Flava Flav just called, and he wants his grille back. It’s not gold and it’s not a garish piece of dental ornamentation, but this Nova wears a grille that makes hip-hop artists weep in envy. Even from 100 feet away, the Nova’s front end looks like—for lack of a better term—it’s all up in your grille. Although traditionalists and the faint of heart will scoff at the Nova’s radically augmented sheetmetal, therein lies the beauty of the car. It’s a polarizing exercise in artistic expression and fabrication excellence that seemingly pushes hot rodding forward 10 years into the future, opinions be damned. Try to spot a single panel that hasn’t been cut or reshaped in some way, and you’ll fail every single time. So whether you love it or hate it, wherever this ’67 Chevy II rolls, you’re going to notice it.
For a place that hasn’t been building cars all that long, the Roadster Shop has exploded onto the scene big time. Although the shop has been around for more than 20 years, it didn’t start building turnkey cars until 2004, when Neal Gerber and his sons—Phil and Jeremy—took over the joint. Since then, the Roadster Shop has become a major player in the street rod and Pro Touring circuits, winning the Goodguys Street Machine of the Year award in 2009 with a wicked ’62 Corvette. As any of their high-profile g-Machines will attest, this isn’t just some run-of-the-mill muscle car restoration facility. To them, the hackneyed loud-paint-and-billet-wheels formula is the stuff of amateurs. While many car builders espouse the virtues of classic Detroit styling, the Roadster Shop finds extremely labor-intensive ways to modify those hallowed body lines for 21st century appeal.
On a stock Chevy II, the front...
On a stock Chevy II, the front wheel opening sits higher than the rear wheel opening. To get them to match, the front opening was lowered. While the front wheels merely look like they were pushed farther to the corners, the rear wheels have actually been relocated rearward 1 inch.
Creative minds often do their best work when given free reign—and a very big budget—to do as they please, and that’s exactly what happened with Alex Covington’s ’67 Nova. “Initially, Alex just wanted a unique-looking Nova. About a quarter of the way into the project, he gave us the green light to go all in and build the baddest Nova ever,” Phil says. “At that point, we knew we could build something to compete for the SMOY award, and we named the car Innovator. We wanted the Nova to look like a modern concept car, and that required dramatically changing the body lines to convey a sense of speed. The goal was to sharpen up the lines to give the car a wedge-shaped profile. We got with Eric Brockmeyer, sent him a multipage list of design elements we wanted to incorporate into the car, and got a rendering drawn up.”
Right from the get-go, the Roadster Shop crew targeted several key areas that needed a major revamp. “Everyone hated the big stock molding that ran down the side of the car. To get rid of it, we cut off the bottom half of the fenders, doors, and quarter-panels from the beltline down,” Phil says. “After we fabricated new panels for the bottom of the car, we created a new body line positioned much lower than where the factory molding used to be, coming off of the fenders and into the doors. The new line continues again above the wheel arch in the quarter-panels, where it leads into the rear bumper. The wheel openings have been changed as well for a more swooped-back appearance that makes it look like the wheels are pushed farther to the corners. The fenders were also re-sloped and reshaped where they meet the headlights to make them look less droopy and give them a more aggressive profile.”
Moving from the beltline upward, the next order of business was addressing the way-too-upright profile of the greenhouse area. “You might not notice it at first, but the roof on this car is much different from a stock Nova,” Phil says. “From a side profile, the roof on stock Novas looks higher in the front than in the back. To give the car a much more sinister and sleeker look, we cut ¾ inch out of the A-pillars, leaned them back, and then angled the front of the roof downward. It gives the car a much more modern wedge shape.”