For most people, retirement means getting to have a party at the local feeding trough with a lousy, dry, chicken dinner topped off with a cheap gold watch and a pat on the back. The world keeps spinning ’round while a well-deserved E-Z chair awaits you. No one would blame you for kicking back and watching football, slowly letting life go by. Or watching the grandkids skin their knees, and buying a pair of suspendered high-waisted pants. That could be the way to do things, but not for Rod Bush of Montello, Wisconsin. You see, this retirement is not your typical departure from the workforce.
When Rod heard his good friend might sell his 1967 Nova shell, he thought for a mere second before smashing open his retirement funds to buy the smoothed and painted skeleton that needed an engine, transmission, and full interior. Rod has always had a toy to tinker with: mid ’60’s Impalas, Chevelles, and Corvettes, but never a Nova … until now. He’s just never been one to sit idly and let life happen without him. To him, cars were an escape from the pressure and stress of work.
This Nova has a laser-straight body, which is a feat in and of itself, let alone painting it black. Aaron Erb of Racing Engine Development in Edgerton, Wisconsin, built the chassis and engine, and helped with final assembly. Paint was completed by Randy Russell of Phycolorgy, also in Edgerton, Wisconsin. Rod spent another four years getting this car exactly the way he wanted it.
One might think that it would be easy to throw a stock small-block and an automatic TH350 transmission in and call it a night, puttering along in parades and endless car shows. Sure, that would be safe and easy. Once again, Rod defies convention and installed a tire-roasting 383 pumping out horsepower north of 525!
All that power comes from a 350 block poked into a 383 stroker by Erb. Bored 0.030 over and blueprinted, the bottom end was compiled with a set of 4340 I-beams from Ultralite, a stock 350 crankshaft, and SRP pistons to reel this combination to an 11:1 compression ratio. On the upper end, the lungs of the beast are a set of Air Flow Research 195cc aluminum heads matched with an Edelbrock intake. At the center of all this brawn lies a Comp Cams camshaft: 0.507 at 240 duration on the intake and 0.510 on the exhaust side. Topping off the stroker is an 850-cfm Demon carb. Providing spark is an MSD distributor and a 6AL box. Exhaust is handled with a set of Sanderson headers that feed into custom-cut 3-inch steel tubing quieted down by DynoMax mufflers. “Noise for this car was such an issue,” says Rod. “I tested and retested four separate sets of mufflers before deciding on the DynoMax setup. It has the right combination of volume and tone.”
Cooling a fiend of this nature is no simple task, so an A1 two-row aluminum radiator helps feed the Edelbrock water pump to chill the monster. A pair of 12-inch fans provides the necessary breeze. A Be Cool oil cooler was added to aid the oil cooling process.
All that power is managed by the well-built and upgraded 700-R4 compiled by Rank and File of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. With three forward gears and an overdrive, this car makes easy work of long cruises without winding up the engine to silly levels. Do not let the tame transmission fool you, the 2,800-stall aids in hard launches, and times all that power to its full potential.
Planting all that power to the ground is a fully powdercoated 9-inch rearend filled with a Trac-Lock sporting 4.11 gears. The rear suspension is comprised of Global West multi-leaf springs with a 3-inch drop, setting a solid rear stance. The front suspension has an equal drop and shares its front end with a ’92 Camaro in control arms, spindles, and brakes. Adjustable MacPherson struts round out the front clip’s suspension. A full rollcage adds stability and stiffness in the corners and launches.
Stopping all that momentum is a set of ’92 Camaro rotors and calipers. The rear features a set of calipers and rotors from Strange. The 16x8 rally wheels come from Wheel Vintiques. The pair up front include 4 inches of backspacing and are wrapped in Avon tires measuring 225/50R16. The rear is a similar set of 16x8s with 4.5 inches of backspacing and same-sized tires.
The interior continues the understated theme with all the seats covered in stock vinyl. The radio has been deleted and a custom Auto Meter gauge pod has been added to monitor all the vitals. A B&M shifter helps Rod pound through the gears as an Auto Meter tachometer informs him of the specific shift points.
Rod’s just one of those guys that takes retirement in an opposite direction than most. There’s no need for supper at 4 p.m. and bed before the sun goes down. Nope. Rod prefers a steady diet of fast, loud, vintage cars: preferably a Nova.
As the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you when it’s all over,” but there’s no proof that the ear-blistering memories stay with the car.