We understand how it is. You get a vision in your head and it develops into a dream machine. All of the details aren't worked out, but the basic idea is a solid one, and you've got a plan. Then, the opportunity presents itself: a solid, straight, project car within your purchase budget is located. You call, and it's still available! You've got to have it, and you gush over how nice everything is, and begin to really envision how great this car will look once you're done doing it your own way.
The killer '67 Nova on these pages followed this suit, but then things began to change a little. Mike Leversee took a long, hard look at his game plan and decided a few minor changes were in order. Then, a few more ideas crept into his head and refused to leave until the changes were made to the car. This lead to further deviations, then more. How radical was the shift in the game plan? When it first came back together from a disassembled pile of arrow-straight Arizona sheetmetal, the car was a restoration.
Obviously, things have changed since then, and we feel these changes have been for the better. Naturally, we're hot rodders. So anything adding to the performance or racy appearance of the car would gain our approval. This particular example has seen more than it's share of shifting gears, and we're not talking about anything happening inside the transmission!
"I worked on the car on and off for seven years. I changed my ideas several times as the car came together," Mike said. "First, it was to be all-original. I had all the parts rebuilt and totally reconditioned. As the new parts came to me, I started changing my mind about some of them, and purchased aftermarket parts to replace them. The stock front suspension had been rebuilt, but then I saw the Heidt's Mustang II rack-and-pinion upgrade for the Novas, and I thought that would be a good move. The brakes went from factory drums to four-wheel discs. The air conditioning and heating systems were factory, but I decided a new Vintage air system would better suit my needs, so I upgraded. This kept happening, and before long I'd gone through almost every system on the car." Mike's other changes of heart include a complete Painless wiring harness to replace the factory unit, a 12-disk CD changer to upgrade from the AM radio, and a built 355/700R-4 combo to upstage the original 327/Powerglide arrangement.
"Most of the changes occurred during the buildup of the car and its first 200 miles on the street," Mike explained. "By the end of its first year on the road, it was just about the way you see it now. All the bugs have been worked out and the car drives and performs wonderfully now." Often, we hear more horror stories when buildups occur in this fashion, but Mike seems to have kept a handle on the project's direction. His final choices have evolved into a truly unique car, which is a far cry from the restoration he'd initially envisioned.
As mentioned, the front suspension is now a Heidt's Mustang II arrangement, armed with 2-inch drop spindles, Mustang springs, Corvette discs, KYB gas shocks, and a Mustang II rack-and-pinion steering system. The American Racing Torq-Thrust "D" wheels are 17x8s, with BFG 215/45ZR-17 tires supporting the nose. Matching 17x8-inch Americans live out back, with 245/60-17s tied to a Ford 9-inch rear grabbing traction.
A built 355-cube small-block makes the 450 horsepower to spin the BFGs at will. Based on a '69-era block, the mouse is topped with Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads and filled with a COMP cams hydraulic flat-tappet grind. Fed by a Demon 750-cfm carb atop an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake manifold, the powerplant is a reliable and proven combination. Backed by the previously mentioned 700R-4 and a B&M converter, Mike is satisfied with the bulletproof combination.
The body was restored to its ultra-straightness by Brian Kelly of Augusta, MI. Mike gives Brian extra kudos for dealing with his many changes of heart, and the results prove it. "Brian took over six months to finish the car, having to change colors and paint the new parts as I changed my mind," Leversee explained. "For instance, the engine compartment started off in black to match the body, but I thought silver would look better, so Brian had to repaint the whole thing."
Even the interior was not beyond Leversee's ever-changing desires. The stock instrument panel was replaced with gauges from Dakota digital. The OEM steering column was replaced with an Ididit tilt version, and you can see the B&M shifter poking up through the factory console.
While many of the details on this car remain in their restored state, the modified portions complement the factory design enough to result in a healthy mix of new and restored styles. The car's modifications were both practical and functional to the overall motoring experience.
We hope to see this car again in the future, but we can't help but wonder if even more original details will find themselves upgraded to later designs as Mike's moods continue to swing. Luckily, we were able to catch the car at a point when it has achieved a nice balance between originality and modernization, and we can only look forward to its continued evolution.