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Rusty No More

We Finally Get to the Finish Line

Tony Kelly Aug 8, 2003

It's been a while, a long while, in fact. But with the help of many people and their incredible skills, we want to share with you the celebration of the completion of our ever-popular Rusty Ragtop '63 Nova SS convertible! And while most of us would certainly agree that projects are seldom ever really finished, this bright red Deuce drop-top will stay the way it is for a long, long time to come. Not only do we want to enjoy it in its fully restored state, but it is important that the car be appreciated by Chevy fans who will see it at events and gatherings and understand just how well the restoration was performed by our friends in the industry.

The man most responsible for completing the one-year-only classic, Ronney Kissinger (formerly of R&R Motorsports, and who now operates Ron's Restorations), provided another tremendous service when he trailered the car from his home in Arkansas just so it could be at the Phoenix, Arizona, Super Chevy Show. The trip was well worth it, though, as the Nova attracted admirers from all over the event and glowed like the red star that it is. The combination of expert workmanship from the team of professionals at R&R Motorsports and the tremendous contribution of hard-to-find parts and restoration items from Joe Grom at Chevy 2 Only, produced what can only be described as one of the finest examples of a restored Nova SS convertible in the country.

After a weekend of constant attention, we took the spotlight off of the car and loaded it into a brand-new 24-foot cargo trailer from H&H Trailers for the trip home. Then, the following week, the car made another dazzling impression at the Pomona Super Chevy Show, where it was put on display with other magazine project cars and a stunning group of Gold Class machines. The Nova was certainly in the right company there and once again drew throngs of admirers.

With a rich history of having every part renewed, where do we go from here? We intend to display the Rusty Ragtop at a few other local Super Chevy Shows, as well as other events as a "benchmark" Gold Class machine, not as a competitive show car. We want Nova (and all) restorers to look at this classic as an example of what a great restoration car can--and should--be. Even those who aren't undertaking a project currently will be able to enjoy the car and respect the quality of work that went into it. We hope you are among them.

So with that said, the following final chapter of our Rusty Ragtop saga shows how it looks now, plus takes a glance back at some of the work that was done to bring it to this level of excellence. We hope you enjoy it as much as we've enjoyed watching it go together and bringing you the photos of how it was done. About all that's left to do is reconfigure the classic's name. How does the (Once) Rusty Ragtop sound, or perhaps the (Not anymore) Rusty Ragtop. We think Eternal Classic says it all.


This is a typical garage of a car project, only this one's a little neater...

...because Editor Terry Cole has many parts in tote boxes, ready to ship to Ronney Kissinger's Arkansas shop.

Quickly skipping east many miles, we see it can be lonely at the top. Occupying a solitary position, in what is known as the "Gold Room," Kissinger and crew have arranged the major components in neat and clean order. Isn't this the way all shops look?

Now to the nitty-gritty...once off the lift, the body is set on jacks that will be under it for much of its restoration.

A light at the end of the tunnel (driveshaft tunnel, that is) can only be accomplished by hours of scraping and grinding to find out "what's underneath." In many cases this is where a restorer finds out how much of the original floor can be used again.

It's worth it, though, when this is what you wind up with. For those looking to do a quality restoration, the parts you seldom see have to look as good as the parts you often see.

Still somewhat on the ragged side, the faithful straight-six is being inspected to be sure everything's all right before it gets buttoned up. The engine had been rebuilt before shipment to R&R Motor Sports, but it pays to check things out anyway. Once screwed together and painted, no one wants to open it up again for something that should have been taken care of earlier.

Here's our freshened-up and reliable two-speed Powerglide. Our little Nova probably won't be "king of the burnouts" with this powertrain, but it will be smooth as silk.

Call it a front clip or a tub, but make sure it looks this good before it goes on the car. A lot of parts are attached to and surrounded by it, so it needs to look like this.

This is so clean, it's a shame to cover it up. The front suspension goes together from the outside in, beginning with the upper and lower control arms and spindles.

Working from front to back, the prepped and painted third-member goes in and looks right at home after receiving the axles. The underside of that floor looks good, but it'll be hard to see later; take a long look now.

As you might do at your own shop, get the big guys to handle this job. Pushing, pulling, guiding and steering, it all counts.

It looks just like it belongs there, which it does. No scratches, dings, drops, broken parts, or fingers--it can't get any better.

Add a valve, cover, and alternator, and it's starting to look like an engine compartment.

If you haven't worked on a Nova, or have but forgot how unique they were, check out the pan and steering components.

Turning our attention to the other end, the trunk floor is straight and smooth. For those of you who noticed the contrasting paint on the outside of the rear, this is not the correct pattern.

Here, again, we're getting a chance to admire the workmanship on surfaces that will seldom be seen in the completed car. A top-level restoration, however, will always have this kind of refurbishing done to all surfaces, regardless of whether they will be regularly seen.

It's good to know you're riding on a solid, well-crafted floor, instead of worrying about when the rust will finally eat through and dump you on the road.

In order to properly support the bare body, Ron uses these "turnbuckle" type wire supports to alleviate body flex while the subframe and suspension aren't attached. Some cars even benefit from having turnbuckles in the engine compartment. Notice also that the silver paint on the exterior of the rearend hasn't been carried inside to the lip of the trunk. That isn't correct as the exterior trim color appeared on the lip of the trunk and Ron's Restorations had it redone.

In building the engine, some might assemble it and then paint it. In Ron's shop, the engine is sprayed before the manifold and valve cover go on so that the gaskets are not the same color as the engine. It's little things such as this that can make a difference.

When it comes time to detail the dash pieces that came with plastic-chrome Ron's uses Bumper chrome spray...

...which is nearly identical to factory finish.

Don't use a primer, just clean and spray.

This is what can be done with lots of cleaning, sanding, priming, sanding again, priming, more sanding and then a finish coat. Hard to believe what we started with.

Thanks to the pros at C.A.R.S. we were able to add the finishing touches with a perfect top and "spot-on" resto door panels, seat materials, and carpets. Nice to know quality pieces like these are available when you're doing a project such as this.

We show you this to illustrate another difference between convertibles and hardtop Novas. In case we haven't mentioned it lately, this car had the quarters replaced from a two-door coupe and the hardtop's rear quarter window operates differently than a soft-top.

This results in the notch in the door opening being deeper in the hardtop so we had to patch in a piece of sheet metal to make the car correct. The photo with the two-tone paint is the convertible version.


Chevy 2 Only
Mt. Washington, KY 40071
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
Siloam Springs, AR 72761,
Berkley, MI 48072
Torrance, CA 90501,
Lebanon, OH 45036,

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