What is it with car guys that the moment an acquaintance says, "Hey, you're into old cars, right? I know where there's a . . ." we get all excited and forget the very tenets of dispassionate car buying? Every time that happens, the car-guy warning light begins to blink in the corner of your eye, every nerve ending tingles, and rusty old sheetmetal becomes the holy grail. Call it Barn-Find Syndrome. Books have been written about the ultimate barn finds. We've all heard the fantastic stories in which some oaf stumbles upon the Mopar equivalent of King Tut's tomb with a dust-encrusted Hemi 'Cuda that hasn't moved since 1971.
Midwest farmer and dedicated car crafter Doug Evans' story is not nearly that dramatic, but it tracks a parallel path. He found himself one day in the small Minnesota town of Mount Lake looking for sprayer parts for his farming business. Once the business deal had been struck, he chided his friend about a little '66 Chevy II that was hidden away. The car was still in the original owner's name, and with a little prodding, it was soon on its way back to Terril, Iowa.
Doug Evans, the Nova owner, is no relation to Primedia's Senior V.P., Group Publisher Doug
When you see cars like this in the magazine and you hear the story of so few original miles, it's easy to believe that all Doug did was slap a paint job on this little Chevy II, stuff in a motor, and the car was ready to run. Nothing could be further from the truth. That same little old lady had banged the left-side quarter-panel on the garage door so many times it needed replacing. Worse yet, when Mark Lair at Lair's Custom Auto Body & Restoration stripped the Nova down to its bare shell, blasting revealed the Minnesota winter had taken its revenge on even this low-mileage sweetheart. The floorpan had multiple rust holes, which demanded an entire pan from nose to tail as a complete rotisserie rehabilitation.
Since Chevy IIs are notorious for instability at higher speeds, Doug opted for the TCI front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering that would eradicate the bumpsteer boogie for which the Chevy II is equally infamous. It's no secret these '60s economy cars suffered from a minimal rear wheelwell area. Since they look absolutely nasty with fatter rear tires, Mark performed a beautiful and almost-stock-appearing minitub job to squeeze in large-for-a-Chevy II-sized 275/60R15 BFG drag radials.
The Chevy II was so original, Doug was able to save the original grille with just a little
With a real-world stance that wouldn't peel the oil pan off the motor when faced with real-world potholes, the Nova was now set for paint. Again, it would seem this would be a no-brainer. Doug originally wanted to retain the same factory cream color the car came with, but Mark suggested a Chevy II sedan would just blend into the crowd unless they came up with something better. It took three different custom mixes laid on the Chevy II's hood to finally come up with a color that both agreed would work.
Next came the decision on the interior. Here, Doug was adamant that the original threads go back in the car, right down to the rubber mat (because nobody makes a reproduction one) instead of carpet. This also included the radio block-off plate that was factory original. The original owner must not have been interested in heathen rock 'n' roll, so the radio was deleted from the factory. To complete the smoothed-off dash, Mark built a matching heater block-off plate.
The motor and trans were actually some of the simplest parts of the car, with the 383 aimed at making good power with over 440 hp and combined with a dependable TH350 automatic and 2,800-rpm converter. The Currie Ford 9-inch is more than capable of handling the torque with its 3.73 gears. That was the easy part.
The undercarriage shows the small scratches that are the result of a year's worth of fun behind the wheel of this time-machine Chevy II. After all, that's exactly why Doug built it. What takes a little longer to accept is that it wasn't an easy journey. But the results were well worth the pain that always accompanies the effort to excel.