Our 1968 Chevy Nova might look OK in print, but if you saw it up close and in person, you'd accuse us of false advertising. Yes sirree, this thing fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. (We think it fell out of the same tree that the Chevy High Performance '72 Nova fell out of, only ours did us the favor of falling in a puddle of white paint.) It just goes to show that you can make anything look good with a digital camera. Making things worse, a previous owner thought it was cool to take a black rattle can to all the trim, including the grille. We suspect he also took that can and used it to whack all the sheetmetal a few times. There ain't a straight panel on this thing, but that's a subject for another story. Unfortunately, we have to put eyes on the real thing, so we had to do something about it-and fast.

This month, we plopped the Classic Industries Nova catalog on the desk, and started digging through it. By our reckoning, Classic Industries is the single largest manufacturer and distributor of parts for our '68 Nova. They also handle Camaros, Firebirds, fullsize Chevys, Chevy/GMC trucks, and other years of Nova. They're also coming out with Mopar stuff soon, so keep an eye out. Classic's Nova catalog is stuffed so full of good stuff that it overloads the senses. It's easy to get sidetracked; to stay focused, we kept repeating the mantra, "keep it simple, keep it simple..." We only needed the bare essentials for the de-uglification of our particular Nova. Our triage deep-sixed the idea of any body and paintwork at this juncture. We also didn't want to get into a heavy interior overhaul. (That will come later.) Our big problem pieces were the bumpers, grille, hood, dashpad, and steering wheel-in other words, reconstructive plastic surgery, not a Hollywood facelift. Working in these areas, it made sense to fix or replace a few additional related items, so we also did the eyebrow moldings, parking lights, trunk lid emblem, headlamp adjusters, hood lip molding, and a really cool in-dash tach from Shiftworks. We tried to keep the total under $2K, figuring most guys would spend a few hundred bucks a month over a half year or so.

The only downside was discovering that the '68 Nova is a bit of a bastard year. There are a lot of '68-only parts that we needed, and couldn't get because they aren't made. It drives us crazy that we can't find an ashtray, for instance. It'll have to be a big, gaping hole for now. Hey, it could be worse. We could have a '75 Laguna. Oops ...

THE COST SO FAR
Item: PHR Issue: Price:
'68 Nova project car N/A $5,000
Dart SHP 400 small-block Dec. 2009 & Jan. 2010 $9,478.03
Engine installation June 2010 $366.60
Quick makeover July 2010 $1,848.30
Total: $16,692.93