You could say that Ryan Buck of Lino Lakes, Minnesota, has lived through a car guy's worst nightmare; getting into a wreck while cruising in your freshly upgraded muscle car. When we spotted Buck's satin Ember Red Nova tearing up the Goodguys Autocross in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year, we had to learn more about it and after hearing his triumphant story, we had to share it. "I was involved in a car accident with my first Nova back in March of 2012," Buck said. "It was my fault, the roads were cold and I spun it out and got hit, thankfully I was OK. We had it for a year and a half before it happened and it was a pretty special car to my wife and me." The car, which looked nearly identical to what you see here, was totaled; frame bashed, roof tweaked. "I literally just finished installing a new engine and rearend under it and I was helping my mother-in-law move when it happened." Ryan survived the crash unscathed and although at the time he was down, he was not out.
Luckily for Ryan, his wife Sarah is a Chevy fan too, and together they set out to build a replica of the 1963 they once had, with Ryan working two jobs while Sarah was pregnant. "We found a bone stock 1963 SS in June of 2012 and set a goal for it to be completed June 1, 2013," Buck said. At that time, when the wreck was still in mind, he may not have realized it, but the Buck's were putting together a muscle car that would end up being even nicer than the one they had. "There were a lot of things I wasn't able to do on the first one that I was able to do here," Ryan said about his 1963, which he calls Bittersweet II. For example, the car features side-exit exhaust and electric cutouts, something Buck was literally day-dreaming about hours before the crash. "Other things I like about this car are the custom black nickel-plated 'V-8' emblems I had made, and the deleted fuel filler hole is another thing I really like; I hated looking at that on the old one." Other custom touches include a shaved passenger side mirror, small front spoiler, filled in front license plate area, and full factory trim that was applied with a bronze-metallic powdercoat that's been clearcoated, which darkened the hue.
The Bucks were able to build the car in about 11 months, and that's taking two months off around the birth of their daughter, Lily. "This car was built on weekends for a little under a year," Ryan said. "This car is proof that if you have the desire, four jackstands, tools, and a welder, anyone can build a respectable car." Respectable indeed, after the CHP photo shoot at the Goodguys show (where they placed sixth in the autocross), the Bucks went on to enter into the 2013 Car Craft Real Street Eliminator Muscle Car Class and took the gold, beating out some very respected names in the autocross realm.
Horsepower comes from a conventional small-block Chevy that Ryan has had since high school. The block and cast bottom end are out of his 1968 Camaro, but the top half was mildly upgraded with some essential performance parts. A set of port-matched L98 head castings top the bored-out 350 SBC, while a 650cfm Holley 4150 carburetor and Edelbrock Performer RPM make up the rest of the induction system. Inside the small-block is a hydraulic flat tappet Melling camshaft that has around 0.467/0.488 lift and a duration of 224/234 duration at 0.050. COMP Cams' pushrods, 1.5 roller rockers, and hardware round out the valvetrain. The ignition system is MSD's Street Fire box with a Billet distributor, while the headers come from Total Cost Involved. The exhaust system features electric cutouts that can be activated from inside the car to give this dog more bark when at the track. The engine is also set back in the engine bay, which prompted Ryan to run a 6-quart road race Canton oil pan from a 1968 Camaro. The combo puts about 300 hp to the wheels, which is more than enough to accelerate the Chevy II around and through the cones.
The transmission is a Tremec TKO 600 with factory gear ratios and a Hurst shifter. To mount the hydraulic clutch master, Buck engineered a bracket that positions it nicely. A McLeod Racing throwout bearing and performance clutch also makes up the trans upgrades. Connecting the 3.70:1 gear, posi-equipped Currie 9-inch rearend is a 3-inch driveshaft by Catco.
Jerry's Upholstery in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is responsible for the black vinyl/micro-fiber interior of the SS. Modified Camaro buckets from a 1997 Camaro were fitted into the SS office, while other cool upgrades such as a custom center console from a 1967 Camaro and removable harness bar (for the baby seat, not pictured) also grace the interior. The dash pad holes were filled and smoothed nicely, while a custom set of Auto Meter gauges were bolted up instead of factory radio dials.
The bone-stock Craigslist find received new floors, a custom shaved firewall, and a few other external upgrades; such as a shaved gas filler hole, custom black nickel emblems, front spoiler, and bronze-metallic powder coated trim. The paint is 1963 Ember Red that's been sprayed with a flat clearcoat by Mike Osterman in Maplewood, Minnesota.
Wheels & tires
The TCI Engineering front suspension on this car allows for a relatively large Falken RT615K 225/45R17 in the front, while Ryan fit a 275/35R18 in the rear thanks to a mini-tub. The wheels are black five spokes from Coy that measure 17x7 in the front and 18x9.5 in the rear.
Brakes & suspension
TCI Engineering's two-inch drop spindles and double adjustable coil overs are bolted up front of the Nova, while a rebuilt Mustang II rack handles the steering. The TCI K-member also allowed Buck to move the engine back 1.5-inches. Wilwood's 12.2 discs and 4-piston calipers stop the SS in front, while 11-inch Wilwood discs and 4-piston calipers are bolted up to the 9-inch in the rear. TCI's double adjustable coilovers also suspend the rear of the SS as well.