Nothing like cheap tires, drum brakes, and the smell of $4-per-gallon fuel to get you thinking about your ride. She turned 43 on the drive home the other night—43K, that is! “She” is my ’65 two-door Nova sedan.
In 1991, I found the white-on-red two-door sedan for sale in the classifieds. It was located somewhere toward Indianapolis (close to where my wife and I first met). Buying the car wasn’t going over so good with her since we had only been married a year. But she got over it! My pitch was, “It’s an old Nova, honey, and it is white on red. I had never seen one with this unique color combination.” “Yeah, right,” she replied.
After making the deal, the paperwork showed it had sold new at a dealership near our house. That didn’t seem to matter, either! Regardless, I purchased the car with the original intention of building it the way I would have ordered it had I been old enough in 1965. From that point until not too long ago I’ve been collecting parts. Other than that maiden drive form Indy with the six-banger and three on the tree, I had not driven the car until just recently, when I drove her home from the alignment shop. What I was not impressed with during that commute was the way the card handled. Could we have gone too stock with this Nova?
Some Chevy Nova Upgrades for Indoor Show
We had an indoor show, 50 miles or so round trip, so I jumped at the chance to get some more “break-in” miles on the new engine. Oh, did I mention it now sports a full-fledged 327/350 from a ’66 Deuce? Yes, with all the stock goodies. As I mentioned, my first driving impressions were not all that great. I started rearranging my thoughts, wondering if this was truly what it was like driving these cars when they were new. For all intents and purposes, this Nova was new and had been converted to a Hurst shifter (like in the ‘60s) using the adapter bracket to use the stock handle on top. Despite the update, the stick for a bench seat car was long, it added to the travel, and it didn’t even come close to modern-day quick shifts. Imagine if I had left the stock shifter in it!
Nova Parts Surprise
In keeping with the nostalgic look, I added a set of Doug’s coated headers, which were a perfect fit (just like in the ‘60s). Underneath, along with the Muncie was a stock Nova 12-bolt with a 3.55 gearset (again, like in the ‘60s). The big surprise, though, was the set of four-ply tires (which I found on Ebay for about $160). What a score! What a terrible ride! (Just like in the ‘60s!). These treads skated on top of the pavement and felt like a power slide in a curve! With 350 horsepower not yet broken in, it was a chore not to spin them—the rear ones, that is.
The next surprise was when I suddenly had to hit the brakes. It was like pushing a button labeled “auto lane changer!” A far cry from present-day disc brakes, for sure. I found myself asking “Was one side not working or one side working too much?” A few more miles of this behavior, I reasoned, may dictate a front brake swap.
Another curious situation that crept up: The passenger-side bench seat lock would not latch after adjusting the seat up (just like in the ‘60s). I had to get out of the car and under the passenger side’s seat to adjust the cable and spring. No problem.
Strange Dimmer Switch
As for the modern appointments, the carb was a little unpredictable at idle (just like in the ‘60s), but I forgot to align the headlights for the drive home. Needless to say, it was a dark trip. When I hit the dimmer switch, the rubber floor mat (no carpet) prevented the button from coming back up, so the switch hung in between, leaving me with high beams only. Then it left me with no headlights at all. A little kick and the switch locked into high beam. It was worth taking it on the chin with the oncoming traffic flashing their brights at me just to have light.
The strange thing about this whole ordeal was the more I drove this car the more I liked it. This is the reality of old cars. This is why we spend our hard-earned cash to restore, rebuild and replace. I feel good that it runs great and sounds wonderful. Oh yeah, the N.O.S. trim and rare factory in-dash tachometer were all good to me. But that hard-to-find heater delete panel was a contradiction. It was a neat piece to have in the car, but since the air temperature outside was a cool 38 degrees, I could have opted for a nice Vintage Air climate control system. But heck, what fun this old car is. Just like in the ‘60s!