Retro is all the rage.
Visit your friendly neighborhood car lot and see for yourself: mile-long hoods hiding powerful V8 engines, outlandish horsepower and torque-twisting fat rear tires, evocative aesthetics recalling legendary nameplates. There’s no denying it—we’re up to our dipsticks in a hot-rod renaissance.
For Ed Greaves, this retro resurgence has been a long time coming, but the latest throwback offerings can’t hang with his homemade neo-Nova. Boasting high-tech hardware wrapped in authentic ’60s sheetmetal, he’s created a calendar-defying muscle car that spans 50 years of Detroit iron.
Claiming three Novas to his name—a rough-around-the-edges ’62 from his high school days, followed by a 1967 SS complete with a 327 small block, and finally this ’65 SS—Greaves isn’t some newcomer slinging late-model parts at a classic bowtie. He knows a thing or two about Novas and exactly where Chevy left room for improvement.
“These cars weren’t exactly fast back then,” Greaves said. “And they weren’t put together great, either. But now, I think this one drives and looks better than any Nova did when it was new.”
Equipped from the factory with Chevy’s venerable 283 small block, Greaves’ Nova SS rolled off the assembly line in 1965 packing a shade under 200 horsepower, which was capable of nudging the X-body to 60 miles per hour in a decidedly old-school 11 seconds. Today, that’s family hatchback territory. However, like any proper hot rodder, he overcame this absence of acceleration by opting for an engine with a bit more oomph.
He exchanged the Nova’s crusty, cast-iron lump for an all-modern, all-aluminum LS2 plucked from a totaled 2006 GTO (Pontiac’s own ill-fated attempt at a retro revival). According to Greaves, the GTO’s fuel-injected 400-horsepower mill and six-speed T-56 transmission deliver a driving experience that’s light years ahead of an original ’65 Nova SS.
“Yes, it’s possible to get 400 horsepower or more out of a Chevy 283, but you’ll sacrifice drivability,” he said. “With the LS2, the computer does a lot of the tuning, so the Nova rides great and is still way quicker than anything else I’ve built, including my old Pro Touring ’55 Chevy—and that had a 502.”
Seeking to add more power to the factory 400 horses, Greaves outfitted the state-of-the-art LS2 with a handful of tried-and-true performance upgrades, including a set of Mahle forged pistons, a COMP Cams XFI RPM hydraulic roller cam, and a K&N cold air intake.
Of course, that hopped-up LS2 is a lot for a 50-year-old chassis to handle, which is why he called in some reinforcements. To contend with all of that twenty-first century twist, Greaves ditched the Nova’s antique front subframe in favor of a cutting-edge setup from the guys at TCI Engineering.
Constructed of tubular steel, the bolt-in TCI front clip features a double wishbone suspension system with QA1 adjustable coil-overs and two-inch lowering spindles, plus 12-inch disc brakes for contemporary stopping power. The setup wouldn’t look out of place under the hood of a late-model muscle car, but unlike a fit-to-burst modern engine bay, Greaves’ execution comes across as clean and uncluttered.
“I tried to hide as much of the electronic and air conditioning stuff as I could, because I think it takes away from the engine,” he said. “Most of it’s tucked under the fenders and stuffed behind the dash. The battery is hidden in the trunk—I just wish I would have found some space to add power steering.”
Out back, the Nova takes a more classic approach, sporting a set of Calvert Racing lowering mono leaf springs with CalTracs traction bars and Monroe struts, plus a narrowed subframe and rear axle. That extra space provides enough room to house a set of 17-inch x 8-inch Weld RT-S S71 wheels wrapped in grippy BFGoodrich Super Sports.
This seamless blend of old and new continues into the body and paint, where Greaves—plus long-time friend and professional body man, Joe Enderle—took great care in rehabbing and reimagining the Nova’s aging sheetmetal.
“When I first bought the car, it was in decent shape, but it needed some work,” Greaves said.
However, sandblasting revealed rust scattered throughout the Nova’s original bodywork.
“By the time we were done, Joe and I had patched the floor in a couple spots, replaced the entire right rear quarter and half of the left, plus the right door skin and both fenders,” he said. “Good thing Joe is the master of panel alignment—everything from the trunk to the hood is lined up better than it came from the factory.”
“If you have any pride in your work, you’ll find a way to line it up!” Enderle said.
With the sheetmetal sorted, Greaves picked up the spray gun, laying down a moody two-tone House of Kolor paint job, featuring Platinum Pearl on the bottom and a custom-mixed Gunmetal Gray on top, separated by a black pearl accent stripe. The trim adds to the low-key look, swapping the traditional chrome for something a bit subdued.
“When I was coming up with ideas for the car, I went to shows and made notes on what I liked and what I didn’t,” Greaves said. “And it seemed like everyone had everything polished or chromed. You see so much of it. So I decided that I’d do something different and scuff all the trim, and if I couldn’t scuff it, I’d paint it.”
Armed with a stack of Scotch-Brite™ pads, Greaves gathered all of his courage and gave the Nova’s chrome window trim, door handles, and grille a brushed look, then refinished the bumpers in nickel—rather than brighter chrome—to complete the subtle transformation. Being too rough and pitted to brush or re-plate, the Nova’s characteristic tail panel was sanded smooth and painted body color to match.
That discreet and modern look is continued inside with coordinating dark gray vinyl upholstery; each seat (the front buckets borrowed from a ’64 Impala) finished with a black center stripe and bright red stitching for a pop of color. The driver is treated to a leather-wrapped Billet Specialties Split Spoke steering wheel and Hurst Competition/Plus shifter, plus a full complement of Auto Meter Phantom gauges where the original clocks once were.
Boasting clean lines, impressive power, and a low price tag, the Nova SS was a hit among enthusiasts, but 50 years of advancement left Chevy’s shining star looking dull by today’s standards. Rather than laying down the cash for a new car wrapped in old-school aesthetics, Greaves relied on his hot-rodding roots to infuse the best of the ’60s muscle car era with today’s unparalleled performance and refinement. The result is an authentic tribute to muscle cars of all eras, and one that’s guaranteed to be a future classic.
Frame: TCI tubular front clip, custom narrowed rear end
Suspension: QA1 front coil-overs, Calvert Racing rear leaf springs with CalTracs traction bars, TCI 2″ drop spindles
Brakes: Disc brake conversion (GM 11″ front, Ford 12″ rear)
Other Items: Ford manual rack-and-pinion steering, TCI 1″ diameter anti-roll bar
Engine and Transmission
Engine Type: GM LS2 (2006PontiacGTO)
Induction: K&N 69 Series Typhoon cold air intake
Exhaust: Street & Performance headers, 2 1/2″ custom-bent tubing, Flowmaster 50 Series mufflers
Transmission Type: Tremec T-56 transmission, Hurst Competition/Plus shifter
Modifications: Shaved rocker/fender trim, brushed stainless steel window trim and door handles, smoothed and brushed grille, painted decklid panel and taillight trim
Paint Color: House of Kolor Platinum Pearl/custom mix two-tone with black pearl accent stripe
Body and Paint By: Ed Greaves and Joe Enderle
Modifications: Impala SS front bucket seats, black/gray vinyl upholstery
Other Items: Auto Meter Phantom gauges, Secretaudio SST stereo system
Upholstery By: Dennis Martin
Joe Enderle, Dale Smith, Mike Wollert
Photography By: Todd Biss Photography