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Installing a Front Runner Drive System - 1967 Chevelle

8/10/2020
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When I think back to the hot rods of my youth, many sensations come into my mind’s eye. The exhilarating pull of the bucket seat on my lower back, the wind rushing in through two rolled down windows and general euphoria that comes with sudden and controlled acceleration. Do you know what seems to be absent from those memories? The sweaty, miserable segments of time between those lead-footed pulls. The feeling of sweat running down your back at a stoplight, wind like hot breath in your face as you clip down the highway. Amazing how we romanticize things, isn’t it?

All in all, a nicely packaged setup.

Part of my sales pitch on this Chevelle project originally was to build it as “Mom’s Cruiser”. That required a small number of things that were non-negotiable. Power steering, automatic transmission, and air-conditioning. With the original configuration, I already had 2 out of 3. I’d always wanted to install the SureFit A/C System, but with the addition of the big block, I was starting with a clean slate regarding engine bracketry.

After reviewing the options, including factory type A/C mounting, I decided to go with the Vintage Air Front Runner Drive System. I wanted the engine bay to retain a somewhat OE appearance. I’d originally wanted to use stamped steel brackets with natural finished or black components. After doing some homework on what a true factory air Chevelle looked like under the hood, I decided that I wasn’t okay with the lines running across to the driver’s side mounted compressor. Nor was I all that lit up about tracking down all the bits and bobs that make up the bracketry, then modifying them for use with a modern compressor.

It was about this time that I studied one of the Vintage Air setups at the NSRA Nats in Louisville. While not what you’d consider a traditional or OE styled system, it definitely had its merits. Largest among those was the look of the system when viewed from above. I liked the simplicity and factory fresh look that it had when viewed in its natural environment. A huge plus to using a Front Runner along with a SureFit system is the ability to order the kits to complement each other. For instance, my compressor was already included with the A/C kit. In addition to tailoring the components, Vintage Air will supply a hose kit tailored to routing them out of sight, in the fender above the inner fender well. Exactly what I was planning to do.

The installation was pretty much by the book. As with all Vintage Air kits I’ve used, the instructions and parts are grouped to sub-projects. For instance, the 170 Amp Vintage Air alternator is a one-wire affair and comes complete with 4 gauge wire and lugs to connect to the starter terminal. The kit includes all components required for installation, including a Stewart Components Water pump. The water pump installs on four studs that are the main support for the system’s billet truss. All other components then attach to the truss and engine block. This is nice on some small block applications where you may not have accessory holes on the heads.

A solid foundation

PROTIP - Do you see that 45* fitting on the top of the water pump? Don’t install that. Instead, install a regular ½” NPT nipple with for ¾” hose in both the water pump and the front of the intake. This will allow you to use a Dayco 70647 molded bypass hose. I found that the supplied elevated 45* fitting didn’t allow sufficient clearance to install even a straight section of hose without mangling it.

Following the directions will have you progressing along quickly with your installation. As you begin to hang components on the drive system you’ll appreciate even more the care and engineering that goes into these kits.

Note the position of the tensioner pulley at rest versus the completed installation photos.

Another thing that I’d suggest keeping an eye on is the clocking position of the belt tensioner. This is a stock Dayco part and incorporates a drilled and pinned spacer in order to provide the optimal position and tension on the serpentine belt. As packaged, my spacer had the pin in the wrong position. Double-check roll pin position for your application, based on instruction sheet.

When it came time to install the pulley on the power steering pump, I went to my local parts store and took an installation tool out on loan. While this task probably could’ve been accomplished with a bolt, washer and nut, the bearing on the tool helped keep the anodization intact on the pulley.

All-in-all, it was a pretty smooth installation. One last thing to note though, after I fired the car initially and started monitoring the system readings, I determined that the charging system, well. . . wasn’t. A quick check with a section of heavy wire running from one of the mounting bolts on the alternator to ground confirmed that the alternator body was not making good ground contact. Given the anodized finish on the truss bracket and limited contact between the alternator body and the bracket, this seemed plausible. After the installation of a braided ground strap between the engine and alternator mounting bolt, the issue subsided.

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