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1966 Chevy Nova - Bernie's Beauty

Bernie Wolcott Sweats The Details To Make This '66 Nova A Sensational Showstopper

Photography by Shane Reichardt, Steve Reyes

Everyone knows that if you want to be sure your car gets noticed, you paint it red. Anyone can paint their auto an eye-popping color, but what distinguishes one from all the others in the sea of red cars? One solution is to go with a stunning and unique shade of "eye-candy red." The other is to build a car that truly deserves all of the stares, excitement, and turned heads that red earns. A classic Chevy that is both fast and rich in attention to detail is definitely worthy. Bernie Wolcott of Frederick, Maryland, wanted a Chevy that would grab attention no matter what its surroundings, so he did all of the above.

Bernie started with a clean and understated '66 Nova SS that he picked up at a swap meet in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1994. The Nova was a good-condition driver, but it was no show car and drew little attention with subtle silver paint, a black interior, and a Powerglide. After bringing his project car home, he proceeded to consummate the new relationship by tearing the Nova down to the frame to begin reconstruction. Bernie did nearly all the work in the restoration at home with help from his son, Steve, and Jimmy Martin.

Bernie stripped everything down to bare metal by chemical dipping, sandblasting, or glass beading all the parts himself before refinishing the whole shebang for reassembly. He sent the chrome and polishing work to be done by the Nova's previous owner, Todd Librandi of Librandi's Plating in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Bernie primed and repainted the trunk, floorboards, undercarriage, engine compartment, dashboard, and upper and lower door panels himself. The dash and engine bay are both adorned in a three-stage pearl white, and Zamora's Auto Body in Rockville, Maryland, squirted the body in Chevy's 1994 three-stage Pearl Cherry Red. Being a glass contractor by trade, Bernie had no troubles when it came time to cut, drill, and polish the edges of new-tempered, gray glass for the side and rear windows.

When it came to choosing motivation, Bernie slid a moderately built '76 350 into the Nova's pearl white engine compartment. The block has been bored .030 inch, balanced, and features a steel crank, forged steel rods, a Comp Cams 280H bumpstick, and chrome-moly rings. TRW-forged pistons combined with milled Trick Flow Specialties heads squeeze the air and fuel to a tight 10.75:1 compression. The motor breathes through a pair of Carter 500-cfm carbs atop the wild-looking Offenhauser 360-degree Cross Ram intake. Spent gasses are expelled via Hooker ceramic-coated headers that flow into 2 1/2-inch aluminum pipes. A Mallory Promaster ignition and distributor supply the spark. Bernie opted to replace the original automatic with a Muncie M-21 four-speed, which he controls through a Hurst shifter and Centerforce clutch.

The suspension has been equally upgraded to match the Nova's enhanced drivetrain. Bernie designed and installed custom subframe connectors, which Blair Welding fabricated from 2-inch mild steel. Kanter gas shocks all around and multi-leaf rear springs soften the ride, while'72 Nova spindles, Global West front lower ball joints, and heavy duty stabilizer bars from National Nostalgic Nova keep the car solid through the corners. The 12-bolt Posi is fitted with stock-length Moser axles and 3.73:1 gears to get the Chevy rolling. 14x6 and 15x7 Cragar Street Stars are attached to the pavement with 205-70-14 and 255-60-15 BFG Comp TAs. Braking is improved thanks to front discs from a '72 Nova, along with a Master Power dual master cylinder, Summit Racing proportioning valve, and custom lines by Bob Beane.

Bernie enlisted the help of Rick Hansberger for the Nova's interior work, which is mind-blowing in its details. Stock black carpet is accented by the pearl white dash, door panels, and PUI-supplied custom upholstery, which is the factory pattern but in pearl white vinyl. The custom dash panel was designed and built by Bernie, and features a full array VDO Cockpit gauges, as well as a late stereo from Custom Auto Sounds. The Grant 742 leather-wrapped steering wheel connects driver and car together with style and comfort.

The Nova took 18 months to build, and then spent the next 18 months in storage while Bernie moved to a new house and built a new garage. Now that the duo is reunited, they make it to all the local shows and cruises, and have collected many First Place and Best of Show honors. And when not in service, the SS spends its off-duty hours along side a Pro Street '66 hardtop in Bernie's new 2,000 square-foot, fully-equipped, heated, and air conditioned garage with 12-foot ceilings and lift (Ed. Note-Bernie, we are officially jealous). Proof positive that when it comes to standing out in a crowd, Bernie's Nova leaves nothing to chance!

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