How to Wire a 1963 Chevrolet Nova - Project Hardtop Hellion

Power On! - The Hardtop Hellion's Electrical Gadgetry

Jake Amatisto Mar 12, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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Wiring a car from scratch can be a daunting task, especially before the days of companies like Painless Wiring. We can recall wiring one of our first projects years ago in our driveway using individual bundles of wire and a standalone fuse box from an auto parts store; all the while there's got to be a better way—these days, there is. We're definitely not auto electricians by any means, and honestly, most gearheads we know hate wiring. It's tedious, time consuming, and can be one of the most annoying things to diagnose if there's an issue. The folks at Painless, however, have a whole catalog of kits designed to make wiring a car a breeze, so the days of wondering what gauge wire for what accessory and tracing unlabeled wires are over.

Sure, we can turn wrenches, but when it came to the electrical system of the Hellion, we contacted the professionals at BCR Motorsports in Arcadia, California. Whether it's a multiple nitrous system heads-up car, a stock restoration, or even a simple street machine setup like ours, the Baglieri's have been working on performance applications since 1980 and are vastly experienced when it comes to wiring up a performance vehicle. Also, since the owner is an NHRA Tech inspector, it meant we'd be getting a system that had all the dragstrip-legal items, such as a neutral safety switch and battery cut-off. BCR was a tremendous help in getting our car powered up, and the clean and simple installation will make adding on other systems down the road a snap.

Besides Painless Wiring, who supplied us with their 8-Circuit Race Wiring Harness/Panel Kit, we also teamed up with other companies that made getting the Nova powered up possible. Since this car is designed for an NMCA class, where hot lapping the car is part of the competition, we chose a pair of Optima's Red Top Batteries mounted in the trunk of the Hellion. Our idea was to run our electric fan and water pump in the staging lanes before each run, without the worry of a stalled hot rod. The dual batteries also promotes better weight bias over the rear wheels. Feeding amperage to our system is a Performance Distributor's Mr. Amp alternator. At 150 amps, this piece can adequately keep our system charged and the one wire connection made hooking it up a non-issue. Since the batteries would be mounted in the trunk, we needed a solid way to secure them. Speedway Motors is a great source for affordable-yet-nice hot rod items under their brand, such as their 3-Bolt Deluxe Billet Battery Mount and 18-foot Battery Cable Kit.

1963 Chevrolet Nova Project Hardtop 2/22

Another main part of wiring the Nova was the instrument cluster. We learned of Classic Instruments line of muscle car gauges at the Goodguys show in Ohio and immediately fell in love with their '63-65 Nova Gauge Cluster. Using the factory bezel, this setup is worlds better over the factory setup and the pre-terminated harness made hooking everything up incredibly easy. We'll reveal the features and the detailed installation of the Classic Instruments dash in a future issue. One of the final pieces to the electrical puzzle was the battery cut-off; if the batteries are in the trunk, then NHRA requires a master cut-off switch in the rear of the vehicle, so we contacted Flaming River for their Big Switch with Lever Kit. The long lever gives you multiple mounting options in the trunk and it even comes with a bracket to mount the switch itself.

Our Hardtop Hellion Project has moved right along over the past year, and you'll soon be reading about the dragstrip test results from our aggressive street car. However, in the meantime, look for a few additional articles where we continue to piece together this pump gas brawler.

Manufacturer

Component

Part Number

Classic Instruments '63-65 Velocity Gauge Cluster NO63VSB-F
Flaming River Big Switch & Lever Kit FR1003-2
Optima Batteries Red Top AGM Batteries 910-66411
Painless Wiring 8-Circuit Race Harness/Panel Kit 50005
Performance Distributors Mr. Amp Alternator MR-150
Speedway Motors 3-Bolt Deluxe Billet Battery Mounts 91666601
Speedway Motors 18-foot Battery Cable Kit 91064505
TCI Automotive GM Extreme Racing Starter 351109
Year One LED Taillights TJ75SET

1963 Chevrolet Nova Factory 3/22

The factory wiring was a rat’s nest of hardened wires that we were happy to remove. The ancient glass fuse panel was sketchy at best and we really didn’t trust it to run our new system.

Dual Optima Red 4/22

The heart of our system is dual Optima Red Tops, which are an AGM (absorption glass mat) design that have great startup burst, longer life than conventional style batteries, are spill-proof and have excellent charge-up ability.

Speedway Motors Deluxe Billet Hold 5/22

Holding the batteries down are Speedway Motors’ Deluxe Billet Hold Downs, are a steal at just $99; we simply bolted them to the floor of the trunk.

Painless 8 Circuit 6/22

Here’s a huge time saver: the Painless 8-circuit harness comes already hooked into the fuse panel. It’s up to the installer to trace the pre-labeled wire to the appropriate component.

Painless Powerbraid 7/22

At our Irvine Tech Center, Baglieri started by feeding some of our wires in Painless’ Powerbraid loom, using this nifty tool that makes covering up wires less time consuming.

Performance Distributors Mr Amp 8/22

Feeding our dual batteries is a 150 amp alternator from Performance Distributors. Their Mr. Amp line of alternators is a great choice for high-powered street machines, and they even off an H.O. model that cranks out 250 amps! It’s important to note that they only come with a v-belt pulley, so those with serpentine belts will need to install the correct alternator pulley.

Performance Distributors Mr Amp Alternator 9/22
Painless Performance 10/22

Here’s a good example of why it’s better to have a professional handle the tasks you’re inexperienced with; specialized tools like the wire loomer tools, pen torches and zip-tie cutters makes the overall installation cleaner. And since the Painless kit is largely pre-terminated and clearly labeled, it makes it even easier for an experienced professional that’s used to more complicated systems.

Tci Automotive Racing 11/22

TCI Automotive’s Racing Starter was ordered to crank over our 500-plus horsepower small-block. It produces 20 percent better cranking power than a stock piece and was engineered with racing headers in mind.

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