Do one thing and do it well. In today’s day and age, where distractions abound and we’re bombarded from every conceivable medium and direction, it’s difficult to stay focused. But for Chuck Church Jr. and the team at Church Boys Racing, their vision is focused like a laser on one thing: the Chevrolet Nova. That’s what they build parts for and that’s what they know, and they do it well.
For the 2017 Classic Industries Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge presented by Falken Tires, the Church Boys team brought out one of the many Novas they’ve helped perfect over the years, this one a two-door 1966 SS clone belonging to customer-turned-friend Charley Lindsay. “We met Charley at a Goodguys show, and from there we started putting his car together piece by piece, and it evolved into what we brought [to the Muscle Car Challenge],” said Chuck Church Jr. “Everything we sell is modular, so you can upgrade one piece at a time.”
Lindsay’s ride had humble beginnings. He knew he wanted a Nova and searched high and low until he found the right canvas. Located only 30 minutes from his house, he found the one. It was clean, had decent paint, and it ran—a far better position than how most projects begin. Lindsay pulled the trigger on the sale and brought the Nova home. He immediately began racking up the miles and realized that a stock Chevy II … really isn’t that good of a car. Aside from good looks and a healthy small-block, the Chevy II left a lot to be desired in the braking and suspension areas. Being one of Chevrolet’s earliest attempts at a unibody, the chassis lacked the refinement and functionality of later Bowties. After plenty of street miles on the original steering and mushy drum brakes, Lindsay was ready to upgrade. “I came across Church Boys Racing and had a few discussions with Chuck,” said Lindsay. “I hemmed and hawed for a bit, then he told me to come to Ohio for the big car show in Columbus.”
The two hit it off and Lindsay got a firsthand look at Church Boys’ wares and their functionality. Immediately, he was sold. The front underpinnings of the car came off and a host of Church Boys suspension componentry was lifted into place.
The outdated steering box and drag link setup found the scrap pile, while a Church Boys rack-and-pinion conversion kit nestled between the spindles. Tubular lower control arms, made from American mill, 1.25-inch DOM tubing were added, complete with Howe Racing adjustable and rebuildable screw-in-style ball joints.
Up top, new Church Boys upper control arms were bolted in place to correct suspension movement from the factory-flunked math problem.
“For those familiar with the Guldstrand [Camaro] mod, which involves lowering the pivot of the inner, upper control arm to correct the factory geometry, that’s what I’ve done on our arms,” said Church Jr. “The wheels drop straight up and down and stay perpendicular to the road. I’ve also moved the arm back to add more positive caster.”
New wheels, tires, and modern disc brakes completed the suspension puzzle over the rest of the cold season. When winter turned to spring, Lindsay put the car back on the road and was blown away by the change. “It drove like a whole new car,” he said. “But it still had the old monoleaf springs in the back. My friends teased me about having a high-tech front suspension and a $50 rear suspension.”
The car prowled the pavement for a while in that iteration until a cam-lobe-gone-missing put the Nova on jack stands. The original engine was repaired, but that failure opened the door for an LSX swap and the accompanying second round of updates not too long after. A low-mileage LQ4 iron-block 6L and 4L60E were sourced and soon after, Lindsay and Chuck had worked out an agreement to install a Church Boys triangulated four-link suspension under the sheetmetal.
“We looked at all the scenarios and decided this [suspension] was going to improve the handling of the car and also allow us to run an exhaust system,” said Church Jr. “We have 3-inch exhaust made for us with 3-inch tailpipes and can route the exhaust over the axle with no interference. We use FK rod ends, just like on the front suspension, throughout the entire rear suspension in right-hand and left-hand configurations to make adjustments easy.”
The four-link was completed at Church’s headquarters, and Lindsay took the opportunity to upgrade to ATS 1-inch drop spindles, a Church Boys 1 1/8-inch sway bar, Corvette brakes, and Viking coilovers at each corner.
The end result was a Nova on rails. Lindsay joined a local autocross club where he routinely proves that fact, inducing smiles from his kids as he whips the ride around the cones.
“It’s a true testament to money well spent to achieve a car that can go from one coast to the next,” said Church Jr. “It’s a totally reliable piece of equipment, and it really drives like a new car. Everything is bolt-on, there is no fabrication required.” It also didn’t break the bank in terms of cost.
The car fit the performance mold of what Church Boys Racing wanted for the Muscle Car Challenge, and so it was sent west to put pedal to metal and rubber to road against the clocks. “This car is truly a daily driver,” said Church Jr. “Charley drives it to work every day in the summer! We don’t bring a car that isn’t your typical everyday person’s car. This is something that was homebuilt in a one-car garage that will go anywhere, any time. That’s where we grab people’s attention. While we can certainly build a race car, I like showing off that the everyday person can get a ton of performance with a little time and the right parts.”
|What Makes It Handle|
|Type: Stock GM LQ4 (LS Engine)|
|Components: OEM components, FAST LSX-R intake, FAST 102mm throttle body|
|Power (at the wheels): 303 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque|
|Torque Converter: OEM|
|Rearend: 10-bolt (8.2-inch) converted to full floating with C7 hubs and Strange 300M axles|
|Chassis: Factory unibody|
|Front Suspension: Church Boys Racing upper and lower control arms, rack-and-pinion conversion|
|Spindles: ATS 1-inch drop spindles|
|Shocks: Viking coilovers|
|Sway Bar: Church Boys Racing 1 1/8-inch sway bar|
|Brakes: OEM Corvette|
|Rear Suspension: Church Boys Racing triangulated four-link with adjustable control arms|
|Shocks: Viking coilovers|
|Sway Bar: Church Boys Racing 3/4-inch|
|Brakes: OEM Corvette|
|Wheels and Tires|
|Wheels: American Legend Wheels Invader 18x8 front, 18x9 rear|
|Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K 245/40ZR18 front, 265/35ZR18 rear|
|Cost of Chassis/Suspension: $5,624, including steering, front suspension, coilovers, sway bars, and rear suspension.|
|Total Without Driver: 3,328 pounds|
|LF: 914 RF: 850 LR: 731 RR: 833|
|F: 53% R: 47 %|
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Speed 420-ft||100-Yard Dash||Road Course Lap Time|
|Church Boys Racing 1966 Nova||42.3 mph||5.29 seconds||01:27.1|
|2017 Camaro SS||46.6 mph||5.41 seconds||01:22.2|
|There’s no mathematical equation that defines cash as a function of fun. But if there was, it would lean heavily in favor of the Church Boys 1966 Nova. Despite its humble means, the Nova out-hustled the 2017 Camaro baseline car through the 100-yard dash using a completely stock, secondhand LS. It was hot on the Camaro’s heals through the corners of the road course and was just a little off through the slalom. For a budget build, we’d say being that close to a $40,000ish high-tech muscle car is pretty impressive.|
Photos Robert McGaffin and Super Chevy Staff