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1977 Chevy Nova - 30 Ways

Our New Project Disco Nova Proves That You Can Polish A Turd, As We Show You

By , Photography by Brian Winckler,

'There's no such thing as a cheap paint job. Well, there is, but you wouldn't want to own it. So the challenge is to get the most affordable paint possible that still lets you show your face at the dragstrip or cruise night, and to do it with a minimum of skill.

That was exactly the scenario with our '77 Nova, a new project that we'll build into a reliable foot-brake bracket racer that runs in the low 12s, thereby avoiding the rollbar requirement for now. We'll grow the project from there, testing the tricks you want to know about and telling you every secret along the way. We hope to someday make the Disco Nova run low 9s to high 8s for sanctioned heads-up street racing. Along the way we'll find the best deals on new parts and throw in some good finds from the swap meets, junkyards, and you think it's too expensive, it's because this one won't be a total hose-clamp-trans-mount dirtball project, or because you've got sticker shock over the fact that we'll always show you every little price of the parts and supplies we used, and there will be no "we had this sitting around, so count it as free" hokum. This is real. So real, in fact, that we were shocked how a basic $499 paint job quickly turned into an $1,800 investment when you add up all the knickknacks. And it's not like this is over the top; it would have been easy to spend another couple grand. For $1,800 you only get an average paint job these days unless you have the equipment to spray the paint yourself, and our point here is to see what can be accomplished by an average guy with a minimum of skill.

Also, when we spend money on stuff, we'll tell you exactly why we make the decisions we do. Like those new Mickey Thompson wheels-we were going to repaint some old rallys, but they weren't bright enough for the cover. The M/Ts totally make the look of the car, but we'll be a bit more practical than that to start. We'll bolt the rally wheels back on for the first few dragstrip stages of the project, then bring back the M/Ts later to see if the lightweight wheels can earn their keep.

The beauty of the third-generation X-bodies ('75-'79 Novas, Olds Omegas, Pontiac Venturas, and Buick Skylarks) is that they use front suspension like a second-gen Camaro/Firebird and rear suspension like a '67-'74 Camaro/Nova. That means you can get suspension parts galore, and the stock 8.5-inch 10-bolt rearend is lightweight and can be made bulletproof enough for our needs. A big-block fits more easily than in earlier Novas, and we can rob the frame mounts from 403 and 400 Trans Ams so we can stab Olds and Pontiac mills into the Disco. We already got mounts from a junkyard '76 Ventura with a Buick 350, so we can try Buick power too. Since the Nova has no collectibility whatsoever, we have no shame about gutting, drilling, welding, and hacking to make it a race car.

It makes the perfect Car Craft flog unit-with the tiny exception that it's still a '77 Nova. Third-gen X-bodies have a small following (see, but we've taken heat from people who think our Nova is just too grotesque to take seriously as a magazine project. With a production-shop repaint made better by lots of do-it-yourself prep work, plus some well-placed graphics and wheels, we've changed a lot of minds. Even staff naysayers are quipping, "ya know, this might not be that bad . . . if it's fast." And we'll get to that next month.

How about you? Tell us your thoughts on Disco Nova by e-mailing CarCraft@ or hitting the forums at

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