When the new '66 Chevy II hit the showrooms, the performance world took notice. This newly shaped musclecar not only enlisted Chevy's 327 to pull hard acceleration, but it also had a distinct advantage. Underneath the all- new sheetmetal, hot-rodders found engine options up to 350 horses being offered in a car that tipped the scales at several hundred pounds less than the bigger Chevelle. It was the small car with big performance.
During that same year, Raymond May was returning from helping Uncle Sam overseas and needed new transportation. And like many performance guys back then, he walked into the local Chevy showroom floor and picked out a new Nova, equipped with four-on-the-floor, a bench seat, and a four-barrel 327ci small-block. He only enjoyed two years of blast-rowing through gears and listening to the 327 sing. Hey, duty called. By 1968, the service needed him overseas again, making him unload the deuce.
Fast-forward to 2005. Ray was busy walking the aisles of the Year One Experience show and spotted a '66 Chevy II Nova. The fond memories of his first little Nova were still well etched in his mind and temptation got the best of him. So much, in fact, that it was right then and there he knew he would return to the Experience next year--with a ride of his own.
With a game plan set, Ray located a willing recipient. Within two weeks he found an original, two-owner, never-wrecked '66 for sale and struck the deal. For this project he'd mix old school with new school. But after returning home with the project car and taking a closer look he found that there was more to the story. The little Nova had at one point suffered an impact that left the driver-side A-pillar and firewall out of square. This meant swapping the entire A-pillar and firewall out of a donor car. Then he stripped the paint to bare metal, where craftsman Gary Rawling of Reflections Auto Repair in Mint Hill, North Carolina, handled the metalwork.
With Ray's deadline fast approaching, he contacted Rick Landcaster in Indian Trails, North Carolina, to make the body straight, install a cowl induction hood, and add liberal coats of PPG blend to the hue you see here. To power the Nova, Ken Belk screwed together a ZZ4 350 and matched a Hurst-shifted Richmond four-speed behind it. Then a cool-looking set of Billet Specialty wheels was added to set everything off. Unbelievably, the project only took 111/2 months from start to finish. Ray had not only met his goal and made it to the show, but took First Place in the '62-74 Nova class at the 2006 YOE. Yes, some things are better the second time around!
The special air cleaner is a one-off assembly entirely designed by Todd Hayworth of No Name Welding in Landis, North Carolina, to look like a '66 Nova front fender. Under the mirror-straight hood Ray wanted to have lots of power, so he commissioned Ken Belk (also in Landis) to assemble a 350 built to ZZ4 specs. This included adding the special GM hydraulic roller cam with 0.474/0.510 inch lift and 208/221 degrees duration measured at 0.050 inch lift, 10:1 pistons, and Chevrolet aluminum cylinder heads. Fueling the motor is a Holley 750-cfm carburetor and an MSD ignition system to fire the mixture. Shifting chores are assigned to a Richmond T10 four-speed trans with a 2.68:1 First gear.
Suspension components include a TCI complete front suspension subframe fitted with coilover shocks, a TCI front sway bar, and a Flaming River tilt steering column. At the back, a TCI four-link suspension kit with coilovers has been added to hold the original-width 8.2-inch 10-bolt featuring an Eaton posi unit with 3.70:1 gears.
Hot Rod Interiors of Mooresville, North Carolina, stitched up the black leather interior and added comfortable woven inserts to the four California Custom bucket seats. The instrument cluster is assembled using components from Classic Instruments, and the steering wheel is a Billet Specialties Street Star. A Detroit Speed and Engineering underdash windshield-wiper motor cleans up the firewall. All electrical current travels through American Autowire harnesses. To keep everything cool on hot drives, Ray installed a complete Vintage Air A/C unit.
Wheels, tires & binders
The little shoebox rolls on Billet Specialties Street Stars measuring 17x7 in the front and 17x10 in the rear, fitted with Fuzion ZR1 rubber (P215/45R17 front, P235/ 45R17 rear). Ray tells us that even with these relatively larger sizes he did not need to shorten the rearend or add mini-tubs. To remove the rear tires, the rearend must be loosened and dropped down to provide the necessary clearance. Replacing the original brake system is a complete set of Wilwood discs with an aluminum master cylinder. For a cleaner-than-factory appearance, Ray routed all metal brake lines inside of the unibody's framerails.
The glasslike body panels are sprayed with a PPG mix of black pearl on top and Prowler Orange and gold mix on the bottom. The cowl induction hood is a Goodmark Industries all-metal item. The gas fill cap was relocated to a hidden area inside the trunk and all of the bumper bolts removed, with attaching studs welded behind the bumper's face.