Steve's Nova Site is an automotive enthusiast website dedicated to the 1962 - 1979 Chevrolet Nova, Chevy II and Acadian automobiles. We work together to preserve, restore, drive, show, race and provide fellowship for these classic cars. This is one of the best places to find information about parts, rebuilding, restoration and racing. This website is not affiliated with GM, General Motors or Chevrolet in any capacity.
I have always loved the Nova ever since my father had one. When I finished restoring my other car (98 Eagle Talon) I had the itch for that v8 Muscle car sound. Than I was looking through some pictures and saw a pic of my fathers old 74 Nova. Thats when I had to have it. It took me 8+ years to find one in decent shape and with a good price tag. What made the search even harder is that I would not accept any other year but the 74. (the year I was born)
So now I have the Nova of my dreams (and then some with the BB 454) and am restoring it. I wanted to share my experience with this site as I could not have even begun to attempt restoring it if it wasnt for this site and other members posting their builds, and restos which motivated me. (Scherp69, 69LT1Nova and others)
Heres the car when I found her. She sat for 7 years left to rot. And according to seller was owned by someone that had it garaged before him.
It was a good find as it was in totally original condition. Only the Engine was changed from a 6 to the Big Block. When I bought the car, it was sold to me as is. It has not been started in over 7 years and they guy did not guarentee me that it worked. But I did not care. The condition of the car body was more important. Got home and tinkered with it.
This was better than I expected! So now Heres my progress so far. I have lots of pics so I hope you guys like them. I have never done this before so with hekp from this forum, this is what I have accomplished.
I started off with the fenders. I removed them and decided to Por-15 them. There was one spot that had rust so I cut into what I could and used a great product to clean them off and kill the rust completely. It takes a long time (days) but well worth the results.
Heres the product. Wait till you see all the miracles this product has done for me!!!
Before and after.
Than used weld to seal the rust holes from the inside and outside. Than Por-15 both fenders from the inside making sure to actually por material into all nooks and crannies and letting it drain out. I primered it temporarily with spray bomb since its going to be a while before body work. From the looks of it I got it pretty good with the form.
The car was in great shape for being almost 40 yrs old. So i had to see how the floor pans looked. So i tore into the interior. It had red carpeting and I was surprised to see that it was the original!
And the floor were in great shape. So i had to make them better. I stripped them down to bare metal and used the Por-15 treatment on them. I also scraped up the old seam seal and put new seam seal in. After the seam seal I put a second wet coat of Por15.
Than I decided that I wanted to put down sound deadner over the floor and back seat area. That was alot of work!
Next I decided to repeat the process all over again with the trunk.
So now the trunk was a bit more involved because I was not only working on the trunk pan but the Tail light panel. This panel had major rust rot damage. So there was only one thing to do, Remove and replace. I would like to thank CustomJim for his helpful posts on various threads which guided me through this task. I have never ever done this before and so it was at first overwhelming. Heres what it looked like. Water came into the trunk through the tail lights. This water also not only made it into the trunk but also made its way into the trunk drop off on the driver side, which you will see later on.
So I used an air chisel and hammers and my dremel to get that tail panel out. I drilled out the spot welds and cut the panel into pieces to make it easier to remove. I also had to remove the trunk lock part. And when it was finally out, the rust went deeper than just the tail panel. Part of the trunk pan was affected as well.
So I had to make new pieces. Went to Home Depot and got a sheet of Sheetmetal and used a Vise and a hammer to make replicas.
Welded them in place and now for the tail panel. This was challenging. I had to persuade it to fit right and on the driver side, the tail light mounting holes were off. I had to make new holes and really make the panel fit into the space. And after I got it in place had to use vice grips and clamps to pull the gaps on either side so they match.
Before putting panel in i sanded down the trunk floor to bare metal, did the Por15 treatment and put sound deadner in.
And for all those 73-74 owners wondering about the tail panel gasket...I am happy to report that it does exist.
