Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Low Can We Go?

Back when we replaced the air shocks and installed the 2" drop Hotchkis leaf springs on the rear I felt the front end need come down the same amount.  After I replaced the front brakes I started collecting front end components when good deals would come up on ebay. My goal was to lower the front end a couple more inches and hopefully make the car handle better in the process.

I went with a set of the Tubular A-Arms that have a coil spring drop pocket and a pair of 2" drop spindles. I felt this combined with a set of stock height springs would give me just the right ride height in the front.

ebay Tubular A-Arms
ebay Tall 2" Drop Spindles

Rock Auto Rockwell Constant Rate RC5370 Coil Springs

Rock Auto KYB Gas Adjust #KG4515  Front Shocks

The only problem was taking the front end this low put the front rims right on the fender wells so hitting any bump caused the front tires to rub on (actually bang into) the inner fender well. Ever since we lowered the rear there was a little rubbing on the passenger rear under load but the PO had rolled the inner lip so the rubbing was minimal. But when we got this low in the the front the rubbing was way too much.

 The Nova with 2" drop in the back and 4" drop in the front.

The old wheels were a fairly standard 4.5" backspace the solution was some 5.25 backspace wheels. So I changed to this wheel in silver.

Vision Legend 5 - 17x8, 5x4.75 bolt pattern,
5.25" backspace (+19mm offset), Silver Rims

The 5.25 was perfect on the back the rubbing out back was gone and the 17" rim clears the rear shocks in the stock location. In the front a 5" backspace would be perfect so I ordered a set of custom spacers from These were $90 but worth every penny to get it right. 10mm Spacers

These spacers have the added advantage of being hub-centric so the wheel is not riding on the log nuts but instead it rides on the wheel hub. The 10mm spacers move the wheels out 1/4" and still leave 8 full threads on the lug nuts.

The front tires are still P225/45R-17 and the backs are P245/45R-17. With the front this low, the front tires are maxed out. But when we replace the rear tires we might go a little wider/taller as there is plenty of room for more tire in the back now.
Someday I'd like to add a Posi Rear, 1" lowering blocks, Disc Brakes and a set of 17x9 rims back there!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Put Some Junk in the Trunk

One of the simple upgrades to an old car is to detail the trunk. So the first point of business when the Nova got back from the paint shop was to splatter paint the trunk.

Now we just need one of those vinyl trunk mats!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Custom SS Treatment

Since we already had the SS grill on the car, I decided to include a few SS exterior trim features on our Nova Custom as an homage to the 1973 Nova SS.

The SS grill is blacked out with an upper and lower bar. Available as an option on all Novas, Dual Body-color Sport "Bullet" Mirrors were part of the SS trim package.

The Black Painted Rear End Panel (that matches the grill) was an SS-only treatment.
The  taillights with bright trim was standard on the SS and the Custom.

We removed the rocker moldings and painted the bright trim
around the door frames the body color.

What makes a "real" 73 Nova SS
In 1973 the Nova SS RPO Z26 was basically just an Exterior Trim package with a Heavy Duty suspension. It could be had with any motor combination including the 6 cylinder 250ci motor. This means that any 73 Nova could theoretically be equipped as an SS. If you are trying the verify a 1973 Nova factory SS you need the original build sheet that the factory would have left under the rear seat.

The list below shows what options both the 1973 Nova Custom and SS included. I have notes after each item that relates to the specific option's inclusion or exclusion on our Nova Custom.

The 1973 Nova SS package included:
Exterior Trim
  • Black grille with argent accent on 2nd and 5th horizontal bars (added)
  • "SS" ornamentation (badges) on grille, fender and deck lid (grill ornamentation added)
  • Specific body side striping (not added)
  • Black painted rear end panel with bright trim on tail lamps (added, bright trim existing from Custom)
  • Dual body-color sport mirrors (added)
  • Bright roof drip moldings (existing from Custom trim)
Interior Trim
  • "SS" emblem on steering wheel shroud (not added)
  • Carpet floor covering (existing from Custom)
  • Rally wheels 14x6 or 14x7 with specific center hub and no trim ring (not added)
  • F40 Heavy duty suspension (F41 Sport suspension optional) (not added)
The Black End Panel, the Sport mirrors, no rocker and wheel moldings, body color side window trim are all a tip of the hat to the 1973 SS trim package. Badges? We don't need no stinkin badges!

