Many years later, Jerry L. now owns that Nova, and he took some time to chat with us about his prized possession.
BR: When did you first encounter the Chevy Nova?
JL: The Nova was actually owned by my neighbor when I was just a kid. He had a pretty nasty 327ci V8 in it, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. He eventually moved to another part of town, but every now and then I would stop by and ask if he wanted to sell. He didn’t want to let it go.
Then about a year passed and I noticed that the car was just sitting on the side of his garage. I decided to give it another shot and to my surprise I ended up purchasing the Chevy II.
Time to start customizing it?
Actually by the time I purchased it he had swapped out the 327ci V8 and had installed a straight six with a four-speed transmission. I drove the car that way for about a year or so and then I purchased a mild 327ci engine and dropped it in.
Over the next few years I pulled out the motor and rebuilt it with the help of my two boys. We installed a larger cam and I did some head porting—the Nova ran 12.05 at the track!
Pretty brisk! I can’t imagine it ended there.
About two years ago I built a 350ci V8 bored .40 over with high dome pistons, a solid cam, and AFR aluminum heads. The compression is just under 13.1, I run it on pump gas, and I’m pushing about 550 horsepower.
The rear has an Auburn posi-traction unit with 3.73 gears. I also swapped out the tired four-speed and installed a Turbo 350 transmission with a stall converter.
It’s interesting actually, that engine was originally my brother-in-law’s and we built it up in his garage. He was planning on putting it in an ‘80s Monte Carlo that he was building, but then decided to sell the car.
One Saturday I was welding up a dual exhaust in the back of his truck, the next day he backed up his truck in my driveway. At first I thought there was a leak he needed me to weld, but instead he had the short block in the back of the truck an
d said to me, “Happy Birthday, your Nova needs this motor.”
That’s quite the present! Was it a fast swap in?
The short block sat on my engine stand for quite some time actually, while I figured out what parts I wanted to to use to build it up. My wife and two sons surprised me on Christmas with AFR aluminum heads.
On my next birthday my brother surprised me with many of the other parts that I needed. Without the generosity of my family I wouldn’t have been able to build this engine. Many thanks go to my wife Marjorie, my sons Jerry and William, my brother Jim, and my brother-in-law Fred.
Glad to hear the whole family was in on the project. Any plans for the future?
I drive the car whenever I can and take it to the local car shows all the time. Just a few months ago I ran into head gasket issues, so I will be pulling the motor out and doing some upgrades like a bigger cam and some engine block work.
Eventually I would like to install a five-speed transmission and maybe 4.11 gears. I’m really looking forward to getting back to the track when I’m done to see what it can do.
Many thanks to Jerry for sharing his Chevy Nova story. If you’ve got a classic car with a tale to tell, drop us a line!