I saw this Nova coupe swing into the gas station as we were headed out to Mt. Pisgah for our daily postprandial hike. If it had been wearing big aftermarket wheels like 99.9% of the Nova SS coupes out there still, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. But lo! It was wearing stock wheel covers! A quick U turn and I’m pulling up next to it. Dare I hope that it was truly stock and sporting a Turbo-Thrift six?
The Falcon and the Chevy II took very different trajectories after they were done serving their original owners. Falcons just became cheap beaters, until their little weak-chested sixes just wouldn’t wheeze to life anymore. Or they sat in grandma’s garage for decades and were finally rescued to become the ultimate hipster-mobile in recent years. Not so the Chevy II.
From the moment it arrived, Chevy enthusiasts realized that swapping in a potent small block V8 was so easy, one might think the factory had planned it that way. Out came the little 90 hp 153 four; in went a 360 hp fuel injected 327, if you had the bucks. If not, even a 283 with a four barrel carb and a few other tweaks turned it into a dragon slayer.
Of course, the result was that just about every Chevy II—except perhaps the four door sedans—was turned into a budget hot rod, or even a high bucks one. So finding a suitable one for a CC write-up took me a few years, and then of course it was a four door, and ’65 at that.
I admit to having a soft spot for the ’63 Nova SS coupe. A teacher at Lincoln Elementary bought a new one in ’63, which was the first year they were available. It was an option package available on the Nova 400 coupe or convertible, and the second Chevy to wear the iconic SS badges after the Impala first wore them in 1961. But it was all show and no go, as the only engine was the 120 hp 194 CID six. The only concession to anything that actually affected performance or handling was perhaps the required 14″ wheels.
And that was probably just so that the Impala SS’ unique wheel cover would fit. But they looked rather heavy on the little Nova, whereas they looked just fine on the big Chevy. Were those protruding big hubs and spinners inspired by Ben Hur?
I used to go over and gaze into the windows of that red Nova SS coupe. I was obsessed with bucket seats, consoles and floor shifts at that age (10), and any car that had them was an object of profound veneration and desire. I knew it just had the six under the hood, but those red buckets, and that floor shifted Powerglide!
Speaking of, the Powerglide’s floor shifter was different back then, as it had a gated pattern instead of the straight-line shifter that came along a few years later, with the button on the T handle to lock out unwanted shifts. This is a much nicer affair, and of course was essentially out of the Corvette. In fact, this is about as nice as a floor shifter for an automatic as I’ve ever seen.
I gazed lovingly at it for extended periods, and the teacher must have wondered about all of the drool marks and finger prints on her passenger side window.
These interior shots are from a white ’63 Nova SS convertible I shot several years back, in front of a consignment store. For some reason, I never wrote it up, although it’s in pristine condition. And of course also wearing its original wheel covers.
The back shows off the bright metallic finish, a hallmark of the SS models, large and small.
And this is what the underhood compartment looked like on a ’63 Chevy II as it left the factory; well except of course if it had the four, but that was not available on the SS. This all changed significantly in 1964, as the 283 V8 and a four speed manual were now available from the factory, as well as a slightly-hopped up 155hp version of the 230 six. Maybe the fact that I showed you the convertible’s engine compartment is a giveaway as to what’s under the black coupe’s hood?
Well yes, but at least the owner, who appeared after a few minutes, isn’t trying to disguise the fact, given the discreet 327 badge on the fender where the six’ badge should be.
It’s sporting a 327/350hp air cleaner, but doesn’t exactly look like one, given the valve covers. Yes, it’s got Vortec heads, which make the SBC breathe even more easily. I assume they’re not exactly overly common on a 327. And I suspect it spins pretty happily.
Yes, this doesn’t look like the Nova SS coupe I used to gaze into in 1963. This must have been a three speed manual car originally, as the floor shifter and console was only available with the Powerglide. Too bad he couldn’t have made one of those work with the THM-350. That shifter is not exactly very aesthetically pleasing, unlike that lovely Powerglide shifter.
Obviously, the rear end is a beefier affair, as are the wheels and tires on it. I asked the owner about his decision to run stock wheel covers, and he said he just couldn’t find anything that looked better in his eyes. Yea! And no big fat chromed sewer pipes out the back; presumably just some shorties under the car, the way it was done back in the day. My kind of Nova SS; well, except for that shifter.
At that point he got in, fired it up, and pulled out. When he hit Seavey Loop Rd he gunned it, and the inimitable sound of a healthy SBC working its way up the musical scales reverberated through the still early evening air.
We soon left such man-made delights behind for natural ones, and after a 5 mile hike on a (mostly) secret abandoned road along the Willamette River, and a quick dip, we headed back to a psychedelic sunset, which is happening at just about 9 PM up here these days.
