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1963 Chevrolet Nova - King Of The Cones

Ryan and Sarah Buck's '63 Chevrolet Nova

By , Photography by Wes AlIison

Ryan Buck wasn't even entered in the Real Street Eliminator, Car Craft's yearly muscle car shootout, but he was winning anyway. He held the top spot on the autocross throughout the entire first day, going up against race-prepped cars that were there to win it. As we scanned the clipboard for his entry number, we realized he was a local guy just having some fun at a car show. We disregarded the paint and decided the car was worthy of investigation.

Ryan isn't new to autocrossing; he has a competitive '68 Camaro that runs locally with the Metropolitan Auto Sports Council (MAC). Not only is he a good driver, but he's also lucky enough to have an understanding wife who is into cars and motorsports, too. As the plan for a new 383 engine for the Camaro was forming, a plan to buy another Camaro for Sarah to drive with the old engine was also in the works. After a couple of empty-handed trips to look at expensive Camaros, they changed their minds, which led them to this '63 Nova.

"When we bought the Nova, we were told it was a little loose going over railroad tracks," Ryan says. "After trying a couple of replacement parts, we discovered that the stock suspension was worn out." You guessed it: The money for the new 383 for the Camaro ended up going to TCI for an independent front suspension and a rear Pro Touring torque-arm setup. The work--and there was a lot of it--was all done in his garage and took a total of six months.

Ryan finished the car only two months before the Car Craft Summer Nationals in St. Paul and had two autocross days on the car before he met the cones at the RSE. When asked how he got the car dialed in so fast he responded, "I worked on getting the stance the way I wanted it, then set the shocks on the street and gave them a couple of clicks before the track day. There wasn't really a whole lot more to do."

Tech Notes

Who: Ryan and Sarah Buck

What: '63 Chevrolet Nova

Where: Lino Lakes, Minnesota

Engine: The engine is a '73 Camaro two-bolt 350 that had been rebuilt at some point with a set of small-chamber 305 heads and a larger cam. Ryan added the Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake and the Thunder Series 650-cfm carb before the Nats. You don't need a lot of power to compete on a small autocross.

Transmission: When Ryan bought the car, it was advertised as having a 292-inch six-cylinder, but it really had a 250. It was also a Powerglide car that had a TH350 installed using the stock linkage from one or more of the combinations. Get the picture? Ryan had Steve at Transformation Performance rework the trans with a shift kit and a B&M converter.

Suspension: Even good '62 to '67 Nova front ends are bad, and TCI and others have complete solutions that bolt right in. Ryan used the IFS assembly to add adjustable shocks, disc brakes and spindles, V8 engine mounts, rack-and-pinion steering, and a lot of adjustability and stability to the car. In the rear, he stepped up to the torque-arm, Pro Touring–style rear suspension that eliminated the leaf springs, a Currie 9-inch housing with 3.50:1 gears, and an Auburn limited-slip.

Wheel/Tires: The rear 285/35R18s won't fit an early Nova without mini-tubs. Ryan used a kit from Detroit Speed and Engineering (DSE). The front tires are 225/45R17 and fit without modification. The wheels are Coy C5s. The fronts are 17x7-inch and the rears are 19x9-1/2-inch with a 5-5/8 backspacing.

Paint: The paint came with the car--a maroon/burgundy/brick hue sun-faded in Georgia, where Ryan bought the car. He was looking for something other than chrome for the bumpers and rolled the dice on Bronze Metallic powdercoat with a clear powdercoat on top to darken it. It worked, so Ryan decided to add the factory grille guard in the same color to complete the look. In the rear, Ryan had the deck-latch panel painted big-block Camaro–style by Mike Osterman.

Interior: After you look for a while, you'll notice the center console is from a '67 Camaro that Ryan had to modify with custom kick panels for the carpet to fit. He also added a tach where the factory clock used to be and built the gauge panel where the radio was. The seats are from a fourth-gen Camaro and were cut down 6 inches and re-covered, using heavily modified seat tracks to fit the Nova floor.

Thanks to: Sarah and the guys at AllInMyGarage.com

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