Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Cars in Yards: 1970 Chevrolet Nova

An Astro Blue 1970 Chevy Nova sits outside a body shop in Alabama.

Don't say it! Junkyard Life has found this… a 1970 Chevrolet Nova. There are so many things to mention about this car that was built for the common man. It came in so many forms, that most people could afford one. (Editor's note: Nobody said it was cheap. But...)

1970 Chevy "Nova" emblem with rust and blue paint around the chrome emblem.

Shakespeare asked, “What is in a name?”

The Chevrolet Nova has a cool name. Nova. Translated to mean “bursting star”, this car was contrived to compete with other makers that honed in on America’s obsession to go to the moon before other countries claimed that giant orb. So we had to pretend to get there first!

1970 Chevy Nova 307-V8 engine under hood photo show decades of dirt and neglect.
Somebody grab a can of orange spray paint.

Correction: It Does Go!

The common story that we here at Junkyard Life have been guilty of retelling is the great name fail tale. The story about how the translation of “Nova” in Spanish speaking countries meant “it doesn’t go” and how when the car arrived in the market with that moniker the buyers froze and refused to purchase. Why buy a car that tells you right up front that it doesn’t go? Going is really what we need it to do. Well, when researching our feature car - we now find out that story isn’t true. Puts a monkey wrench in my Fun Facts, doesn’t it?

All 1970 Chevy Nova's had the pillared post roof as shown.

This Nova is pretty honest about what it is. It has two (possibly three) options that jump quickly into view. Can you spot them? See Fun Facts.

The backseat is loose and sits in the front seat of the 1970 Nova.

Options on the cheap Chevy

This Nova was adorned in GM paint code 25 known as Astro Blue in 1970. See that space theme we mentioned? It also had the standard bench seat, RPO Code 731 for you numbers guys, covered in black vinyl. What you see, is what you get. Before we get you too excited about the tough guy persona of the rugged “post sedan”, hold your bursting stars. We learned that this ONLY came in pillared sedan form. Which is fine by us. We at Junkyard Life adore post sedans. The structural sound "post" body style is preferred by racers in all classes. However, not much racing was done with this 307 cubic inch example. If there was, he probably didn’t win a lot. That small block power plant was made to do what it did… last a long time and not use too much fuel.    

A 307-V8 emblem, shown on fender of 1970 Nova, was shunned by hot rodders who laughed at the underpowered engines.
In the 1980s a 307 emblem meant that you were driving grandma's car.

Air conditioner slider controls on dash of 1970 Chevy Nova.
Granny was on a budget but packed her car with amenities like A/C.

Straight on shot under hood looking at dingy, brown 307-V8 of the 1970 Nova.
The 307-V8 was still relatively new to the car buying world, having only been in the mainstream since 1969.

1970 Chevy Novas still had the clean, tucked-in bumpers. By 1973 the bumpers protruded away from the body to pass crash test standards.

Trim tag, a metal plate under the hood of the 1970 Nova, has details on the 1970 Chevy Nova.
Trim tag has details on the 1970 Chevy Nova.

Complete set of 14-inch hub caps found inside Chevy Nova.
Complete set of original 14-inch hub caps found inside Chevy Nova.

Don't let the wheels fool you

The only exception to my previous “What you see is what you get” is the Chevrolet Rally wheels. Although an option for the Nova in 1970, this example came with 14-inch wheels with a “Chevrolet Motor Division” hubcap outlined in the center. Very tasteful and economical. I may not have known that detail up front, but the owner told me he has the entire set of hubcaps. I also found them in the car under the removed back seat. Sadly, no build sheet was present.

(Editor’s Note: We have suggested therapy to Junkyard Life staff member Ron Kidd. He really likes hubcaps to an unhealthy degree)  

What would I do?

If this bursting star was in the Junkyard Life shop, my vote would be to yank the 307, add a fat rat motor, but keep the 307 emblems and the hubcaps. (Editor’s Note: See?) This is the perfect chassis for an incognito money taker. Unfortunately, it isn’t ours but an interesting car nonetheless.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Junkyard Life’s Nova Fun Facts:

  • The Chevy II was introduced in 1962 to compete for the Ford Falcon buyers. Chevrolet was somewhat late to the game.
  • The feature car is a 1970 model. The third generation for the Chevrolet Nova began in 1968.
  • 1968 was the last year to have both “Chevy II” and “Nova” emblems. It was only known as “Nova” after 1969.
  • The Nova was only built in two places: Norwood, Ohio and Willow Run, Michigan. The feature car was born in Willow Run. Yes, we love cowl tags at Junkyard Life.
  • 1968 was a great seller for the Chevrolet Nova despite several options no longer available. Hello 1968 post sedans. Goodbye last year’s station wagon, hard top, and convertible. A bold move in the market indeed. 
  • Chevrolet was late to the game AGAIN in 1967 with the introduction of the Camaro to attempt to regain sales stolen by the Ford Mustang since 1964. What does this have to do with the Nova? Rumor was that half way through the model year Chevrolet conveniently cut the high horse 327 from the Nova menu to boost sales of the new Camaro. Sneaky marketing!
  • The top of the food chain power wise in 1970 Nova was the 375HP 396-V8 (which was actually 402 cubic inches).
  • Hotly debated for years is the civil war between the hot new 350 LT1 borrowed from the Corvette and Camaro Z28 verses the 396 big block. Which was faster when installed in the 1970 Nova? Ginger or Mary Ann? Both hot.

(Editor’s Note: I don’t think “Gilligan’s Island” has ever been used for a Chevy II engine debate. We no longer allow Ron to write with the TV on here at the office.)

