Same is lame. At least that’s the vibe we get at muscle car gatherings from both big-name shops and at-home car builders alike. Retro ’60s sheetmetal might be enough to stand out from a horde of minivans and SUVs, but when your project car is surrounded by dozens of its contemporaries on cruise night or in the staging lanes, factory body lines just aren’t going to cut it. If you want to distance the caliber of your car from the average street machine, it takes some extra effort to be different. Few cars demonstrate this better than the Roadster Shop’s latest creation, the Innovator Nova. Both the quantity and quality of its custom touches are so diverse, that it would make a college admissions administrator proud. So much of the Innovator’s skin has been tweaked that a standard six-page feature story just isn’t enough space to cover it. As such, we’re taking a closer look at the key design and fabrication elements that went into this impressive machine.
Professional car builders are a creative bunch, and often draw inspiration from unlikely places. To augment Innovator’s futuristic flavor, the car’s grille mimics the lines of a computer chip. The pattern was first designed in Photoshop to ensure the lines were completely asymmetrical. Then, the overall shape of the grille was designed using SolidWorks CAD software before being water jet cut out of aluminum stock. To add depth and lend a three-dimensional feel, two different layers of the grille pattern were cut and joined together by a spacer. Granted, most hot rodders don’t have access to CAD software and water jet cutters, the idea here is that using a grille that’s different from the standard wire mesh or honeycomb pattern found on many cars can dramatically change the look of your project car.
Whether you realize it or not, the first spot your eyes usually lock onto when looking at a car is its headlights. Some people think merely bolting on a set of diamond lamps is pretty trick, but the Roadster Shop wanted to do something that looked more modern than a standard round headlight assembly. Instead, it opted for projector-style bulbs laid out in a dual-stack arrangement. The trim rings are custom one-off items as well, CNC-cut from billet aluminum. Taking cues from upscale European sedans and exotics, the trim rings also house LED running lights. The concept carries over into the taillights as well, where three vertically stacked circular elements are surrounded by LEDs.
Sometimes factory body lines are so ugly, the only option is getting rid of them completely. At least that’s how the Roadster Shop felt about the big, bulky line that runs down the side of a stock Chevy II. To accomplish this, it cut off the bottom three-quarter portion of the fenders, doors, and quarter-panels. Next, the car was set at ride height, and several cardboard templates were made to establish the overall shape of the new panels. After fabricating the new bottom pieces of the fenders, doors, and quarter-panels, they were welded in place. The result is a much cleaner, slabbed appearance. During the process, the Roadster Shop also modified the wheel openings so that they fall off at a gentler angle behind the front wheel, and in front of the rear wheel. This gives the impression that the wheels are pushed outward toward the corners of the car.