It’s hard to believe, but 2018 is officially over and gone. I don’t know if you’re happy about that, but regardless, the new year is here. You know what that means – the Internet is overflowing with more top-10 lists than Chevrolet made Z11 Impalas. Most of those lists revolve around things like the best dressed or even the best places to buy parts. Heck, I even saw one list touting the best coffee.
Unfortunately, not many of those compilations actually list anything important – you know, like car stuff. I didn’t want you guys feeling left out, so I decided to put together a list of my own about important stuff – like Chevrolet muscle cars.
Each year, I put together this list of twelve cars that I feel are worthy of comprising the Chevy Hardcore Feature Car Of The Year. There is no doubt that some of you will probably question one or two of my choices. In fact, I am also certain there will be no escaping a certain level of Internet wrath because I didn’t include someone – and that’s okay. If we all liked the same thing, this hobby would get boring really quick.
When it comes down to it, I can justify my choices by saying that every car Chevy Hardcore featured throughout the year is worthy, but I could only choose twelve. Keep in mind, a great feature car doesn’t have be a perfect restoration or an over-the-top restomod. It should, however, have a great story.
There were no hard-and-fast rules that guided my choices. The selections made were purely opinion-based, but that doesn’t mean I want to have all the fun myself. I need some help from you guys.
Even though I have chosen the twelve cars, I didn’t choose the one that should top the list. That’s where you guys come in. I want your help to decide which car to crown as the 2018 Chevy Hardcore Feature Car Of The Year. So, comment below, check out our Facebook page, or just drop us an email at [email protected], to let us know who you feel we should pronounce King.
So, without further ado, here, in no particular order, are the nominees for you to choose from:
The Limited Addiction Nova
Chuck Church Jr. was a kid in the early-’80s when his father bought a 1967 Chevy Nova for them to build together. This was a profoundly meaningful coming-of-age adventure and bonding project for him and his father. Chuck Sr. clearly wanted to instill values in his son, such as the pride of working with your hands, craftsmanship, work ethic, and a love for muscle cars.
Chuck Jr. eventually had a son of his own, Mathew (who not surprisingly) got interested in cars at an early age. For that reason, Chuck Jr. started to look for a Nova that could be a project he could build with his son. One of his customers told him about a 1966 Nova that was located down in Texas.
Under that shiny hood is a FiTech EFI system feeding a Pace Performance LS3 that gives rock-solid power and just enough vintage look to satisfy the purists. That engine is mated to a Marco Abrusi-built 4L60E transmission with a billet torque converter.
The interior is a TMI Products work of art, and is paired with a Budnik steering wheel and a Dakota Digital dash. The driving experience is enhanced by Wilwood brakes, which is a perfect match to the 2-inch drop spindles, which uses C5/C6 bearings, hubs, and brakes.
“A lot of kids get things handed to them, and some people may say this car was too. That’s not true,” said Chuck Jr. “Matt was out in the shop during the late-night SEMA crunch sessions after school work and sport’s practices were done.”
When I first met Chris French, he told me, “my first car was a ’71 Chevelle that my dad bought when I was 12 years old. It cost him $35.00. The fenders and doors were rotted. I pulled the 307ci engine out of the car, changed the carburetor and intake, and slid a DZ 302 camshaft in it.”
That first Chevelle was only the beginning, and in 2013, the ’68 Chevelle you see here became the latest on his list. “Initially, my dad found and bought the car at the Turkey Rod Run in Daytona, Florida. He owned it for a while and then sold it to my brother. After my brother owned it for a while, eventually, I bought it from him,” Chris noted.
The car was in very good shape, and Chris tells us the body looks the same now as it did when his dad bought it. “The interior was also in it, but I changed the engine,” he says. “I yanked the small block to make way for the big block. I also swapped the Turbo 350 for a Turbo 400 with a reverse-manual valvebody and transbrake. I finished the upgrades by changing the differential from a Posi unit with a 4.56 gear, to one with a spool and a 3.90 gear.”
When we found Chris at the 2018 NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem in Bradenton, Florida, he was preparing to run the True Street class. After looking at Chris’ car for quite some time, it’s street-ability is undeniable.
