"It was all a big blur," Jimmy Matthews said after asking what it was like to build a 1972 Nova of this caliber in less than one month. "It was basically a painted hull and we worked on it every night into the morning, and on the 28th day it was on the trailer headed to the Goodguys show in Columbus," Matthews said. We've heard of last minute thrashes before, but to put something like this together in such a short time is impressive to say the least. "We had a lot of people step up and get the parts to me in a very short time," Matthews said. "Vintage Wheelworks out of California had the wheels to me in a day, Total Cost Involved had their complete suspension system to me with plenty of time; I really had some great help getting the car together." When we spotted the Black Cherry 1972 Nova in the pits at the Goodguys autocross, we knew it was not just a tough looking machine, judging by the large Falken's at all four corners, the thing could probably handle well too. "It handles like it is on rails," Matthews said. "The TCI coilovers and torque arm suspension is phenomenal and it stops on a dime." Not bad for a car built so quickly, but you'd never guess the way it looks and performs. Working for Charlotte Rod & Custom in North Carolina, Matthews travels to about twenty car shows and events a year, and so far his creation has been getting a lot of attention. "The car's color was chosen by my son Jared, who is a huge fan of Chevy High Performance. I also have another Black Cherry Nova, a '66 that he was my inspiration for too." A handful of good buddies also helped Matthews make the Goodguys event; Bobby Hufs, Wayne Rawligh, and David Allen were a few that lent a hand, but for the most part, Matthews assembled the car in his garage.
It was important to make the car streetable, and according to Matthews, the car can go anywhere. "We took it to the Cruisin' to the Coast event in Biloxi, Mississippi, and I take it to a lot of local car shows, about twenty two a year, and people can't believe it how quickly we got it done." For a car that was only a shell a month before we spotted it at Goodguys, this X-body definitely stands out. The stance and large wheels and tires really grabbed our attention. "I emailed the guys at Vintage Wheelworks in California and the very next morning they had the wheels on the way. I had them in less than 72 hours," Matthews said. It was at-the-ready companies like that and some loyal friends and support from his son that made building this car possible.
Matthews admits that the interior and some other cosmetics still need attention, but for the most part, this is a fully-functional, hard-handling muscle car that Matthews put together lickety-split and you can expect to see his cool creation at next year's Goodguys events as well.
The engine started as a stock 350 block that was machined and built by Dennis Hawkins at Precision Machine Services in Sevierville, Tennessee. It's been poked and stroked to produce 383 ci and for induction it uses Pro Action aluminum heads and a polished single-plane intake manifold from Professional Products. The cam is a COMP Cams bumpstick with 0.525/0.526 lift and 230 at 0.050 duration. The carb is a 750 cfm unit customized by AED, the oil is controlled by a trap door baffled Canton Pan, and the front drive comes from Vision Impact Performance. The ceramic-coated headers came with the front suspension clip from Total Cost Involved, MSD Performance 6Al ignition box fires the plugs, and the combination makes 524 hp at 5,300 rpm and 526 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 with a pump gas-friendly 10.5:1 compression.
Starting at the back, Matthews' Nova features a Fab 9 Currie rearend that's packed with 3.55:1 gears, 35-spline axles, and a True Trac differential for great grip even around corners. The transmission is a TH350 built by Mike Perry's Transmissions and connecting the engine and trans together is a TCI Auto flexplate and Street Fighter torque converter. The car rolls with help from a custom driveshaft from Sonny's Driveline in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The interior of the Nova has all the essentials for going fast around the cones. RCI Racing seats and 5-point harnesses; Lecarra steering wheel, B&M shifter—all the pieces needed to safely whip around the autocross course. Other interior upgrades include a Flaming River steering column, Auto Meter tach, and Lokar pedals. Colortec Chassis Powder Coating in Sevierville, Tennessee handled all of Matthews' coated pieces under the hood and inside.
The car's paint color, PPG Black Cherry, was chosen by Jimmy's son Jared who was a big inspiration for this X-body build. An all steel four-inch cowl hood was chosen to clear the tall K&N air filter, but also because it makes the car look tough. The chrome was also shined up and the trim was shaved.
Wheels & Tires
Vintage Wheelworks 505 wheels were chosen for Mathews' Nova, and they aren't small either. The fronts measure 18 x 9.5-inch, while the rears are 18 x 11 in the classic five spoke design. Falken Azenis meats are wrapped around each wheel and measure 275/35R18 in the front and 315/30R18 in the rear. These grippy steam rollers help this old muscle car hug the road like an agile sports car.
Brakes & Suspension
Peer under the car and you can see a complete suspension setup from Total Cost Involved. The front clip from features double adjustable coilovers, tubular arms, and is designed specifically to make these old Chevys perform. The aftermarket frame connects at the center of the car to support a beefy torque arm suspension design that is a definite improvement over factory leaf springs, when it comes to performance handling. Wilwood's manual master cylinder and 4-piston caliper brakes are bolted up front and rear and can really make the Nova stop in a hurry.