Introduced in 1962, the Chevy II was Chevrolet's traditional compact car answer to the Ford Falcon. After a few design changes in the first six years of production, the 1968-'74 Nova models took a page from the successful Camaro, and production numbers swelled. Ditching the previous shock-tower front suspension, the Nova now utilized a front and rear suspension arrangement owing to its F-body sibling, allowing the use of a big-block powerplant in the 1968-'70 Super Sport models. The X-body platform did enjoy a few advantages over the Camaro, including a longer wheelbase and the Nova's stiffer sedan body style, quite possibly the reason you still see many Novas in use at the drag strip. Add in a more usable trunk and a base price $300 cheaper than the Camaro, it's no wonder over 200,000 Novas were sold in 1968.
But there are a few disadvantages to the Nova, the first being it does not enjoy the cult-like status the Camaro does. Novas are a rarer sight at car shows and cruises, and as such they do not enjoy nearly the amount of parts availability as the Camaro. Window parts are one area where Novas don't enjoy new reproductions, most importantly the regulator itself. Given that most regulators from third-generation Nova models are pushing 40 years old and command a decent price in used condition, why not consider power windows? Although Novas didn't enjoy a power window option until the 1975 models were introduced, Electric Life has filled that void with kits available to convert most 1962-72 models to crankless operation. Problem solved.
Our test subject is a 1971 owned by Jason Rollins. A past Super Chevy Show True Street winner that can clock low 9-second times in the quarter-mile, Rollins still uses the car for street and strip operation, but admits trying to roll the windows up around a full roll cage can be trying at times. Combined with donning a five-layer firesuit, gloves and neck collar required by racing organizations for those quick trips down the track, the ability to open and close both windows at the touch of a button became increasingly appealing to Rollins.
We brought the car to Darren's Custom & Restoration for the conversion, where owner and fellow racer Darren Stutts performed the swap in less than a day's time.
1. A typical 1968-'72 door panel set-up will only require a few hand tools to strip it to the bare shell. After a few minutes with a Phillips screwdriver, a window and door handle removal tool and a trim pad tool, Darren Stutts had removed the armrest assembly, handles and door panel.
2. This photo shows a total of nine short bolts, and six will need to be removed to extract the window regulator and track. But before starting that part of the job, Stutts removed the door hinge pins and pulled the door shell off the hinges. This makes it easier to drill the necessary holes in the cowl panel and door shell for the switch wiring to pass through.
3. Since Novas of this design didn't come with a power window option, many have no set location to drill the cowl side panel. However Rollins' car had some stamped markings on the panel, giving Stutts a starting point to drill a clean hole.
4. The GM-style switch kit uses a five-wire plug on both sides, and with those five wires neatly taped together, it could easily pass through a hole size of 1/2-inch in diameter. But after some discussion, Rollins decided to use a door jamb boot set, requiring a hole saw to drill the correct size opening.
5. A 1967-'69 Camaro boot set from National Parts Depot (PN C-10778-2A) worked well on a previous Nova power window install by Stutts, so a set was employed here. Besides making for a cleaner installation, the boots also protect the wires from water and dirt or getting pinched. Stutts added a few sheetmetal screws for extra retention.
6. Unlike the cowl side panel, the door shell did have a punch mark in place, allowing Stutts to easily drill out the needed wiring hole.
7. This door jamb boot set uses a bigger diameter grommet on the cowl side versus the door shell, so be certain to double check your hole saw size before starting to drill the door shell.
8. At this point, the door is ready to be re-installed. However, if your hinge pins, bushings or rollers could use replacing, this is the time to do it. The driver door sagged a little on Rollins' ride, so Stutts installed a fresh set of pins and bushings from National Parts Depot (PN C-10464-50A).
9. With the door shell back on its hinges, Stutts began removing the four bolts holding the window regulator and two that retain the adjustment track.
10. This is where an extra pair of hands is useful. Rollins holds up the window glass to give Stutts some extra room to get the window regulator rollers out of the glass track. This step can take some time, so patience is key.
11. After a little wiggling, Stutts slides the regulator out the large hole at the back of the door shell. The door glass can be lowered onto the bottom bump stop until the new regulator is ready to install.
12. The Electric Life kit (PN GM110-K) employs a cleaner regulator design over the separate motor and regulator GM employed over three decades ago. This allows for an easy installation as well as not adding any weight over the manual regulator.
13. The motor uses a weather pack connection plug to guard against the elements and provide a solid connection.
14. The wiring plug is a very snug fit on the motor, so it is best to connect it before installing the regulator into the door shell.
15. With Rollins holding the door glass against the top of the door frame, Stutts feeds the Electric Life regulator into the door shell and starts the installation by getting the regulator rollers fed into the glass track.
16. Once the rollers are correctly located in the glass track, Stutts can line up the studs to hold the regulator to the door shell.
17. The Electric Life regulator uses threaded studs and nuts for an easier installation over the original bolts. Stutts lines up and installs the four nuts to retain the regulator up front, then moves to the two on the adjustment track. While the front nuts can be snugged up, the track nuts are left loose for final adjustment.
18. Every car will require a different amount of track adjustment, and a jump box can be employed to check operation. After Stutts adjusted the glass to a level down position, as well as rolling up and down with no binding, all six nuts got a final tightening to complete the driver side door.
19. The same techniques were used to convert the passenger side, and with the regulator swap complete, it's time to wire it all up.
20. Since the roll cage prevents back seat passengers, Rollins doesn't use the quarter windows much. So Electric Life supplied their two door switch kit that uses GM style bezels and switches (PN 4990-10-356).
21. After determining each door shell only had a few places that would accommodate the depth of the new electric switches, Rollins selected the upper front area of the door. He started the wiring by connecting the blue and black wires between the window motor and the switch connector. The remaining three wires were fed through the door jamb boots for their connections (red to supply power, while gray and purple connects the driver and passenger side switches together, allowing the driver to operate both front windows from the two-door switch.
22. The switch uses a pair of retaining clips to hold it to the door panel. While this should work well in most applications, Rollins wanted a little extra insurance to combat the rigors of racing.
23. The extra insurance would be a pair of switch retainers. Originally used by GM to hold electric switches firmly to door panels, Rollins came across a few from a fellow racer who restores cars.
24. Matching up the retainer with the switch, it was determined Rollins could use the retainer as a template to outline the area to cut out of the door panel for the switch, which was done with a black marker.
25. Using a new razor blade to ensure a clean cut without snags, Rollins cut through the vinyl and removed it before proceeding to trim out the cardboard panel.
26. After a few test fits, the retaining clip was installed, followed by the new switch and bezel assembly. To cover up the hole left behind by the previous window handle, Electric Life provided a pair of its crank hole covers (PN 5010-10-095).
27. When installing the switch connector for the first time, it will be a tight fit. Make sure to fully seat the connector on the switch, as it will provide better operation and prevent possibly having to remove the door panel in the future to fix a loose connection.
28. Re-install the door panels, but do not install the clips, screws or armrests yet. Check operation on both switches to make sure everything works properly. Once everything checks out, install the door panel retainers, handles and armrest assemblies.
29. The final product has a factory installed look, and thanks to the hole covers, Rollins isn't forced to spend money for new door panels or face an unsightly hole from the previous window regulator. Best of all, window operation is now done with the push of a button.
Darren's Custom & Restorations