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1963 Chevy II Nova Wagon - The Black Box

This Father and Son Nova Project Provided More Than Just a Bonding Experience

Patrick Hill Mar 21, 2014
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Sometimes, well, a lot of times, for those of us in this hobby, a car is MORE than just a car. Sometimes our classics take on almost human personas, sharing the experience of life just like our friends and family, even coming to achieve that status for the more fervorent of us. Besides the trips and the adventures of driving, there’s also the building of a classic that helps us bond with our cars.

Scott Ellis’ son Cody got the same classic car bug his father had at age 13. But unlike other teenagers who could practically taste getting their driver’s licenses and the associated freedom, Cody didn’t want a Camaro, Chevelle, or similarly mainstream car. He wanted a Nova wagon.

 Chevrolet Ii Nova Wagon Msd Ignition Box 2/13

So, the game was on. Scott makes his living driving trucks back and forth across the country, so while on the road he always had his eyes open for a wagon. During one trip, Scott located his son’s future Chevy II in Joplin, Missouri. Originally owned by a little old lady, the current owner was another truck driver who originally had aspirations to restore the car. The ’63 wagon had 63,000 miles on the clock, still had its factory red interior and beige paint, and was all original right down to its six-cylinder engine and Powerglide trans. The owner had lost interest in the car, and after some haggling, sold it to Scott for $3,500.

1963 Chevrolet Ii Nova Wagon Engine 3/13

“The build was a project of ups and downs,” explains Scott “Because not many people back when we started put LS motors in stock Chevy II front clips. So, it was trial and error getting the LS-based truck motor in there, but worth it all because we built it together in our home garage.”

 Chevrolet Ii Nova Wagon Engine Closeup 4/13

The straight six and Powerglide were quickly yanked, and engine bay prep begun to fit the LS motor between the stock frame rails. Scott is friends with Chuck Church of Church Boys Racing, and went to them for Church Boys’ rack and pinion conversion kit so they wouldn’t have to change the oil pan on the engine. One thing led to another though, and soon Scott and Cody were bolting on CBR’s tubular control arms and sway bar, Classic Performance Products two-inch drop spindles, and CPP’s big brake kit with 13-inch rotors. Ridetech Shockwave adjustable air shocks cushion the ride while allowing for ride height adjustments. To help with fitting the LS between the stock shock towers, Hooker cast exhaust manifolds were used. With all the mods, the modern engine dropped right in and fit perfectly. A custom exhaust was connected up to the engine, using Flowmaster mufflers and 2.5-inch pipe with an X crossover.

For the rear suspension, it was Total Cost Involved’s four-link system, connected to a Babbit Bearing assembled 9-inch rear with Moser axles and 3.55 gears, and Ridetech Shockwaves to keep everything stable. Rear brakes are same as the front, Classic Performance Products binders hanging on 11-inch rotors. To get the ride height lowered just right in the back, the shock mounts were cut and relocated.

The motor is a bone stock 5.3L truck variant, relieved of its factory EFI system. Feeding the small-block its fuel and air is an Edelbrock LS intake and Street Avenger carb. That’s right folks, this bad boy uses a carburetor! The stock ignition coils are triggered by an MSD/Edelbrock timing control system, that uses the stock LS reluctor wheel to trigger the coils. It’s backed by a 700-R4 auto that uses a shortened Nova factory driveshaft to spin the 9-inch rear.

1963 Chevrolet Ii Nova Wagon Interior 8/13

With everything mechanically done, the wagon went to Vic DeMatteo, where the original beige paint was sanded, cleaned, then covered with DuPont Jet Black. After the paint, the original interior was stripped out, and the seats covered with black ultra leather material, and new factory reproduction black door panels installed. For keeping tabs on the LS, Auto Meter gauges were installed, along with an ididit steering column and Billet Specialties steering wheel.

When everything was finished up, Cody had his Nova wagon, and father and son enjoyed a new connection and shared interest. “When we started this, Cody didn’t know anything about cars. I had always owned Novas my whole life, and wanted one of my sons to have an interest in cars too. He had a little bit of an interest, and I bought the car to help it grow,” Scott says.

 Chevrolet Ii Nova Wagon Steering Wheel 12/13

“My most memorable experience was watching him pull out of the garage going to his first car show with the wagon.”

Doesn’t get much better than that …

1963 Chevrolet Ii Nova Wagon Side 13/13



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