Rod & Custom Feature Car
Battle Ground, Washington
1962 Chevy II Nova
Here's a recipe for a good fight.
Tuck this magazine under your arm next time you get together with your buddies. Once they're feeling good and loose open up this spread and ask what kind of car this Nova is.
Chances are here's what's going to happen. The overwhelming majority are going to congratulate each other for recognizing it as a Gasser. Someone who's done some reading will notice the altered wheelbase and proclaim it a Factory Experimental (/FX). The guy old enough to legitimately claim to have, "…been there" will point out the improbability of an OEM building such a car at that time and dismiss it as a more likely street freak. Hearing that, inevitably two or three from various positions will break ranks to defend it by some nebulous catchall term like "match basher".
Carl Ables knows exactly what his Nova looks like: the one from his high school parking lot. "It was black with a tunnel-rammed small-block with a chrome straight-axle," he recalls. But it's more than just that. "I (also) remembered the World of Wheels shows my dad took me to as a teenager." He found the middle ground between the audibly loud machine from the parking lot and the visually loud machines from the show floor.
The car turned up on Craigslist. As the story goes, the builder sold the car to a guy in Albany, Oregon, who, to celebrate his day's purchase, tested the seller's claim that the engine did in fact produce 450 hp. Whether or not it did we don't know but this much we do: "(He) hit a telephone pole and took out 40 feet of fence," Carl says. "The car sat for a while until he sold it to the guy I bought it from who also lives in Albany."
Carl took the car's condition as license to do as he and his son Austin wished. That first entailed removing the entire front sheetmetal group from the car, an act that eliminates the front suspension as well. Though Speedway Motors sells a ready-made front-stub kit for straight-axle builds, Carl made his own to hang the company's tube axle in /FX fashion, ahead of stock (3 inches to be exact). He finished the assembly with '49-54 Chevy spindles, GM midsize disc brakes, and a Vega-style steering box.
Like the front axle, the Ford 9-inch also follows /FX convention by mounting in a non-stock location. Only it also breaks with that convention by mounting 2 inches back, not forward, of stock. Typical for home brew designs of the era, leaf springs suspend the car over the axle and ladder bars control the axle's torque reaction and determine its antisquat properties.
The engine is equally old guard. It's a 283 bored 0.060-over and assembled by some unknown builder. With the polished 64cc chambers in the ported camel-hump heads it cranks a healthy 11:1 static compression ratio. A COMP Cams Big Mutha' Thumpr 295TH7 bleeds off some of that pressure. Carl feeds the engine with Edelbrock AFB-style carburetors on an Edelbrock X-C8 manifold.
The transmission is fairly conventional—a TH350 built with a shift kit and stall converter by Ralph Holcomb in Spokane. What tops it is a little less ordinary. Though a product of the '80s, Hurst's Lightning Rods shifter looks the part of a period '60s piece, if only for its excess. In fact the only thing more outlandish than the shifter is the Covico-style Mooneyes steering wheel.
That wheel mounts to an eBay-find van-style column (the original column was part of the steering gear, which left with the suspension). Though Carl returned the remainder of the interior to stock he still found creative license in the accessories, like the real Dixco tach, SO-CAL Speed Shop knobs, Moon and Offenhauser pedal pads, and the car's party piece, a Pioneer TP-6001 8-Track head unit.
Once redeemed from its intimate encounter with the pole and the 40-foot trip down the fence that followed, the body went to El Robbo Studios. It first got a bath of PPG's DBU-series base clear that Carl used since he built his first mini-truck in the '80s. Robbo then punctuated the finish with some pinstripes.
Carl then further punctuated the entire job with modern-day interpretations of time-honored wheels. Rocket Racing Wheels' 15x4.5 Rocket Launchers invoke the image of 12-spoke spindle-mount wheels. The company's 15x8.5 Injectors draw heavily upon an aesthetic defined by late-'60s dragster wheels. The 5.60-15 and the 28.75x7.5-15 tires resemble the ones founder Ron Hurst made half a century ago in all ways but one: Hurst Racing Tires uses better handling radial carcasses for its foundations.
But back to our little fight. So what is Carl Ables' Nova? It's a rhetorical question really. I mean, does it matter what people call it? Much like enthusiasts who concentrate so intensely on the details that they miss the big picture, we often get so wrapped up trying to categorize something that we miss the point. And last I checked, the point wasn't to build a bitchin definition; it was to build a bitchin car. And as far as I'm concerned, Carl nailed that part.