I've put off doing our project Nova long enough. The dreaming and planning stages have been stretched out over eight or nine months now, and it's time for action. Getting into the meat of the buildup will be a lot of fun, but I still appreciate that "getting to know you" stage after you drive or haul your newfound project home. It's a lot like falling in love; there's a period of infatuation where you look at her and only see beauty and only hear sweetness. Then one day, you notice that her laugh is just a little too shrill, her hair a tad obnoxious, and the perfume a bit overwhelming. Project cars are the same way, but with cars we "wake up and smell the coffee" a bit sooner.
And now the good news. Unlike your girlfriend or wife, you can, indeed, fix your car. If you are a true hot rodder, that means going beyond traditional repairs and delving into wholesale rebuilding, or even getting into fabrication projects. Your significant other, who you've already discovered is not perfect, will at that time realize she didn't exactly win the prize either!
Our '68 Nova project, in spite of its fairly common appearance, isn't typical for a magazine project car. When it comes to generally held notions about building magazine project cars, editors often take two paths: start with an absolute train wreck of a jalopy, or start with a cream puff/new car. There are pitfalls to both of those approaches, and in light of all the upcoming editorial coverage on Project Nova, it's worth taking a look at why we're avoiding them here.
The Jalopy: You've seen this project car before. It's rarely a running car, it has no engine, it's got more rust than good sheetmetal, and it was purchased for a few hundred shekels. These projects drag on for years, they can't be driven, they can't be tested, and the stories often peter out when the editor or staffer in charge of it gets transferred, quits, loses interest, or is fired. The jalopy does resemble the car of many readers, but folks have a hard time following this type of project because months or years pass between meaningful story installments.
The Cream Puff: While less common than the jalopy, the cream puff is a near perfect restoration, new car, survivor car, or a finished project from the get-go. To its benefit, a cream puff project usually gets finished in a timely fashion, but only because there's little that needs to be done. Readers are frequently alienated by cream puffs because they can't afford to start out with a five- or six-figure car, and then pile on more parts and fabrication. Unless you're rolling in coin, it never goes down like this in the real world.
With the Nova, we're trying to walk the line between the two. We needed something that was driveable and reasonably photogenic, but with a $5K budget, would still be affordable. It absolutely couldn't be married to a trailer, or cause unpleasant visits from neighbors, cops, or the HOA. The '68 is not perfect-it's got the typical case of hidden rust and leaks, there's no interior, it's got a spray bomb paintjob, and the trans barely limps it from place to place, but at least we're in the game, baby!
The stories will be flowing shortly. We're starting off with a killer Wavetrac-equipped 12-bolt rearend from Moser, followed by consecutive pieces on suspension, brakes, and steering by Classic Performance Products-providing the trans holds and we don't have to deal with that first. To prepare for everything, we've already outfitted the Nova with our preferred wheels and tires. It's important to start with this step in order to ensure your suspension, brakes, and stance work as planned. For the Nova (and Camaro) guys out there, we're rolling on Vintage Wheel Works V40s, 17x7 for the front (4 7/8-inch backspace, 5x4 3/4-inch bolt circle), and 17x9 for the rear (5 3/4-inch backspace, same bolt circle). We also optioned a set of Vintage Wheel Work's flat block-off caps for that sinister track-ready look. For tires, we chose Nitto NT01s (235/40R17s front and 255/40R17s rear). These ultra-sticky meats will give us the ultimate in grip and let us get the power of our Dart SHP 400 small-block to the ground. Let the wrenching begin!
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