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Urban legend: Josh Dalton’s ’67 Nova

8 March 2017


Josh Dalton’s ’67 Chevy II Nova has thoroughly dispelled that old ‘No va — doesn’t go’ urban legend, and is creating a few new ones of its own

You’ll no doubt have heard that story about how Chevrolet’s Nova sold poorly in Latin America because no va essentially translates to ‘doesn’t go’ in Spanish. While the translation part of the story is technically true, the rest is nothing more than a myth — an urban legend that spread like wildfire, becoming accepted as fact in the most remote corners of the globe. Even if there had been a grain of truth in that myth, and the Nova, in fact, hadn’t gone, that would fail to apply to Josh Dalton’s ’67 — a dream of a car that looks great and, believe it or not, goes even better.

Josh had played around with a few cars, culminating in a late-model HSV GTS, but he soon tired of it — the realization that he didn’t drive the HSV enough, it depreciated quicker than it accelerated, and it lacked the soul and character of an older vehicle was all he needed to begin thinking seriously about getting into classic American muscle cars and hot rods. When his best mate imported a ’72 Buick GS, Josh took the next big step towards achieving his goal — the GTS was sold, and his internet-trawling sessions got a whole lot more serious.

While some people know exactly what their dream car is, right down to the last detail, others don’t know until they happen to catch sight of it and realize that they’re looking right at it. It’s unlikely that Josh thought he’d be a member of the latter camp, until, while deep in one of those online toy hunts, he came across this impeccable example of a restomodded ’67 Nova.
Josh had originally been looking for a ’60s-era Camaro or Chevelle, but, the more he looked, the more he felt himself drawn to ’60s Novas. Coming across this particular car switched on that metaphorical light bulb above his head, powered by a series of neuron signals it had just been made aware of concerning the perfection of the vehicle, and Josh began devising a way of getting the Nova into his possession.

Fortunately, that didn’t prove very difficult: Josh arranged to have the car inspected by, the inspection returned a favourable verdict, and the purchase was negotiated — all without his having seen the car or spoken to the owner. That said, the Nova had been commissioned by a rich old guy, who never really even drove it, despite the top-tier quality of the build, as he had a vast collection of cars at his disposal. Some people have a hard life, don’t they?

Josh contacted Extreme Global to take care of the paperwork and shipping, and a TCI four-link kit and various other bits and pieces also found their way into the shipping container. Four weeks later, the Nova was being dropped off outside Josh’s workshop. 

With the car finally here, it was the proverbial ‘kid at Christmas’ scenario — Josh was right in there, familiarizing himself with every aspect of the car. Even though the old guy had barely driven the Nova, he hadn’t skimped where it mattered. The workmanship was top shelf, for the most part, and the way in which the Nova had been built gave it a distinctly fresh flavour, without detracting one bit from its ’60s charm. Even so, there were areas of the car that required attention.

The most obvious was the missing parking brake. This was rectified with a Lokar foot-operated parking brake. With the kit and cables installed, Josh took the car down to Paul Urquhart at North Shore Compliance Centre to get the car VINed and certified, thinking this would be a straightforward procedure for such a well-presented car. 
“Boy, was I wrong,” Josh says, recalling.

The list of red flags included a number of ‘defective’ items that required remedial action. This necessitated the installation of an all-new steering column, a tilt-adjustable Ididit unit, as well as the removal of the rear leaf springs. It also resulted in an earlier installation of Josh’s TCI four-link kit — “I’d already planned [to fit] it; it just ended up being fitted sooner,” he says. Although that can’t have been fun at the time, it has done wonders for the Nova’s driving dynamics. 

While in the US, the Nova had been equipped with a Heidts Mustang II independent-front-suspension subframe, complete with rack-and-pinion steering and tubular control arms. With the Nova undergoing a series of undercarriage enhancements, Josh figured that he might as well add Heidts two-inch drop spindles and upgrade the old-style front shocks to QA1 single-adjustable coilovers. The four-link kit at the rear simply brought the remainder of the Nova’s suspension up to the standard of the rest of the car. 

The underbody dramas didn’t end there, though. As the old suspension was pulled and chassis stiffeners were welded in place, holes were found in the chassis that would need to be sorted. The GM 10-bolt diff was retained but gained a bunch of new brackets for the different suspension configuration, which included RideTech adjustable coilovers as well as an adjustable Panhard bar. The diff itself remained untouched inside, as it came filled with more than enough goodies to render it bulletproof beneath such a light car. An Eaton Posi LSD head is more than up to the task, and a 3.73:1 diff ratio makes the most of the angry little small block’s acceleration capability. 

That small block is a 355ci, based around a GM Performance Parts ZZ4 short block, rebuilt by Mark Call of North Carolina. The internals are as tough as nails, and, thanks to the reasonably warm Comp Cams camshaft, the Nova’s been blessed with an intimidating idle that’s totally at odds with its unassuming external appearance. The Lemons long-tube headers required a fair bit of custom fabrication to clear the revised steering set-up, and then it came time to get a proper exhaust system made up. 

“I went to various panel and exhaust shops around Auckland, with people telling me they were keen on the work, and saying ‘I’ll get right onto it’,” Josh says. That soon turned to ‘Yeah, I’ll get onto that next’, then to ‘Yep, should be done in a week’ — all those weeks turned into around four months, before Josh was directed towards Mike at Pit Stop Westgate. 
“At first, I thought they just do bolt-in replacements for Jappas, but, once I took the Nova there for him to look at, he left me confident he was up for the job.” 