Which got only more and more obscene before it finally flamed out. Two of my favorite things to admire in the course of two hours; lucky me.
Related: CC 1962-1965 Chevy II – Chevy Builds a Compact, Take II PN
Nice, so much better than giant wheels.
Great find! This could have been called the “Wheels Forward” design. The rear overhang in comparison with the front warps the eye.
These were quite common back in the day, and I think they were right sized to be a compact. Packing a 327, this car could move out in short order.
I always thought it gave the car an early “Funny Car” look, If you remember the particular look of some drag cars of the period.. altered wheelbases brought forward to give the ability to “wheel stand” And small caster added to the extreme lower rear to avoid dragging the pavement…They looked odd with the offset wheelbase, hence the term “Funny cars”
Those are pretty typical proportions for compact RWD cars of that era. The fron overhang was eliminated, because it was really just dead space in the larger cars. The rear overhang was to provide a decent trunk and not have it look too short and stubby.
Looks to be about the same as a Falcon.
IMO post sedans pull it off better than hardtops, especially the Falcon’s original one with the bubble rear window (or the later T-bird-style one when combined with the ’64-65 wedgy reskin). The higher sedan roof made the whole car look smaller and thus gave the illusion of a shorter rear overhang.
Rear decks were lower back then, and as cars got longer trunks got longer and more horizontal, after starting pretty vertical in the 1930’s when they weren’t actual trunks strapped on the back.
Another Ford model from back then (and they were downsized to Galaxie length).
Falcon two doors had two roofs before the hardtop above, which maybe looked better on the edgy squared off 1964 whole body face lift.
The original one was on Futuras but changed to a “Thunderbird” style roof halfway through 1962. Here’s an early 1962 Futura.
And here’s a 1963 with the “Thunderbird” roof. (And all facing the same direction!)
When I was in high school, the shop teacher got one of these for the students to “practice” on. It was pretty banged up and rusty looking when they started and didn’t look too bad when they finished the repairs, though it didn’t look as nice as this one. I think it still had the original 6 cylinder engine.
Another teacher had a 66 or 67 Chevy II, and that was a sweet little car in my eyes. A very nice substitute for a Camaro. It was gold in and out.
To me, this car needs a nicer looking shifter, though there is a look of naked industrialness to it, and to complete “the look” the tires should be whitewalls.
I clearly remember reading that Hot Rod article about pulling the fuelly out of a brand new Corvette and dropping it in that Nova. Ah…memories..
Makes me wonder which engine was put into the new Corvette, to replace the fuelie.
My strange sense of humor would’ve liked to have seen the “90-HP Super-Thrift 153” from the Chevy II in there, at least temporarily, if only to see drivers’ reactions as they floored the throttle to the sound of…wheezing.
If I remember the article correctly (it WAS a long time ago!), the transplant was only temporary. The fuelly was put back in the Vette. IIRC of course.
Excellent post! Other than the GTO, the two faves in my yute were this and a ‘64 or ‘65 Chevy Malibu SS.
Great post and even better find.
This takes me back to a 63 Nova 4dr Sedan my father got as part of a bill payoff form a funds strapped client. It was a metallic dark brown with white painted roof and tri tone interior. t did have the 6 cyl and auto A rather innocuous little car….this was in 1968, I already had my own car, my 64 Cutlass 2 dr. However, Dad and mom and little sis left for a 10 day trip to visit relatives in Virginia and left me at home at age 17 with a “request” I clean this little beastie up for sale upon their return… Fine, I’ll do it. So on a fine summers Saturday morning, I set about cleaning and making this sows ear shine like a…..Polished sows ear. My good friend, Seric, came over to assist, and after a good cleaning, in and out, we set to bring a shine to the single stage dark metallic paint that looked to have NEVER seen wax. We did manage to get it to shine and the deep dark brown showed all it’s rainbow metalflake goodness. The white roof needed something..Now, remember, gentle readers, this was 1968, and hippiedom was evolving into counterculture. So we got a packager of those lovely bathtub non slip decals type appliques in the form of daisies, in varied hues and sizes, and applied them generously on the white roof. A piece symbol was affixed to the friont bumper as Missouri did not require a front plate at the time. Also a racing stripe along the rockers, in white was painted, on, worked well with the white roof. The cove on the deck lids and around the taillights was given the SS treatment. It ended up a rather intriguing mix of messages….Sorta butch, sorta counterculture. She needed a name. And Gloria was chosen as that tune of the same name was often played by every garage band of the day. We had fun driving about the western suburbs of St. Louis, where we lived But soon enough my parents and little Sis returned…Mom loved it, thought the little beastie had likely never looked so good. Dad just walked around it.. and said not one word. However he kept it longer than planned. His new Bonneville had to go in the shop. So he drove it to the office….Where he was the owner and boss. A masonry contractor. So here comes the boss tooling up in this rather noticeable vehicle, to a construction office, in 1968, in a car cleaned and shined by his long haired hippie son and associates. He only said one thing upon returning home. “Will you get those damn flowers off that car. They were not to be easily removed, but success was had, though they did leave daisy shaped shadows on the roof. Gloria, the innocent little Nova with a new personality was sold, to a gentleman who was buying it for his daughter. I wonder if she is still plying the roads?
