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1963 Chevrolet Nova Wagon V8 Swap - Should’ve Had A V-8
Swapping out the Straight-6 for a V-8 into a ’63 Nova Wagon
May 16, 2011
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1963 Chevrolet Nova Wagon V8 Swap - Should’ve Had A V-8
To get everyone up to speed, let me highlight what went down. Jason Scudellari, our tech center manager, and I got busy and had the motor out in a jiffy. We pulled the engine and trans separately because it was a lot easier than trying to tilt the long inline-six with the trans over the core support.
Before we could stab the new 290hp GM Performance Parts crate engine in the hole, we had to install the Chevy 2 Only front sump oil pan and the related parts that go with it. One thing to note on the new GMPP engines is that they have a provision for oil dipsticks on both sides. The oil pan takes care of the driver's side, but we had to fill the dipstick provision on the passenger side with JB Weld to create a sealing surface.
These motor mount perches are another part of the Chevy 2 Only conversion kit and bolt right in. These will place the engine in the proper location, which will help with all the other bolt-on parts, like the Energy Suspension motor mounts.
The Gearstar 700-R4 is a completely remanufactured and upgraded trans that comes with just about everything you need to install. A technician at Gearstar will ask a bunch of questions about rearend gears, horsepower of the engine, and rear tire size when ordering so the company can make sure the shift points and the speedo will be spot-on. The other main component in the trans portion of the swap is the crossmember from Chevy 2 Only. It is a true bolt-in piece and places the trans in the right spot to hook up to the motor.
With the motor in, we started installing some other goodies like these Sanderson shorty headers. They feature ultra thick flanges and we went with the ceramic coating so they will look good for a long time. Just make sure when you install them that you put the flatter one on the driver's side and the one with the longer tubes (shown here) on the passenger side.
Initially, we were running a short water pump setup, but found out that there was not enough clearance between the strut tower and valve cover for the alternator to tuck in there. We had enough room to run a long water pump, so we returned the short stuff and ordered all these parts from Trans Dapt to use a long water pump. Here is what the setup looks like once it's all installed. The 63-amp, one wire, internally regulated, GM 10si case, alternator from Summit will provide enough juice for what we have in the Nova.
To keep the V-8 cool, we went with this high-efficiency copper core four-core radiator from US Radiator. It is beefier than the stock one we took out, but still is designed to fit in the early Nova. Come to find out the mounting holes on a '63 I-6 core support are a bit too close together, so Jason grabbed a grinding wheel and elongated the factory holes just enough to get them started.
We had to bend new hard lines for a couple of things like the transmission and the fuel feed. Jason routed them along the edge of the oil pan and then to the passenger side of the core support so we could hook them to the new cooler in front of the radiator. You can also see the new fuel line with filter he bent up.
The last thing we had time to do in the previous story was install the Holley 670cfm Street Avenger carb from Summit. This is the recommended carb for the motor and features vacuum secondaries, electric choke, and any vacuum ports we may need. We had to change out the throttle arm at the firewall for a V-8 arm that we got from Chevy 2 Only, along with the new rod and install kit that includes the grommets and stuff needed to hook it to the carb. Now let's continue on with the new stuff.
We had to go back and add this geometry kit to the carb so the trans cable going down to the 700 would pull the correct amount and let it shift properly. Another thing used that helped with the entire build was an ARP black, 12-point bolt kit because a lot of the stuff doesn't come with hardware.
Initially, the stock wiring was just going to get rerouted, but it was way too brittle. Chevy 2 Only offers these new harnesses that have been designed for newer technology like an HEI distributor and a passenger-side alternator.
The new alternator wires are inside the front light harness so the old one needed to come out. The new one went in like a factory piece with just the alt wires being different. Those were routed behind the battery and then across to the block with the heater hoses so you don't really see them.
The engine harness has the new HEI wiring in it so it feeds the new distributor with 12 volts. It goes in pretty easily as it only has a few wires in it, but there is some work that needs to be done under the dash. A new ignition switch wire needs to be installed between the switch and the fuse block. It has the correct factory terminals on it, but you will need a terminal removal tool to get it out from the fuse panel and the plug on the switch.
The factory pink wire you pull out of the switch will get plugged back into the new wire from the harness as shown here to feed anything it is tied to in the factory harness.
Since the driveshaft needed to be shortened a couple inches and a fine spline yolk installed to work with the new OD trans, we took it to our local driveline shop. The Powerglide uses a course spline on the yolk shown in the inset photo.
The shaft shop did it all for $233.82, including new U-joints.
To hook up the column shift to the new trans, we ordered a Transmission Shift Arm Conversion from Kugel Komponents.
The Kugel setup replaces all the factory linkage and allows you to adjust the throw of the shift arm, thanks to the long slot in this piece attached to the trans.
The other end of the arm goes directly up to the steering column. The Kugel arm has absolutely no slop in it so the shift lever in the car feels awesome.
There is only one electrical hook up that needs to be addressed for the trans. This little vacuum switch will prevent the converter from locking up under wide-open throttle, heavy acceleration, or while going up a steep grade. One wire goes down to the trans and one wire needed to be run into the interior and tapped into a keyed 12V source. It also needs a vacuum line ran to it that was picked up from under the carb at one of the many ports.
The last thing to install for the trans was this Lokar flexible dipstick tube. The rigid steel dipstick tube supplied by Gearstar hit the firewall so this will cure that problem.
Before we dropped in the Summit HEI distributor, we filled the engine with Comp Cams Break-In oil and then primed the engine. This will make sure we have that protective fluid everywhere before we hit the key.
The larger body of the HEI does fit, but it is pretty close to the firewall. Jason brought the motor up to TDC on the number one cylinder before dropping in the distributor.
Chevy 2 Only has the radiator hoses for the swap, but we were in a time crunch so they gave us the part numbers so we could pick them up from our local parts store. They needed a little trimming to fit properly.
With all the hoses on, Jason filled the engine with just water for now. Once we confirm we have no leaks we will drain out the water and put in the proper coolant mixture.
Now it was time for the moment of truth. Jason unplugged the HEI and cranked the engine over until fuel reached the carb with a starter button. Once we had fuel he hooked the HEI back up and lit the engine off. With timing light in hand Jason set the timing really quick and then brought the motor up to 3,000 rpm to break in the cam. While that was happening we looked for leaks and kept an eye on the temp. Everything checked out so that pretty much finishes the job. The car now sounds like it should, has way more power and floats right along when the trans clicks into overdrive. Now check out the massive parts breakdown side bar so you can be more prepared than we were when you start your own V-8 swap.
1963 Chevrolet Nova Wagon V8 Swap - Should’ve Had A V-8 - Super Chevy Magazine
For this 1963 Chevrolet Nova Wagon V8 Swap we used a GM Performance Parts 290 hp crate motor, a Gearstar 700R4 transmission, and a radiator from US Radiator, Super Chevy Magazine
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