The inspiration for Craig Richey’s 1974 Nova is pretty obvious.

The car has a distinctive military theme, but that wasn’t exactly the plan when the Gladstone, MO resident started out. However, when you consider Richey’s story, the theme seems like the perfect fit.

Richey spent eight years in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011-12.

“The priority as always been family first, career second, everything else third,” Richey said.  “Unfortunately the hot rod falls into this third category. The longest delay in building this thing was the period of almost 18 months where it sat without being touched while I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011-2012. And more recently, as most dads will testify, having a toddler throws things like this completely out the window.”

Although he didn’t really have a concrete plan in mind for the Nova, Richey’s connection to the Army eventually made the blueprint for the Nova more clear.

“I got into doing the body work, and found the rust was worse than expected,” he said.  “I had to hang all new quarters, and the bottom front area of the fenders was all bondo. After I stitched in the new quarters, I had one week to wrap it up before I was going to the F-body Nationals, and I didn’t want to be that guy who showed up with another primered Nova.  An army connection of mine who was a Supply Sergeant happened to come up with a few gallons of OD green. We were painting all of our Humvees Desert Sand at the time, so the green was going to waste. The next thing I know it looked like a P-40 warhawk, and the shark face had to happen.”

Never a fan of the “fat bumper” look of the 1973-74 Novas, Richey also swapped in a 1967 Camaro valance and fender extensions and added a chicken wire grille to finish off the Nova before the F-body meet.

“The roughed up look stuck,” he said.

When Richey purchased the Nova from the side of a road in Arkansas, it had a basic 350/TH350 engine/transmission combo. Today, the Nova packs a 468 cubic-inch big block that was originally intended for a drag boat. Richey de-tuned the engine a bit to make it more suitable for street use. Its LS6 pistons put the engine’s compression at a pump gas-friendly 10.8:1. It’s topped off with a Weiand dual plane intake and Holley 850 cfm carburetor. The engine is hooked to a Muncie M-20 transmission.

Richey says he spent most of this time and money on the suspension and brakes.

“The rear springs are Hotchkis 2-inch drop leafs helped by some old school Lakewood traction bars,” he said. “They hold onto the factory 8.5-inch 10-bolt that has been reinforced with 31-spline axles and an Eaton posi. The front suspension are RideTech upper and lower control arms and 550 pounds-per-inch QA1 coil-over springs. The front sway bar is also from Hotchkis. The brakes are a Right Stuff 4 wheel disc conversion.”

Richey says the Nova has been on every Power Tour since 2014. In the future, he’d like to add some comfort items like a more highway-friendly Gear Vendors or American Powertrain TKO transmission or maybe put in a Vintage Air system.

As for the present time—Craig Richey’s 1974 Chevrolet Nova is the reigning Summit Racing Facebook fan ride of the month (December 2017).

“It’s quite a surprise, especially considering how many high quality cars there were in that thread,” Richey humbly stated. “I hardly feel a little drag missile like mine is worthy, but I won’t pass up the opportunity to show off a little!”


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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.