The Nova "Custom" was newly introduced in 1973 and it was an upgraded trim package. Here's what the 1973 Nova Custom package included:

Exterior Trim
  • Bright trim on grille around parking lamps - Yes
  • Front and rear bumper impact strips (previously removed)
  • Bright roof drip moldings - Yes
  • Fender and rocker lower moldings (fender moldings previously removed, rocker moldings removed)
  • Front fender "Nova Custom" nameplate (previously removed)
  • Bright trim around tail lamps - Yes
Interior Trim
  • Right front door jam switch for dome lamp operation - Yes
  • Glove box lamp - Yes
  • 10" wide prismatic inside rear view mirror - Yes
  • Cigarette lighter - Yes
  • Bright framing on instrument cluster carrier - Yes
  • Passenger compartment carpet floor covering - Yes
  • Rubber and foam backed vinyl trunk mat (previously removed)
  • Special floor and 4-piece hood insulation (hood insulation previously removed)
  • Deluxe door sidewall with bright moldings and simulated wood insert (wood grain removed)
  • "Nova" door trim emblem (removed)
  • Rear seat arm rests with ash tray - Yes
Here are the RPO's I've identified that were included on our 1973 Nova Custom:
  • AK1 - Deluxe belts & harness front - Yes
  • C60 - Air Conditioning - (previously removed)
  • D33 - Outside mirror - remote control (removed)
  • JL2 - Disc brakes front - Yes
  • N40 - Power steering - Yes
  • U69 - Radio - AM/FM push button (removed)
  • U76 - Windshield antenna - Yes
  • VE5 - Deluxe bumpers (removed)
  • V01 - Heavy duty radiator - Yes
  • ZJ5 - Exterior decor package
    • Body side Molding (previously removed)
    • Bright side window and door frame moldings (removed)
  • Z54 - Interior decor/quiet group
    • Right front door jam switch for dome lamp operation - Yes
    • Glove box lamp - Yes
    • 10" wide prismatic inside rear view mirror - Yes
    • Cigarette lighter - Yes
    • Special floor and 4-piece hood insulation (hood insulation previously removed)
    • New improved acoustic package - Yes

Thursday, November 28, 2013

No Mexican Stripes!

I ordered the paint from Summit I got a gallon of 2-Stage Flame Red Urethane and two Gallons of Reducer along with a quart of hardener. It was all low VOC (required in CA) and was about $250. In addition I decided I wanted to do the SS black rear panel treatment and have a set of Chevelle/Camaro SS stripes painted in flat black. I ordered a Hot Rod Flatz paint kit from TCP Global, paint, reducer and hardener for $60. The paint and details on the stripes were delivered and we waited anxiously to see the Nova.

Luis called and asked if I wanted the red clear coated as it was basically flat red. Well yes... so Rueben got a gallon of clear for an extra $200 and clear-coated the car.

When we went to pick it up it wasn't quite ready and the stripes were "interesting". I'd given Reuben a very detailed diagram of the Chevelle style stripes I wanted. Including the 1/4 border and the widths and distance from the edge of the hood with measurements etc.

This is what I wanted... the Chevelle stripe in the Camaro width:

This is what they painted:

I asked them to repaint the hood and trunk. We decided that no stripes are better than bad stripes. So back to the paint shop and a few weeks later the week after Thanksgiving I picked up the Nova.
When I went to pick it up there was an extra $200 charge for more Red Paint, or more Clear, or because I made them repaint the stripes, or for something. But in any event it was time for me to pick up the car. I think Reuben and Luis were over it.

Monday Morning Quarterback
The $1200 bodywork and paint cost $1900. Here's the breakdown:
  • $1200 Esitimate
  • $300 Paint, Reducer and Hardener (Jegs)
  • $200 Clear
  • $200 Extra Red? 
Before I took the car to LA I removed the all the trim but left on the bumpers, tail lights and headlights for my 2 hour drive to LA. In hindsight, I should have removed the bumpers and put some junk yard wheels and tires on car. And since I was going to work on the dash I should have gutted the interior.
For the money, they did a lot of bodywork, the rust is gone and the Nova looks way better now.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Backyard Body and Paint in LA

Jim mentioned to me he knew a guy in LA who did really great body work as a side job and that I might want to have him give me a price on fixing the cancer. So we took the Nova up to LA and he gave me a quote. I asked him to cut out all the rust and weld in new patch panels, to remove both windows and weld in new channels and to weld in a new tail light panel that I would supply. He quoted me an incredible $1200 and he told me if I supplied the paint he would paint it as well!

Over the summer I saved up my money and we took the Nova up to him in September he said he'd need a couple weeks and we would be ready to go.

Along with the car I brought the rear panel from Classic Industries (136.99) and nice rust free 73 nova drivers door I bought on Craig's List for $100.

 Reuben working in his OSHA approved Flip Flops. The new door was rust-free but it was ding city.

 Tail Light Panel cut out. Not much left to weld it to so they replace the edge of the trunk as well.

 Crunchy rear window panel. This all got cut out and new metal welded in.

 Front window water slots. No surprise, my Chevelle had the same rot.

Two weeks later we went to take a look and while I was pleased with what they were doing I knew this was going to take some time. Finally after a lot of work a few weeks later the Nova was in primer and ready for paint.

Reuben did a great job on the body! (This is probably where we should have stopped and I should have taken the car to a painter for finishing.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Paint the Calipers Red, It'll Stop Faster

With the new (to us) motor, we started driving the Nova again and a few of the other items that had been neglected were due for upgrades. Fortunately, our Nova came from the factory with front discs so new rotors, shoes and calipers were any easy way to get factory-fresh stopping power.
The upgrade? Paint the calipers red. It'll stop faster... right?
Having the brakes off got me thinking about getting new spindles.
A 2" drop would be nice...