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1963 Chevrolet Nova Convertible - NovAir

This Steve Stanford Creation Was A Long Time Coming, But It Was Well Worth The Wait

By Bob McClurg, Photography by Bob McClurg

"Automotive artist Steve Stanford drew up the original concept on this car some 18 years ago," said Ventura, California, custom painter/car builder Frank Saenz when speaking with NOVA CLASSICS magazine about his rather unique 1963 Chevrolet Nova convertible.

"Initially, the car was designed for him. The Nova was to look like a classic 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible with its two-tone red and white paint and airbrushed '56 Chevrolet side trim. The car got painted, but it was never quite finished as far as the mechanical part. In the early '90s, Steve's automotive illustration and graphics business really took off, and he never got the time to finish the car. Finally, I purchased the Nova, and he went on to other things."

Although originally drawn up as a sort of neo-classic-inspired creation, with its gangster whitewalls and '56 Chevrolet hubcaps, Frank elected to build a street machine/nostalgia rod instead. To that effect, he installed a narrowed 3.73:1 GM 12-bolt Posi-traction rearend equipped with a set of Tom's Differentials 28-spline rear axles and GM drum brakes riding on a pair of multileaf de-arched '63 Chevrolet Nova rear leaf springs equipped with KYB gas-charged shocks.

Front suspension on the "NovAir" consists of a set of chrome-plated '63 Chevrolet Nova upper and lower control arms along with a pair of Superior 2-inch-dropped '65 Nova disc brake front spindles, a '67 Nova front antisway bar, and a set of Superior/Chevelle 11-inch front disc brakes. Wheels and tires on the little Nova consist of a set of period-correct 15x7-inch American Torq-Thrust T70 polished-aluminum wheels rolling on P195/50x15-inch Goodyear Eagle radial rubber in the front and P255/60x15 Goodyear radials on the rear.

Powering the NovAir is a highly detailed Ed Taylor Racing Engines/Ventura Motorsports-assembled '65 327 Corvette small-block fitted with a set of .060-inch overbore 10.5:1-compression TRW pistons, a Competition Cams 30/30 Nostalgia solid lifter cam and kit, a set of Kenny Dutweiller-TFS aluminum big-valve cylinder heads, and a Rochester-Corvette "dog house" mechanical fuel-injection system.

Other items include a vintage '65 Corvette distributor with AC Delco spark plugs and spark plug wires, a GM Performance Parts chrome-plated 100-amp alternator, and a set of Extreme Powder Coating thermal-coated GM ram's horn exhaust manifolds flowing back through a Ken's Muffler-installed 2 1/2-inch exhaust system with Pontiac Firebird exhaust tips. Backing this up is a Ron Worthen-built Muncie M20 four-speed transmission using a Centerforce clutch with Muncie shift linkage. The final link in the Nova's powertrain is a Coast Driveline custom-fabricated driveshaft.

Part of smoothing out the Nova's sheetmetal included dechroming the hood, deck lid, and side trim. "All the holes were filled, then the car was painted in a custom Scott Sullivan RM red and white lacquer mix. Then Steve Stanford airbrushed on the classic '56 Chevrolet emblems and side trim, followed by numerous coats of clear," said Frank. "The Nova's dashboard was also smoothed, and the holes were filled in. The car has not one but two glovebox doors installed. One features all the car's controls, including the ignition switch. The other will eventually feature the stereo, although I've yet to have it installed."

Frank's Nova also features a Bill Cook custom '58-60 Chevrolet Impala steering wheel that has been cut down. The steering column is a GM six-way-tilt custom built by Bob Chandler from Hesperia, California's Steering Column Pros using the original '63 Nova steering tube and collar. Also on board is an original '67 Chevelle "knee knocker" mechanical tachometer.

Mac's Interiors in Ventura, California, is responsible for the beautiful original factory-style white vinyl upholstery. They used a PUI Classic Nova white vinyl interior kit provided by Rudy from Modern Performance Nova in Orange, California. This Nova, created over 18 years, is an absolute stunner. Says Frank, "Part of the concept was to use as many GM parts in the build as possible. I give full credit to Steve Stanford on this project. It's not my brainchild. It's his creation. I was just the one to finish the project for him."

Has Frank Saenz's rather unique '63 NovAir won any trophies? "I really don't show it at car shows. It's a fun car to drive. I just take it out and drive the heck out of it. That's what it was built for."

By Bob McClurg
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