How Rare Is Rare?
It started all over again in 1998: I had just sold a 67 SS that I had restored in 1992 and was looking for another project. I had been accumulating a large amount of NOS parts over the years and was looking for a special car to use them on. It had to be a documented car with its original drive train; I wasn’t having very much luck since most of these cars were pretty well abused through their life. There was an ad in Hemmings that said: 67 Nova SS L-79 documented, needs restored, expensive. I knew who owned the car. It was in Charlotte, NC, owned by Larry and Rodney Bradham. They have been long time members of NNN. I didn’t give it a lot of thought, but I kept it in the back of my mind.
The Nova Nationals rolled around in August in Dearborn, MI that year and the car showed up there in the swap meet area. It was nasty and pretty beat up, but not rotten. The original motor and rear end were with the car, along with the original protect-o-plate and quite a bit of other documentation. The Bradhams had brought the car to sell, but also to show people that these cars were actually built. I talked to them about possibly purchasing the car. There were a lot of parts with the car, but since I had my own 15-year collection of NOS parts I really didn’t need all of what they had.
I had a lot of work ahead of me to try and disprove it. With so few of these cars built I wanted to be sure it was a legitimate car. With the help of Wayne Bushey and Carl Riegger I was on my way to owning this piece of history. In the spring of 1999 I took a trip to the Charlotte Auto Fair with Carl Reigger to look around for a car, meet with Larry and Rodney, have another look at the 67 L-79, and to discuss some thoughts I had over the past few months. I still hadn’t made up my mind yet. Carl and I then went on to Spring Carlisle a few weeks later and the topic of the entire week was the car. Should I buy it or not? We tried hard to come up with an angle to disprove the car, but couldn’t. After 10 months of going back and forth, I called Larry and told him I would take the car. We made arrangements to meet in Virginia on May 1st of 1999, since it was half way for both of us. At 6 A.M. my dad and I left northern Ohio and headed south; by 7 P.M we were back home with the basket case. The car was in so many pieces that it took my entire truck and trailer to bring home all the parts and the car.
A lot of things in my life changed shortly after that. I almost sold the car and all the NOS parts twice, but something told me not to. It sat for 2 or 3 years untouched. Finally, I got back at it. It was totally disassembled and cleaned. The car had spent part of its life on the drag strip, so there were a lot of missing parts. Some things that were done that made me think what the heck were these guys thinking when they did this? The rear clip was slightly damaged from an accident and the best way of repair was to pull it, remove the quarter panels and cut off the back 1/3 of the car. Luckily, I had a frame machine in my garage for a few months. The donor car was another 67 built a few months prior that was hit hard in the front end and only had 44 k miles on it. The color was even the same, emerald turquoise. The quarter panels were removed and the entire rear structure was drilled apart and changed in one piece. That part of the project came along fine. Then it was time for the rotisserie. The body spent 1 ½ years on it for floor and frame rail repair. Somewhere along the way somebody modified the shifter hump to accommodate an automatic transmission so that had to be repaired also. The body was painted, sanded and buffed in pieces and then assembled in stages. I built the car in the same order that it was assembled at Fisher Body and then Chevrolet Assembly. I was fortunate enough to be able to do the entire job, with the exception of the seat upholstery and spraying the lacquer exterior color. As many of the original dated parts were reused as possible, or should I say that were left on the car, and a huge supply of NOS parts. The car only left my own garage at home to go to my shop to use the lifts for the under carriage work. This project was very intense and isn’t the kind of project you would take on for your first car. Being a mechanic by trade did help, since I have access to tools and equipment most guys wouldn’t have, but it was still a very difficult task. The entire project seemed like it was 2 steps forward and 5 steps back. I can’t say in years how long it took to complete, but I did keep track of all my hours. The total is 4860. That does not include swap meet time, phone calls or research. That is actual working time. I finished the car in the fall/early winter of 2008 just in time to be ready for the 2009 show season.
Contrary to popular belief, these cars were not built in August or September of 1966 with left over parts from the 66’s, but a lot more like the 68 L-79’s. I have documentation proving that these cars were all built very late in the model year, after May 1st and used a cast iron intake manifold, quadrajet carburetor, and a saginaw transmission. Don’t ask; I have no idea why.
I would like to thank Junior from Chevy 2 Only for supplying the needed reproduction parts for my project.
Here is a list of accomplishments for the 2009 season: • Norwalk Super Chevy: Selected for Gold Class & Gold Class Best Detail Award • NNN Nationals: 66/67 People’s Choice, 66/67 Restored winner, Indiana Chapter Pick, Gold Certificate, Best of Show Restored, highest Scoring Restored Nova since NNN started in 1982 & NNN Nova Times Cover Car • Invite to the Forge Invitational Muscle Car Show • Muscle Car Enthusiast Magazine feature car, March 2010 Issue • Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals Gold Concourse Award • Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals Best Chevrolet Award