By now, Kyle Tucker and Detroit Speed have at least one copy of every popular Chevrolet ever made, except for the Corvette. DSE doesn’t do stuff for them--yet. Kyle’s collection stems from pragmatism not ego. He’d need specimens for adaptation, forms to violate, and bodies to dissect for the good of mankind. This ’63 Nova was not even finished before DSE began using it for the development of its front and rear suspension, working on shock, spring, and antisway bar rates. "The car has logged a lot of street miles and also track miles at our local road course and many different autocrosses," Kyle says.
From whence did it come? What goes around eventually comes around again. In the late ’90s, Will Handzel was technical editor at Hot Rod. He had a ’63 Nova that was used in installation and preparation stories, but the car was never a full-blown feature. Handzel and Kyle became friends. They both talked the talk. Handzel eventually went to Detroit to work for the General and made excellent use of his engineering background.
"I have followed this car for many years," Kyle says. "I have always liked small ’62-65 Chevy II body styles while many prefer the ’66-67 Chevy II. I followed the buildup of the car through Handzel and the magazines, but the car never got finished before Handzel moved to Detroit. I was then reacquainted with the car ... and always told Handzel, ‘If you would like to sell the project, let me know.’"
Let’s crank the clock back a few years. Handzel says he actually had three ’63 Novas to make one good car. (One of them became Steve Magnante’s "Wilshire Shaker," a spot-on repop of a mid-’60s match racer--Hilborn-injected big-block, stick axle, and all.) "I bought [the green car] at the Pomona Swap Meet. It was clean and structurally sound, a driver with a six- and two-speed. My then girlfriend drove it for three years without issue. I’d gotten to the wiring, plumbing, and some of the interior. I dragged the thing to Detroit, and eventually had the parts and the body stripped and painted by Jory’s Race and Custom in Westland, Michigan."
That was in the middle of the great dry spell. The car hadn’t moved on its own for 15 years, nor had it been fully assembled. Late last year Kyle got the message he’d been waiting for from Handzel. "I went to Detroit and loaded the car and pieces into a trailer and the rest in the truck and hauled it back to North Carolina. We first installed our Deep Tubs so we could package a lot more tire under the back and then installed our Quadra Link rear suspension. We rolled video of each episode so we could use it for our customers’ benefit along with detailed instructions and templates. We also installed our subframe connectors and a six-point rollcage. The last vital organ, the new front frame, was connected and the DSE stamped inner fenders were added to go with the new ’rails."
As you may or may not know, Kyle and his wife, Stacy, both worked as suspension engineers at GM before launching DSE. They learned where to go for a one-off part and who to tap for large orders. The technology that GM uses is part of their repertoire. They pioneered somewhat with having the front subframe ’rails and other pieces hydro-formed, just like the factories do it. Everything uniform. Everything unwrinkled. Everything straight.
Build time was a record. In six months the Chevy II was ready to rock. Kyle gets seat time all over the joint. He drives it throughout the week and on weekend road course raids. That would include Goodguys autocross events nationwide and other such activity on a local scale. Yeah, he takes it to the drive-in and blips the throttle, too. Wouldn’t you?
One look at the low-key but highly effective engine compartment and you know sorcery has been at work. Stamped aluminum inner wheelhouses replace the old strut towers, offering a spacious and airy maw. DSE supplanted the original monkey-motion steering, suspension, and brakes with their new front clip loaded up with power-assisted rack steering, tubular upper and lower control arms, DSE coils and adjustable shocks, and a splined, adjustable antisway bar. They founded the system on modified C6 Corvette spindles. Frame connectors join front and rear as a piece. The rear components include DSE springs, tuned-valving dampers, and the Quadra Link four-bar suspension assembly. Finally, the car was made whole with the introduction of a six-point ’cage to stiffen the "chassis" and reduce torsional bending--one of the keys to making the car go exactly where you point.
Much is to be seen here in this cloak of Seafoam Green. Underneath that reworked dashboard (it had to be modified for the main hoop pass-throughs and for the A/C vents) an American Autowire harness services all items that draw current. An Auto Meter/Stack display and data acquisition was fixed in the modified instrument cluster. Kyle pressed Recaro seats into the mold and Hot Rod Interiors in Mooresville, North Carolina, did the headliner and Daytona Weave carpet. The Sparco steering wheel and black seat covering create a nice contrast with the light green. To help maintain driver comfort and awareness, Kyle included the Vintage Air HVAC system. There is no music or any other type of "entertainment" system on board--except in Kyle’s mind. Does he prefer Wagner or White Snake?
Since Kyle has a regular job that involves plenty of short sojourns from the DSE hearth, DSE has recently partnered with LS-engine specialists Mast Motorsports in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mast zeroed in tough on an LS7 (4.125x4.00 bore and stroke) and built it with 11.4:1 Mahle pistons, Callies crankshaft and H-beam connecting rods, and Mast CNC-ported LS7 cylinder heads. No camshaft or valvetrain reference, but the heads are topped by dual Mast premium nitride valvesprings. A GMPP composite intake manifold is astride the heads and the throttle body hosts a K&N element. No notes on oiling system either but suffice that it’s a wet sump conversion. A Mast M90 drive-by-wire ECM interprets and controls all engine functions. DSE’s in-house line of stainless steel headers and connected them to a 3-inch exhaust system plumbed with Borla XR-1 mufflers. According to Mast, gross output at the flywheel is 675 hp and engine redline has risen to 7,250 rpm. To lasso the output of the beast, Kyle turned to Bowler Transmissions. While they are known for their sublime automatics, they modified and blueprinted a TKO 600 five-speed. Torque kicks through a Dyno Tech 31/2-inch steel driveshaft and puts it to a DSE 9-inch fitted with Moser 31-spline axles and a Detroit Truetrac differential.
WHEELS & BRAKES
Here’s something a little different. Instead of using the usual bolted-studded modular wheels that have become prominent in Pro Touring, Kyle went for some 18x9 and 19x10 Schott Octane hoops that have a distinct salt flats--like pattern reminiscent of the Halibrand icon. They were customized slightly with flat hub cover plates and exposed lugs, which are covered in the original version. DSE’s choice of rubber is BFGoodrich, hence squatty 35-series in 255 and 295 aspect ratios with a KDW tread and compound. Brakes? Bud, we got ’em. Jumbo, too. Baer 6R assemblies are posted front and rear and composed of 14-inch two-piece discs squeezed by six-piston calipers.
As explained earlier, Kyle didn’t have to do any bodywork or apply any paint because Handzel had already taken care of that. Jory Sullivan’s Race and Custom in Westland, Michigan (due west of Dearborn) did the deed. No, we don’t know what the color shade is or where it came from. In any case, the body is all steel and original.