In a world gone jaded over mega-buck celebrity-signature street creations that cost more than the national budget of many third-world countries, the appearance of an old-school street machine recalls a time not long ago when street was neat. This classic '63 Nova SS is a prime example of how rodders kept it simple, subtle, and sanitary back before the Y2K days. And yet for all its understated appearance, this little Nova SS is actually a resto-rod legend and the inspiration for a die-cast model.
Built in the late 1990s by Norwood Wooding of Roanoke, Virginia, the '63 Nova SS appeared in the July '99 issue of Super Chevy as the "Resurrected SS" and was also featured in Popular Hot Rodding. Its transformation from derelict wreck to dazzling show car is a story of imaginative design and determined engineering.
Wooding discovered the rotted hulk in a barn and purchased it for $2,000-a large sum even in today's dollars for what was literally a rust bucket. Wooding dragged the Nova's carcass home and began what he assumed was going to be a correct concours restoration.
Like most projects, things have a propensity for going astray, and that's exactly what happened to the Nova. Along the way, the notion of a restoration gave way to a "restification," which eventually led to the decision to build a street machine, and the project took on a whole new direction.
The Nova's body was stripped and the rusted areas replaced by new metal. Wooding also paid attention to smoothing the firewall and the inner fenders. Since Wooding planned on replacing the anemic six-banger with more grunt under the hood, he wisely installed subframe connectors to the Nova's unibody for the extra torque his yet-to-be-installed engine would produce. Wooding retained the Nova's clean lines and kept the exterior dimensions original; however, he chose to mini-tub the rear to fit big rubber in the dead cat hole (the space between the tire and the wheelwell). With these chassis mods, Wooding turned to the front-end sheetmetal.
Finishing the front clip wasn't as easy as the body. The original fenders were rotted beyond repair, and locating new old stock '63 Nova front fenders was like finding snow cones in the Mojave. There were no reproduction fenders available either, so Wooding found a used pair. These also had faults, but he was able to cut and paste sheetmetal from both sets to produce one good pair. With the panelwork complete (the hood only required some ping straightening), the body was then primered and painted. Wooding chose Admiral Blue, a color offered on '94-96 Corvettes. All the bumpers, trim, grilles, and emblems were correct '63 Chevy II and Nova SS.
The interior is an amazing amalgamation of stock and custom. The original seats were reupholstered in tan soft touch vinyl, as were the door and quarter trim panels. Detail touches like painting the armrest bases blue instead of rechroming them, upholstering the kick panels, and embroidering the Nova SS script into the seat backs make the interior's color and texture theme consistent.