In the summer of 1998, Jan Francis of Phoenix, Arizona, was, like many classic Chevy enthusiasts sometimes are, between projects and looking for something to build. Jan is a big Tri-five fan and was searching for a '55 two-door post to put his energy into, when his long-time friend Richard Holland, owner of Classic Parts in Arlington, Texas, pointed him towards a '68 Nova in the Dallas area. The Nova was in good shape overall, with a small-block/four-speed powertrain and bucket seats. And the car was originally from Arizona. It wasn't really what Jan was looking for, but he nonetheless saw potential in the Nova, and struck a deal.
Jan didn't waste much time after getting the Nova back home to Arizona. The car went to Dick Adam at Specialty Car in Phoenix for bodywork and paint. After being disassembled and stripped of its low-buck, white re-paint, the Nova proved to be a very solid southwest car.
The side chrome was removed and the holes filled, then many hours of block sanding went into making the body absolutely straight and smooth. Jan wanted the Nova to wear an "era" color, so it was coated in PPG Dupont two-stage Cortez Silver, a popular hue on First-Gen Z/28 Camaros.
Jan replaced the old small-block with a GM Performance Parts ZZ4 crate engine, which he knew would be reliable and more than healthy enough for the lightweight Nova. He kept the HEI distributor, added Sanderson headers and an ACCEL mini-starter, and topped the aluminum-head 350 with a 750 Holley. The engine vents its burnt gas through an aluminized exhaust system with Dynomax Turbo mufflers. Jan replaced the old Saginaw four-speed with a stronger Muncie M20 gearbox, mated to a Centerforce clutch and controlled by a Hurst shifter. John Linsey of Performance Engineering beefed up the stock 10-bolt rear, using Auburn Gear components and a 3.73:1 Positraction centersection.
The Nova's stopping power has been vastly improved with the addition of power front discs and stainless steel brake lines, from Classic Performance Products. Jan used 2-inch dropped spindles in the front, and lowered the rear by 2 inches, as well. Otherwise, the suspension is all factory. To enhance the subtle, "plain wrapper attitude," the Nova rolls on 7-inch-wide rally wheels with police center caps, wrapped in P195/70/14 front and P215/70/15 rear rubber.
The interior has a very basic-and purposeful-factory appearance. Jan sent the original, tired and cracked dash pad to Just Dashes for a complete restoration, and he re-upholstered the seats with fresh blue vinyl from Year One. He chucked the pile carpet in favor of black rubber floor mats to give it that simplistic musclecar feel-cheap but bad. The cockpit also features a Super Sport steering wheel, a full array of Auto Meter gauges, and factory air conditioning-absolutely mandatory for cruising in the desert heat.
The Nova has turned out exactly as Jan had envisioned, being "a great resto-mod with originality, some major updating, clean lines and paint," and he's very pleased with the finished product. He has a right to be proud. The first time the Nova was ever judged, at the 2000 Super Chevy Show in Phoenix, it won its class, proving that this potent Nova not only runs hard, it shows well, too!