When someone who has worked his entire life suddenly quits the ingrained cycle in order to “retire and take it easy,” it usually doesn’t work out that smoothly. Easier said than done, ladies and gentlemen. You’d be a lucky soul if that was the case, perhaps a figurative paradise in which any number of disciplines await. Certainly no traditional morning ride, no “work” to go to, but things that would enrich that life and give traction to ideas and projects that lay dormant for decades.
Case in point: Don Clark of McKinney, Texas. Just a tick north of Big D, an area rife with suppliers, fabricators, car builders, and a Longhorn large appetite for just about anything that’s fast and on fire. OK, Don’s been around awhile and has played with hot rods long enough to know the subtext or the backstory as well as anyone.
His car history, as represented on the tech sheet (though we suspect there were a few others that didn’t make his cut), account for two ’56 Chevys, a pair of ’63 Olds Jetfires (equipped with futuristic turbocharged 215ci all-aluminum V-8), ’32 Ford, ’69 Camaro, ’71 Camaro, and “a bunch of midyear Corvettes”. It seems to be his method to choose cars that have seen minimal invasion by the elements and oxidation. Having to administer massive body reconstruction tends to shred patience as easily as it does the bank account. Don began his latest excursion into wonderland with a relative newcomer, a car he probably would have already had were it not for the others in his barn.
Don is this car’s second owner. A friend in California did the sleuth work. Its female owner had bought a ’67 Nova SS, Butternut Yellow, black vinyl top, black interior, bucket seats, console, and a six-cylinder ’Glide. As you can see, there’s nothing left of the original form. The car is now a complete reflection of its owner, perhaps the nicest piece he’s ever owned. Don wanted a well-mannered driver, not something to sling around a race course or ignite dragstrip tarmac.
The Nova was in such fine shape, that all the trim, save for the NOS wheelwell opening molding and the headlight and taillight bezels, is straight out of 1967. The bumpers were re-chromed, plastic lenses were replaced, the floor was reconfigured, enabling the car to be lower on the chassis and to make room for the top bars of the four-link suspension system.
Wylie is well within the Dallas/Fort Worth grid, on the eastside just a spit and holler from McKinney. Wades Rod & Customs is in Wylie, close to home, so even if Don wasn’t working this particular project, he’s in tight proximity so he could drop in at will to check out the progress. Anyone who has ever had a car built knows the importance of this physical fact. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Wades gets credit for building and painting the car. Shawn Cook in Murphy did the interior. The engine was a simple no-brainer. All Wades had to do was drop it home. All Don had to do was slide in, twist the key, mat the throttle—and never look back. Ain’t retirement grand?
To save time and money, Don chose a turnkey Street & Performance crate engine that has a 9.4:1 compression ratio, which means that in a pinch, regular fuel will do nicely. The Ram Jet 350 features electronic fuel injection (MEFI 4 engine controller) and is rated at 350 hp at 5,200 rpm and 400 lb-ft of grunt at 3,500 rpm. Thing is, that torque is extruded in a nearly flat line from 1,750 rpm almost to redline. This means that whenever Don jumps on it, the Nova will not stutter or hesitate. The precious link lies in the clutch assembly and the Keisler five-speed conversion (complete from hydraulic clutch control to modified crossmember and all the bits in between). A Coleman driveshaft shifts the current to the Currie 9-inch carrying a positive traction unit and 3.73:1 gears. Fuel is stored in a Rock Valley polished stainless cell. Cooling is handled by a Griffin radiator and dual puller fans.
Brakes & Wheels
By using 17-inch diameter rims, Wades was able to incorporate Baer 13- and 12-inch discs plied with four-piston calipers at front and rear. To aid and abet, they coupled the conversion with an SSBC master cylinder, a CPP power booster, and dual-circuit polished stainless brake lines. Sparkle flies from the Billet Specialties Legacy hoops, sized 17x7 and 17x9.5, and fixed with 215/45 and 275/40 BFGoodrichs.
Let’s say they began the Nova’s resurrection with the new spaghetti: American Autowire provided the answer. Wades built a four-bar suspension system influenced by custom frame connectors. They situated a 9-inch housing in the middle of it all and supported the member with Carrera coilovers. At the pointed end, a Heidts tubular sub-structure (including upper and lower control arms), antisway bar, and Carreras come to the rescue. At this time, Wades relocated the battery to where all batteries should be—in the trunk. Clark aims and fires the Nova with 2-inch drop spindles, Flaming River rack-and-pinion, and flexible, adjustable ididit steering column.
The Nova’s aggressive eye-pop two-tone exterior is balanced somewhat by the mellow biscuit interior—all of it fabricated, from the sweep of the original dash line to the gauge panel to the custom seats to the fluid door and rear panels. Shawn Cook in Murphy, Texas, did the upholstery execution in Ultraleather, applying it to the Procar low back buckets while making a custom bench for the rear, a seat that will likely never accommodate a derriere. Those dash panel vents issue chilled air from a modified Vintage Air Sure-Fit system. Aluminum-wrapped/black rubber Lokar pedals provide a clear contrast with the sand below. The audio system is composed of a Clarion head and amplifier, and a JBL subwoofer housed in a hand-built enclosure. The steering wheel is Billet Specialties 15.5-inch Vintec.
A mostly unmolested carcass straight out of California was the only ’67 Nova SS for Don. Once at Wades, the ol’ X-body got scraped, scoured, and smoothed all the way out. The gas filler door was welded up. There’s a custom bezel on the trunk lid. The sideview mirrors were erased and the steel, 2-inch cowl hood escaped from the Goodmark studios. To make certain that there would be no clearance issues, 2-inch mini-tubs joined the construction. The motor for the Specialty power window system was secreted in the kick panel vent. The Nova took a side trip to ol’ Danny Day at Strange Daze Rods and Customs in Forney, Texas. DD fashioned an ultraclean firewall cover and a super-sano engine compartment with new metal: outer panels are 0.080-inch 3003 H-14 aluminum and the central panel was formed with 0.063-wall 5052 H-32 aluminum sheet. Wades covered the beauty with Spies Hecker custom-mix orange and gold. Then Wades’ associate Alton Gillespie got real subtle with the complementary pinstriping and graphics. CHP