The Chevy II came on the scene in 1962 and was an instant smash in the emerging economy car class. Not only was it rock-solid and reliable, but with the Corvair combined to sell nearly 620,000 units. This gave Chevy an unbeatable one-two punch in this market niche.
But while the Corvair was considered by many to be a sporty car with better-than-average handling (really—look up old road tests), the Chevy II was rather simple, a conventional, entry-level car designed to entice first-time buyers to Bow Tie dealerships. Handling was safe and predictable, but not what one would describe as sporting.
Enter Church Boys Racing from Ohio (churchboysracing.com). The gang there has adopted the early Chevy II Nova platform and transformed it from dowdy to dynamite. Simple bolt-ons is the name of the Church Boys Racing game, and it has a full complement of parts for your ’62-67 Nova, as well as tubular control arms for ’68-74 models.
This former six-cylinder ragtop had a host of new-for-’13 Church Boys parts on it: its latest power rack-and-pinion setup (made in Ohio), tubular upper control arms (which, among other things) change the geometry and add camber gain, a new style of front coilover shock that allows for a lot more travel for improved ride comfort, as well as improved handling. In the rear, there are new coilovers and a triangulated four link, which allows the use of a much wider tire. According to Chuck Church Jr., you can use the entire width of the stock wheel housing to fit wider, sticky tires (in this case, Nitto NT05 235/40R17 front, 255/40R17 rear).
We loved pretty much everything about this car, from its revamped bench seat and 17-inch American Racing Rally-style rims, to its comfort/grip tradeoff, to the fact that the parts are simple enough for most shade tree mechanics to install in a home garage. The only downside came when Church was out on our .92-mile section of the Streets of Willow racetrack. When the vent tube came off the fuel tank and gas started splashing down on the exhaust, it gave new meaning to the term hot rod. Fortunately, we had fire extinguishers at the ready and put out the blaze.
On The Track
This sweet ash-blue convertible started life with an inline six and a ’glide. It belonged to a high-school teacher and was billed as “The Wife’s Car.” Now sporting a gorgeous two-tone plush interior and bench seats, the six-banger has been supplanted by an LS1 backed with a 4L60E, and a 10-bolt with 3.36 rear gears. This little Nova wasn’t expected to “turn and burn” at birth, but had some good moments on the Streets of Willow track in the 21st century.
On the day before our testing, Church Boys did a fair bit of suspension tuning to rid the Nova of some unwanted oversteer. They quickly found out that while disconnecting the rear sway bar entirely helped, the Nova needed some light form of lean control to combat a slight feel of disconnect between front and rear. This was mostly apparent in the slalom and was seen as push at mid-corner and track out. Experiencing this at speed was unnerving at first but once it revealed itself, I reverted to the basics of “Brake, Turn, and when we’re finally headed down the track pretty darn straight ... Gas it GOOD” for my track laps. This kept the Nova centered and pointed down the track. I adapted as I didn’t want to be the one that had to explain an off-course, furrow-digging excursion with Chevy II.
For track use, I like steering to be precise and have about 2.5 turns lock-to-lock. I’m not fond of the current rack units used for aftermarket front subframes as most are too vague with a “soft” feel. I was very happy the steering wheel offered to me was my favored 15-inch diameter, as anything smaller would have made driving the car at speed quite difficult. At slow speeds and in the esses, I found the steering somewhat numb and slow, making turns difficult to navigate and predict.