One of the best sleepers to ever roll off a Detroit assembly line was the L79 '67 Nova. The 350hp 327 turned the compact Deuce into a street terror that took many big-block machines by surprise. The small-block was such a natural that, these days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Nova that still retains the straight-six under the hood.
Thankfully, performance enthusiasts always want to push the envelope a little farther. If a small-block works, then a big-block should work better, right? And if a big-block will fit, then why not use an even bigger big-block?
This was just the thinking that Rick Babineau had in mind when he got his hands on this '67 Nova. Rick had just parted ways with a '66 Nova SS and was looking for another when a friend of his wanted to get rid of a '67 he had already started on. It was a great deal for Rick because the body and paint were already done. It needed a drivetrain, suspension, and assembly.
A deal was struck, and Rick dragged the shell home. He went ahead and assembled most of the car in his garage and then decided to take it over to his friend Don Caldwell's shop, Caldwell's Performance Hot Rods, in Upland, California. Once there, they stripped, primed, and painted the underside of the Nova and installed a Heidt's front suspension, subframe connectors, stainless steel brake and fuel lines, and aluminum inner fenders.
Using the Heidt's frontend created plenty of room in the engine bay by getting rid of the shock towers-so much room, in fact, that Rick decided he wanted a big-block and figured he might as well go for one of GM's largest. Rick ordered a 502/502 long-block and sent it to Aero Performance Engineering to be checked out. The engine was disassembled, align-honed, balanced, blueprinted, and reassembled. A new cam, intake, and carb were added. All this attention to detail resulted in about 650 hp, almost twice the hot-dog L79's ratings.
When we caught up with Rick at the Pomona Super Chevy Show, the stance and the tire fit of the original Torque Thrust wheels grabbed our attention immediately. The big-block under the hood was the icing on the cake. Rick had just finished the Nova and had barely 60 miles on it, but when we talked to him a few months later, he had a little over 1,000 trouble-free miles under it.
|Owner||Rick Babineau, Chino Hills, CA|
|Vehicle||'67 Nova SS|
|Engine||GM Performance 502ci crate engine,|
|with Caldwell Performance hydraulic|
|roller cam, Edelbrock 454-0 Victor|
|intake and Holley Dominator|
|1,050-cfm carb, MSD 6AL ignition,|
|Hooker 2 1/8" fenderwell headers|
|with custom 3" stainless steel dual|
|exhaust and DynoMax Magna Flow|
|Transmission||Turbo 350 built by the Toy Shop,|
|Front||Heidt's front clip with Total Cost|
|Involved stainless steel upper and|
|lower control arms and 2" dropped|
|Rear||Narrowed 9" Ford with 3.70:1 posi|
|and disc brakes with stock leaf|
|Wheels||American Racing Torque Thrust Ds|
|15x5 with 2" bs and 15x7 with 4" bs|
|Tires||Firestone 185/65s and 245/60s|