If you listen hard enough, a car will tell you what it needs. But when it’s been half hacked for Pro Street and then abandoned as a lost cause, it’ll practically beg.
“I’d approached Killer Customs about the idea to do a 1966 Nova,” Dave Kent started. “I really liked the car that Roy Pigford had done and wanted to try and come up with something along those lines.” Really, Dave’s interest was divine intervention; Killer’s co-owners Paul Dyck and Blake Foster already had a line on such a car, and after an unfinished tub job and random disassembly, it was begging, as Dave put it, “to be finished and updated to today’s standards.”
To understand what Killer did you first should know a little bit about the shop and the kind of cars it builds. Paul’s design background gives customers not only a sort of crystal ball into their car’s future, but the ability to suggest changes before a single tool touches it. Blake’s mechanical knowledge and ability to transmit Paul’s and the customer’s vision to fabricators, whether in-house or third-party, means a car stays true to both its plan and, by extension, budget.
In more cases than not, those plans reflect equal parts style and performance. Paul, Blake, and the Killer crew are at heart performance oriented—specifically in regards to the Pro Touring market. In fact, their commitment to performance inspired them to develop a line of chassis and suspension performance products and sell them under the Speedtech banner.
There’s a thread among the shop’s cars that distinguish them from most. Many builders among the Pro Touring set are both performance and detail oriented; however, most examples of their work look largely like stock cars dropped over big wheels. To those builders’ credit, tweaking a car aesthetically means spending money that could otherwise help the car perform better.
But a Killer Customs car typically walks that fine line between beauty and brawn. For example, the full chassis with its integral ’cage, Corvette suspension, LS power, and six-speed transmission suggest this car’s a performer; however, did you spot the modest amount they chopped the roof?
The entire car is an exercise in subtle changes made to improve the car’s function without altering its personality. Like the hoodscoops that don’t reveal themselves from eye level, but offer the air passing through the radiator a means of escape. Blending the rockers into the fabricated framerails and extending the rear roll pan forward to the axle doesn’t just look cool, it cleans up the bottom of the car aerodynamically. Flush-mounting the glass did more than make the car look smoother, it eliminated a source of wind noise.
Though Novas were unitized cars with bolt-on subframes, Killer eliminated the floors completely and hung the car over a 2x3 chassis. For it, the shop narrowed a C5 Corvette crossmember, outfitted it with a Fox-body Mustang rack-and-pinion, and integrated it with the framerails. The car retains a live axle, but rather than a puny early GM unit on leafs, it sports a Bear’s Performance Products’ fabricated sheetmetal housing on an Art Morrison triangulated four-link. That housing employs a Ford 9-inch-style gearcase with 4.56:1 gears bolted to an Auburn limited-slip differential. Each corner of the chassis got an Aldan Eagle coilover.
The car runs a 6.0-liter LS2 prepped by Turn Key Engine Supply against a TREMEC T-56 transmission. The engine develops 510 horsepower and the gearbox offers six ways to use it, but those aren’t necessarily the interesting things about this particular car. No, the interesting part is how Killer mounted that drivetrain.
When GM’s engineers designed the C5 Corvette, they aimed for a perfect weight distribution. They lengthened the nose of the car and mounted the engine behind rather than over the crossmember. Since the crossmember was designed for performance and not drivetrain packaging, it’s generally too high for an engine to mount over it.
As it happens, a Nova mounts its engine right over the front crossmember. Some builders who employ Vette suspension lower the crossmember to accommodate the engine, but that raises the car. Not Killer; instead, it pushed the engine back to where it would’ve been in relation to the crossmember as if it were still in a Vette.
It goes a long way to create a balanced machine, but a set-back drivetrain has some pretty unfortunate consequences in a short-coupled compact. For starters, the engine’s new location jammed the rearmost cylinders under the cowl. Naturally the firewall ended up roughly where the dash would’ve been … had they not cut it out in the process.
