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Discussion Starter #1
1966 Moar Door - Project "Wow, that could have gone really bad really easily..."

Hey all. Long time member here that just hasn't gotten around to making a build thread. I'm about to embark on some suspension modernization so I figured now was a good time to start.

I'm going to spam a couple initial posts with pictures and stories about stuff I've done over the past year or so while I try and get caught up to where we're at today.

First though, a little background. I've got a 66 4 door, factory 230 3 speed car. Car was bought off a little old lady in the 70's as something for my mom to drive. It served that purpose admirably until getting hit in the driver front fender when another car ran a light. Insurance company said it was totaled, my grandfather bought it back.

From there it sat in my grandfather's garage for a few decades, being resurrected temporarily by one of my uncles to drive in high school until finally a teenage me decided he wanted something fun to wrench on.

My mom reminded me that the old Nova was still sitting there and my gearhead journey began.

Here's the car as delivered to me by my grandparents when I was 16:



Here is the car today:



Now... We begin our journey.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Engine Swap

So, at some point, teenage me got bored with the I6 and couldn’t be bothered to fix the linkage on the 3 speed so it would stop binding and getting stuck between gears and thought “engine swap.”

Here’s the only version of this picture I still have but it’s my dad and I trying to figure out what exactly we were doing…



Neither of us had done something like this before, I read forums, hotrod articles, books, anything I could to figure out how to do this (admittedly very simple) swap. It was a huge deal to me.

We helped a friend pull a 4 bolt block out of a truck that he was going to swap another engine into and he gave us the whole long block as a result. In hindsight that was huge and something that I plan on paying forward as the years go.

The first engine build was pretty poor but I was a kid, what do you expect. It was your typical over camed, poorly tuned, weak SBC build but it had the right sound, and thanks to my terrible tuning skills at the time, idled like something that should run in pro stock.

I had the foresight to realize that I would grenade the old Saginaw 3 speed and as luck would have it had another 6 cylinder Nova as a parts car that had a powerglide. I pulled that and rebuilt it in the same garage from that picture. That was another great step in my understanding of how cars function. We bought a rebuild book, had a machine shop add the room for extra clutches in the 6 cylinder case, and I installed a shift kit (of course…) Installed a Hurst Quarter Stick and was thoroughly convinced I had a full-fledged racecar on my hands. Life was good.

When I wasn’t doing homework or stuff for the Boy Scouts, I was in that garage working on the car. This was in Wyoming and that garage had no heat but let’s be honest, that wasn’t much of a deterrent.

Once it was all done I got the car back on the road. The combination was weak (bad tune, bad rear gear, bad heads, teenager behind the wheel)… It couldn’t break the tires free from a stop even with that “tall” 1.82 first gear in the 6 cylinder powerglide. The only redeeming factor was being able to wrap it up to 70 in first gear before slapping the stick into second. That was good for some fun in high school.

The car kept that paint job for a while and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Here’s one more picture just for nostalgia’s sake:



The next time we see the Nova, things will be a little different…
 

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New Paint

Okay… Fast forward about a year. I’ve been rocking the moar door and at this point high school auto shop and prolonged forum trolling has convinced me the issue with my old SBC build wasn’t the crap heads and tuneup, it was the displacement. Anyway, as part of autoshop I needed to build an engine so why not stroke this one.

That assignment drove me to put together a 383 with the same cam, and the same very mediocre heads. Some die grinder porting between my buddies and I probably helped the heads flow but at the end of the day they're still smog heads sitting on this thing. Oh well, my favorite price is still free.

As a high school job I worked for a resto shop as a shop hand after school. This was without a doubt the best thing that could have happened. While friends of mine were asking folks if they would like frys with that I was taking DA's and sanding blocks to people's pride and joy all in the name of building something amazing for them.

I did body work, some welding, and some assembly/disassembly as needed. My boss (the owner) is an amazing guy and agreed to paint the beast for cost. Excellent paint job let down only by the fact that I did better body work for him and his customers than I did on my own car… The car still sports this excellent paint but my bad body work does show through…

Not much else to add here, pictures from this time are scarce but here are pics from the paint room the day my “current” iteration of the Nova was born. What a day…



























Unfortunately the next batch of pictures will come about 10 years after these.

