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There is More Than Meets the Eye With This Immaculate 1968 Nova

One More For The Road: After owning over 20 Novas, Bill Oertel’s 1968 SS is done exactly how he’s always wanted

Apr 27, 2016
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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.”


Tech Check
Owner: Bill Oertel, Kansas City, Kansas
Vehicle: 1968 Nova
Type: 2008 small-block
Displacement: 383 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.4:1
Bore: 4.03 inches
Stroke: 3.75 inches
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
Dash: Covan’s Classic
Instrumentation: Auto Meter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite
Audio: Kenwood head unit, 6x9-inch speakers front, 6x9-inch rear
HVAC: Vintage Air
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
Bumpers: Stock

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