Grandma’s Grocery Getter: A Chevy Nova Restomod

If you’ve ever built something, a car or otherwise, then you would have likely obsessed over a detail or two that few will ever notice. How a wire is routed, the size and shape of a bracket, or even what hardware affixes that bracket. It’s really quite easy to get lost chasing perfection.

David Freiburger of Hot Rod magazine and Roadkill fame recently coined a phrase to combat this very problem: “Don’t get it right, get it running”. I get the sentiment behind that statement – especially as someone with a long-term project up on jack stands – but I’m not sure I fully agree.

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Enjoying your project sooner rather than later is never a bad thing. However, rushing the result can often lead to haphazard and unreliable ‘solutions’ that are really just precursors to future problems. Most of us have to settle for somewhere in between half-baked and perfection.

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I’ve got a carefully thought out few zip-ties on my truck that no one will ever see. Yes, they are on my list of things to address once the truck hits the road, but at this time they’ll do.

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This first-hand knowledge of just how hard it is to get things right and running means I have the utmost respect for those that do both and look good doing it. And I’m only further impressed by vehicles where execution is what makes them stand out rather than flashy paint, wheels and horsepower figures.

Look Out Below

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“Grandma’s grocery getter” – that was the inspiration behind Brent Stein’s 1969 Chevrolet Nova build. It’s not a sleeper – 315-wide rear tires exclude it from that category – but it is rather understated.

When I saw the Chevy in the front hall of Canada’s Toronto Motorama a few years back, I quickly acknowledged it as one of the cleanest Nova’s I’d ever laid eyes upon, but I had no idea just how modified it truly was. Unlike many of the other front hall cars, it sat on the ground in a rather simple display. But, the mirrors found at the front, sides and rear of the Nova suggested it was worth much more than a cursory glance.

No Airbags, Not Short Cuts

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‘Stance’ has become an extremely sensitive word to use, but, its impact on a build can be immeasurable. If this car wasn’t as low as it is, the 18- and 20-inch Detroit ‘Dtown’ steel wheel setup would look entirely unbecoming and quite honestly a little silly.

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Brent, who previously owned an 8-second, street-driven Chevy Vega isn’t interested in cars that can’t be driven. So while a proper ground-hugging stance was crucial, ride quality was as well. Getting the car to sit how it does and ride smoothly took a significant amount of fabrication. For this task, Brent called upon Ronnie and Kurwen Partap of The Chassis Stop in Mississauga, Ontario.

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In the front of the car, The Chassis Stop installed a fully-equipped C7 Corvette subframe. Instead of using a wrecked donor vehicle, all of the parts were purchased new from GM, giving the car fresh-off-the-lot handling characteristics.

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QA1 coilovers valved specifically for the Nova’s weight are used at all four corners, while the rear end features a custom four-link suspension. The brakes are Wilwood disks and calipers that have been custom-adapted to fit the rear axle and front hubs. Brake lines, harnesses and ancillaries are all hidden beneath custom carbon fiber under panels.

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Lowering the car was just step one; step two was making sure nothing hung lower than the rockers. To accomplish this, the Magnaflow exhaust was tucked up as close to the floorpan as possible and run through the transmission crossmember rather than under it. Going this extra mile ensures the car can be driven virtually anywhere without fearing damage.

Of Course LS Is The Answer

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Under the hood, a Stefko Racing-built 6.2L LSX motor sits between carbon fiber inner fenders that have been raised and modified to accomodate the large wheel and tire package and low ride height.

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The inner fenders started from molds taken from the factory fenders which allow them to retain an OEM-style look and fit. These inners were also pocketed for the hood hinges, brake booster and master cylinder.

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The under-hood palette has been kept relatively simple – black, a bit of red-orange for pop, some metal polishing and bright hardware. The wire routing is tidy, but not overly tucked so things remain efficiently serviceable long term.

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Behind the motor is a Chris Johnson 4180E transmission connected to a Strange Engineering rear axle via an aluminum drive shaft. The battery was relocated to the trunk and sits between modified rear wheel tubs.

Cream On The Outside, Clean On The Inside

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Where this car truly shines is with its overall execution. Most chassis shops wouldn’t be your first consideration for paint and body but, The Chassis Stop truly excels in this field. Panel-gapping a car – especially an older car – is an art that takes countless hours to accomplish. Ronnie and Kurwn made sure this Nova was gapped to perfection before the Porsche cream white base-coat/clear-coat paint was applied.

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Once the panels were secured, the bumpers were sectioned and tucked – modifications that are easily overlooked unless the car is parked next to another factory Nova. That said, even the most casual of observers can surely appreciate just how well everything looks at two feet or 20 feet away.

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The interior has been redone in a subtle restomod fashion, which really suits the car. Brent, who remembers the Pro Street era vividly, knows how much the wrong material and colour choices can date a vehicle. Ontario-based Uneek Upholstery handled the re-trim, which mimics the factory vinyl patterning but utilizes new leather.

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The factory bucket seats have been reshaped to keep occupants planted in the turns but comfortable on long drives. Unlike a lot of builds of this style, Brent skipped harness belts in favour of retaining the factory-style lap belts. The sole visible modern addition is the digital cluster that monitors all of the vehicle’s vitals. It looks rather tasteful within a black block-out panel.

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My personal favourite interior detail is the factory badging on the door. It’s all been replaced, or refurbished, giving the car a truly OEM reborn feel.

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Since this photoshoot, Brent sold the Nova but it does remain in Ontario under the stewardship of a hot rodder and car collector. Racers at heart Brent, Ronnie and Kurwen headed back to the drag strip with the Nissan TB4-powered, Corvette-bodied drag car that was also in the front hall of Motorama 2020. In 2022, (the car’s first year campaigned) it made 3,000whp and clocked a 4.18 at 186mph pass on the 1/8th mile.

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Brent had fun racing the Corvette but has since sold that as well. His current sights are set on Bonneville with the 1934 Ford Coupe he just picked up to build as a traditional land speed racer. I’ve got no doubt the ’34 will look and perform just as well as all his other projects.

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom



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