  • The Chevy II was designed to be very economical. It was offered with a 4 cylinder engine for several years.
  • The options we mentioned on the feature car we spotted were:
    • The 307 V8 was an engine upgrade (three actually)
    • The air condition was not standard, hence…an option.
    • (Possibly) the side body molding may not have been standard. 
    • The AM radio was one step above… no radio.
    • The automatic transmission was relatively a sure bet to be there, but don’t count it for free… there was a manual three-speed tranny that could cost less.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com or Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Project Money Burner Jeep

Bigger is better! When bad things happen to good people they have the option of giving up or making things better. Junkyard Life's own Keith Lively wrecked and rolled in his 1991 Jeep YJ one week before his wedding in 2012. The Jeep was destroyed. A loose tool bag knocked Lively upside his head inside the crashing Jeep, but otherwise he was unscathed. Luck or fate? He still had sense enough to marry a woman who shares his passion for all things with four wheels. When Lively walked down the aisle he had already hatched a plan to create a monster Jeep that could tackle any obstacle. Project Money Burner was born! 

What happened?
  "A steering knuckle broke going down the highway 
at 50 miles per hour and the Jeep turned sideways, hitting the side of a hill head on. The Jeep's momentum sent it rolling over and into a concrete storm drain," Lively said. "I was knocked out cold by a tool bag. I also had some yard equipment, axes, and saws inside the Jeep. They ended up stuck in my dash and the pick axe was embedded in my seat where I would have been if I had not leaned over and held onto the passenger harness." The crash no doubt could have been deadly. "The good Lord was definitely riding with me that day," said Lively.

  "Another C.A.O.S. (Central Alabama Off-road Society) club member saw the wreck and got me out. I woke up sitting on the back of a fire truck. The rest of the details? I have no idea."  

Before the wreck of the 1991 YJ. Notice the beefed up roll cage and seat belts.

The only thing that was not damaged in the Jeep Wranger wreck was the massive Off-Road Connection roll bar system.

 The only things not damaged in the wreck were the massive Off-Road Connection roll bar system, the tailgate and the radio. 


Damage assessment
  The force of the crash was hard enough to knock the front axle out, break the transmission in half, and shove the front drive shaft through the floor board. The 4.0 motor was locked up and the transfer case was also trashed. 
  "Most of the drivetrain was busted but when Jeep in is in your blood you got to rebuild," said Lively.

 The Jeep's frame was stretch 21 inches to make the 2-door YJ/TJ into a 4 door.

The plan: Building the Beast
Lively loves to share his outdoor adventures with all who are brave enough to ride along. The more the merrier, he says, so the plan morphed into a big boy 4-door Jeep. The middle of the Jeep frame and body was stretched by 21 inches for more legroom, and the rear seat was widened by 6 inches to allow more elbow room for two full-size adults. Sharp eyes will notice that rear doors were minimized in size to give it more of a Jeep Scrambler appearance.

  What started out as a wrecked 1991 YJ (YJ=1987-1995 Jeep Wrangler) ended up with a 2001 TJ (TJ=1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler) front clip that was donated from another member of C.A.O.S. who wanted to help Lively turn the YJ into a TJ project.   

 Money Burner is on its third engine in eight years.
Each more powerful than the last.

Nuts and bolts
  A decision was made to upgrade the powertrain to a 6.0 liter built LS engine with a 4L80-E transmission with NP-205 twin stick shifter. Power to the ground via a Dana 60 front axle
, a 14-bolt Dana 70 rear axle, with both axles receiving Detroit Lockers. The front axles received larger stub axles upgraded to 35 spline with Warn locking hubs. Toss in a set of military H1 Double Bead Lock rims with new centers (to improve the offset) and 43-inch tires and you can see where this trail of money leads. The name "Money Burner" was a no-brainer.

Party in the back
  A storage area behind the rear seat now folds out to a full-size bar with a 3500 watt inverter, built-in blender, lights, disco ball and everything you need to relax after a long day of wheeling with friends. Money Burner features front and rear Warn winches, rock lights and onboard welder and air pump.
  "The blender will make 4 gallons of crushed lemonade or possibly something stronger before the battery goes dead," said Lively. "If you crank the Jeep you can mix drinks all night or run power equipment in remote locations."

Seat of your pants thrill
  Take a ride with Keith Lively in his Money Burner Jeep and you will come back impressed or shaking in your boots. No middle ground here. The thing is a monster! Lively lives up to his name and is not afraid to drive those 
43-inch tires into deep water, tackle boulders, dams or a steep wall of earth. He will nail it headfirst into a mountain and drop the back bumper into the dirt. Lively never met a rev limiter he couldn't abuse. The Money Burner delivers! Wow!

Jody Potter — Junkyard Life

 A roll cage and half a wrecked Jeep were all Lively had to get started.

 Progress shot after Money Burner build takes shape.

 Money Burner roll cage is beefed-up to handle heavy impact of a Lively rollover. Oh! There will be rollovers.

Just added new rock lights for improved night recovery trips or just riding down to the creek at night.

 A tighter torque converter installed during the last motor swap helped improve the low-end power. The 6.0 LS motor runs a set of shaved, mild ported heads with a Stage 2 cam.  

 A custom hardtop was fabricated for cold weather months. Full doors spice up the color combo. Half doors are blue.  

Money Burner is setup to make it up to the big climbs in comfort and occasionally rescue a Junkyard Life lost car or truck left deep in the woods. The front winch will extend out 250 feet and the rear winch will extend out 175 feet allowing recovery of almost any car we come across.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit?
Got a wild Jeep, car or truck story?
Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com or Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net.