Heres the thread where I asked and I show pictures and link to where I bought them is there. This was very important for me as I did not want to reuse the old rusted gasket. (Thank you 73SS406!!)
Now after that was done I had to take care of the rust spot behind the rear tire. This rust was due to the tail panel being rotted. Water found its way to the drop off.
To me this was the hardest thing yet! i have never done any body work let alone welding patch panels. But after loads of research, I dived right in.
From the outside the rust looked small so I started to use a screw driver to see how much rust I was dealing with.
Than i took my camera and shot a pic of the drop off area. way bigger problem than what it looked like.
So i had to cut a large portion off. I bought a patch panel and just cut out what I needed to remove all of the affected metal.
And heres a pic showing its all clear after cutting. Got all of the rusted metal cut out.
I treated the area with phosphoric acid and than used undercoating to cover the whole inside of that trunk drop off.
Than cut to fit the patch. I had to make sure the body lines line up and that was tedious. I cut the metal to within 1/4-3/8" of what I needed it than with a bench grinder grinded down little by little and tested fitted after every little grind to make sure it fit nicely. I used a Dremel to cut the metal. Went through alot of Dremel cutting disks but I did not want to cut too much nor cut too fast and make a mistake.
Than i stitched and grinded down and its ready for metal to metal body filler. I used the staggared method (weld on opposite sides of the patch until i finished) to limit heat buildup in one spot and after every weld or two i used compressed air to cool it down rapidly. This was to limit panel warpage and from what I read could strenghten the metal from rapid cooling.
I used an angle grinder and the dremel with cutoff wheels to grind down the welds.
I coated it from the inside and drop off with more undercoating. Did the other side too with this treatment. The other side was flawless. No rust at all. After the undercoating dried, I took spray paint (Black) and sprayed it down in that whole area using those carb cleaner straws. (I modified one of the spray tips for this purpose) With the straws i was able to direct the paint all over that area to completely coat it. This will surely seal it from any and all moisture in the future.
After all of that I wanted something a bit easier to tackle. So i decided to do the doors from the inside, the rear window area from the inside and the entire ventillation/cowl area from the inside. All these areas have one thing in common....Rain. And I don't want to worry about them in the future.
The area of the back windows was really good. No rust. So I removed the glass and seals and sanded it down a bit, primered and used undercoating. Than over that Black paint to seal it. No pics.
For the doors, I treated the surface rust and did the same treatment. I removed the windows and seals to get to all of the doors inside. No pics.
And the cowl area I sanded down to bare metal.
And did the same but as well as inside the entire channel all the way to inside the car under the dash board where the vents come out. That was real difficult and had to use mirrors and even dentist teeth mirrors so I can get all the nooks and crannies.
Heres some shots inside the cowl/ vent area.
In the end when the car is all finished with paint, I will redo the cowl area black again. I may just mask it off. I want this area to be black and not the same color as the car from over spray through the cowl body panel spaces.
Afterwards I redid the Emergency brake assembly. Used my phosphoric acid on it and repainted black. Good as new.
I should have taken a before pic.
Ok so I have finished what was important to me for right now and was anxious to start on the front part of the car. I ran the engine for a long while, and tested it to see if it overheats and accelerates etc. All was great.
After that I ripped it out! The engine and tranny.
When I pulled it out I was amazed and amused at this line up. Heres the Big Block 454 next to my 2.0L Turbo block from my Eagle Talon (a spare). Wow!! I'm really loving the Big block business!
So first I had to clean the tranny up. It was just nasty. Power washer and degreaser with a brush. This tranny will eventually be satin black. (TH350)
The engine was the next thing. I cleaned it up first. Than I used phosphoric acid to clear the rust. than I did heavy masking and masked off the heads to paint the block. Lots of tape and was a very tedious process. Note the intake manifold was not painted. I degreased it but will eventually get a new manifold.
Now after I painted the block I was going to paint the heads, but then decided that I may just get new heads. The color of the heads was going to be aluminum silver but I may just buy aluminum heads. So I went after the carb. Its a 750 CFM Carb.