College, life, apartment living, and the randomness of the world prevented continued wrenching. When my wife and I bought our home here in Cali and finally had the space for me to wrench on the old Nova my folks found a way to reunite me with the old girl.

Years of sitting weren’t exactly kind to her but she lives and that’s really all that matters.

Stay tuned.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Resurrection

As eluded to in my last post my beloved Nova sat for about 10 years while I educated myself, started a career, and met my beautiful wife before I finally had a place to get this resurrection underway and uncover all the missteps high school me made years ago. What a learning process…

So the car made it’s most recent cross country trip, this time out to me from PA to CA, but on the back of a trailer. My folks had some other things to bring to aid our house warming but the Nova got a ride on a trailer and it was literally the first time she saw daylight in almost a decade.

Despite the neglect, the old girl still looks good. Viva La Nova!







I promised myself, and my wife that we’d finish the house renovations before I started getting sucked into working on the Nova so she sat for a bit longer but after a decade it really wasn’t that bad… (She still looks fast at least...)
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Breathing New Life

House work more or less done and the Nova picking up dust and mold in the driveway it was finally time to see if she would start.

An issue I assumed was wiring related turned out to be a bad battery and after some judicious priming of the carb she fired up. Now… starting it using whatever varnish / gas was in the tank was probably a bad idea but given what this car has been through in it’s life it’s hardly out of the norm. Here’s a video. I didn’t touch a thing, same terrible tune that I drove the thing from Wyoming to Pennsylvania on in 2006 but she still started and sounded “okay.” It was nice to hear noise from the old girl.




Couple items to note… Yes, that’s a beer bottle being used to prime the carb (don’t worry, I drank the beer first…) and yes, the fan belt sounds terrible (it’s been fixed…).
Still sounds okay though if you can look past that.

Here's a different angle on it, it sounds good in the garage for sure.


Okay, so, a 383, turbo 350, and a sub-par tune that a high school kid did. That means one thing… A terrible “burnout” in front of the house. Enjoy.


Now we start to move forward and uncover some things that high school me clearly wasn’t paying attention to and we learn why this project has been named project "Wow, that could have gone really bad really easily…"

Stay tuned.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Suspension

Resurrected but not really driveable… A few laps around the block and a trip to the DMV to get tags made it pretty clear that this car had gotten quite a bit more sketchy after sitting for 10 years than I realized.

I did some deducing and decided that the absolutely shot ball joints and tie rod ends probably needed replaced after 50 years of abuse. The steering felt terrible and the ride was bad too. What I found makes perfect sense but is also the catalyst for the name of this project.

Project "Wow, that could have gone really bad really easily…"

Here are some highlights. Notice the factory ball joints that drove essentially coast to coast, twice, like that and did a drag strip pass at 100 mph while I was in college… Lucky to be alive I think…









(Yes, that ball joint is shattered...)

Ah hotrodding...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks folks!

It's sort of fun to go through all the stuff that's been done in the past few years and put it all together. Really makes me realize just how much rehabilitation I've been doing...

More updates incoming.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
My whole time with this car, high school included, I’ve had issues with the carb. The carb didn’t seem to respond to idle air adjustments, always seemed to load up after sitting a bit when hot, impossibly hard to start sometimes, and stumbled and cutout when cornering. All issues far too “mysterious” for high school me to figure out…

Well, I finally decided it was time to dig in to this.

I added a fuel regulator:



When that still didn’t resolve the issues I decided I better take the top off the carb and at least check the float levels and see what jets I had in it when I found this:



That’s a badly bent metering rod… It wasn’t even in the jet and I’m 100% certain that an impatient, younger version of myself did this because he couldn't be bothered to take the covers off and remove the rods before putting the top back on.

I also found some crud in the bowls but beyond that everything looked okay.