Nice story. I remember those stick-on flowers and can see your handiwork in my mind’s eye.
Cool looking car, looking at it I see where GM UK got their design for the 63/4/5 Velox and Cresta from, cant say I’m a fan of the big clunky hubcaps though dog dishes are more my style or just bare steel wheels, but a nice looking car all the same.
The style is okay, if only they didn’t stick out so far.
The Chevy ll actually was introduced in 1962. My dad had bought a 62 Chevy ll when I was 16 years old. It was all original from the hubcaps to SS badges to the straight 6 under the hood and the crome council between the bucket seats where the shifter to glide resided. He paid 1000.00 bucks for that beauty but ended up selling it bout 3 years later. I bet he kicks himself to this day for selling it… I sure didn’t want to let it go I know that.
The Chevy II was introduced in 1962, but not the SS package. That only came in 1963. Your memory is playing tricks on you.
One of my friends had a ’64 Nova wagon with the 283 and four speed. His dad had factory ordered it. Rare, and quite the anti-Country Squire.
Interesting observation that the Falcon and Chevy II took different paths, one just cheap transportation, the other a mini-muscle car. An insight that never occurred to me … but very obvious once pointed out. The Dart (and also the Valiant with the introduction of the Duster) seemed to take a path between the Ford an$ Chevy.
I have an inordinate amount of love for the Chevy II, probably because I spent so much time with my paternal grandmother in her 1962, purchased new and driven for many years as her final car. Once I got my learner’s permit in 1965, we spent many happy hours driving around in that little car, powered by a four-banger with a three-on-the tree.
The early Chevy II SS was not seen that often back in the day but my junior high school English teacher had a 63 SS coupe.
I spotted this great old 1965 in traffic a while back and it appeared to have the original CA gold on black plates and to be driven by a gentleman old enough to be its original owner. This one sported a 283 badge on the fender.
Both this Nova and the 64-5 Chevelle suffer from a certain blocky awkwardness in their styling. I find the early Falcon Futura hardtop more attractive, as well as the 63-64 Valiant.
Only recently have I come to understand Chevrolet’s brilliance in the way it engineered almost everything it built after 1955 for maximum powertrain interchangeability. I have often ragged on Chevy for how it is necessary to upgrade them to have a decent car to drive – this one would not be nearly as pleasant with its original 6 and Powerglide. But the other half of that coin is that the upgrades are so cheap and easy.
The CC forces are strong. One with the 6 as seen at a local Cars & Coffee today.
There were cool cars. My parents had a ’64 wagon with the 194 and a 3-on-the-tree for a brief time in the early 70s.
Very nice indeed. A great looking car and you are right, that 327 looks like it belongs there.
Wonderful sunsets too, we’ve had a couple this week but the tree lined streets of the valley town are not conducive to good sunset viewing..
I just happen to own a 63 nova II SS. It’s in my back yard waiting for me to get started on it. Have everything original but the engine, which was gone when I bought it.
Okay I’m confused. You say that “This must have been a three speed manual car originally, as the floor shifter and console was only available with the Powerglide.” My eyes see a carpet fade pattern indicative of a console, yet I also see what looks like the third petal, with an expected wear pattern. Who would convert a manual transmission car to an automatic? We always heaped derision on those guys.
“The Falcon and the Chevy II took very different trajectories after they were done serving their original owners.”
If I remember correctly, and it’s a long time ago, there was no way to drop a V-8 into an early Falcon – the shock towers didn’t leave enough room. Maybe that’s why Novas got hotted up and Falcons didn’t?
Falcon Sprint models got an optional 164 hp “Challenger” 260 CID (4.3 L) V8 engine starting in February 1963. They sold about 15,000 of them in 1963. I don’t think there were any major underhood changes. But it was a new thinwall cast V8 that was smaller than any other Ford V8 and designed for the new Fairlane. Of course this and later versions of this V8 were available in the Mustang. The first generation Mustang was on the same Falcon platform which had revised suspension in 1964 but otherwise was about the same.
I’ve seen this brown sedan around here.
That Nova is a great car, I couldn’t live with the shifter though, there must be some way to adapt the OE shifter to the TH350
With those wheels, you could call it a proto-swanga.