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1963 Chevy Nova LS1 Convertible - Blue Gator

This '63 Nova Convertible Has More Bite Than A Florida Reptile.

Patrick Hill Jul 1, 2009
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In last month's issue, we showed you Bob Phelps' immaculate, LS7-powered '67 Nova. While Bob has a pretty deep love for the Gen III and IV small-block, he also has an affection for Novas, and this '63 LS1 convertible proves that affinity from top to bottom.

A couple of years ago, Bob was at the Columbus, Ohio, Goodguys show when he spotted this really clean '63 Nova SS convertible. That's right, this car is one of the few SS convertibles Chevrolet built in 1963. After looking over the car, Bob wanted it for his collection, and a deal was struck to buy it minus the engine and trans. The car was hauled from the coast of Delaware to Bob's shop in Detroit, where a year-long modernization and transformation would take place. Being an ex-aircraft mechanic, Bob is no stranger to tearing something apart to its frame and rebuilding it. Only now he doesn't have to meet FAA specs.

First thing to go was the stock rear and suspension, replaced with new crossmembers and a narrowed DTS 9-inch Ford rear and a Heidt's four-link suspension system with QA1 coilover shocks. Handling fuel storage is a Rock Valley stainless steel fuel tank with a submerged fuel pump. Up front, a Heidt's tubular front subframe was installed with Heidt's suspension. Wilwood disc brakes with a hydroboost system handle stopping duties at all four corners. While the suspension was being fitted, Jim Clark at Bob's Detroit shop smoothed the firewall for a clean look in the engine compartment.

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The body and paint were so nice on the car when purchased, Bob left everything alone in that department. It still wears all of its original factory bright work. Not one emblem or other piece of trim has been removed. Inside, Bob wanted the '63 to have its own special look, so he purchased four crocodile hides from an upholstery supply shop in Naples, Florida, to use as accents in the leather interior, including the door panels and center console. Left Coast Trimmers in Englewood, Florida, got the job of piecing the whole interior together, along with recovering the entire trunk. It also installed a new white top to cap the Nova off.

Keeping tabs on the car's powerplant is a set of Pro-Comp gauges in the factory gauge location and in the dash, with a Vintage Air A/C system keeping driver and passengers cool on long summer drives, or warm on cool cruise nights.

Motivating the '63 ragtop is a rebuilt LS1 with LS6 Patriot heads, an LS2 intake, and a Comp Cams hydraulic roller to make about 500 hp. Sending power to the rear is a 4L60E, and exhaust duties are handled by a set of custom-built headers feeding into a custom exhaust system fabbed up at Bob's shop.

Once the Nova was finished, it hit the road for the Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan. Bob himself was at the wheel as the car turned heads up and down Woodward Avenue. Asked if he'd ever change anything on the car, Bob's first comment is "Put in an LS7."

Can't argue with that.


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