John Parson's '67 Nova Project - Too Much To Do
How One Guy Managed To Build A High-End Street Machine In His Garage.
From the September, 2007 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By John Parsons, Steven Rupp
Photography by John Parsons, John Ulaszek
Though John really wanted...
Though John really wanted to do all the bodywork and lay down the paint on his Nova himself, he realized that he didn't have the skills to do the top side justice.
When John Parsons started his '67 Nova project in the spring of 2000, he didn't really expect the car to evolve into what it is today. He just wanted a cool ride, and knew that to get there he would have to do it himself, or do without. Over the years, he learned to do a few things quite well, like welding; but he also learned that he had no future as a paint and body guy. He tried, though, and that's the most fascinating aspect of this build. It's about how one guy managed to build a car of this caliber in his garage through sheer force of will. We asked John what sparked his desire for this project, and he says, "I've owned a lot of cars, and while I can forgive a lack of horsepower, I despise poor road manners in my vehicles. It's always the first thing I change. I've tinkered with springs, shocks, and sway bars, but for this car I wanted to really get into it and build something more challenging. I read various catalogs that sold complete replacement clips for Novas, but thought that would be too easy. I wanted to bend, grind, cut, machine, sand, and weld metal-especially weld. I can't explain why, but welding has always been magical to me. It isn't a huge exaggeration to say that II Much was just a reason to learn to weld."
Cars like II Much don't just pop into existence. The path from brainwaves to pavement is riddled with mistakes, triumphs, and surprises. Anyone who has built a car like this can relate to the experience, and those who have feared to dive into a project of this degree can learn that it's not impossible, it's just hard. Follow along as we touch some of the high (and low) points of John's journey.
Three years ago, John thought...
Three years ago, John thought his '67 Nova was ready for paint, but it wasn't. What he wanted from the car evolved over time, and that meant reworking most of it.
Don't be fooled by this shot,...
Don't be fooled by this shot, it was actually taken three years before the Nova was done. The three-link rear suspension replaced this early attempt.
John thought making fuel tanks...
John thought making fuel tanks would be a great way to practice his welding skills.
No fewer than three engines...
No fewer than three engines were procured during this build. The first one, which John bought from eBay, turned out to have two spun rod bearings.
Nobody stops by without being...
Nobody stops by without being pressed into service. John's friend Paul Ruggles helps out bending the stainless lines for the steering.
A lot of effort was put into...
A lot of effort was put into designing John's pedal arrangement. With the new firewall, steering column, and floor, the factory pedals were a no-go.
Hitting the Track
I arrived a bit early, and nervously looked at the autocross course at the Lake County Correctional Facility. (If you get out of hand, the sheriff can arrest you right there!) We went through the course walk-through, the driver's meeting, and the warm-up.
My first run was laid back, and I concentrated on making sure I did not get lost on the course. The car felt fine, braked well, and did OK with a 45.7 on my first run. The next three runs netted improvements, with a best of 41.2 on the last. I didn't pay much attention, but I actually won the Novice class, which consisted of 12 other cars, two of which were new Corvettes.
My assessment after that was that the Nova had too much body roll-especially in the back-and that I was doing too much trail braking. I was especially unhappy with my brake pedal linkage, because it was binding.
Fast-forward to the Year One Experience at Road Atlanta. I had just spent the week fine tuning the QA1 shocks to offset the body roll, and I also adjusted the linkage on the brake pedal to prevent it from binding at high pressure. After being so early for the autocross the previous week, I was trying not to be nervous this time. When the A group came back in, we (B group) were broken into four groups of five cars, and my subset was routed to the far right, which meant we were the last ones out. No passing was allowed, but we were told if we kept together, we could go as fast as the slowest car. Every two laps, the pace car would signal us to roll the order around. The car behind him would allow the other four cars by, and then drop in at the back. Off we went in pursuit of the other cars.
A Lotus was first, and we increased speed until it seemed to have trouble keeping up. He rolled around to the back and we went a bit faster, passing two of the other groups. When it was my turn, the pace car driver seemed to relish running away from me, but I caught him quickly. It was a blast following his line, working the brakes, finding the apex, turning in, and then allowing the car to drive out to the edge of the corner. We passed the other group ahead of us, and my car was working great. After I rolled to the back of the group, I fell behind on the back straight so that I could push the car nearly full throttle through Third and Fourth gears.
