Some guys are dedicated to a certain brand of car, and like most who read Chevy High Performance, there’s a good chance Chevrolet is responsible for creating your favorite muscle car. Not only is Bill Oertel a Chevy fan, but he’s been hooked on Novas for as long as he can remember. The fact that he’s owned over 20 of them solidifies him as a bona fide Nova fanatic. But we’re not here to judge or apply labels; our job is to tell a little story about Bill’s gorgeous 1968 SS.
He credits his father as the one who got him pointed in the hot rodding direction. Bill comments. “I was doing just about what every other neighborhood kid did in the ’60s: I played with cars. We were car guys, plain and simple.”
When Bill retired from the “rat race” in 2002, he was set on finding his dream car. “Retirement offered me the time to build and restore my ‘dream Nova,’” he said. “I searched all over the country to find just the right one, when my good friend John Findley, owner of Classic Specialties, came across this one just 20 miles from my house. Of all places, the owner drove it to an old hot rodder’s funeral, which is where John spotted it.”
Bill remembers it being love at first sight, so he took aim and threw down his chips in hopes the owner would bite down. A little negotiation and some “silent prayer” later and Bill was driving home this Butternut Yellow ’68 SS.
Content with the car for a few years, Bill cruised it as purchased: 355ci small-block, four-speed trans, and factory 12-bolt rearend. But as is the story with all hot rodders, more power and perfection were in store. In fact, Bill spent hours of research to get just the right combination of engine, trans, rearend, and suspension for his driving style.
The personalization started when Bill, with the help of his friend John Findley (remember him?), dropped in a custom-built T&L Engines (Stanfield, North Carolina) 383 stroker armed with a Scat 3.759-inch steel crankshaft, Scat forged I-beam rods, and Speed Pro 10.4:1 pistons. A Comp roller cam (0.502/0.510-inch lift; 224/230-degree duration at 0.050, 110-degree LSA) pairs up with Comp roller rockers and valvesprings. Dart Pro 1 aluminum heads seal the deal. The mill was topped with a polished Edelbrock Performer Air-Gap intake and 770-cfm Holley Street Avenger carb. A PerTronix Ignitor II keeps the fire alive, while spent fuel exits via a pair of Dyna Max 2 1/2-inch headers and custom 2 1/2-inch exhaust finalized by Flowmaster Delta 50 mufflers. The duo’s efforts came to 460 hp and 467 lb-ft of torque—right in line with their expectations.
With Bill’s dream Nova near reality, the engine bay reflects his detail-oriented personality. Notables include a March pulley system, Billet Specialties 14-inch Profile air cleaner, polished Engine Works alternator, custom aluminum valve covers, and a one-off steel radiator cover; all dialed in with polished button-head bolts.
The vintage four-speed was replaced by a modern Tremec TKO 600 five-speed and a Hays clutch. A Detroit Truetrac and 3.73 gears reside within a Moser 12-bolt housing, and 33-spline axles manage the mayhem out back.
An improvement in handling was a must so Bill addressed the antiquated suspension technology up front with Heidts tubular upper and lower control arms, Moog six-cylinder springs, and Monroe heavy-duty dampers. An Addco 1 1/8-inch sway bar ensures body roll stays in check. Heading rearward, Monroe heavy-duty shocks offer the desired ride quality and Chevrolet multileaf springs are accented with CalTracs bars for improved traction. Heidts subframe connectors tie it all together.
Baer 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers reside on all four corners while Billet Specialties Street Lite five-spoke wheels (17x7 front, 17x8.5 rear) give the ’60’s ride a period-correct vibe with modern flair. Toyo Proxes rubber (225/45 front and 275/40 rear) offers the feisty X-body plenty of grip as proven with the 11.02 e.t. at 120.61 mph quarter-mile timeslips.
