Part of this tale is familiar: Guy grows up loving cars. Sees an unorthodox model that jump-starts his heart. Gets wife's support for the project. Drives home with a nice little cruiser. But then something wicked this way comes: The car is thrashed in an ill-timed twist of fate. It is battered when a thoughtless moron commits an act of vehicular mayhem while engaged in a street race. Redemption begins: Guy refrains from pummeling the idiot offender who caused the damage. He turns his energy instead to rebuilding the car. Result is a better-than-before act of creation.
That's pretty much the story of Erich and Mary Rose Monteith's '67 Chevy II Nova station wagon. They saw an unrestored version one day while out driving, and Erich suggested they acquire a wagon to refurbish.
"I told my wife to picture it fixed up," he recalls. "But she hesitated because she grew up with station wagons and they were family cars. I just kept picturing the car completed. We finally went out and got one that was partially done and then added more to it."
Erich's dad is a mechanic who tinkered with a '59 El Camino hot rod, so the son was just doing what came naturally when he developed wrenching interests. In fact, his current daily driver is a '66 El Camino that he redid with a 350 small-block and a 200-4R tranny as well as new suspension, interior, and stereo. His first car was a '63 Comet-a six-cylinder with a four-speed-and he refined both his tastes and his abilities as the years went by, eventually becoming a mechanical designer who currently develops satellite dishes. When he and Mary Rose decided to look seriously for a wagon, Erich began to peruse eBay for the right Nova. The one he found was already a complete car, though not outfitted exactly as Erich would have done if he'd started it from scratch. Nonetheless, they traveled a few miles down the California coast and made the purchase.
Only four months into their ownership, the couple was out for a summer cruise when a cloud of dust, rubble, and a blast of rocks and steel bombarded the wagon. By the time they managed to stop, they found a Honda in a ditch at the side of the road. The Honda had been involved in a street race, and its driver had lost control, creating the earthen tornado that had hit the Nova. Worse, Erich was to discover, the Honda occupants had neither driver's licenses nor insurance. One of the police officers who handled the accident-realizing the Nova was a classic and the damage was severe-congratulated Erich on maintaining his composure. "Thank you for not turning this into a murder investigation," was the way he put it.
Their own insurance provided a $5,000 payment on their claim, but that covered only a new paint job. Since the car was going to be out of commission for a while, Erich decided to do some of the things he would have done in a ground-up restoration. He yanked the 14-inch wheels, installed a Mustang II independent front suspension from Total Cost Involved Engineering, upgraded the ZZ4 crate 350, and installed a TH200-4R automatic-overdrive transmission from a Grand National. He also upgraded the brakes with TCI front discs and 11-inch rear drums to replace the stock 9-inchers. The finishing touch to the chassis was the addition of 17-inch Torq-Thrust II wheels and Continental Negotiator tires.
Erich's heritage as a mechanic allowed him to perform most of the work himself, but he's not a paint-and-body man. He did add a Goodmark cowl-induction hood, but he farmed out the application of the Jaguar Alpine Metallic Green enamel. He retained the interior upholstery, which was mostly stock but included an updated headliner and carpet, and he added auxiliary gauges and modern sound equipment.
Erich and Mary Rose now enjoy taking the car to shows in the local area, where they get together with people who share their interest in Novas, and Erich also takes the car to work occasionally. As an inveterate surfer, he has thought about using the Chevy II as a surf wagon, but he's reluctant to fill it with sand and surfboard wax too often now that he and Mary Rose have invested so much time and money in it.
This car has had enough of dirt and debris.