1967 Chevy Nova - The Power Of One
John Parsons' Homebuilt '67 Nova Is At Once Remarkably Complex And Utterly Simple.
From the September, 2007 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Ro McGonegal
Photography by Johnny Hunkins
We chatted with John Parsons in the main hall at the 2006 PRI show in Orlando, Florida. We stood away from his chilling blue bomber, watching and commenting on clots of flabby and suave alike, as they ransacked it with nervous eyes and flighty, meaningless comments. But John's car is always about much, much more than meets the eye. It's a subtle dog, but the cues are there-and once you discover one of them, it leads to all the rest.
This story is about that kind of thing: like a K-bar knife-with its leather handle stacked like a boot heel juxtaposed against its flat, black killing surface-John's car is an immaculately simple design meant for only one thing. The Nova is definitely polarizing, and it is certainly for more than one purpose. It also appears to be the issue of any one of the hobby's current high-dollar darlings (Boyd, Foose, Trepanier, and others). But it isn't. It was built in a home garage by a hot rodder next door with inordinate desire, a sound perspective, and a learn-as-you-go attitude. All the more incredible is that John drives it for real-as in full-out through the esses at Road Atlanta.
Skinning the cat another way:...
Skinning the cat another way: a sleeved LS2 block and a Lunati rotating assembly yield a 427ci displacement, as fed by a Holley EFI system. Ugly-stick engine manufactures a beautiful 620 hp at 6,300 rpm, and 579 ft-lb of torque at 5,300 rpm.
"I've owned dozens of hot rods-Novas, Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs, GTOs, V-8 Vegas, and more. I've never been one to buy a car and leave it alone. I've always lusted after the high-end custom-built cars," John pipes. "I've been a magazine reader all my life, and I dug how simple pieces of metal could be cut and hammered and welded into useful car parts. I particularly liked reading the fabrication sequences, always thinking that I could do what I read about. I bought a nice '66 Nova with a TPI engine and automatic transmission. I was going to upgrade it over time to the car I really wanted: one of those Trepanier supercars, like 'Sniper' or 'Intruder.'"
Then John stumbled over his destiny, right there on the Mac's CRT screen. He found the Art Morrison Web site, and ordered a catalog, reading it hundreds of times. He saved to buy one of its chassis, but realized that if he wanted to build the car anytime soon, he'd have to sell the Nova for seed money. John bought Morrison's rails, complete with a street rod front and rear suspension, as well as a bare body for about what he sold the Nova for. Now he had a shiny new chassis, a carcass he'd hauled out of somebody's shed, and no money.
For all John knew, the plan was proceeding right on schedule. He bought a refurbished Lincoln MIG welder from Home Depot, and began practicing-effectually decimating the poor Nova, and cutting out the floor, trunk, wheelwells, and firewall. When he was confident enough, he welded the body to the Morrison frame. Then John bought a take-out LS motor with a couple of spun rod bearings-at least the block was good enough to fabricate motor mounts. He copped a Viper T56 on eBay, and used it to make the first transmission crossmember.
Next, John stepped up to a TIG welder, and used it on the Morrison rollcage, plotting what he'd need to make the headers and exhaust system so that he could finish the floor panels. Then his whole world went up in a mushroom cloud: he discovered Pro-Touring.com, where a bunch of like-minded guys celebrate full-bore race-inspired suspensions, 500hp motors, air-conditioned interiors, and show car exteriors.
"Here was the blueprint to building a supercar, all laid out with help from dozens of people who had built stuff themselves, knew somebody who did, or knew where to buy such stuff," John says. "And best of all, these cars were designed to be driven hard. It was like giving water to someone lost in the desert."
The deliriously simple but...
The deliriously simple but highly detailed war room is rife with small but important comforts, properly positioned controls and seating, and the latest in body protection. Sparco Monza seats and Schroth webbing, minimal Tremec gear selector, and shrouded handbrake are in there, as well. Note the roll cage stringer recesses built into door panel.
John began reading about a different kind of car builder-Mark Stielow-and discovered that his "Red Witch" and "Thrasher" were really what he wanted to be building. His old plans disintegrated faster than the stitching in a Tijuana tuck and roll job, and he made new friends who helped him understand the ethic-especially Steve Chryssos, who piqued his awareness and schooled him on the finer points of style (not to be confused with styling). What is the II Much Nova, then? How about a car with honest-to-Pete 1g-plus lateral acceleration and enough grunt under the hood to make your head ache. It's a road racer that looks like a hit man.
Wow! John ditched the first suspension, and put in a custom-designed system that grew from his new Web site pals, Brain Schein and Katz Tsubai. Poof! Thousands of dollars and months flew by. John now needed better brakes. And more money. And more power. He'd gone through two motors before he laid bread on Wegner Automotive Research to build the 427, and he was going to do the bodywork and paint himself. He then deemed his talents too thin to do it right, so he commissioned Pro-Touring's David Sloan for some serious help.
