1967 Chevy Nova - Identity Crisis Resolved
Mike Dressler Bought A Nova, Then He Made It His Own
From the July, 2007 issue of Chevy High Performance
By John Nelson
Photography by John Nelson
There's a lot to be said for buying a finished, ready-to-go hot rod. You see what you want, you park it in your garage, and all the joys of owning your dream musclecar immediately begin. That's how it works, right? Not according to Mike Dressler. "I had to have this car," recalls Mike of the first time he laid eyes on a certain Marina Blue '67 Nova. "And it was a done car-or so I thought." Of course, many say there's no such thing, and this particular Deuce was far from finished. Mike set out to make this Nova into a performer and a looker, but just as importantly, he set out to remake his ride in this own image.
Mike confesses to being a mini-truck kid back in the day, but we don't hold it against him. His p'up of choice even made it into the pages of our sister pub Truckin'. There was a big stereo, some gaudy graphics, we suspect, and spit 'n' polish aplenty. "I thought I was gonna wash and wax the paint off," Mike reminisces. All that time spent detailing came in handy a couple of decades later, when he offered to serve as detail man for his father-in-law's extra-sano '55 Bel Air. The two made the show scene and, sure enough, Mike found himself craving something with eight cylinders and no bed out back.
As it turns out, Mike hadn't grown up totally oblivious to American muscle. His mom took care of business in a '68 Nova-grocery-getter style, mind you-and something about the X-bodies left an impression. Mike went shopping and, six month or so later, took the plunge. "I fell in love with the way this car looked," he recalls. "It was way over my budget, but I talked my wife into it." Unfortunately, the supercharged honeymoon didn't last long. The bottom line, according to Mike, was that the Nova's 406 "was not built well." It had too much cam and too much compression to live with a huffer, so Mike got to work before it died.
Axing the blower wasn't an option, so Ross Wilson (Wilson Racing Engines) was enlisted to create a boost-friendly powerplant, fed by a Performance Carburetors blow-through-ready Holley. Mike figures that only 10 percent of the old engine was retained for the new build, but there's more than just parts to this deal. The higher levels of performance were accompanied by higher levels of fit and finish. For example, the Procharger was treated to an internal tune-up, but the compressor case was also polished to a mirror shine. It's the pattern that Mike followed as the Nova reinvention continued-and continue it did.
Dropping in a hot new blower motor cured Mike's motor woes, but it didn't cure the "Hey, I know that car" blues. Despite the revised underhood workings, showgoers recognized the Nova from its past life as someone else's car, and that just wouldn't do. "I was frustrated with it not being my car," Mike declares. "I wanted to really take possession." At that point, it was on, and everything-save the '67's pristine Marina Blue paint job-was fair game. The interior, the rolling stock, the suspension and brakes; virtually nothing has been left untouched.
So there you have it. It's Mike's car-check it out.