As part of the reconstruction, Killer fabricated entirely new floors with a tunnel high enough and a firewall deep enough to accommodate the raised engine and transmission setback. Before the crew replaced the dash, it split it longitudinally and added a strip to it to push its face into the cockpit. That way it accommodates the Hot Rod Air climate-control kit. Naturally, the seats and everything else in the car moved back a similar amount, but with a Wilwood pedal assembly with parallel brake cylinders ergonomics wasn’t difficult to maintain.
About that chop. The Killer crew sliced the posts an ever-so-modest 3/4-inch to bring it back into proportion with the lowered body. Naturally, they smoothed the cowl and shaved the door handles. And don’t hold it against yourself if you didn’t recognize the door mirrors; they’re from a Fox-body Mustang. But let’s keep that our little secret, okay?
Though handsome from an industrial-design standpoint, the Nova’s front and rear treatments aren’t terribly elegant. So to make the ends match the sleeker roof, Killer narrowed, thinned, and shaved the bumpers. To make those bumpers fit flush against the body the crew created pockets in the quarters and fenders into which the bumper ends tuck. Finally, they grafted tubular pockets into the front bumper for driving lights.
Those are the obvious modifications compared to what bugs see. When Killer fabricated the framerails and inner structure, it merged the rockers with what became the floor panels. As a result, the rockers disappear uninterrupted under the car where they meet the framerails. What’s more, a panel between the quarters and ahead of the rear roll pan conceals the 15-gallon RJS Racing poly fuel cell and the turnouts for the MagnaFlow-damped 3-inch stainless exhaust system.
You’d think after such an incredible amount of intense work, something like color would be a cakewalk. Not so, according to Dave. “It was a real stretch, especially since we were painting all the trim and bumpers as well,” he recalled. “We even went so far as to look at browns. As it was, the green was going to be a stretch.” The green Dave settled upon is a Mitsubishi color: Oslo Green Pearl. Killer Customs’ Anthony Kopp shot the body with a PPG rendition of the color.
When the Killer crew reworked the dash, it didn’t just stop at moving it back. No, Paul’s plans required splitting the oversized cluster slot into three separate holes. The center hole features Auto Meter movements incorporated within a backlit gauge insert of Killer’s own design. Flanking that cavity are climate-control grilles. Killer filled the stock climate-control panel, and in its place is a three-knob panel for the Hot Rod Air system. Between the dash and the driver are an ididit brushed-aluminum steering column and a Flaming River tiller.
Killer fabricated a center console to house the A/V gear and window controllers. The Alpine DVA-5210 head unit mounts in the stock radio location. But since the touch-screen DVD video player mounted in the console serves as its screen, Killer mounted the head unit behind the dash panel and slotted it for disc access. Tommy Franke at Killer roped the car with an American Autowire 15-circuit kit, but Burnaby’s Audiolines Mobile Sound wired the car for tunes. He fed the audio portion to a processor and crossover, which splits the signals to Audison 900- and 1000-watt amplifiers. They, in turn, drive Focal and Alpine component sets and 10-inch-diameter JL Audio subwoofers.
With the lion’s share of the interior work done, Killer turned the car over to Mark’s Interior in Langley. Mark Reid used black leather to trim the Recaro seats and matching-grain vinyl and cut-pile wool carpet to clad the remainder of the panel work.
Though Dave’s car began as a botched Pro Street job, ironically it still wears Mickey Thompson Sportsmans out back. But these aren’t your average Sportsmans. At 29 inches tall and 18.5 inches wide, they’re proportioned like the ones of yore; however, with 20-inch holes inside them they’re a bit more contemporary. Those hides mount to Intro ID 307 wheels. The rears measure 20x15 and have a 9-inch backspace; the fronts measure 19x8.5, have a 6-inch backspace, and wear 245/30-19 BFGoodrich KDWs. Behind those wheels are vented 12- and 14-inch Wilwood rotors and four-piston calipers.
As if the car itself wasn’t impressive enough, here’s another spec: 11 months. As in it took less than a year for Killer Customs to build Dave’s Nova. That’s faster than it took the prior owner to lose interest in building it as a Pro Street car.
Sorta makes you wonder if these things happen for a reason, don’t it?
Like 1966 Novas?