If I thought the block masking was a pita, That was easy compared to the carb. I took it apart to be able to get it painted like this. I took multiple pics in every angle before I took it apart to make sure I put it back together correctly.
Than I degreased and used the phosphoric acid on the power steering box and linkage.
Before after degreasing.
After phosphoric acid treatment. Almost 2 day treatment.
Painted. The linkage in between will be Satin black. Both the Red and aluminum color paint is VHT Caliper paint. I have used these paints before on my other project and they are really durable and resistant to oil, grease etc.
This acid your using to clean , dose it affect gaskets and seals, dry them out? Just curious
So far with my experience with it, it does not affect rubber or plastic at all. Does nothing like drying those materials out. When I use product, I do not dip parts into a bath of acid. I use a spray bottle and spray it on my parts. If the treatment is going to take days, I come back to spray part every couple of hours basically keeping it wet. For areas where I cannot get the acid to stay wet for more than 2-3 hours I take paper towels and place it over affected rust area. Than spray acid all over paper towel. The paper towel will keep acid on top of rust and the rust will dissolve away.
I only use the bath method for smaller parts lke screws. I put them in a tub of product and leave them there submerged for 24hrs. If you drop a screw that is completely rusty, 24 hrs later its 100% clear of ALL of the rust. To me its a miracle product. Its just amazing! The thing to remember is time and patience is what is needed for this to work. The more rust you have, the more time you need. Because size of part plays a big role in how you use product, larger parts takes longer to restore because part cannot stay wet enough long enough. The trick is getting the product to continue to eat away at the rust. For my tub of product (I use a tub from whey protein powder) when I use it for lots of screws and stuff, after I'm done the acid is all black and on the bottom is alot of sludge. The rust it eats away stays on the bottom as sludge. It becomes really nasty looking.
Basically if possible, you could take the whole car, dip it into this stuff and 24hrs later, have it spiffy clean! Thats my opinion!
When you are done and you remove product, the metal will flash rust within 15-30 minutes. If you are not going paint it than a trick to keep the metal from flashing is take some and mist a rag with product. Than basically rub the flash rust cleaning it. The metal will instantly return to normal and will not flash rust again. Not alot is needed, just wiping it down with product is enough and it will instantly dry leaving it perfectly rust free again. Then before painting rub/clean metal down with acetone to prepare for paint.
This stuf will literally eat away at concrete so I use those plastic sheets that you get from Home Depot for painting. I lay it over the floor and place part over it. Also use rubber gloves because it can burn your skin. A paper cut will feel like they sliced your finger off!
Ok so after that was done I moved on to the Subframe parts. This is the good part.
I had to restore the radiator support cause it was rusty. So being that this is a large part i had to do it in two halves. First one side than another. Heres what I started with. You can see that its all rusty.
Heres a pic when I first got the Phosphoric acid on with a good rub down. I first used a wire brush to get all the loose stuff off than sprayed it down and gave another rub down with a stiff brush.
After 8 hours of treatment
After 3 days of treatment. Basically a day and a half on each side.
So next is the Subframe. This was a major challenge because after reading up on other peoples experience with removal of the subframe, I felt that I did not want to deal with alignment issues. So I had to restore it without removing it from car.
So here it is upon removal of engine. Really really nasty!!!
I removed everything from the subframe and will replace it all with new parts. So I took a spatula and scraped away at all the crud to begin the process.
Than I used a degreaser and brushes and scotch brite pads to clean as much as possible. Than i dried it up real good in preparation to use my acid treatment.
This was the largest part to date that I have used the acid on. It took a week for the entire process with 4 of the days dedicated to the acid treatment. Everyday I used heavy duty scotch brite pads with lots of the acid, and making sure to keep it wet. And after the 4 day treatment, it looks like this.
