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This 1967 Gasser-Style Nova Oozes Old-School Hot Rodding

Top Cat: Tom Collins’ wicked 1967 Chevy Nova SS relives the past

Chuck Vranas Mar 16, 2018
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Gasser is a term in the dictionary of hot rodding that evokes pure adrenaline. There’s nothing quite like watching these radical cars launching from the lights with the scent of burnt rubber and nitro hanging heavy in the air. For Tom Collins of Montross, Virginia, growing up in Dublin, Maryland, near Cecil County Dragway definitely made an impression on him, starting with his first visit as a youngster back in 1969. It was there he first experienced the wild nature of gassers, Fuel Altereds, and A/FX cars running for the win.

For Tom, it was a way of life, surrounded by close friends who idolized the local street racing culture amplified by an endless supply of rodding magazines thanks to his older cousins Vinny and Frank. Tom and lifelong friend Kenny ran go-karts and mini bikes on the family farm followed by driving old cars through the fields long before getting a license. By the time Tom legally hit the streets he was wheeling a hopped-up ’68 Chevelle. There’s always that one car in the neighborhood that makes a long-lasting impression and for Tom it was a 1941 Willys gasser he saw running at Cecil County Dragway.

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As the years passed, Tom became owner of Northern Neck Chevrolet in Montross and continued to own a number of aggressive street cars. The memories of gassers running at the dragstrip, however, still haunted him. Having always been a fan of early Chevy II Novas he made a decision to start the search for a perfect gasser candidate. A local friend revealed a mothballed ’67 SS that was a former drag car, dormant since the ’70s. The car was stripped of its interior and driveline and sitting on a set of Center Line wheels. It was the perfect base to get started with so a deal was made.

Having seen a number of wicked gassers built by B’z Rods in Beach Park, Illinois, Tom set up a meeting with shop owner Brian Bell. They shared many of the same ideas in building a nasty street gasser so the car was dropped off to let the team start. The entire car was disassembled and sent off for mediablasting to reveal its past. What came back proved the car had been thrashed hard over the years, but was salvageable.

To create a base ready to handle plenty of abuse, the original framerails were replaced with a custom frame created from 2x3-inch steel complete with custom crossmembers TIG-welded directly to the body shell.

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An NHRA-certified eight-point rollcage was installed for added stiffness. The floor and trunk pans were also replaced. Out back you’ll find a narrowed and braced Strange Engineering 9-inch rear filled with 4.11 gears turning 31-spline axles complete with a Detroit Truetrac locker assembled by Chassis Service of Waukegan, Illinois. It’s suspended in place by a set of B’z custom 54-inch ladder bars matched to their exclusive four-way track locator accented by a pair of Strange Engineering adjustable coilover shocks.

If you’re building a proper gasser it better have a mile-high front end. This is where B’z knocked it out of the park with their straight-axle subframe kit featuring a jig-built subframe complete with a front-steer design. It’s set up with custom forged spindles matched to 29-inch parallel leaf springs along with PRO tube shocks all linked to a Vega box. A Strange Engineering dual master moves fluid through stainless lines to a set of Wilwood drilled and slotted discs with Dynalite four-piston calipers at each corner. To get the power to the street, E-T Fueler 15x12 wheels wear Mickey Thompson ET Street bias-ply rubber out back combined with 15-inch front Rocket Racing Launcher wheels capped with Pro Trac/Coker rubber.

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For tire searing power, Tom called Big Al’s Toy Box of Gaylordsville, Connecticut, to build a 540ci big-block mill packed with a speed shop full of go-fast goods. A Dart Big M block was filled with an Eagle 4340 forged steel crank linked to matching 4340 H-beam steel connecting rods capped with 8.5:1 JE forged aluminum pistons all urged by a Comp cam. A set of massaged Advanced Performance Engineering aluminum heads make plenty of power, especially when matched with an 8-71 supercharger from The Blower Shop fed by dual Holley 950-cfm carbs. Generating a healthy 920 hp on the dyno, it all sparks to life through an MSD ignition with spent gasses dumping out a set of cool, custom-fabbed 2 1/4-inch zoomies from B’z. An ATI Fuel Comp TH400 trans wearing a 3,000-stall converter meets the Mark Williams driveshaft.

Cleaning up the rear wheeltubs, then stretching the rear wheelwells 4 1/2 inches followed filling and smoothing the firewall. The body was then metal-finished with all gaps set by the team at B’z. The completed body was then sent over to Danny Ray’s Custom Auto Body in Gurnee, Illinois, to prep it for a coating of PPG ’82 Corvette White.

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Inside, the stock dash features a custom gauge and switch panel housing and Stewart-Warner dials to monitor the vitals along with a dash-mounted Sun tach. A Mooneyes red-flake steering wheel navigates through a Flaming River column.

Rob Brown wired the car while the B’z team installed the carpet and headliner. Seams Ridiculous of Montross trimmed the seats and panels in a wicked white roll and pleat accented by tasty red metalflake and white vinyl. Additional custom fabrication and final assembly were completed by Gatton’s Garage of Montross.

The visual impact of the car leaves you awestruck as it’s just as nice from top to bottom. However, the final punch hits when Tom lights the ignition and brings the angry big-block to life roaring through the zoomies. B’z Rods hit a home run on this Chevy II! CHP

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Tech Check
Owner: Tom Collins, Montross, Virginia
Vehicle: 1967 Nova SS

Engine
Type: Dart Big M big-block
Displacement: 540 ci
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Bore: 4.500 inches
Stroke: 4.250 inches
Cylinder Heads: Advanced Performance Engineering aluminum
Rotating Assembly: Eagle 4340 forged steel crank, Eagle H-beam rods, JE forged pistons
Valvetrain: Manley stainless valves, Comp Cams springs and roller rockers
Camshaft: Comp Cams
Induction: The Blower Shop 8-71 supercharger, dual-quad Holley 950-cfm carburetors
Ignition: MSD
Exhaust: Custom zoomies
Output: 920 hp

Drivetrain
Transmission: ATI Fuel Comp TH400
Rear Axle: Strange Engineering 9-inch with matching 31-spline axles, 4.11 gears

Chassis
Steering: Vega box
Front Suspension: B’z Rods straight-axle kit with subframe, forged spindles, parallel leaf springs, PRO tube shocks
Rear Suspension: B’z Rods 54-inch ladder bars and four-way track locator, Strange Engineering adjustable coilover shocks
Brakes: Strange Engineering dual master, Wilwood four-wheel discs with four-piston calipers

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Rocket Racing Launcher 15x4.5 front, E-T Fueler 15x12 rear
Tires: Pro Trac/Coker 5.60-15 front, Mickey Thompson ET Street 31x16.50-15 rear

Interior
Seats: Procar by Scat
Upholstery: Pleated white vinyl with red flake accent
Instrumentation: Stewart-Warner dials with Sun tach on dash
Steering: Mooneyes steering wheel
Carpet: Black loop
Shifter: Hurst

Exterior
Paint: PPG 1982 Corvette White
Hood: Never!
Grille: Stock

Photos by Chuck Vranas

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