1963 Chevy Nova SS - Doin' That Boogie Again

Kyle Tucker’s ’63 Nova SS ain’t no shoebox

Ro McGonegal Jan 20, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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By now, Kyle Tucker and Detroit Speed have at least one copy of every popular Chevrolet ever made, except for the Corvette. DSE doesn’t do stuff for them--yet. Kyle’s collection stems from pragmatism not ego. He’d need specimens for adaptation, forms to violate, and bodies to dissect for the good of mankind. This ’63 Nova was not even finished before DSE began using it for the development of its front and rear suspension, working on shock, spring, and antisway bar rates. "The car has logged a lot of street miles and also track miles at our local road course and many different autocrosses," Kyle says.

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From whence did it come? What goes around eventually comes around again. In the late ’90s, Will Handzel was technical editor at Hot Rod. He had a ’63 Nova that was used in installation and preparation stories, but the car was never a full-blown feature. Handzel and Kyle became friends. They both talked the talk. Handzel eventually went to Detroit to work for the General and made excellent use of his engineering background. "I have followed this car for many years," Kyle says. "I have always liked small ’62-65 Chevy II body styles while many prefer the ’66-67 Chevy II. I followed the buildup of the car through Handzel and the magazines, but the car never got finished before Handzel moved to Detroit. I was then reacquainted with the car ... and always told Handzel, ‘If you would like to sell the project, let me know.’"

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Let’s crank the clock back a few years. Handzel says he actually had three ’63 Novas to make one good car. (One of them became Steve Magnante’s "Wilshire Shaker," a spot-on repop of a mid-’60s match racer--Hilborn-injected big-block, stick axle, and all.) "I bought [the green car] at the Pomona Swap Meet. It was clean and structurally sound, a driver with a six- and two-speed. My then girlfriend drove it for three years without issue. I’d gotten to the wiring, plumbing, and some of the interior. I dragged the thing to Detroit, and eventually had the parts and the body stripped and painted by Jory’s Race and Custom in Westland, Michigan."

That was in the middle of the great dry spell. The car hadn’t moved on its own for 15 years, nor had it been fully assembled. Late last year Kyle got the message he’d been waiting for from Handzel. "I went to Detroit and loaded the car and pieces into a trailer and the rest in the truck and hauled it back to North Carolina. We first installed our Deep Tubs so we could package a lot more tire under the back and then installed our Quadra Link rear suspension. We rolled video of each episode so we could use it for our customers’ benefit along with detailed instructions and templates. We also installed our subframe connectors and a six-point rollcage. The last vital organ, the new front frame, was connected and the DSE stamped inner fenders were added to go with the new ’rails."

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As you may or may not know, Kyle and his wife, Stacy, both worked as suspension engineers at GM before launching DSE. They learned where to go for a one-off part and who to tap for large orders. The technology that GM uses is part of their repertoire. They pioneered somewhat with having the front subframe ’rails and other pieces hydro-formed, just like the factories do it. Everything uniform. Everything unwrinkled. Everything straight.

Build time was a record. In six months the Chevy II was ready to rock. Kyle gets seat time all over the joint. He drives it throughout the week and on weekend road course raids. That would include Goodguys autocross events nationwide and other such activity on a local scale. Yeah, he takes it to the drive-in and blips the throttle, too. Wouldn’t you?

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