After I did this I attacked the tranny tunnel and part of the undercarriage with degreaser. I then wanted a durable coating with texture so i chose to go with a Truck bed coating. This stuff dries really tuff and has a satin finish and its abrasion resitant. I put 4 coats (6 cans) Looks awesome. I did all parts that I was physically able to get stuff onto. Even as far inside the subframe as I could. The undercarriage (tranny tunnel) was also coated with the truck bed coating. Also I would like to point out that when I did the subframe, I didn't just do the engine portion, but the entire subframe, all the way under the car. Let me tell you it was not easy, but to avoid the alighnment issues I felt it was worth it (thats why it took me a week). I used everything I could from scotch pad, to brushes and even tooth brushes to ensure I got to all of the subframe with degreasing and treatment.
Heres a closeup of the texture. I also did the Front bumper brackets with the same treatment and truck bed coating. Even inside!
Now the firewall from the factory is hideous. I hated the seam seal sludge they used and that big 'ol windshield wiper motor sticking out. Plus with the big block filling the engine bay, I just wanted a bit more of a clean look.
I saw that many have done it and really liked the way a smooth seamless firewall looked. So I decided to try it.
Heres the ugly firewall. I show arrows on the hideous part.
I have never used body filler before so this was going to be the huge test. I started with sanding down the firewall to bare metal and removing the seam seal to see what I have to deal with. Initially I wanted to just make that seam disappear.
I chose Metal to Metal for the body filler. It is great. Easy to sand and feathers so nicely. Dries pretty quick too.
After laying some down I decided that it was not enough. I wanted to keep the heat but hated that wiper motor there. After searching for options, I saw that it can be moved to the Driver side. So I made a cardboard template and with a level, made the template. I used a level because when transferring template to the Driver side, the leveled cardboard would allow me to get the mounting holes exactly as the original.
From the same template I made a steel cover to weld the original hole shut.
I also welded the heater wire hole and moved it to a hidden location. Also some of the firewall rubber plug holes that held the firewall insulation in place.
I used a Ruler and a 2 foot level to help me get the firewall as straight as possible.
Than just when I thought I was finished, I noticed that there was a plug or cap screwed to the firewall under the brake master cylinder hole. I did some research and found that it was for the manual cars clutch. Since I prefer the Nova to be automatic, that hole had to go.
So I took that same plug and put it on the inside of the firewall and welded it from the outside of the firewall. Saved me the trouble of making a piece to fit in that hole.
I am keeping the Heater and will be getting the Camaro Big Block heater core and cover. Than maybe in the future i will be getting the Vintage Air unit (unless I decide to get it sooner) Its not priority right now so I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
Had to repair a section under the windshield. So I cut out the rust and welded a new piece. I used sheet metal and shaped it to fir the section. I had to brake the winshield but it already was cracked due to pressure buildup from the rust.
Than I started on the body work. I had a spot on the Quarter panel that had whats called the oil can effect. So I researched and found that heating and rapidly cooling was the way to remedy it. So I got Propane and heat the panel up real hot. Than with a rag of cold cold water, I cooled it. It was a miracle...The panel tightened up and it was stiff with no oil canning.
Than I started the stripping process. I used chemical stripping to strip the paint. It was painted once and it looks like they did it with rattle can. The stripper stripped both layers but not the factory primer. So i had to sand it manually. I used a mouse sander with 80 grit paper. After it was at the bare metal stage I blocked it and was able to see all the low spots. Than used my Metal to metal body filler to repair. This was the worst panel. The rest just have dings and minor imperfection but I have yet to see how they look in bare metal.
You're learning a ton of tricks in very short period of time! These tricks will serve you well for many, many, years to come. Keep it coming! Don't forget to ask tons of questions, there is a huge fountain of knowledge on this site, so drink often my friend, drink often...
1973 Nova SS
So many projects....so little time!!
The AutoGuide.com network consists of the largest network of enthusiast-owned enthusiast-operated automotive communities.
AutoGuide.com provides the latest car reviews, auto show coverage, new car prices, and automotive news. The AutoGuide network operates more than 100 automotive forums where our users consult peers for shopping information and advice, and share opinions as a community.