I came in only to be greeted with bad news: I was black-flagged due to exhaust noise. A nearby church had complained, and there is a local noise ordinance on Sunday mornings. My track day was done.
The postmortem assessment: the brakes worked great and the steering was fantastic. The best thing was that the car felt "pushed" down on the track, and there was not a hint of oversteer. A few times I felt the inside front tire lifting slightly, which means I need more rear sway bar or rear spring for next time. My power steering got a bit chunky in the pits at the end, so I also need a more capable power-steering pump, and my brake-pedal linkage still needs tweaking.
It was exhilarating to feel the suspension work as it was designed, with the brakes keeping the car safe. The acceleration of the 427 LS2 was awesome. Seven years of preparation went into that scant 30 minutes on the track, and it was worth it. My plan is to make more adjustments to the car, and give it another go at Sebring. The car is finally done, and now I'm gonna spend some time at the track!
|WHERE THE |
|MONEY WENT |
|Raw materials: ||$9,500 |
|Tires: ||$1,400 |
|Wheels: ||$4,200 |
|Lug nuts: ||$110 |
|Brakes: ||$3,700 |
|Engine: ||$13,000 |
|Clutch: ||$1,500 |
|Transmission: ||$2,200 |
|Rear: ||$1,900 |
|Springs and shocks: ||$850 |
|Fuel delivery: ||$1,200 |
|Interior: ||$9,200 |
|Gauges: ||$1,100 |
|Cooling: ||$750 |
|Paint and body: ||$16,000 |
|Fasteners: ||$5,500 |
|Glass: ||$900 |
|Interior trim: ||$1,700 |
|Exterior trim: ||$450 |
|Door handles, window cranks: ||$180 |
|Wiring: ||$850 |
|Locks: ||$125 |
|Steering column: ||$200 |
|Steering wheel: ||$250 |
|Wheel disconnect: ||$160 |
|Weather stripping: ||$600 |
|Battery holder: ||$170 |
|Battery: ||$160 |
|Fiberglass bumpers: ||$300 |
|Rocker panel: ||$150 |
|Doorskin: ||$90 |
|Dash insert: ||$160 |
|Fabrication (approx. 4,000 hours): ||free |
|Total: ||$78,555 |
|THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH |
|BUILD-UP TIME LINE: |
|APRIL 2000: ||begins Nova. Morrison chassis and bare body into garage |
|AUGUST 2000: ||firewall, floor, trunk, and rear wheelwells cut out of car |
|SEPT 2000: ||chassis welded to body |
|JAN 2001: ||purchases first engine, first transmission, fabs motor mounts, first trans cross member |
|APRIL 2001: ||installs new firewall |
|JUNE 2001: ||finishes first set of headers. Joins Pro-Touring.com |
|OCTOBER 2001: ||finishes first exhaust |
|AUGUST 2002: || floors completed |
|OCTOBER 2002: ||makes first fuel tank |
|NOV 2002: ||sells old TIG welder, meets Brian Schein |
|MARCH 2003: ||makes second set of headers |
|APRIL 2003: ||makes second fuel tank |
|JULY 2003: ||makes third and final fuel tank |
|MAY 2004: ||new front suspension done |
|NOV 2004: ||new rear suspension done |
|MAY 2005: ||"I Did It My Way" front suspension build-up story in PHR |
|OCTOBER 2005: ||"Bringing Up The Rear" rear suspension build-up story in PHR |
|DECEMBER 2005: ||floors redone for suspension |
|JANUARY 2006: ||inner fenderwells done |
|FEB 2006: ||final LS2 engine done |
|MARCH 2006: ||finishes wiring |
|MAY 2006: ||car assembled, starts engine, fixes leaks |
|MAY 2006: ||moves to Florida |
|JULY 2006: ||migrates to FAST XFI engine controller |
|AUGUST 2006: ||car painted, finishes wiring ...again! |
|SEPT 2006: ||installs front and rear glass, gets title and insuranceHometown Hot Rodding engine photo |
|OCTOBER 2006: ||PHR runs John Ulaszek's Hometown Hot Rodding engine photo |
|APRIL 2007: ||interior done. Car completed |
|MAY 2007: ||hits the track! |
|SEPT 2007: ||Parsons' Nova in PHR and inspires thousands… |