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1962 Chevrolet Nova - You Can't Look Away

Mike Jordan's '62 Nova

By Steve Campbell, Photography by Steve Campbell

Mike Jordan got started early. By the time he was 12 years old, he already owned three cars and had begun learning car crafting from a neighbor who had a full shop. He helped build engines and worked on full restorations while also feeding his curiosity about how things worked, tearing apart household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and then putting them back together. A few years later, he hooked up with Mike Shelton, another mechanic who lived across the street and really got the youngster going.

"He had a 12-second El Camino," Jordan says. "Once he took me for a few rides in that thing, I was hooked."

In the early '80s, Shelton and Jordan built a small-block engine for one of Jordan's cars, a '63 SS Nova. It was originally a six-cylinder coupe (the SS version was nothing more than a trim level in those days), and Jordan added nitrous to the swapped-in V-8, backed it with a TH350 transmission and a Corvette posi rearend with 4.56 gears, and ran it on the street for several years. When he finally sold the car to a buddy, the seeds of a future project were already germinating in his mind. He decided he would one day own another Nova but would go for the ultimate setup with it: aluminum engine, supercharger, injection, wheeltubs-the whole shot.

Jordan gradually expanded his knowledge, learning about engines and transmissions as well as chassis and bodywork on a progression of GM vehicles he owned, including a '70 Chevelle, a '69 Chevy van, a '73 Vega panel wagon, an '88 Camaro, a '68 RS/SS Camaro, and a '75 Monte Carlo. He even served a stint as president of a car club in the San Francisco Bay area, and his interest in machinery eventually brought him to his career as a civilian mobile equipment mechanic working for the U.S. Navy at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme, California, where he repairs heavy-duty pieces such as D8 Caterpillars. Always, though, he had that Nova in the back of his mind. One day, it leaped to the fore.

A friend of Jordan, a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership, called him to say he'd found the right car-a '62 that was a roller. Jordan traded emails with the owner and finalized the deal for $400 plus another $50 for the guy to deliver it to Jordan's home in Ventura, California. All Jordan wanted was the shell, doors, decklid, and hood, because he knew the '62 would undergo a full sheetmetal treatment.

He went to work on the car with Bill Bradley, another friend who owned a custom car business called BBS Services. Jordan and Bradley installed a full rollcage in the Nova and got everything ready for the sheetmetal job, but they couldn't find anybody who could do the work until Jordan met Lawrence Bryant, owner of Bryant Custom Fabrication. Bryant had built a beautiful '57 Chevy for another client in about a nine-month period, and that car ended up in a feature display at the SEMA show. Having come to the U.S. from New Zealand, Bryant had been the lead mechanic on two IndyCar teams and a fabricator, and finally opened his own business where he built customs as well as race cars. Jordan gave Bryant a list of what he wanted to do-the sheetmetal, floorpans, wheeltubs, whole front apron, and bumper mounts-and the two of them had it almost totally assembled in less than a year.

Top engine builder Ken Duttweiler ordered the engine block and did the initial machining, and the 427ci powerplant went together quickly. Jordan counted on Bradley and Bryant for help with much of the fabrication and powertrain work. When it came time to lay on the color, Jordan went for an eye-popping yellow, which was sprayed by Cal Custom in Camarillo, California. Jordan says the hardest part of the buildup was simply gathering all the parts and pieces-deciding what type of harness to use, how to mount the sheetmetal, and finding the correct alternator.

By Steve Campbell
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