I hadn’t had the top off that carb since I built the engine. That means that all this time I’ve been driving around with 1 bank’s jet completely open. That also means that when stopped that bowl is draining into the engine, causing the hard to start issues, lack of responsiveness to idle air mixture screw adjustment, the issues with cornering, and the stumbling that I experienced when idling for a long time and trying to accelerate hard. It ran great (once it cleared up) at WOT, which makes sense because at that point the cruise circuit is out of the equation. Good find but of course then this happened:



I think this was previously damaged (by me) because the screw broke almost immediately when I tried to remove it. So faced with the dilemma of needing a replacement carb top or being forced to buy a whole new carb I went to ebay. Luckily I was able to find a 650 cfm model (mine is a 750) that I could steal the top off of for a good price. I know I could have just replaced the carb but at this point I was so bitter about how bad that carb had been over the years that I just wanted it to run right, plus that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than something new…
I got it back together and confirmed that at least part of my tune up issue was related to the rod. Also, notice the number 1 spark plug. It’s hard to see in the picture but it’s pitch black. If I had been bothered to check the plugs at any point previously I would have realized something was not right.







So now that I was back on the road and running again it was time to focus on something way to “unglamorous” for a younger me… Stopping.

Brakes are next and boy were they over due (hence our project name yet again...)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Brakes

I’ve alluded to this in the previous posts but when I was building this car back in high school the only things I had the time or patience for involved making it go faster in a straight line. Even that (see my previous update about the condition of my carb) I clearly didn’t have a ton of patience for so it’s no surprise the brakes were questionable at best when I started working on the car again.

I noticed some fluid on the inside of one of the front tires and saw that the car pulled badly and unexpectedly under braking so I knew something was up. I suspected at a minimum I had a bad wheel cylinder but as I dug in I realized that the hard lines, and rubber lines all probably needed replaced in the interest of safety.
My suspicions were confirmed and at least one of the wheel cylinders was toast so it was time for some new parts.







Here’s the worst offender of the lot, yuck…



The brake shoes looked okay actually so they went back on with the drums. The rest was replaced. I got new spring kits, new wheel cylinders, and new lines all around. I used that NiCu Nickel Copper tubing and oh my god was it nice compared to the stainless steel stuff I had used before…













I also addressed a perpetual transmission leak that I’d literally been fighting ever since putting the TH350 in. Turns out my kickdown cable “delete” was cracked and causing the leak. That took an embarrassingly long time to figure out but I was able to create my own delete plate with some silicone.



Those years of leaking and being run low on fluid I’m sure contributed to that transmission’s early demise but that’s a story for a different post.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wiring

Having the car on the road again was fun, so was being able to stop, but I finally got too uneasy about the sketchy wiring in the car after realizing that I could blow a fuse at will turning on my auxiliary dash lights. At some point a full kit from painless will be in order but for now I did my best with a universal fuse block and more or less replicating the factory wiring. I kept pretty good notes about what went where but I’m sure it won’t be quite as easy to troubleshoot in future than a kit that’s labeled but it’s better than an electrical fire.

Once again earning its name here, here are some of the highlights from Project “Wow that could have gone really bad really easily.”

Under the dash (yikes!):



Some excellent soldering attempts by a 16 year old me…







These scary wires with charred insulation… The wire from the starter to the distributor (that pink on that had the resistor on it back when the car had points) was missing insulation in parts and was very crispy… I feel like this was a ticking time bomb.





Now modern me’s soldering attempt:



That’s a lineman’s splice. I think we can call that progress.

Here’s the universal fuse block (I would get something different next time but this worked still):



Interior wiring in progress:



Circuit Breaker and new battery leads:





Somewhere along the line while rewiring the old HEI distributor decided to die. The car would not run if the vacuum advance was connected, so suspecting a loose connection I decided to just get a replacement. I went a pretty low cost option and I’m sure I’ll end up needing something else in the future but it got the car back on the road at least.





Now we’re one step closer to “done for now” and way safer than before…
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Well with great progress, sometimes come great setbacks…

I wrapped up the wiring and decided to take a trip to home depot for some material to make a better radiator bracket since the radiator was previously held on to the core support with “hopes” rather than fasteners… On the way the th350 started making a terrible grinding noise under deceleration in first, and I started to regret not fixing that transmission leak sooner…

I got to home depot, parked, got what I needed, and could barely get out of the spot in reverse. Limped it along and got into a parking spot at the nearby shopping center and went on a hike for some transmission fluid, hoping that was all that was wrong (but knowing it was probably more serious than that.) Fluid didn’t do it and I limped the car to another parking spot adjacent an Applebees (because at this point I could use a beer) and called a tow truck.

