When the higher-ups at Chevrolet noted early on that they were beginning to lose market share in the small-car realm to FoMoCo’s Comet and Falcon line of cars, they needed something to fill the void in their line up. Not to be outdone, they began designing a small, compact car for the masses that would not only be economical, but could also be sporty if ordered with the right list of options. Only 1-1/2 years after the decision was made to design the car, production Chevy IIs began rolling off the Willow Run, Michigan, assembly line. This was in August 1961, just in time for its late-September introduction.
Not to rest on their laurels, the brass at GM introduced the sporty SS version the following year. Available with a 194ci inline six and an optional drop-top, the Super Sport Nova did its best to keep the sport in Super Sport. Other items included in the SS package was a floor shifter, bucket seats, and a few well placed emblems denoting the upgrade to SS status.
The next year, Chevy’s little X-platform performer would get a shot in the arm with its first taste of V-8 power. The little 283 cubic-inch small-block had plenty of power for the Nova’s lightweight frame, and once Nova owners got a taste of V-8 power, the rest, as they say, is history.
Nova ‘Net Effect
Tim Washburn knows a thing or two about Novas. He had one back in high-school, equipped with a lot of goodies to make it perform much better than any of the GM engineers ever anticipated. But as is the case many times, he parted ways with his Nova motivator, and the pages of the calendar continued to flip by.
Then, in the middle of November 2014, while scouring the internet, Tim saw an ad for a ’63 Nova SS and he was immediately smitten. The car was several hundred miles away from his home in Central Florida, but that was nothing a quick flight to Atlanta and subsequent bus ride to Chattanooga couldn’t cure. After negotiating with the salesman at Wholesale Import Auto, Tim decided to make the trip and see if this little Nova was all it appeared to be.
The salesman informed him that he wasn’t the first enthusiast interested in the car. Apparently, the dealership took the car in from a local doctor who had recently lost her job. While it was sitting on the lot in Chattanooga, the salesman started eyeing up the Burgundy coupe with the intention of putting it in his garage.
Lucky for Tim, the salesman already had a 1969 Chevelle in his garage, and he was begging his wife to purchase the 1963 Chevy Nova. She told him, “you can keep your Chevelle or you can replace it with the Nova but you can’t have both.” To Tim’s satisfaction, his wife was much more open to putting the Nova in their garage, and the salesman apparently liked the Chevelle just a little more.
Just like the folks at GM, Tim didn’t waste any time in getting the Nova on the road. With a quick drive around the hills of Tennessee, and the signing of some accompanying paperwork, he was soon headed south for the eight-hour drive back home to Orlando. In Tim’s own words, “After my test ride around the mountains of Tennessee, and inspecting the car knowing that it wasn’t perfect, I saw the potential of making this a nice weekend hot rod to take to car shows and have a great time with my buddies who also have classic cars.” The car was never intended to be a trailer queen, and the drive from Chattanooga, would only serve to solidify the Nova’s street-going credibility.
Unlike the original introduction of the Nova SS, Tim’s ride has a few updates that weren’t available in ’63. When he acquired his ride, it already had a cool-running, stout 350ci small-block with just enough goodies to allow it to push the fun-meter well past Too Much! He improved that by adding an Edelbrock 650 cfm carburetor and polished intake. Coupling the limited-slip 10-bolt with 3.50 gears to the engine is a Saginaw four-speed, shifted dutifully through a Hurst stick poking through the floorboard.
The little Nova includes a nice mix of modifications and originality. There are enough elements of the original design to easily connect it back to its six-cylinder days, but with enough upgrades throughout to make it much more enjoyable and fun. Tim continued to improve the car by adding power assist to the factory drum brakes. He also rebuilt the front and rear suspension, and in the process, dropped the front 2 inches. Now, before anyone starts poo-pooing Tim’s decision to keep the original drum brakes, he happily reports that with the power assist upgrade, they are more than adequate for his style of driving.
After my test ride around the mountains of Tennessee and inspecting the car knowing that it wasn’t perfect, I saw the potential of making this a nice weekend hot rod… – Tim Washburn
As the car sits, it’s a great driver, and Tim reports that it’s a blast to do just that. But, he also says that if he ever lets the little coupe sit long enough, he’d love to redo the body of the car, straightening the panels and fixing some blistering that is beginning to show under the shiny top coat. That might be a challenge, since Tim would likely repaint the car its original shade of unforgiving Tuxedo Black, so, it’ll have to be perfect. He’d also like to upgrade the engine to stroker status, stretching the crankshaft throws to 383ci sizing, and backing it up with a five- or six-speed transmission. He would also like to add a rack-and-pinion upgrade to help keep the driver designation firmly planted.
Tim doesn’t concern himself with whether or not those modifications will ever be realized, since he’s having so much fun driving the car for now. It’s been that way since his first day of owning this particular car. Even after all these years, it’s amazing how firmly GM hit the nail on the head when they were quickly drumming up a response to their competition across town.