Mike didn’t disappoint — the 2½-inch system has been fully coated by High Performance Coatings (HPC), and contains a pair of Flowmaster 40 mufflers that does a pretty mild job of silencing the small block. Well, it’s not actually that loud, with a reasonably refined — albeit angry — idle, and no drone on the motorway; it’s more to do with the way Josh drives it. 
With a Muncie M20 four-speed manual box at his right hand, Josh has no excuse not to drive the Nova as if he’d stolen it. The build-up of rubber on the rear guards should say it all. Of course, with rubbish 215/60R15 tyres on the rear and the 650cfm Holley Double Pumper having been tuned by Engine Specialties to deliver over 300hp at the wheels, loss of traction, whether accidental or deliberate, is not an uncommon phenomenon.

Even so, Josh won’t want to be getting the little Chev’s undies too dirty, because this is one of those rare cars that looks as good underneath as it does on top.

With the exhaust having been completed, he required someone who could tidy up the underside, repair the chassis rails, and weld in some proper seat mounts, as well as mounts for rear three-point seat belts — we forgot to mention that Josh has a daughter who enjoys being taken out for cruises in the Nova, and this meant a proper means of securing her car seat was required.

Josh was put onto Phil Wright of Auto Body Works in Matakana — we featured his ’67 Chevelle in our last issue — and just knew that he’d be the guy for the job. 

“Phil did a great job of everything I asked of him, and even a little extra — turns out he’s a great guy, too!” Josh says. “He gave me a hand reinstalling the four-link kit, the headers, and exhaust when the car came back from HPC, which also did an excellent job. Phil repainted the rear end and driveshaft while they were all sitting around waiting, too. It’s pretty hard to find someone who will happily let you use their workshop and hoist to put your car back together, let alone help you do it!” 

With everything back together, and the legal process beginning to wrap up, it was back to Josh’s workshop to wait for Lance Walsh to give the final OK and stick the cert plate in place. Since then, Josh has added a decent sound system, with a custom Autosound head unit that looks right at home in the ’60s dashboard and well-hidden 6×9-inch rear speakers. That said, it’s only ’60s styled to a point — you may have noted the full complement of Speedhut electronic gauges, chosen for their classy and restrained style and made-in-USA reputation, housed in a custom billet dash insert. When you drive your car as hard and often as Josh does, you need a little more than a basic trio of 50-year-old gauges.

In the short time Josh has owned it, the Nova has become something of an urban legend itself, though thankfully in a good way. Have you heard about the show-quality Nova that gets driven anywhere, regardless of the weather, or the grandpa-looking ’60s Nova that chops Porsches on motorway on ramps? We’ve heard of something like it, and, if such a car exists, it’s definitely NZV8 feature-car material …

1967 Chev Chevy II Nova
Engine: 355ci small block Chev, GM Performance Parts ZZ4 short block, forged steel crankshaft, forged rods, ARP fasteners, hypereutectic alloy pistons, 10:1 compression ratio, GM Performance Parts timing chain, Comp Cams camshaft, Comp Cams Pro Magnum roller rockers, GM Performance Parts Fast Burn alloy heads, two-inch intake valves, 1.55-inch exhaust valves, D-port exhaust, Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake manifold, 650cfm Holley Double Pumper carburettor, Billet Specialties polished air cleaner, Edelbrock mechanical fuel pump, Russell Performance -6AN fuel line and fittings, MSD distributor, MSD 6AL ignition, 6000rpm rev limiter, Lemons Headers long-tube headers, 1¾-inch primaries, three-inch collector, 2½-inch exhaust, Flowmaster 40 mufflers, fully HPC-coated exhaust system, Be Cool four-core aluminium radiator, 16-inch thermo fan, March Performance pulleys, low-mount alternator
Driveline: Muncie M20 four-speed manual, billet-steel flywheel, Centerforce II clutch, GM 10-bolt diff, Eaton Posi LSD head, 3.73:1 final-drive ratio, Moser main cap stud kit, Moser diff plate, three-inch driveshaft
Suspension: Heidts Mustang II Nova subframe kit, two-inch drop spindles, QA1 single-adjustable front shocks, 7⁄8-inch front sway bar, TCI Engineering four-link, adjustable Panhard bar, RideTech single-adjustable rear coilovers, RideTech rear sway bar, RideTech subframe connectors
Brakes: Eight-inch dual brake booster, Wilwood master cylinder, Wilwood adjustable proportioning valve, GM two-piston front calipers, GM 11-inch front discs, GM rear drum brakes
Wheels/Tyres: 15×7-inch GM steel wheels with ‘dog dish’ hubcaps, 215/60R15 tyres
Exterior: Granada Gold paint
Chassis: Heidts Mustang II front clip, TCI Engineering four-link rear, chassis stiffeners with integrated gearbox cross member
Interior: Full Speedhut electronic gauge set, custom billet dash insert, Nova SS steering wheel, Ididit tilt steering column, Hurst Competition Plus shifter, Nova SS bucket seats, Dynamat, Autosound USA-630 Bluetooth head unit, Infinity 6×9-inch rear speakers
Performance: 302hp and 295lb·ft at the wheels

Name: Josh Dalton
Age: 39
Occupation: Owner, Josh Dalton Builders
Previously owned cars: 1972 Holden HQ, 2012 HSV E3 GTS six-speed manual
Dream car: 1962 Chev Biscayne ‘bubble top’ on an Art Morrison chassis, with an LS9 and Tremec six-speed
Why the Nova? I love the look and shape of the car, and, for New Zealand, it’s a bit unusual
Build time: 14 months
Length of ownership: 18 months
Josh thanks: Phil Wright of Auto Body Works; Paul Urquhart, formerly of North Shore Compliance Centre; Lance Walsh; Mike at Pit Stop Westgate; and my family and friends for listening to me go on and on about it!