Huff And Puff
Mike Dressler admits that he dug the looks of the Procharger blow-through system residing under his newly purchased Nova's hood, but looks aren't everything, so an almost entirely new, boost-ready motor was created. After Performance Machine of Pomona, California, handled the machine work and balancing, Wilson Racing Engines of nearby Rancho Cucamonga, California, assembled the new creation. A 0.030-over, four-bolt main 400 block was filled with an Eagle forged crank and 5.7-inch H-beam rods; CP flat-top forged pistons create an 8.5:1 compression ratio. A Comp hydraulic fat-tappet 'stick was picked to complement the power adder; it specs out at 0.550/0.560 inch lift, 250/250-degrees duration at 0.50, and a 112-degree LSA. Heavy-breathing AFR Race Ready 220cc heads, fitted with 2.02/1.64-inch valves, also run Comp Pro Magnum rocker arms (1.5 intake, 1.6 exhaust) and a Comp stud girdle. An Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake is topped with some sort of radical eye candy: The ATI Procharger P600B blow-through system, pulleyed for 12 pounds of boost, came with the car; ATI overhauled the compressor, and Rainbow Polishing (El Monte, California) endowed the entire system with a mirror shine. Ontario, California's Performance Carburetors cooked up one of its Stage II Blow-Thru 750-cfm Holleys to feed the beast, while a Product Engineering (Wilmington, California) high-volume fuel pump with a boost-referenced regulator keeps juice in the carb. The ignition system consists of an MSD 6AL box, a Pro Billet distributor, and a Boost Timing Master unit, set at 30 degrees total advance. Recoated Hooker fenderwell headers route the burnt junk past Doug's electric cutouts and into Flowmaster pipes and mufflers. A Be Cool aluminum radiator and an Edelbrock water pump flow the coolant; the slick fan shroud is custom by Imco Marine (San Dimas, California). From the "while I was at it" department: With the engine in progress, WRE's next-door neighbor, Wilson & Bell, concocted a stout manual valvebody Turbo 400. It spins a Hughes 10-inch converter with a 2,500 stall speed, sports a B&M electric transmission cooler, and is stirred by a Hurst Quarter Stick shifter. A Currie 9-inch rear with an Eaton posi turning 3.73:1 cogs was added as well. So what's it all good for? J&D Performance's Ontario, California-based Mustang chassis dyno says 605 hp at 6,500 rpm, along with 585 lb-ft at 6,100 rpm. A timeslip from Irwindale Speedway shows a 7.67-second, 98-mph eighth-mile, achieved despite an admittedly mild start.
Although Mike Dressler went for some flashy new wheels, he was adamant about retaining a traditional 15-inch rim diameter-which didn't jibe with his quest for big brakes. No problem. Rainbow Polishing milled the calipers just enough to fit inside the rear Budniks, but not enough to weaken them.
Within months of completing his Nova's new drivetrain, Mike Dressler was back at it, looking to substantially upgrade his '67's interior. Quality Interior of Irwindale, California, created a complete custom interior using three shades of gray Ultraleather. The dashpad, door panels, and one-piece headliner were all handcrafted; the stock front bucket seats were reshaped before covering, and Mercedes charcoal-gray carpet covers the floors. Mike furthered the major makeover with a full set of Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges, Crow five-point belts, and an ididit column topped with a Grant steering wheel. Trunk panels were created to match the inside, and a Painless Performance harness hooks it all up. The stereo includes Clarion and Kenwood components, and the rear speakers reside in a custom tray, but who cares? "I'm always listening to the motor," Mike tells us. "I end up just turning the stereo off."
"Bam, What A Difference!"
Mike didn't dislike the wheels his new ride came on, but change was in the air, so the old-school rims gave way to a set of Budnik Teardops, 15x6 inches up front and 15x8 out back. A pair of BFGoodrich Traction T/As, measuring a svelte 185/65R15, works the steering end; BFG Drag Radials, 235/60R15 in size, handle the business end. Looking to fill those big rim openings-and significantly increase his Nova's stopping prowess-Mike installed polished Wilwood Billet Dynalite calipers. They grab 12-inch drilled and slotted rotors all the way around and are powered by a chrome master cylinder from Performance Online, working through a Wilwood prop valve.
One thing leads to another, and once Mike Dressler switched out his rolling stock, a new, stance-enhancing suspension setup quickly followed. The front suspension was rebuilt with components sourced from Classic Performance Products, which also provided a new swaybar. Lowering springs from Performance Online set the Deuce down an inch and a half; Competition Engineering three-way shocks smooth the ride. The rear was dropped 2 inches with CPP monoleaf springs. The shocks are KYBs, and CalTracs bars help put the power to the pavement. With nearly 600 lb-ft of grunt on tap, subframe connectors (picked up from Classic Industries) are a necessity.
Leave It Alone
Star Autobody of Covina, California, made the Nova's panels straight, then covered them with a rich coat of DuPont Marina Blue. Mike received his ride this way, and knows enough not to mess with a good thing.