A FEW years ago, at a time when Aussie pesos were worth more than freedom dollars, Steve Bowman was on the hunt for some old-school muscle with a bit of a difference. No stranger to fast cars – he used to compete in Super Sprints in a WRX and had a 13B-powered RX-2 that ran low 12s in the mid-90s – Steve decided he liked the look of the ’62-65 Chevy Nova. “After an extensive internet search, I imported this 1965 one from the States,” says Steve. “It was owned by a sheriff near Antelope Valley in California, and had a ground-up resto in 2008.”
First published in the February 2021 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Ben Hosking
Steve trundled around in the Nova for the best part of a decade before a little niggle became too much to bear. “It’s a factory 327 car, but I got a bit bored ’cause I’m used to driving something with more power,” he says.
The Nova made it into the street car display outside the Meguiar’s Judging Pavilion at Summernats 33, and it’s easy to see why. The classic lines of the Sport Coupe have been left as The General intended, and that pillarless profile still looks the bee’s knees. The subtle reverse-cowl is an all-steel affair that came with the car, and the rear tyres wear their white lettering on the outside for more old-school flavour
Sourcing an almost-new, 383-cube small-block Chevy from a friend of a friend’s drag car, Steve sent it over to Sam at Westend Performance for some attention before it was fitted into its new home. The Chevrolet block contains a steel Eagle crank, with Eagle H-beams and SRP flat-tops. The valvetrain is an all-COMP affair, with AFR heads directing the flow of air and exhaust. Crowning the combo is a Quick Fuel 850 sitting on a Victor Jr intake, while ICE ignition bits command the zaps. With somewhere around 525hp and 500ft-lb by 5200rpm, the stroker’s a pretty healthy performer and has no trouble turning the 295s.
Backing it up is a TCE 3700rpm converter and a TH700 ’box built to handle 650hp, while the diff is a Ford nine-inch with plenty of good gear inside it.
With the driveline sorted, the insidious snowball effect was well and truly in motion. Steve says: “I thought I might as well paint the engine bay, and then I might as well fix a few other things, and it turned into a complete rotisserie resto.”
Some of the work carried out in the original restoration wasn’t up to Steve’s standards, and there were even a few spots of rust appearing, so the car was stripped and the transformation began. The Nova was handed over to David Miller of Miller Chassis for a date with the grinder and a serious upgrade in road-holding and safety. David made a new firewall, transmission and driveshaft tunnels, set up the triangulated four- link rear end and added chassis connectors for some much-needed rigidity. He also fabbed a new front suspension crossmember to replace the wobbly old steering box with a shortened VK rack, which allowed the tiller to be moved to the right side of the car.
Having spent so much time at the helm of more modern machinery, Steve felt the Nova could really benefit from some improved underpinnings. The front end now runs a Classic Performance Products subframe kit with tubular control arms and VariShock coil-overs from Chassisworks to handle the bumps, while 300mm Hoppers Stoppers front discs help pull the Chev up smartly.
While the ’bay is a tidy but functional affair, there are lots of little details to be found if you look hard enough. The custom 1.75in headers and tasty twin 3in system were built by Brett Schmidlin from Wicked Industries, while Steve made all the fluid lines and machined spacers to align the March Performance pulleys correctly
Now sporting a vastly improved chassis, the Nova was then sent to Camden County Customs, where Terry replaced the rear floorpan and boot floor to correct some of the work from the first resto. 2SUS Custom Resprays got the nod to take care of the bodywork and coated the whole lot in a flash shade of red based on a colour from the Range Rover catalogue. “Picking a colour was harder than deciding to get married!” laughs Steve, “but we all know red ones go faster.”
Inside, X-Trim took care of reshaping the rear seat to clear the new tunnel. The front seats are Procar buckets that provide a great deal more support than the factory pews, and the whole cab copped a layer of insulation to make it a comfy place to cruise in. You won’t find any stereo gear inside the Nova – the 383 provides all the soundtrack Steve needs.
You just can’t go wrong with black trim in a red car, but there’s plenty of factory and aftermarket metallic lustre sprinkled around the interior too. X-Trim reshaped the rear seat and fitted the Procar front buckets, and added new carpets, headlining and door trims. They also decked out the boot in a super-tidy custom installation. “They did a killer job,” says Steve. The classic SAAS wheel is bolted to a custom collapsible column from Billet Works in WA
The Nova hasn’t seen a track and wasn’t built to race, but Steve might have a crack at roll racing sometime. For now, at least, the fully engineered Nova’s place is the on the street. “I would say that it’s finished,” says Steve. “I just wanna hop in it with mates and family, cruise and enjoy it.”
1965 CHEVY II NOVA SPORT COUPE
Paint: Custom red pearl
Engine: Chevrolet 383ci
Carb: Quick Fuel 850
Manifold: Edelbrock Victor Jr
Heads: AFR 195cc
Camshaft: COMP Xtreme Energy hydraulic-roller
Rings: Mahle file-fit
Bearings: ACL Race
Sump: GM Classics 7qt front sump
Exhaust: Custom 1.75in headers, twin 3in, Hooker mufflers
Cooling: Custom aluminium radiator, Spal thermo fan
Converter: TCE 3700rpm
Diff: 9in, 3.7:1 gears, Strange carrier, Truetrac, 31-spline Mark Williams axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: VariSprings, VariShock single-adjustable coil-overs
Rear: Strange springs, Viking double-adjustable coil-overs
Brakes: Hoppers 300mm discs (f), HQ drums (r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld Draglite; 15x5 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: Toyo 195/50/15 (f), Sumitomo 295/50/15 (r)
David Miller at Miller Chassis for the four-link, chassis connectors, tunnels and RHD conversion; Brett Schmidlin at Wicked Industries for the killer headers, exhaust and miscellaneous fabrication work; Basser at 2SUS Custom Resprays for the bodywork and smooth coat of colour; X-Trim Motor Trimming for outstanding trim work; Westend Performance for a health check on the SBC; Ben at Hills Performance for mechanicals and tuning; Damon at The Coating Garage for powdercoating; last but not least, the family and mates who chipped in to provide a hand and offer counselling services when needed
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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