1968 Chevy Nova - Quick Makeover
How To De-Uglify A '68 Nova In Just One Day-With Some Help From Classic Industries.
From the July, 2010 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Johnny Hunkins
In spite of the fact that...
In spite of the fact that white cars photograph well, this thing is really a beat-up jalopy, long overdue for some serious help. Like most of you, we couldn't start out with a perfect starter car. Fortunately, we got some first aid from Classic Industries.
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.
We opted for Classic Industries'...
We opted for Classic Industries' 2-inch steel cowl hood to replace our beat-up flat hood. We scuffed it, primed it, and rattled canned it with some white paint that wasn't Dupli-Color. As a result, we now appreciate Dupli-Color's fan spray pattern nozzle, which applies the paint a lot more evenly than the brand X we used. We did, however, come to our senses when we had to refurbish our irreplaceable one-year-only '68 Chevy II hood lip emblem. We used Dupli-Color Instant Chrome. We once saw a bumper painted with this stuff, and it really looks good-short of a re-chrome job.
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
|'68 Nova project car
|Dart SHP 400 small-block
||Dec. 2009 & Jan. 2010
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT
|Dash pad, non A/C
|In-dash tach conversion
|Steering wheel, leather grip, brushed aluminum button
|'68 walnut wood wheel hub
|Bumper bolt kit (need 2)
|Chevy II trunk lid emblem
|Headlamp bezels (pair)
|Cowl induction steel hood
|Hood lip molding
|Park lamp assembly (need 2)
|Eyebrow moldings (pair)
|Dupli-Color Instant Chrome
If you've got a mangled, snaggle-tooth...
If you've got a mangled, snaggle-tooth grille on your hot rod, nothing will improve the looks quicker than a new one. Our Classic Industries grille needed a little tweaking to make it fit. Nothing that the old 4-inch angle-grinder can't cure.
Like a lot of old muscle cars,...
Like a lot of old muscle cars, our '68 headlights were aimed catawampus because the headlight adjusters had given out. We had the grille and headlight bezels off, so we replaced the adjusters with new ones from Classic for $4.95. Now we can see down the road at night, and the "Cookie Monster" eyeball effect is banished.
That's "Installation" Jason...
That's "Installation" Jason Scudellari, who works at our tech center. He's holding our old '68 bumper, which turns out was really a '70-72 bumper. After swapping the new '68 bumper and realizing that our old parking lights were too big to fit, we thought Classic got our order wrong. In reality, our car had the wrong bumper, and they sent us the right one with the narrow marker light cutouts. Of course, that meant we had to go back and get the right lights for another $120.
This posed shot basically...
This posed shot basically shows what a cool job we have, and how easy it looks. Truthfully, this front bumper from Classic went on perfectly, in spite of the fact that the underlying bumper support is partially crunched. We'll have to fix that later when we paint the car. We also had a new windshield put in-which allowed us to paint the metal part of the dash easily.
Don't do what this dummy is...
Don't do what this dummy is doing and try to take a Nova's rear bumper off without unbolting the bumper supports first.
Instead, unbolt the bumper...
Instead, unbolt the bumper supports with the bumper still attached, and then swap the bumper supports from the old one to the new one.
Shiftworks offers this neat...
Shiftworks offers this neat in-dash tach for '68-72 Novas that replaces the stock block-off (or clock). Classic Industries sells it for $139.95, and it installs in just a few minutes. A factory tach was offered on the Nova, but it was numbered across the top like the speedo, and is hard to read. This one looks nicer, is easier to read, and styled like a stock gauge.
Two screws free up the old...
Two screws free up the old block-off, and the tach goes in its place with the same screws. It even uses the existing lighting of the stock IP. If your IP bulbs are burned out or just old, now's a great time to replace them since it's a pain getting the IP out and back in.
When we had our IP out, we...
When we had our IP out, we fixed the speedo needle, which wasn't working because the needle was mangled when some prior owner tried to wipe down the dash face with paint thinner. (Check out how the speedo lettering is smeared.) The Shiftworks tachometer looks cool, and works great too. The Shiftworks tach is a sweet alternative to a monster tach, which sometimes looks out of place in a car like ours.
It made sense to do the dashpad,...
It made sense to do the dashpad, in-dash tach, and steering wheel all at once to cut down on duplicated effort. Here, Jason installs our new dashpad from Classic. Now we're on the prowl for a dashpad emblem, another '68-only hen's tooth. This dashpad was an easy install. It fits well, it looks good, and all the fasteners are included from Classic.
Compare the before and after....
Compare the before and after. Nothing wrong with the Grant wheel; it's just not the right style for this Nova. After riding in ad guy David Stoker's '72 Nova, we fell in love with the brushed rally spoke wheel with the leather-grained grip. It's not correct for a '68, but we dig it. Just ignore the rest of the crappy interior.
There are two different steering...
There are two different steering columns for '68-tilt and non-tilt. If you've got a tilt wheel, it takes a shallow steering wheel hub with a flat bottom that uses this horn blow contact (PN G7346). We have a non-tilt wheel, which has a deeper hub with a recess into the column. That requires a different horn blow contact with a taller contact shaft, which, unfortunately for us, is not reproduced. As a result, our new horn button is non-functional. If you've got an old one of these for a non-tilt column, we'd love to buy it off you!
Project Nova is far from perfect,...
Project Nova is far from perfect, but at least we can live with the way it looks until it goes for paint later this year. Now we are free to concentrate on the important stuff, like fixing the slipping trans, getting some suspension under it, and putting some real brakes, wheels, and tires on.