Mention “six cylinder” in the same sentence as “muscle car” and some people might laugh and walk away. Not so with retired CPA Bill Townsend, of Caruthersville, Missouri, who has changed some people’s thinking with this 1963 Chevy II Nova Sport coupe.
Dubbed “Senior Trip,” Bill found this classic Chevy on the Internet and promptly brought it home. The car had been in storage in Arizona for 16 plus years, covered under plastic. The paint was destroyed, but this 70,000-mile car was rust free with a good interior, so it was a more than worthy candidate for restoration.
Originally equipped with a 194ci inline-six, this was a pretty humble two-door with just 120 horsepower underhood and the Nova recorded quarter-mile elapsed times of over 19 seconds. Bill drove the car anyway for 4,000 miles before deciding that enough was enough from this Hi Thrift engine combo and that some more power would improve the ride. So, the search for another six-banger got underway.
Why another six cylinder? Bill was hooked on the idea of being different from all the other Chevy IIs he’d seen. Besides, the significance of these little inline-sixes is what actually helped put Chevrolet on the map. Between 1929 and 1954, the straight-six was the only type of engine that Chevy produced. One of the first Bow Tie marketing campaigns that Chevrolet undertook was “a six for the price of a four.” This ideology promised two extra cylinders essentially for free. This established the perception of the brand as a low cost, quality car. By 1932, Chevrolet was outselling Ford and continued to do so for decades.
Then there’s the performance side of the six-cylinder world. Some might not know, for instance, that NHRA Hall of Famer Garley Daniels won the national championship in Comp Eliminator with a V-6 powered Chevy Camaro in 1988. They may not have ever heard of Cotton Perry’s Chevy II, which won nine NHRA national events and four divisional championships with a 292ci straight-six. Or, what about that 1986 Chevy pickup in Stock Eliminator that ran a whopping 2.452 seconds under the class index at the 2014 U.S. Nationals? The die was cast and the decision was made; six was enough.
Rather than attempt to rebuild what was in the car, Bill went to nationally known Jasper Engines for a remanufactured 292ci long-block that was delivered to his door. The 292 (actually 295 ci thanks to the 0.060-inch overbore) was a solid 100 ci bigger than his outgoing engine. Tony Pease of Lenox, Tennessee, went through the assembly that had been bored 0.060 over and filled with stock-type internals, but found some pretty interesting pieces to give this car more power.
Jack Clifford’s Performance Products in Wildomar, California, provided their Ram Flow intake manifold which, with the right carburetion, Clifford claims can provide up to 70 percent more power and torque over the incredibly restrictive stock setup. In lieu of the original 1-barrel Rochester, a 390-cfm Holley 4-barrel with electric choke and vacuum secondaries complements the induction package. Coated Clifford headers with 2-inch diameter dual tubing make up the exhaust system. Backing up the big six is a 200-4R transmission and torque converter from GearStar Performance Transmissions in Akron, Ohio. Chewy Powder Coating in Dyersburg, Tennessee, was behind all of the finished parts ’n’ pieces seen all around the engine bay.
A big increase in engine performance wouldn’t be complete without a suspension to back it up. Underneath its shiny, silver exterior, this Chevy II has all the right pieces, with a Heidts SuperRide II front IFS kit providing not only the right look and stance but also superior handling on the street. Braking is handled by four-piston Wilwood disc brakes up front and Classic Performance Product discs on the rear. The rear suspension was rebuilt to stock specifications with 3.08 gearing in the 10-bolt rearend. The overdrive trans, tall gearing in the differential, and flat torque curve of the big six combine to make this car a highway star.
While V-8 power is what gets many hot rodder’s attention, a great looking body and perfect execution of detail just as readily turns heads. Bill’s Chevy II Nova started off with a full restoration, which included some subtle body modifications when the emblems were shaved and nearly all chrome removed. With the body fully sanded and prepped, Tony Pease painted the car in Mustang Silver Frost basecoat/clearcoat for a shimmering look under the night lights. Finishing touches include some complementary graphics done by Tom Rambow, as well as modern halogen headlamps and custom-made LED taillights. Seventeen-inch Legend one-piece billet wheels from Chip Foose with Goodyear Eagle tires make the statement that this is no ordinary Chevy II Nova.
Creature comforts on the inside include repurposed front seats and a custom console, which were all covered in Allante Ultra Premium leather upholstery by Anthony Fry from Swifton, Arkansas. Gauges from Classic Instruments monitor the six-banger’s vitals, while a state-of-the-art sound system provides some additional melodies. A Vintage Air underdash A/C unit keeps the driver’s compartment just as cool as the car looks.
In a world where it’s difficult to find a way make one hot rod different from the rest, Bill’s Chevy II Nova is a game changer as people realize that six just may be enough!