While always a fine daydream, the act of totally refurbishing dead or nearly dead Detroit iron is always a much more expensive proposition than assuming someone else’s poor judgment and failed process. That’s exactly how Jim Brink approached this ’67 Nova SS. He’d noodled no less than four LS engine swaps, so the fiasco under the Nova’s hood merely called for him to set it straight.
His repertoire numbers at least six previous full-blown consorts, including a ’68 Firebird, ’67 Nova, ’73 Trans Am, ’79 Camaro, and a ’66 Mustang. He’s currently in the throes of resurrection Number Seven, this one concerning a ’73 Camaro.
But let’s reverse a little. “It was January 2010 and I was in the market for a new project [Number Six],” Jim says. “While perusing Craigslist looking for a likely candidate, I came across this Nova. It’s a real SS car, and the previous owner had started an LS1/4L60E swap that quite frankly was a mess. Since it still had the stock front end, the LS1 was a tight fit. The exhaust manifold was up against the shock tower. It had solid engine-to-frame mounts. The transmission crossmember was held by two 5/16-inch bolts. The electric fuel pump wasn’t plumbed with any type of bypass/return. The wiring harness was hacked beyond recognition.
“I tried starting the car. The wires got hot. The fuel pump groaned, but the engine would not crank. I’ve done LS swaps into different vehicles, so even in light of what I saw, I took this Nova home.”
His previous fieldwork gave him confidence. He mentally drew the plan and got proactive. He pulled the engine and transmission and set them aside. He continued stripping the front end from the Nova. “I knew the production design was marginal at best so in went the Heidts clip. Same story for the rear. In went the four-link.” And so on.
Gestation required only about a year. Jim handled a lot of the work himself and had the guts to sit there and run the tally at the very end of it. His payout was in the $25,000-$30,000 range, but you know it could’ve been twice that amount. Naturally, he was selective. Rather than a sculptured interior layout or a mega-buck body massage, precedence was set in functional changes. And there’s a good reason for that. Jim isn’t going to be slinging his dusky cutie around some road course or threading it through a line of sick orange cones like his life depended on it. No, he’s just going to drive . . . to places like the Car Craft Nationals in St. Paul, the Hot Rod Power Tour, and to local venues. He’s racked more than 3,000 on the mile-o-meter so far.
His take? “It’s a fun car to drive. The 3,200-stall speed converter makes standing starts very lively. The Heidts stuff works well. The 4L60E makes highway driving a breeze. [I got] 22 mpg to the Car Craft show and back.” And one other thing from Jim: “It’s the kind of car I can hand the keys to my wife and, without any special instructions, let her drive it anywhere.” Ah, yes. Maybe it’s not the secret to marital bliss, but a little diplomacy goes a long way.