Unlike a lot of people, John is sincere. He believes in karma. Therefore, he'd be remiss if he didn't thank those who were most kind to him along his path. Lunati and Holley extended their rotating assembly, camshaft, and EFI hardware. Auto Meter sent gauges and ancillaries. Wegner Automotive Research built the engine, supplied its accessory dress and cylinder heads, and porked it on their dynamometer. Stainless Works and Al Noe redid the original system in stainless steel. Wilwood supplied the brakes, master cylinders, and remote pedal assembly. Pirelli stood up with its race-oriented rubber. Moser Engineering laid out the aluminum center section and axle shafts. Ididit blessed him with a steering column, Ron Davis a dual-fan radiator core, and Art Morrison delivered the rails, rollcage, and axle housing.
Pretty side up, John is grateful for Road Killer Customs' (Canton, Georgia) bodywork, PPG Blue with metallic black exterior and interior paint, and the Global Finishing downdraft paint booth they did it in. Prodigy Customs (Apopka, Florida) helped during the final assembly, touch-up, and EFI, and finishing the interior was a lot easier with help from 1 Off Rides (Kissimmee, Florida). Finally, Mike Norris at Norris Motorsports (also of Apopka) did the engine tuning and set up the clutch.
John's II Much Nova sticks...
John's II Much Nova sticks spider-like when asked, or thunders in a straight line with equal aplomb. What you see and hear now is the third iteration of the oringial plan. Considering this guy's penchant for change, it could morph yet again.
Most people change their stuff out after the car's been done. Not John. He did it on the run. He made three fuel tanks, redid the tranny crossmember twice, and replaced the front 'cage tubes and rear seat frame twice. With help from Stainless Works, he also built another set of headers.
"In the end," John says, "I went through three engines, two transmissions, three rear suspensions, three fuel tanks, two rear seats, three front seats, three pedal setups, two EFI controllers, two intake manifolds, two hoods, two sets of wheels, two sets of brakes, and 1.5 rollcages. Luckily, my wife blames Pro-Touring.com-not me!"
On top of it all, John has probably made automotive history with the II Much Nova: it represents a high watermark for a homebuilt hot rod that is, after all, really much more than that.
By The Numbers
'67 Chevy Nova
John Parsons, 47 * Winter Springs, FLVehicle weight with driver: 3,300 poundsApproximate cost to build: $78,000
|Type: ||GM Gen III 427 (4.125 bore x 4.0 stroke) |
|Block: ||GM LS2 block (PN 12568950), re-sleeved to 4.125 bore |
|Compression ratio: ||10.5:1 |
|Oiling: ||GM C5 6-quart pan, oil pump, and pick-up; windage tray |
|Rotating assembly: ||Lunati 4.0-inch stroke crankshaft, 6.125-inch Lunati Pro Mod forged steel connecting rods, Lunati pistons and rings |
|Cylinder heads: ||GM LS6, Wegner Automotive Research CNC-porting with hand blending, 234cc intake runners, COMP valvesprings and titanium retainers |
|Camshaft: ||Lunati Voodoo hydraulic roller (.599/.601-inch lift, 232/238 degrees at 0.050), GM timing gears and chain |
|Valvetrain: ||GM roller lifters, pushrods, roller rocker arms |
|Induction: ||GMPP single-plane carb-style manifold, 1,000-cfm Holley throttle body, Holley 42 lb/hr injectors, Holley engine sensors, Aeromotive A1000 electric fuel pump, custom-baffled 5052 aluminum fuel tank, FAST XFI controller |
|Power-adder: ||none |
|Ignition: ||FAST eDIST |
|Exhaust: ||John Parsons custom headers, 1.75x32-inch primaries with Stainless Works merge collectors, 3-inch stainless system, Parsons custom X-pipe, one-off Stainless Works mufflers and diffuser tips |
|Fasteners: ||ARP |
|Built by: ||Wegner Automotive Research, Markesan, WI |
|Transmission: ||Tremec TKO-600 five-speed (road race version) |
|Bellhousing: ||GM aluminum with custom adapter plate |
|Clutch: ||GM LS6 with Howe throw-out bearing |
|Driveshaft: ||Mark Williams custom 4130 chrome-moly, 1350-series yokes |
|Rear axle: ||Ford 9 inch, narrowed and straightened by Art Morrison |
|Differential: ||Detroit Locker |
|Axles and gears: ||Moser 35-spline axles, |
|Torino-style ends, 3.25:1 ring-and-pinion |
|Front suspension: ||custom designed by Katz Tsubai, Brian Schein billet 7075 spindles, QA1 Proma-Star coilovers with Lensing springs, Schein-Parsons custom 4130 tubular (1.00x.083) upper control arms with needle bearing bushings, Schein-Parsons custom tubular lower control arms with Delrin-moly bushings, Stock Car Products modular Cup-style sway bar, Tony Woodward custom rack, Howe Racing ball joints |
|Rear suspension: ||Three-link design by Katz Tsubai, QA1 coilovers with Lensing springs, 3/4-inch Morrison antisway bar, Parsons-built control arms and adjustable Panhard, QA1 rod ends |
|Front brakes: ||Wilwood 14-inch modular disc, six-piston Dynalite radial mount caliper, braided lines, Wilwood master cylinder, balance bar, and remote pedal assembly |
|Rear brakes: ||Wilwood 12-inch discs with integral parking brake |
|Wheels & Tires |
|Wheels: ||Kinesis K28 18x9, front; 18x11, rear |
|Tires: ||Pirelli PZero Corsa 265/ZR35x18, front; 315/ZR30x18, rear |