So the maiden voyage with the new wiring ends on the back of a truck… She looks good on a truck at least.



I pulled the transmission pan later that weekend and confirmed my description of the transmission feeling “crunchy” was apt as there was a bunch of metal and glitter in the pan.





Now decision time… I’ve always missed this thing being a manual, maybe now’s the time to get my third pedal back in action. After much deliberation and going back and forth between hugely expensive TKO 600’s, 700r4’s, and 2004r’s the word “Muncie” popped into my head and I decided something old school might be the right route for now.

Craigslist came through in a pinch and a few weeks later I had a new project on my hands, rebuilding an M21…




Exciting times.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Muncie Rebuild

So after a few weeks of being down for the count I found the M20 with a scatter shield and some other goodies locally and got busy figuring out how you go about rebuilding one of these.

Paul Cangialosi’s youtube channel “GearBoxVideo” is an amazing resource, and so is his book on rebuilding the Muncie. I watched every one of his videos and Muncie tech tips at least twice while I was preparing to rebuild mine. Anyone looking to do the same should check out those videos…

Here is the Muncie playlist:


Anyway, on to the fun stuff.

I popped the cover off the transmission when I went to see it before we exchanged cash and knew for sure I was doing a full rebuild. Here we can see both early and late style syncro rings being used which is just flat out wrong. The old style use a different thickness hub (to account for having less material at the shoulder) so having both styles in use isn’t giving me a ton of confidence in the previous person who worked on this.



I went about the disassembly slowly and deliberately and took pictures so I wouldn’t forget how something went together.

Here are a few from that process:





Wear on the reverse gear, not uncommon, and I decided to reuse it for cost saving’s sake.



Here’s another shot of the two different syncro rings. Thicker one that’s in the background is the “correct” style or at least the preferred style but you do need to have the right hubs.



Sitting over the drain pan after disassembly:



Final disassembly pictures:







Now, at some point, after I stopped taking pictures apparently, I finally broke down and acknowledged that I need to get a press so in came Harbor Freight to the rescue!

Now, the reassembly can begin:





Glamour shot of what is now favorite beer for wrenching. Gotta love it sporting a 66 or 67 Nova on the can!



It took a ton of time to get the old silicone off the mid plate but I finally got it all cleaned up. I opted for new hubs and sliders because of how worn mine were. I went the matched set that Paul sells and I’m pretty happy with them. It shifts at least as smoothly as my JK Wrangler...





My new “resource pile.” NEVER throw anything away until the project is finished… Mama didn’t raise no fool…



I got a new brass speedo gear, the weird plastic one that was on it was pinned in place and impossible to remove without literally destroying it. New one got some love from a torch and slid on nicely.



Output shaft seal installed:



Countergear bearing install. At least as fun as packing wheel bearings.







Case is ready for reassembly



Reassembly honestly went way faster than I anticipated. I have no pictures of the actual process, just this of the thing all dressed up and looking for somewhere to go.



Part of the box of parts I got with the transmission was a pair of Hurst Comp. Plus shifters. If replacements weren’t so darn expensive I’d just buy one but I had two and figured I can make a working one out of the two so on to another new adventure!







Here are a couple “extra pieces” from the rebuild kit. I was almost positive that they were for other versions of this transmission but I sent Paul a message just to be sure. He confirmed, they’re not needed for mine.



Now, in hindsight I probably could have done this swap without taking out the engine but between the scattershield, addition of a pilot bearing, and the measurements needed for the new hydraulic throwout bearing this seemed like the easier route. Also an excuse to buy a hoist from Harbor Freight. Win win.









And here we have the offender:



This is a long enough post I think so I’m going to break it here and resume with the conversion in the next post.

Thanks!

hotrod
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Here we have the transmission and scattershield sitting on the bench so I can get my measurements for the shims on the hydraulic throwout bearing.



Checking the runnout on a used scattershield where the ID is full of knicks was… interesting… At the end of the day I’m sure I’m “close enough” for a 50 year old transmission.



This would be the first clutch I tried… My box of parts also came with a 12 inch B and B style clutch and pressure plate. Note to future me, this was a bad idea, just buy a fresh clutch next time… (More of that in the next post I think.)







Throwout bearing shim measurements



I love maths in the morning.



