Heres the chassis with the engine removed. Nicks standard chassis comes with a
George Eckardt demonstrates how the torsion bar slides into a tube, which is then installe
The torsion bar rides on this moly-filled nylon bushing when its inside its tube.
You could look all day at the front of one of these chassis and not find the torsion bars.
The only hint that gives away the front torsion bars location is this adjustment poi
The front suspensions lever arm and adjustable link are visible between the bottom o
From this vantage point, you can better see how the adjustable link runs between the axle
The torsion bars for the rear suspension run in tubes that are just inboard of the axle
As with the front bars, the rear bars can be cranked up or down for ride height (and sprin
The finished product on Harry Nicks 29 roadster looks clean and tidy, though y
Harry Nicks was a man on a mission. At the wheel of his immaculate 29 roadster, he was looking carefully for broken pavement, railroad tracks, potholes, and other irregularities in the asphalt.
He didnt want to miss them, though. While most rodders would drive city blocks out of their way to avoid such hazards, Harry wanted to hit themat speed. And there we were, riding shotgun, wondering how many fillings we were going to knock loose when Harry found his dream pothole.
But that didnt happen. Oh, we hit the hole all right. The roadster dipped, rebounded, and settled. No loose fillings, no jarred kidneys, no muss, no fuss. A new Corvette would have bounced harder in that hole than Harrys roadster. You see, Harrys 29 is different than most. Look closely under its track nose and you wont see buggy springs along the dropped axle. You wont see any springs, in fact. Shocks, sure, but no springs. Theyre tucked neatly away in the frame.
Harrys roadster is fitted with front and rear torsion bars. The front bars are housed within the boxed framerails, and the rears run parallel to the split links that locate the axle. Its a tidy installation, but more than that, it gives Harrys fenderless 29 something few old roadsters have: a new-car ride.
Harry runs Nicks Old Car Specialty, a full-service shop in Southern California that builds and restores hot rods, musclecars, and old sports cars. As Harry put it, We do everything here: body and paint, engine building, chassis building, everything except chrome and upholstery. Now that includes fabricating custom frames with torsion bars for just about anything from a 27 to a 34, says George Eckardt, who works with Harry and who engineered the suspension system. At this point, the just about qualifier means the system is designed to work with solid axles; R&D on independent suspensions will come later. But we can accommodate any rear axle, George tells us, from a 9-inch to a quickchange, and even a Pro Street axle. Also on the drawing boardsor at least in Georges mindare torsion-bar systems for 40 Fords and other full-bodied street rods.
The genesis of the system came from George, who wanted to build a 33 with an Indy-type suspension and torsion bars in the frame. However, the first real application was on Harrys 29. Remarkably, George didnt draft the system on some powerful CAD-CAM computer. He did it the old-fashioned way, with a pencil, calculator, and paper.
The torsion bars arent salvage-yard specials; theyre brand-new tubular (not solid) bars custom-made to Georges length, diameter, and rate specifications. They sit inside a tube, ride on moly-filled nylon bushings, and attach to the axles through lever arms and adjustable links.
When we asked George how he determined spring rates for a given application, we could tell he didnt want to reveal too many trade secrets. There are formulas, lots of formulas, he began, and then smiled and stopped talking. The bottom line is this: If you provide George with some basic information about what kind of car youre building and its intended engine and driveline, he can pretty much figure out how much weight will be sitting on each axle and plan the spring rates from there.
Actually, most of the planning goes into the length of the lever arms, not the dimensions of the torsion bars. Since the cars currently under construction are so similar in terms of weight, George has been able to order a batch of bars with the same rate. He then tailors that rate to the specific car by varying the length of the arms.
Since the arm applies leverage from the axle link to the bar, shortening the arm reduces its leverage and therefore increases the spring rate. It doesnt take much of a change in arm length to make a big difference in rate. George told us that changing the length of the lever arm by as little as ¼ or ½ inch can alter the effective spring rate by 25 pounds or more. Further ride tuning can be done via the 12 settings on the HAL QA1 shocks that you can order with your chassis.
Note the order with your chassis phrase. The Nicks torsion-bar system cannot be easily retrofitted onto a chassis originally designed for conventional springs. It can be done, but thered be so much work involved that youd be better off starting from scratch, George told us. Everything in the system is custom-built and built to fit. Nothing is adapted from somewhere else.
Everything is designed to work with everything else. So with all the time and effort, not to mention expense, that youd need to make this system fit another chassis, you might as well start fresh.
Besides, Harry wont sell just the torsion bars. He doesnt want someone to try and cobble together a system just to wind up dissatisfied. Hed rather do it right the first time and keep his customers happy. You call us, tell us what you want, and well build it.
Thats how Harry wants to run the torsion-bar portion of his business. He doesnt envision an inventory of frames stacked in a storage room. Hell build them one at a time to order. There are currently three torsion-bar chassis under construction in Harrys shop, two for 32s and one for a 27 T thats going on 32 rails.
Since Harrys is a full-service shop, you can order your chassis in just about any stage of completion. His standard chassis will include the suspension, dropped front and 9-inch rear axles, disc brakes at all four corners, master cylinder, brake pedal, and all brake lines plumbed. If you want the gas tank installed and plumbed, theyll do that. Hell, well build the entire car if they want, said Harry.
Since these chassis are custom jobs, theyre not inexpensive. The standard roller we just described will sell for around $21,500. Thats serious money no matter how you look at it. But if you have any doubts about justifying the cost or any worries about how well the system works, go visit Harry. Let him take you for a ride on the busted-up streets around his shop. Youll come back a believer.