SOME cars just take to the pro street look. A set of tubs, fat meats out back and a metal mountain jutting from the front end works a treat when added to an early-70s Plymouth Duster, Ford Maverick or a classic-era Chevy Nova – provided one steers clear of stink-bug rakes and disco-era paintjobs.
First published in the June 2021 issue of Street Machine
Harley Hamilton’s ’67 Nova SS is a prime example of this, with a tubbed, four-link rear end swallowing serious rubber and a blown 406ci small-block whining away up front. Hunkered down over modern wheels and with killer paint, it packs a lot of Aussie street machining flavour for a US import.
“It came into the country as an 80s pro street car with graphics, a blown engine, full tubs and all that stuff,” Harley says. “I bought it off the first Aussie owner and drove it around until a wheel came off, which wrecked the paint.”
The beaten-up coupe was taken to a panel shop for repair, but that shop botched the job, so Harley drove it over to Unique Panels in Hallam, Melbourne, where the team fixed the quarter panel and painted it the custom-tinted PPG Chrysler purple.
“I drove the car like that for maybe three years, with purple trim in it, and then it came off the road for a full birthday over a 12-month period,” Harley says. “We stripped it down and even redid the engine, because it just had a mild small-block built using a stock block, with the blower and twin 600 Holley carbs.”
Glenn Wells Engines screwed the stout small-block together, with CP slugs, Scat H-beam rods and a Scat crank swinging 406 cubes, while a Comp cam and lifter kit and a Melling oil pump round out the bottom end. Up top, AFR heads handle the atmosphere rammed in via the Weiand 6/71 blower, which gets its pump 98 unleaded from a Joe Blo injector hat and injectors, controlled by a Haltech Elite 950 ECU.
“The car was never built for power and speed,” says Harley. “I wanted a tough car that I could drive anywhere. When Glenn did the engine, I just wanted reliability; at a guess it had to make 700-ish horsepower on pump fuel, but I had no plans of racing it. It still went good, though.”
The new engine was just part of the birthday party Harley threw his X-body. Along with Matty from MDT screwing together a tough TH400 auto and upgrading the turning end with a rack-and-pinion steering set-up from Classic Industries, Harley also got All Race Fabrications to go through the compact coupe.
“Daniel and the guys from All Race went through the rear end, fitting double-adjustable Strange coil-overs and adding strengthening to the rear end to fix that up,” Harley explains. “They also fitted the new engine and cut the hole in the bonnet, added a trans cooler, did all the fuel and trans lines, mounted the pump and fuel cell, removed all seven Auto Meter gauges from my dash and welded the holes. They did a huge amount and helped me out massively.”
The shortened nine-inch out back scored a new centre from Chris’s Differentials, packing an Eaton Truetrac and 3.55 gears, while 31-spline axles also got the nod. Up front, Chris from Race Wires whipped up a new engine wiring harness to suit the EFI combo, and hid it all out of eyesight, too. “He did an incredible job, including wiring up all the injectors in the hat,” Harley says.
The 80s-spec ‘Barney the friendly pro street dinosaur’ interior was binned in favour of a subtler approach using all the classy understated style from the stock ’67 Nova SS catalogue. Danny from SOC Auto Upholstery in Hallam added custom black carpet along with Nova SS seats and trim done in the factory black pattern, while a stock tiller provides a place for resting your hands while cruising.
With a Phoenix Gold Bluetooth stereo pumping tunes through Kicker speakers, the Nova is a killer tough street cruiser. But, as the saying goes, money talks, and Harley recently bade farewell to the purple beastie.
“I had the car for seven years, and it was perfect when I sold it recently,” he sighs. “We drove the arse out of that car; I cruised Surfers Paradise, we’d drive it to Bright and back, out to Echuca, down to South Australia. Even my missus loved driving it. It is that good to drive.”
While you may well be asking why someone would give up such a righteous toughie, Harley has some nuclear-grade hardware in his shed.
“I’ve got three Fox-body Mustangs, including my turbo race car that has gone threes in the eighth-mile, and a ProCharged 347 stroker-powered notch. I also have another single-turbo LS Fox-body making over 1200rwhp that I’m bringing to Drag Challenge.”
While race cars are awesome, that leaves one space left for a cool cruiser, but Harley has sorted that one, too. “My kids miss the Nova, but I have a chopped, slammed single-spinner Ford coming in from Canada as the new cruiser.”
We’ll have to see if that one also ends up tubbed and blown, given Harley’s form with fast cars. We wouldn’t blame him if it did!
CHEVY’S entry in the compact-car market, the Chevy II, started rolling down production lines in August 1961 as a cheap, cheerful, basic machine to tackle Ford’s Falcon. It was offered in a range of body styles and trim levels, topped by the sporty Nova.
While a Nova Super Sport model hit the range in 1963, a V8 wasn’t available from Chevy until a year later, when a 195hp, 283ci small-block got the nod. The 110in-wheelbase X-body platform was already proving popular with hot rodders by then, and when GM stuffed a 300hp, 327ci V8 into the ’65 Nova SS, the platform entered the muscle car race.
The second-generation Nova appeared for ’66 and ’67, with the most potent boasting a 350hp, 327ci small-block from the A-body Chevelle, but the big news for 1968’s third-generation Nova SS model was the introduction of a pair of rowdy 396ci big-block V8s. Over and above the standard 295hp, 350ci mouse motor, buyers also had the choice of a 350hp or 375hp fat-block, while transmissions included a TH400 auto, an M21 four-speed or bad-boy M22 ‘rock crusher’ four-on-the-floor.
For those brave souls who wanted even more, Yenko Chevrolet in Pennsylvania offered a wholly rebuilt machine known as a ‘Yenko Supernova’. They were built with reinforced suspension and chassiswork to help tame the fire-breathing 427ci big-blocks Don Yenko and his team shoehorned in, although most Novas equipped with the famous Yenko stripes actually ran hi-po 350ci small-blocks.
While we didn’t see the compact muscle car sold Down Under, ‘Stormin’ Norm Beechey drove a 327ci-powered ’66 Nova in local touring car racing. His main claim to fame in this machine was taking down Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan’s nearly invincible ’65 Mustang at Sandown.
1967 CHEVROLET NOVA SS
Paint: Custom PPG purple
Brand: 406ci Dart SHP
Induction: Weiand, 1000cfm throttlebody
Blower: Weiand 6/71
ECU: Haltech Elite 950
Camshaft: Comp Cams
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Oiling: Melling pump
Fuel system: IC 1150cc injectors, Holley Dominator fuel pump
Cooling: Alloy radiator, Spal fan
Exhaust: Custom extractors, twin 3in exhaust
Ignition: MSD coils, MSD cam & crank triggers
Gearbox: MDT manual TH400
Converter: SDE 4500rpm
Diff: 9in, Truetrac LSD, 31-spline billet axles, 3.55:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Pedders springs, rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Strange Engineering coil-overs, four-link
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld Magnum; 15×4 (f), double-beadlock 15×14 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80R15 (f), Mickey Thompson 29×18 (r)
Unique Panels in Hallam for the repair job they did when the wheel fell off the car; All Race Fabrications for helping me get the car done; Speed Pro for their help; Danny from SOC for the retrimming of the interior and custom carpet; all my friends and family for their support