Clutch master cylinder and bracket. Took some massaging to get the fitment right but it all worked out.



The way the holes were layed out gave the pushrod a really bad angle through the factory mounting hole so I clearanced them a bit.



Here we go, time to install everything!





Yes, this is my “transmission jack,” it worked, that’s about all I have to say about that.



Success and it makes noise again, life it good!




That's all for this post. The next one will be one of those "if I knew then what I know now" posts. Oh well, car life goes that way sometimes...
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Clutch Woes

So the engine is back in and Iv’e got a few odds and ends to wrap up before the car can drive under its own power again.

Here’s the new driveshaft from a local shop:



The rest of this is a bit of a drag but it has a happy ending…

When rotating the driveshaft while the clutch was depressed there was a terrible grinding / scraping noise.

You can see a little bit of what was causing this here where the paint is gone on the old clutch disk.



So… Out comes the transmission again.





Some further inspection shows that the issue was a bit more serious than I had realized. I think the profile of the B&B style pressure plate was interfering with the throwout bearing as evidence by this brass dust and these interestingly machined hydraulic lines… Oh well, you live you learn.





Here’s a little GoPro action of the issue while the fine folks on here were helping me troubleshoot (terrible noise, I know):


Also, tech tip… Hex head bolts on a scattershield isn’t a great idea if there isn’t enough room to slip a socket on them for removal.

If you end up in this boat just head to the hardware shop and ask for something in this size, SAE, not metric:





Seriously though, that was terrible. Hours of dremel work before I was finally able to get the last two bolts out so I could install the new clutch.

Speaking of which, here we go, some nice new hotness for the Nova.









New clutch installed and now the transmission can go back in, hopefully for the last time in a while...



Here’s the first drive around the block after getting everything (but the exhaust) back together again. Clutch releases much lower than I’m used to so that’s taken some getting used to but man it’s fun with 3 pedals…


Back on the road yet again…
 

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Dude this is very cool, I too miss the sad 3 speed manual in my ChevyII
 

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Discussion Starter #18
So it's been a few weeks since I posted and since my CBR stuff just arrived today I figured I better keep going and get caught up on these posts.

Last post the nova was back on the road, with a new clutch, and life was good.

Decided I wanted to try taking the car to Reno to see the hot august nights festivities but wanted to get some miles on it first. Decided a weekend trip to the east bay was in order.

The good: The car ran pretty well and actually got decent mileage which is a huge plus!

The bad: She got really hot and left me a puddle of oil under the car after I pulled into the garage. That's not good and the car wasn't going to Reno as it looked like the pan was cracked.

I on the other hand was still going to reno and had a blast.

When I got back I had 2 simple (I thought) projects.

1. Replace the pan (damn you stock steering and your funky low slung pan designs!!!)

2. Upgrade the cooling which at the time was a pair of weak electric fans on the radiator and a mechanical fan. No shroud and by the time I returned from the test drive neither electric fan was working anymore anyway...

Number 1 was easy, ordered a pan and started waiting.

Here's the carnage that caused the leak, must have been a rock and a dip in the road that compressed the springs. I didn't feel a thing...



Here's the new pan:



Number 2 I decided to go the route of the T-bird Dorman fan that I've heard so much about. Simple right?

At face value yes... Fan fits my radiator really well and I was able to fab up some simple mounts. All I had to do is knock out off the factory style mounting tabs.







Unfortunately, I was running a long style water pump and there just wasn't enough room for the new fan with that pump in there so, new parts...

  • Pump
  • Temp Sensor
  • Crank Pulley
  • Waterpump Pulley
  • Alternator
  • Alternator Bracket (after like 4 different iterations...
  • Belt

Got all that purchased and installed and wired up the new fan and once again, back on the road.

 

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Discussion Starter #19
Dude this is very cool, I too miss the sad 3 speed manual in my ChevyII
Thanks!

There's a piece of me that really wishes I had kept the 3 on the tree behind the V8 until something broke... I'm so happy to have a stick again, the car just feels right with 3 pedals.
 

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Congrats on the "getting it back on the road" part. I hope to be there in the next few months. It always seems like one step forward and like 3 steps back or you also need this and this and this....it never ends lol. How are you liking the hydro clutch?
 
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