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1966 Chevy Nova - Altered Attitude

A Straight Axle Straight Shooter, Rebuilt And Reborn

Mike Harrington Aug 3, 2007
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It would seem that nothing screams "attitude problem" like the raucous sound of a wailing rock 'n' roll guitar solo. We've found something else that embodies the rude, crude 'tude: the screamingly loud open-header, straight-axle Chevy gasser. Over the last several years, gasser-style vehicles of all makes and models have been re-introduced by the backyard builder.

These rods can be likened to an ancient Spartan warrior. There's only one reason for their existence, and that reason is to do battle. Like the ancient Spartan warrior, all luxuries and unnecessary weight are discarded and left behind. This 1966 Nova owned by Augie Delgado is not a recreation of vintage-styled gasser; it's a bona fide survivor from the gasser wars of the 1960s-it wasn't for getting groceries.

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This Nova, originally purchased by Sonny Young in 1966, was ordered with the highly sought-after L79 (327/350hp) option, radio/heater delete, four-speed, and 4.10 gears. After a set of cheater slicks, headers, and a top secret tune-up, this Nova stayed pretty true to its factory specs while it was raced. It wasn't long before Sonny made a wicked run at Lions Drag Strip (RIP) of 12.80 at 106 mph. That's pretty amazing for a near-stock production vehicle.

The very next year the Nova made its way to Don Hicks Racing in Buena Park, California, for some serious race car treatment. A tube straight axle was installed, along with a rollcage, 9-inch rearend with lift bars and a 6-inch altered wheelbase. The stock 327 was still left in and the little Nova managed to run another best-of, a 12.40 at 112 mph.

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It wasn't long before Hicks built a 486 ci, Enderle-injected big-block and installed it in the Nova, but this is where the story derails. It would seem that Hicks and Young could never come to an agreement on what type of transmission to run behind the Rat motor. One partner wanted a four-speed while the other wanted an automatic. While that fact was being debated, time marched on while the Nova gathered dust and faded into obscurity and disrepair.

Several decades later, the Nova was found sitting in a storage lot in San Bernardino, California. The faded lettering on the side was barely visible and served as target practice for some Billy the Kid wannabe. When the mistreated Nova came into Delgado's possession, he certainly had his work cut out for him. Decades of neglect were erased after two years of restoration work. With advice from his brother Steve and a team of dedicated enthusiasts, Augie managed to track down period correct speed parts and build up the 1966 327 engine again. The 327 is currently displacing 331 cubic inches with Isky pushrods, TRW pistons and the stock Chevy crankshaft and Chevy iron heads. The valvetrain consists of a Mooneyes solid lifter cam with Isky lifters, an intake lift of .547 and duration of 294 degrees @ .050. The exhaust numbers are exactly the same as the intake. The timing chain is a Cloyes chain with Mooneyes cover.

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Induction on this small-block is a vintage 1966-67 Pete Jackson injection setup with an Ederle fuel pump; the risers on the manifold have been extended 2 inches for a more aggressive look. Early 1966 Mickey Thompson valve covers and a Vertex magneto finish off the period-correct look.

Augie's goal was to restore the Nova (with the help of dedicated friends) and keep it as a period-correct vehicle. That meant hunting down original speed equipment, restoring and rebuilding the Nova to a period-correct look as much as possible by including early Ford spindles, a Corvair box, a Muncie M-22 transmission and real Ansen magnesium five-spoke wheels on the back.

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Of course using all vintage parts is just not possible. Some parts just have to be replaced-like the Spintech mufflers, Wilwood disc brakes and the Speedway front tube axle. For all intents and purposes, this Nova has a dead-on period look to it, right down to the 1966 Corvette silver paint, the Coker and Radir bias ply tires, blue Plexiglas windows and '60s-style lettering and graphics on the vehicle.

One of the highlights of this build was when this Nova was shipped to Japan as a featured guest of the Japan Mooneyes indoor car show. Augie showed us the video of when he came pulling into the show greeted by thousands of screaming enthusiasts and the roar of the uncorked exhaust system. What's not to love about that? How is this not rock 'n' roll?



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