In the long-forgotten baseball classic Forever Blue, a writer chronicles how businessman Walter O’Malley took the Brooklyn Dodgers from a broken-down franchise to one of the sport’s most recognized ball clubs today. It took some bold steps—such as moving the franchise to L.A.—but in retrospect, it was exactly what both the franchise and baseball needed to grow and prosper. Kevin Lovern took some bold moves of his own with this ’66 Nova SS, but like Walter O’Malley more than 55 years ago, he’s never looked back.
“I drove a ’66 Nova Super Sport in high school, but once I got married, I had to sell it to pay some bills,” Kevin said. “So I wanted to build another one. I had been driving by this guy’s junkyard in Bennettsville, South Carolina, for years and was on the way to the beach when my dad and I stopped in to see if he wanted to sell any of the cars he had. He had about six Novas sitting along a fence that you could see from the road. Of course, he said he wasn’t selling any of them, but then he said he might have one he’d consider.”
“He took us through a maze of junk until I saw what was to be my new Nova SS—sitting on top of an old ice cream cooler without the front clip, engine, doors, or trunk lid,” Kevin recalled, laughing. “Once we got over the shock, we realized that what was left of the car was solid, even though it did have a lot of dents and dings. The VIN and cowl plate were there, so we could verify that it was an original Super Sport. The owner told us that the car had never been titled or tagged. It had spent its life on the dragstrip. It ended up scraping the guard rail and wound up parked beside the dealership for years, where people would rob parts off the car. When the dealership closed, he had bought what was left of the car in a large lot of parts and then put it on top of this cooler so it wouldn’t touch the ground. He thought it had been factory ordered as an L79 car with a 3-speed on the column.”
While buying this carcass of an old car would be risky to some, Kevin and his dad talked to the junkyard owner about what it would take to buy the car. Twenty-five hundred sounded like a lot, but the junkyard owner assured father and son that if they would come back in a couple of weeks, they would have a complete car for their money. True to his word, the seller had a complete car for them when they returned—even if it did require a complete restoration.
From today’s standpoint, the second-gen ’66-’67 Chevy IIs are seen as iconic cars, even if they were just one rung up from the Corvair, which was Chevrolet’s least-expensive model at that time. The clean styling has aged gracefully, and the performance was well reviewed by the magazines from this time. Just 172,485 were sold in 1966, and sales dropped dramatically by nearly 40 percent to just 106,500 the following year. Any reaction should be tempered, however, as these bare-bones cars saw tremendous in-house competition from within their own ranks as seen with the Impala, Chevelle, and then the Camaro. The V-8-powered SS two-door coupes sold 10,100 models in 1966 and just over 8,200 in 1967.
“Dad was a machinist, so he did the bulk of the work on the engine with my helping,” Kevin said about the rebuild. “We did a 0.030-inch overbore on a ’70 model 350/350 from a Chevelle and added 10:1 compression pistons along with a set of 300 double-hump heads. Then we added a Comp Cams camshaft with a ’66 model L79 intake and a Holley 850-cfm double-pumper with an L79 air cleaner. In finishing the powertrain, we added a Muncie 4-speed with a Zoom clutch and pressure plate, along with a date code–correct 12-bolt rear with 4:11 gears and a Posi.”
Underneath, both the front and rear suspension remain stock while the exhaust was modified with a set of Flowmasters. The drum brakes remain stock also, which Kevin admits is something he wishes he had done over. Converting to disc brakes remains on his “to do” for future renovations to the car.
Although the car came rust free, the sheetmetal had suffered a lot of dents, scrapes, and dings. Kevin and his father replaced the fenders, hood, doors, and quarter-panels with new sheetmetal. While many Chevy IIs lean toward red, black, or white, Kevin had Joe Wilson paint the car Marina Blue. A contrasting hood stripe was later added at the suggestion of his son who saw it on one of his toy Hot Wheels cars. After that, Kevin and his dad debated adding a black vinyl top, before going ahead and pulling the trigger. The end result adds even more to the visual aesthetics. Color-coordinated 14-inch steel wheels with COPO hubcaps carry BFGoodrich radial T/As to finish the look Kevin wanted.
Classic Industries got the call for everything needed to redo the interior to stock trim, which was completed by Tim Bishop. A factory tissue box holder located underneath the passenger side dash is still there. While spartan in appearance, it accurately reflects what was offered on these cars when they were new without any gimmicky bells or whistles.
Since its completion, this car has done well at numerous Super Chevy shows and won a “Best of the Best” award in 2011. It also finished as first runner-up at the ’10 Nova Nationals, scoring a whopping 897 out of a possible 900 judging points.
Kevin and his dad went out on a limb in choosing a derelict car as their starting point—and then they did it again with some calculated gambles on the color, stripe, and vinyl top. Yet, as in the case with Walter O’Malley’s Dodgers, they wouldn’t be here today without some bold steps. With the success they’ve found with this little Chevy II Nova, chances are their memories will be forever blue!