Frame-off restoration results in near-perfect Nova street rod
The first thing any car nut looks for when meeting any one of Chevy’s Super Sport models from the late ’60s to early ’70s is the little plates above the front fender reflectors.
More specifically, the numbers embossed on those little plates, because they tell you just how bad a dog you’re facing. In some cases, Chevelles and Impalas, for example, the nut will be hoping to see 396, or 427 or 454.
In the case at hand, a 1972 Nova SS, built as the Golden Age of muscle cars was waning — thanks to soaring gas prices and plummeting octane ratings — all our car nut was expecting to see was the number 350.
And so surprises emerged early as Mike Pearson peeled the dust cover off his Nova SS in a carpeted garage on Galveston’s near West End.
The plates were there, with a number, but not 350. Instead, Pearson’s Nova bears the number 502.
Granted, it didn’t roll off the assembly line packing that much engine, but that’s what it’s rolling with now, and that’s what matters.
Pearson, 64, an island native retired from the University of Texas Medical Branch, said he set out two years ago to find a muscle car, especially a Plymouth Road Runner. He was having no luck, when, in March, a friend urged him to check out a Nova SS up for auction in Pasadena. He came home with about as fine an example of automotive restoration as you’ll see.
The car is the result of a frame-off restoration and upgrade at the hands of somebody who knew his stuff. The pewter paint is perfect. The doors don’t drop, and they shut with a satisfyingly solid “thunk.” The windows don’t rattle and nothing squeaks, even as the Nova rolls along one of Galveston’s jolting roads with that massive V8 loping under the hood. Nothing on the car is overdone; everything seems well done.
“It had never been driven before I bought it,” Pearson said, meaning since the redo. “It was as clean underneath as it was up here. The first thing I did when I got it home was crawl under there and start waxing — it was so clean.”
“I clean it more than I drive it.”
It’s a mystery who was responsible for restoring the Nova, Pearson said. The seller asked to be anonymous, so Pearson hasn’t been able to ask about the car’s history.
With the help of brother-in-law Tony Munoz, an experienced hot-rod builder, and others around town, Pearson has been able to glean some details about the car.
Whatever it left the factory with back in ’72 has been replaced with a ZZ502 V8, GM’s deluxe high-performance engine. Naturally aspirated through a Holley carburetor of about 850 CFM, the ZZ502s come out of the crate at about 500 horsepower. With additional modifications, Pearson calculates his at about 560. It’s bolted to a GM “Muncie” four-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter driving a positive-traction differential.
The four-speed is his favorite thing about the car, Pearson said. He likes to drive, although he was reluctant about that in this car at first.
“I told Tony that it’s too pretty to drive, that I might not drive it,” Pearson said. “Tony said ‘don’t buy it if you’re not going to drive it; that’s the worst thing you can do.’”
Pearson does drive the Nova. He has put a little more than 620 miles on it the five months he has owned it, he said. Most of that has been giving people rides.
“Everybody wants to ride in it,” he said. “I’ve been keeping a list and so far, I’ve give 23 people a ride.”
That demand probably will keep up. Pearson and his wife, Patty, have five children and 12 grandkids.
Pearson said he doesn’t plan to keep the car long.
“I’ll keep it for two years, two more summers, and then I’ll sell it,” he said.