Persistence is just about the only word that comes to mind when you hear the story of the painful birth of this 1966 Chevy Nova II.
Edition 18. Owner/ Builder: Jacques Mouton
It all started 12 years ago when a long-time friend, @Francois Kleynhans, living in Rustenburg, phoned Jacques Mouton, owner of this Nova. He had located the car in a maize field outside town.
They were both big fans of the ’66-’67 Nova and one, in particular, the “Fear This” Nova. This was built by a schoolboy and his father in America and used as a daily drive and weekend drag car. It was low, black and looked like wheeled evil.
Jacques asked Francois to give him the first option if ever he wanted to sell the car. That call came 2 years later when Francois wanted to move to the States and needed the airfare. Luckily, Jacques could scrape the money together and bought the car sight unseen. It stayed in Rustenburg while he tried to finish other projects and find time and money to fetch the car.
Alarm bells started ringing when he put it up for sale to purchase another dream car, a ’66 Chevelle 396. Nobody phoned back after seeing the car! Finally, time and funds came together and the car was collected from the premises of racing legend Willie Hepburn. Where it had been moved to by another good friend, Gino Remondini
. “I considered just leaving it there” recalls Jacques. It looked like it was pushed around by a tractor on the farm. The left rear quarter and boot lid was mincemeat, and the bonnet had blown open at speed, taking out the windscreen and roof. Acid rain from the nearby platinum mines had collected in all the low spots. Rusting out front and rear window frames, lower fender corners, door bottoms and the lower rear quarters.
Well, in for a penny in for a pound, so the restoration began. From the beginning, it was decided that the car would be a cruiser. With good suspension and brakes as well as a big rubber outback. The gutted body was fitted to a rotisserie and the rear wheel- wells were stretched 50mm per side. The leaf springs inboard were relocated by the same amount.
Up front, a Jag suspension was fitted to a custom sub frame. The cross member was narrowed by 100mm and a Cortina rack-and-pinion was used as it was exactly the right width. A 50mm drop was also engineered into the subframe, lowering the car to the same amount. Another 100mm drop was achieved by cutting a coil off the front springs.
Over the next five years, all rust was systematically removed from the body. The bonnet received a subtle reverse scoop and stainless billet hinges. Smoothie inner fender panels were also fitted and the firewall smoothed and filled. The window wiper motor was relocated to inside the car and a Toyota Hi-lux master cylinder and booster replaced the standard item.
On the doors, the lower quarters were replaced and a new left rear quarter was fitted. A four-door boot lid had to be shortened by 30mm to fit the coupe body. After the last patch had been welded in. The body was sandblasted underneath and the whole underside was rhino-lined as this deadens
sound and eliminates drumming.
The body was taken to L&M Body Works in Vredenburg who fettled it before laying on the Chevy spark orange/copper. This colour was chosen as it highlights the boxy 60s design. Final fitting could then begin.
A 350/350 combo was chosen to power the coupe. Sporting four-bolt mains and fuelie heads. It was left stock internally but fitted with a Rochester carb on an Edelbrock Torker manifold. Custom branches were made up before being ceramic-coated. Topping the motor is a custom-made air cleaner that accepts two K&N air filters.
A Motown American Autoparts supplied ally radiator cools the Chevy, aided by two electric fans on an ally shroud. The engine and box were smoothed and painted body colour before being slid into the engine compartment.
Moving further back a M75 Borg-Warner diff was fitted with a 2,92:1 ratio before more colour coding and fitment could be done. Brakes on the back are Mazda callipers on Merc 124 discs. While the front jag items were replaced by 325mm Corvette discs and 8-pot Praggia callipers. They were sourced from Ricardo Ricky Johnson after he fitted bigger brakes to his ’68 Camaro.
The rims were originally destined for a Nissan 350Z drift car. At 9.5 inches it was too wide for the front and too narrow for the back. One and a half inches was removed from the front and added to the back wheels. Bringing it to 8 inches and 11 inches respectively. @Dunlop rubber in 225/30×19 and 285/40×19 does handling duty, supplied by Bandkorp in Vredenburg.
Moving to the inside of the car, the original dash was thrashed by rocks. So a custom cluster was made using Autogage gauges. The original steering wheel was also used after being restored. The seats were definitely not restorable. So Mercedes items were used both front and rear. Glassfibre speaker pods were made for the doors and parcel shelf after reading an article in Speed and Sound…
Hey, inspiration is where you find it and a bit of crossover can only be a good thing! The pods were fitted with Sony Explod speakers and a Pioneer head unit was used. The door cards, kick panels and dash was expertly upholstered by Michael at Leather Worx. He also fitted the carpet and roof lining. Stateside supplied the Hurst pro-Matic shifter whose cover was replicated in glass fibre before being painted.
Hours spent straightening, sanding and polishing all the stainless steel trim ensures a factory shine. The lower trim on the car was shaved during the bodywork stage and the holes were welded shut. Why? Because, well, it just looks better that way! New front and rear glass as well as a weather-stripping kit from Soff seal finish off the greenhouse.
A new stainless steel fuel tank was bent up by Francois at Langebaan Engineering, replacing the rusted-out original. Also in stainless steel is the exhaust system bent up by Supa-Quick in Vredenburg.
Sporting an X-pipe behind the gearbox, it mellows the rumble from the 350. The first trip the rejuvenated Nova took was with 6 friends to the Cars-in-the-Park event held at Zwartkops Raceway, where it was a big hit. The extreme lowness wasn’t a problem but our crappy roads were. A couple of bent rims didn’t stop the little Chevy and you can be sure the same persistence that insured its survival will sort out those rims!