Church Boy Racing's 1963 Chevrolet Nova SS - And The Lord Said, "Improve Thy Handling!"

Patrick Hill Feb 1, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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Talk to a car guy about bolt-ons and he'll know you're not referring to pectoral improvements for the female of the species. When it comes to parts, it's been a long-raging debate what's better: bolt-ons versus full replacement. This subject gets particularly dicey when it comes to early Novas. Known for, quite frankly, a dreadfully poor stock front suspension, early Novas have the most to gain in handling improvements out of their other Chevy brethren. Usually gearheads opt for the full replacement for the Nova's lackluster front subframe and suspension, but the aftermarket has embraced enthusiasts who don't want to modify their Deuces that heavily.

Bill Kress was in a quandary. He wanted to improve the handling of his '63 Nova SS, but didn't want to have his car down for the time it would take to install a full front clip. Several conversations with Chuck Church at Church Boys Racing had Bill convinced bolt-on was the way to go. Church Boys was already very well-known for its bolt-on rack-and-pinion steering conversion for early Novas, and its expanded line of bolt-on '62-67 Nova parts includes tubular control arms, sway bars, K-members, and a slew of rear suspension parts to get any early Nova handling like a Corvette.

After installing all the necessary parts, Bill was ecstatic about the improved corner-carving ability of his '63. When Chuck approached him about using the Nova in our 2010 Handling Challenge, Bill leapt at the opportunity. With Chuck's suggestions, Bill added Church Boys improved 5 1/2 leaf springs and Varishock coilovers up front, along with some electrical and wiring upgrades. The Nova's 383 mouse was checked over, along with the TH350 trans, to make sure they were up to the task.

Driver's Impression - On the Autocross Course
Church Boys Racing is well known for Chevy II and Nova handling parts, and this one sported my favorite engine, a 383 SBC. But with front disc/rear drum brakes, and a slush box trans, it was sort of like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Still, no worries here. The car had an accelerator and brake pedal, a steering wheel, and could go, stop, and turn ... right? Unfortunately, the Nova sported manual steering. For me, this posed a big problem since I didn't eat my Wheaties that morning and as this was clearly going to be the most difficult drive of the day, I saved it for last. For this I'm glad, as after my runs my arms were toast.

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Strapping myself into the driver's seat, I looked down the course and mentally willed myself to plan my turns, never let go of the steering wheel, and shuffle steer like mad. Grabbing that wheel, I matted the pedal and threw the Nova into the first left-hander and from there, into the slalom. Thankfully, the steering ratio was relatively quick and I got through this section pretty good. The Nova could be steered about, but if I got a bit over-exuberant with the throttle and got into oversteer, with no power assist any countersteer correction couldn't happen fast enough. I had to be extremely precise and when done textbook right, the car rewarded me well.

I really liked the way the Nova could lay down power from the crossover to the end turnaround and then back to the sweepers. The brakes got the car slowed in a hurry and early hand position prepared for late apexes that were the mainstay of my return path. I also found out I had the ability to slide the car around a bit which gave me proper placement for corner exit. The tight turns before the finish were very hard to thread through and my times showed a ton of it was left on the tarmac. With power assist, this car could be incredible on any autocross course as it was extremely well balanced and went where pointed. Tons of positives here.

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