The interior reflects a simple yet stylish theme designed with form and function in mind. R&S Upholstery (Independence, Missouri) brought that point across with the inclusion of 2006 Pontiac GTO seats wrapped in black Italian leather highlighted by ostrich inserts, which carries on to the door panels and rear bucket seats. Vintage Air ensures a comfy climate during those scorching Kansas City summers. Auto Meter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite gauges populate the Covan’s Classics dash insert. A Lecarra leather-wrapped steering wheel sits atop a Flaming River tilt steering column bolted to an AGR 12:1 steering box for quicker course navigation.
Bill opted to forgo extensive flash and flair of a brightly colored exterior and retained the car’s original soul by having Kevin Smith of Paola Paint Works (Paola, Kansas) douse the Nova in Axalta’s Butternut Yellow pigment. Although the stock hood was lifted in favor of a 2-inch cowl piece, the black vinyl roof carries the car’s old-school spirit.
To some of us, age brings wisdom and patience—two vital elements in life that can’t be purchased or sold. So does Bill consider the last 20 or so Nova builds as failures? Not a chance. He recognizes each one as an individual building block to more experience and greater knowledge. And the 13-year relationship he has going with this ’68? It’s one that continues to improve over time. And how could it not? In Bill’s mind, he was finally able to build his “dream Nova.”
|Owner:||Bill Oertel, Kansas City, Kansas|
|Cylinder Heads:||Dart Pro 1|
|Rotating Assembly:||Scat cast steel crankshaft and forged I-beam connecting rods, Speed Pro coated pistons and rings|
|Valvetrain:||Comp Cams roller rocker and pushrods|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams (0.502/0.510-inch lift; 224/230-deg. duration at 0.050, 110-degree LSA)|
|Induction:||Edelbrock Performer Air-Gap intake manifold, 770-cfm Holley Street Avenger carburetor, Billet Specialties 14-inch Profile air cleaner|
|Ignition:||PerTronix Ignitor II|
|Exhaust:||Dyna Max 2 1/2-inch primary pipes, 2 1/2-inch custom exhaust system, Flowmaster Delta 50 mufflers|
|Acvillaries:||SPAL 2,315-cfm fan, Alumitech-Reproductions radiator, Engine Works alternator, March pulley system, custom radiator cover, Detroit Speed Inc. firewall cover; Dynamat insulation, American Autowire wiring harness installed by Classic Specialties (Kansas City, KS)|
|Output:||460 hp at 5,900 rpm, 467 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm|
|Machine Work and Built by:||T&L Engines (Stanfield, NC)|
|Transmission:||Tremec TKO 600, Hays clutch, Hurst shifter, Dynotech driveshaft|
|Rear Axle:||Moser 12-bolt, Detroit Truetrac, 3.73:1 gears, 33-spline axles, 1350 U-joints|
|Front Suspension:||OE spindles, Heidts tubular control arms, Moog six-cylinder springs, Monroe heavy-duty shock absorbers, Addco 1 1/8-inch antisway bar|
|Rear Suspension:||Chevrolet multileaf springs, CalTracs bars, Monroe heavy-duty shock absorbers, Addco 1 1/8-inch antisway bar|
|Brakes:||Baer 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers front; Baer 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers rear, Baer proportioning valve, POL aluminum master cylinder|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Billet Specialties Street Lites 17x7 front, 17x8.5 rear|
|Tires:||Toyo Proxes 4 225/45 front, 275/40 rear|
|Upholstery:||R&S Upholstery (Independence, MO)|
|Material:||Italian leather w/ ostrich inserts|
|Carpet:||Parts Unlimited, black|
|Seats:||2006 Pontiac GTO bucket front and rear|
|Steering:||AGR Performance quick-ratio (12.4:1) box, Flaming River tilt column|
|Instrumentation:||Auto Meter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite|
|Audio:||Kenwood head unit, 6x9-inch speakers front, 6x9-inch rear|
|Bodywork:||Paola Paint Works (Paola, KS)|
|Paint by:||Kevin Smith, Paola Paint Works|
|Paint:||Axalta Butternut Yellow|
|Hood:||Goodmark 2-inch cowl|
|Grille:||Stock Super Sport|
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