to produce polyurethane bushings that are flexible yet durable enough to withstand harsh driving conditions is our proprietary formula used in manufacturing our bushings.”

We’ve used their motor mounts and other goodies before and were very impressed. So they got the nod with the Project Nova build.

We managed to get a set of body bushings, and some other goodies that we will install later with the Air Ride Suspension upgrade. The body bushings were a priority however, as we needed to get rid of the deteriorated stock rubber bushings that were causing our sagging and moaning.

The best method for changing the body bushings on a vehicle with a separate front subframe (i.e. Firebird, Camaro or Nova) is to loosen all six sub frame mounting bolts.

This will take some effort as the bolts will have been exposed to harsh environmental conditions for several years. A penetrating fluid like PB Blaster, liquid wrench or WD-40 should be applied liberally (and I mean LIBERALLY!!!).

Cover the bolts and nuts with copious amounts of the penetrating fluid and let it set for about 15 minutes before even attempting to loosen them.

Once all six mounting bolts were loosened, we lifted the driver’s side of the car to attack the three bushings on that side. Because the car is uni-body construction, you’ll need to lift it by the body tub.

The best maintenance practice for lifting by the body is to use a floor jack with a fairly good sized wood two by four to spread the lifting load.

Just putting the jack on the body is asking for floor pan damage. We then started to remove the body bushing hardware on that side.

Removing the Bolts

Removing the rusted bolts is a two people job. Yes, you can do it on your own. You will be cursing like a mad sailor.

Two guys wrenching away on severely corroded nuts and bolts simply pegs the fun meter (misery loves company). We lifted the car just high enough to remove the bushings. On our car we had body shims on the middle mounting points (just above the foot wells on both sides).

** It is important to take note of where these body shims were, so that they can be reinstalled in the same place. These are extremely important to the handling of the car. Remember that the front sub frame is where all the suspension components mount. **

Changing the angle of the sub frame will have a dramatic effect on those components. Sloppy handling can end up being a handful!

Once the old bushings were out (one of them had completely disintegrated), we needed to assemble the new bushing pieces. It was pretty straight forward assembly, even I could follow the instructions.

The instructions even had drawings so when I got confused on the big words, all I needed to do was check the pictures.


The installation of the assembled bushings took 30 minutes on each side. That includes time for pictures, and as James likes to say; my nasty nicotine fix.

We chose Energy Suspension’s Polyurethane bushings because of the technological advances over the stock type rubber bushings.

Here are some of the advantages of Polyurethane:

• Polyurethane wears better (outlasts traditional rubber 50 to 1)
• Offers higher load bearing capacity
• Weighs less
• Noise abatement
• Oil, gasoline, grease and solvent resistant.
• Tear resistant. (Tear Strength 500-1000 lbs/linear inch).
• Weather resistant. Resists oxidation, sunlight, ozone, and extreme hot/cold climates.

This was a real no brainer. For us, choosing Polyurethane body bushings for our project car was an easy choice. After all, it’s not brain surgery. It’s bushing surgery.

Stay tuned, we have a few more energy suspension goodies that we will be installing as we upgrade the suspension.

For more information, visit Energy Suspension’s webpage:
www.energysuspension.com