July 2011 Featured Nova
Name: Tom Cece, with special thanks to my uncle Steve Barbato.
City: Adamstown, MD
Nova Year: 1967
Model: Nova Wagon
Paint Color: Mountain Green
Wheel Size: Front 14x6, Rear 15x6
Tire Size: 195/60
Engine: L-30 327/275HP
Rear End: (ratio): 3.36
Front Suspension: Stock
Rear Suspension: 5 Leaf Towing Package with Delco Air Shocks
Brakes: Power Disc/Disc
Exhaust / Headers: 2” Dual Exhaust, Stock Manifolds
Parts From GM Classics & Chevy 2 Only:
2” Dual Exhaust, 2” Steel Cowl hood, radiator, bumpers, front bumper brackets, CD Radio Bezel, rocker mouldings, fuel sending unit, numerous seals and glass set rubbers, vent window frames and handles, HL mud caps, battery tray, power steering lines, misc. specialty hardware, emblems, carb linkages and misc underhood detail parts.
My Uncle Steve Barbato, owner of B&B ChevyII Performance in NJ came across this car around 1980. I’ve heard the story so many times but always enjoy hearing it again. The short version is: the car rolled into his Nova shop one day and some burnout dude offered to sell him his brother’s car. He wasn’t really interested but he saw it had Nova trim, and holes where a V8 emblem should be, so he took a quick look. Looking under the hood, he noticed it was V8 and it was a power steering and power brake car. It had an A/C compressor bracket but no compressor. As he walked around the car to look over the car, he drilled his shin on a trailer hitch sticking out. After the tweety birds stopped circling his head, he realized the car was rare and made an offer to low-ball the seller. Well, the seller declined and away the car rolled. Steve got an earful from his co-workers for 2 weeks straight on how he screwed up and let the Wagon go. Well, as fate would have it, one day, glug-glug-glug, the wagon rolls back in the shop and the burnout says “my brother will take your offer.” Before he got “offer” out of his mouth, Steve said “park it over there.”
Shortly thereafter Steve starting looking closer under the hood and found some good news. He had been thinking it was a 283 car but first found a Q-jet and after scraping the grime from the heads, found double humps! Oh boy, this is a 327 car! What a score! Also under the crud, Steve noticed the firewall was green body color, not black. The Fisher broadcast sheet says “end of first shift,” perhaps they ran out of black just before quitting time. There is no date on the title transfer but the sales price is listed at $100 plus $5 in NJ sales tax. Nice job Unk, throwing a bone there to Uncle Sam. The car was registered in Steve’s name and on the road in 1981 until about 1985. It was at this time I first saw the car in my grandparent’s driveway. I was a 14 year old twerp at the time and we actually have a family video of me and my cousins riding bikes and skateboards around the Wagon in the driveway after Sunday meatballs at Grandma’s. At the time I didn’t even know what a Nova was, I was all about Camaros.
It was about that time, 1985 the car came off the road. Steve started collecting parts and started restoring the car. As these things go, the car was off the road almost 20 years. Through this time I had gone through high school and college, bought and restored a 67 Camaro, and then was bored. It was by chance around 2003 I was thinking of getting another project car and Steve mentioned he may need to get rid of the Wagon. I was shocked since it was always a fixture at his place and I knew it was optioned to the max. I told him “keep it in the family, I’ll take it!” Shortly thereafter it was on a trailer to MD.
I knew the car body needed major help going into it but I didn’t care because I wanted an excuse to learn to weld. One MIG welder and 3 years later the unibody was all metal again. I hand made patches for every section of the car you can imagine. The catalog items came from Chevy 2 Only mostly hand carried from Carlisle shows. John Piccola in Vegas was a huge help for the rare Wagon non-repro parts. My Uncle had given me with the car piles of NOS parts that without, may have rendered this car a junkyard candidate. These NOS parts include: LH quarter, LH rocker, fenders, all four door body trim pieces, grill, rear gate trim plate, power gate motor, Q-jet, and door handles. NOS parts I found: trailer hitch, air shocks, quarter trim, headlight bezels, RH front door skin, trim under tail light, tailgate safety switch and 5 of the 8 roof rack pot-metal pieces.
