We followed up the CPP front suspension with CPP multileaf rear springs with a 1.5-inch drop and some new KYB shocks supplied by CPP (Apr. ’11). Here we’re mating it up to the new Moser 12-bolt rear, which we ordered with Nova leaf-spring perches.
We replaced the sloppy slow-ratio steering box with CPP’s 14:1 Series 500 box for Novas. We also replaced all our tie-rod ends, steering linkage, hoses, and idler arm. This simple group of mods did an incredible job tightening up the steering feel of the Nova.
By our July ’11 installment, we were ready to tackle the front and rear brakes. Once again, we turned to CPP, as their PBR-caliper–based offerings are some of the best deals out there. The dual-piston 13-inch front kit (with beefy 52mm pistons!) ran just $999, and the rear 12-inch kit was $699. We rounded out the install with new CPP stainless brake lines and a power brake booster master cylinder assembly.
Next, we moved the Nova to the digs of Automotive Excellence in Huntington Beach, California, to tackle our exhaust needs. There was nothing wrong with the Flowmaster system that came with the Nova, other than it was way too small. We loved the sound it made, so we reproduced it in a 3-inch diameter with a Flowmaster U-Fit kit and 3-inch Super 40 mufflers with turndowns. The big chore, however, was getting our new Hooker 1⅞-inch long-tube headers to clear the steering box. For that Automotive Excellence used Hooker’s alignment weld sleeves and some creative fab chops!
Up until now, our ’68 Nova was largely a piece of junk hosed down with nice parts. It was time to take care of the “piece of junk” part now. For that, we took the Nova to Outlaw Motorsports in Riverside, California. Starting with the Jan. ’12 issue, Outlaw helped us with a series of pieces on restoring the Nova, including door panel replacement, patch panel fabrication, quarter-panel replacement, metalworking, floorpan replacement, and culminating with a complete body and paint restoration.
Our May ’12 issue featured the Nova getting a complete restoration at Outlaw Motorsports using Eastwood supplies, including their water-based, California-legal, Malibu Sunset Metallic Orange paint. No more sloppy jalopy!
Once we got it back on the road, we discovered this little Chevy was pretty darned fast. Should they open a quarter-mile here in SoCal, we’d need a rollbar to run legal. We ordered an Art Morrison Enterprises eight-point kit with a swing-out bar, some Corbeau Sport seats, Corbeau harnesses, and then got everything installed with the help of a Millermatic 211 welder. (Sept. ’12)
Right about the time we were putting together our Nov. ’12 issue, we found that Auto Meter was making some cool new Elite Gauges with programmable high and low warning lights. We mounted a water temp, oil pressure, and voltage combo in a Dodge Challenger pod, attached it to a Dodge Neon center console, and slid everything between two super comfortable and supportive (and affordable!) Corbeau Sport seats.
Our Nova has many of the moves from our “11 Best Mods For Any Car” found in this issue, including a pair of weld-in subframe connectors from Detroit Speed & Engineering. The complete how-to ran in our June ’12 issue. No unibody car is complete without this mod.
Wiring is the last frontier in homegrown projects for a reason: Nobody wants to do it because it’s frickin’ hard! We usually avoid rewiring a car at all costs, but our Nova’s was really shot, and Outlaw’s Ron Aschtgen is an old pro at it, so he tackled a Painless Performance universal kit install in our Aug. ’12 issue. At this point, our Nova was for all intents and purposes a new car.
By now, most of the punch list for the Nova was done, and we were curious exactly how much it was putting down to the wheels through our power-hungry Turbo 400. On Westech’s engine dyno, it made 523 hp at 6,200 rpm, but when installed in the Nova and running all the accessories including a flex fan, alternator, and water pump, the Dart SHP 400 managed a healthy 385 hp at 5,700 rpm.
Since our last installment, Outlaw Motorsports swapped out our three-speed Turbo 400 for a four-speed automatic overdrive 700-R4 from PerformaBuilt. (See Bulletproof Overdrive,” Dec. ’12.) Called the “Invincible” by PerformaBuilt, this Level 3 trans and converter is capable of handling up to 800 hp. Even better, with overdrive, the Nova now purrs along at 70 mph at just 1,900 rpm.
Our last move was to swap the big Holley Ultra 850 HP for a more conservative 750 Double-Pumper in Hard Core Gray. After some quick tuning, this carb gave us improved vacuum signal for better throttle response. We’ll be testing that out and checking our gas mileage soon when we take the Nova on an 800-mile road trip through the desert to Phoenix.
One of the final jobs Outlaw helped us with was the fabrication of a rear seat package tray using some nifty sheetmetal working tools from Eastwood (Jan. ’13). This Eastwood bead roller made short work of really intricate panels.
These two interior photos from the Nova show how far the interior has come in almost four years. When we got the Nova, there were literally no soft parts in the interior save the upholstered bench seats. I called it the “cheese grater” in my Mar. ’10 editorial (where the first photo appeared). Now it’s as comfortable as a new car, thanks to many new bits from Classic Industries.
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Want to know how Project Nova fared on its maiden voyage road trip to Phoenix? Head over to our YouTube page (www.YouTube.com/PopularHotRodding.com) and look for "Project Nova: The L.A. To Phoenix Road Trip!"