When the Chevy II/Nova first debuted in 1962, it was meant as an everyday economy car. Its base engine was a diminutive four-cylinder, the biggest V-8 you could get was a two-barrel 283, and the car was as plain as Jane could be.
The first redesign came for '66 and the stylists intentionally made it look like a scaled down '55 Chevy. Like the first of the Tri-Fives, the '66-67 Novas have become classics and Marc Schankweiler's '66 shows us how far the little economy Bowtie has come in the 45 years since it debuted.
Marc found his Chevy II in a local sell-it paper an hour away form his home in Douglasville, Pennsylvania. When he set eyes on his future project, it wasn't in the best of shape. The six-cylinder-powered Deuce was missing its rear window and the interior was shredded, but it was in running condition. After money and the title changed hands (about $900), Marc drove the coupe home on the Pennsylvania Turnpike-without the rear window.
Once the car was in his garage, Marc set out to breathe new life into it. When the bodywork commenced, it was discovered why there was no rear window. Most of the metal in the window channel was gone and the channel sludged up with body filler and backed up by a piece of chrome trim. Marc contracted this bit of repair work to Denny Weaver and Ron Ewanic. A donor car was used to replace the metal between the trunk and rear window, all the way up the sail panels to the roof. Once the body was finished being prepped and smoothed out, Denny and Ron shot the car in Bonzai Blue Metallic paint.
The heart of this Deuce coupe is not your typical small-block. Measuring 421 cubic inches, induction duties are handled by a pair of Joe Gibbs Racing surplus SB2 heads with some flow and port work. Designed for high-rpm racing on the circle tracks of America, these heads are starting to become popular with drag racers and are finding their way into a few street cars. Featuring mammoth intake ports designed to run between 6000 and 9000 RPM, the SB2 heads have canted valves like a big-block but retain the siamesed exhaust ports of a normal small-block. Marc's motor runs a .700-plus lift roller cam with Jesel rockers, 13.5:1 compression Diamond pistons and a nitrous system for a little extra power. Marc doesn't want us to publish his specific horsepower numbers so he can keep his competition on edge, but we can tell you the motor puts out more than 700 horsepower and an equally impressive amount of torque.
Handling the power from the crankshaft is a Dynamic-built Powerglide with a high-stall converter. From there, horsepower goes to a 9-inch rear with strange axles, a spool and 4.10 gears built by Bears Performance. Marc had the frame notched and mini-tubs installed so he could fit enough rubber underneath the Deuce to put all that power on the pavement. Helping fit the rubber underneath, Marc stretched and reshaped the quarter panel wheel openings. The final body mod was a Harwood Outlaw Show Series hood.
Up front is a Checkered Racing-built subframe, modified by CD Race Cars and Marc to fit the Nova perfectly. Equipped with 2-inch drop spindles, Strange double-adjustable shocks, tubular A-arms and disc brakes, Marc doesn't have trouble keeping the car straight when his foot's trying to shove the gas pedal through the floorboard. For wheels Marc went with a set of Hole Shot 15 inch Holestars, with the fronts wearing M/T Sportsman tread, while the backs have Hoosier Quick Time Pros with a 10.5-inch tread width.
Inside, the Nova has Jaz front seats and the stock rear, with Year One door and side panels, all in factory black. Keeping tabs on the engine is a full set of Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges, and steering is directed by a Grant GT wheel. A Hurst Quarter Stick controls the shifting duties. Since Marc likes to cruise in the Nova often, he had a Custom Autosound head-unit installed so he could hear his favorite tunes while blowing the doors off unsuspecting blue oval geeks and Mopar freaks on the Pennsylvania roads.
Evolving from a 327/Muncie-equipped cruiser, Schankweiler's best elapsed time to date is a robust 8.71 at 159 mph. We hope they put that rear window in correctly because this thing has the power to blow it right out!
While Camaros and Chevelles are great, there's always something to be said for the clean, simple lines of the early Chevy IIs, and their lightweight potential as head-slamming boulevard and dragstrip warriors.