I restored every aspect of this car myself from the rust repair, to the seat upholstery, to hand making the body wiring, to building the motor. The entire restoration was done in a townhouse 2-car garage. I had two floors of the townhouse “decorated” with Nova Parts. I would roll the subframe out into the common area so I had room to work on the unibody. I had local guys, Brent and Skip do the final body work and lay the paint on. They actually squirt most of the car parts in batches; interior, suspension, body parts and main body. I would drop off batches of individual restored parts, they would squirt them, and I took them back home for assembly. I am a Mechanical Engineer in the electronics world, so I have passion (more like issues) in both the mechanical and electrical aspects of restoration. When your Uncle has a stockpile of all the PED wire contacts and housings, and you have access to every crimp tool in existence at work, wiring can be fun and the result gratifying. I purchased the underhood wiring from AAW and made a few small mods. One mod was that I hollowed out and jumpered the connections in the external voltage regulator and changed the alternator connector. This allows the underhood to look correct, but you can use a 10SI (internally regulated) alternator for reliability. I laughed when an old-school Delco guy at my first Nationals asked how I had the external regulator but had the “wrong” connector on the alternator. You can’t fool those old schools guys. I put in a great sounding fully engineered stereo that you need to look close to realize it is there. I actually made the rear subwoofer before the rear quarter panel went on so I could get the speaker placement and mounting nuts in the right spot. It is very tight back there. The woofer was chosen for the volume of the quarter panel. I hand made the ¾” panel and did the padding and upholstery myself to match the vinyl interior. I spent days customizing the kick panels for speakers. Glad I did that just before the repros were released!@$%&! The Chevy2Only CD dash bezel is a must-have. I put in a Shiftworks in dash gauge package and also eliminated the points, these are also must-haves. I replaced every electrical contact on the dash harness and hand made all body harnesses from scratch re-using the connector housings where necessary. I re-engineered the rear power tailgate circuit. I put an up and down relay in the gate to keep the high amps from passing through the old style switches, which aren’t suitable even if they were new. It now works just like the factory intended. Accessory control feeds go through the dash switch, battery control feeds go through the gate switch. The thermal fuse on the dash feeds the motor through the relays. A dedicated ground was run from the motor back out the gate harness and tied to a stud I welded to the body inside the quarter panel so the high amp motor has a low resistance ground path. The cog in the puzzle was running the relay control ground through the (NOS) tailgate safety switch so that it still works as intended except only milliamps of relay control are going through it, not the motor main ground. Not sure who thought that was ever a good idea. Lastly, I had the ground bracket in the gate jamb for the safety switch Nickel plated to make a reliable connection.
I am very particular about underhood detail looking stock and proper but like to blend that with some practical reliability upgrades, since you know, these things are meant to drive. I had decided after leaving an open PCV on my Camaro, it was a very bad idea, unless you like oil all over your restored engine box. When I found the correct L-30 air cleaner base, I bit the bullet and modified it for a factory style closed PCV using all GM or OER parts. I welded a flame arrestor and bent tube from another GM PCV application into the base and used one molded 60’s Corvette 90 PCV hose to the correct breather tube on the block. It looks as factory as it gets and doesn’t spit oil.
The entire restoration was 4 ½ years. I brought the car back to original from a color and options standpoint but added a few items for looks and enjoyment like nice wheels, the modern stereo and a cowl hood. Building off the green firewall the car had, I had the entire undercarriage painted in mountain green base/clear with all suspension in black. The motor is .030” over but otherwise stock. The powerglide has a shift kit in it so on heavy throttle, it chirps into drive. That brings a smile every time. I drive it to all shows. It has not been back on a trailer since the paint job. It has been to the Nova Nats in Gettysburg twice and to the GM Nats in Carlisle twice. I attached pictures from start-to-finish so enjoy the restoration.
There is no doubt in my mind this car was ordered special as a family vacation vehicle for towing a trailer. The car as optioned from the factory:
1967 Nova Wagon, Mountain Green, Black interior, L30 327/275HP, Powerglide, 3.36 open rear, PS, PB, Power Tailgate window, A/C, roof luggage rack, remote mirror, speed warning indicator, trailer hitch with delco air shocks and fill gauge.
I recently came across a deal I couldn’t refuse on three `67 Novas: 2 wagons and a 4-door sedan. So, perhaps in a few years you’ll be hearing from me again!
- Tom Cece