Touch & Go II Returns
Like many, Wally Staszko got an early start in the car hobby. As a 12-year-old boy, he first became hooked on the thrill of drag racing competition while peering through the fence at the now-defunct Oswego Dragway. While in high school, he began frequenting the many hotly contested drag races held throughout the area.
It was during this time that he first encountered a memorable Nova drag racer known as Touch & Go at the local dragstrip. Wally became drawn to the compact car’s form as an ideal drag racing machine. Deep down, he knew he needed a car like that.
A short time later, he discovered another Nova that was making its mark at the drags. It was a 1966 model, factory equipped with a stout 327 small-block and a four-speed gearbox. Coincidentally, it was also for sale.
It didn’t take Wally very long to forge a deal to buy the compact Chevy. Quarter-mile competition was now within sight, and with the blessing of the original owner of “Touch & Go”, Wally christened his new ride Touch & Go II, out of respect for the car that inspired him to pursue the siren call of competition.
Before long, the local speed shop shelves were looking barren as Wally was deploying the latest in over-the-counter speed technology. Fenderwell headers, tunnel-ram induction, and high-lift camshafts were key elements in developing his recipe for low elapsed times. Noted horsepower wizard, Merle Mangle, a part of Austin Coil’s early go-fast brain trust, mentored Wally in the fine art of making horsepower through his M & H Autocraft shop in Cicero.
In the late-‘70s, the Nova was relegated to storage, and remained there until 2018. That’s when Wally planned a resurrection, and you can read all about it by clicking here.
Second-Gen Tire Fryer
Mike’s first experience with this car can be traced back to his days in high school. That’s when a friend of his owned the Z. “Every time we went somewhere, it would break down,” said Mike. For most car guys and gals, those are the moments (such as being stuck on the side of the road due to a tossed belt) when memories are created. Despite his friend’s best efforts during high school, the Camaro proved to be more work than was desired in a daily-driven car.
A 383ci-stroker engine is topped by a Weiand intake manifold and 6-71 blower. To help create plenty of power, this combination features a COMP Cams camshaft, Crane lifters, and Eagle connecting rods. With all that power on tap, the engine is obviously thirsty. To quench that thirst, a pair of 770cfm Holley carburetors handle squirting the go-go-juice.
Bel Air Brawler
What first appears to be a piece of compelling Bow Tie history, is actually a 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air that was found on the streets of Floyd and Travis Horton’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Kansas. This story literally begins with a little old lady driving a cherry Chevy back-and-forth to her hair stylist job. “I mentioned to my dad that we ought to turn this ’62 into a nostalgia-class race car,” Travis Horton explained. “We had many parts laying around we could use, and it snowballed.”
The W-engine started out as a 348 block that was bored to create 410 cubic inches. Hull Racing Engines built the mill using Ross Racing 11.0:1 pistons, Eagle Specialty Products 6.385-inch H-beam rods, and JE piston rings. A uniquely modified Chevrolet steel crank with a 3.76-inch stroke was custom-machined by Ohio Crankshaft, and is covered with a Stef’s aluminum oil pan. A pair of factory, cast-iron 690 heads with Manley Performance 2.25-inch stainless intake valves and Ferrea Racing 1.75-inch stainless exhaust valves make up the airflow modulation portion of the unique Chevy powerplant.
The stock dashboard is still intact and outfitted with additional Autometer tach, water, oil, and volt gauges. In true era-specific fashion, the interior is minus carpeting and door panels, and driver “comfort” is via a Jaz racing seat. A Grant steering wheel and B&M shifter make up the remaining amenities.
The ’62 primarily sees occasional weekend duty at nostalgia or specialty events. Travis does note the car’s reliability. “Last season, I raced her exclusively for the first half of the season. I ended up winning the track championship because of ‘ol trusty here.” he said.
Rob Aquilina, of Mooresville, North Carolina, desired something unique, with plenty of power to match the good looks. After he saw a rendering of a two-door Malibu wagon, he thought the Nova body had better lines. That’s why he started with a gutted 1966 Nova four-door wagon. He had a vision of a Nomad-inspired two-door Nova wagon, which would eventually be called the “Novad.”
To motivate the Novad, Rob was able to locate an LS1 from a late-model GTO. Rob had the good fortune of not only getting the engine, but also a 4L60E automatic transmission, and all the electronics to make it run.
The interior of the Novad was decked out in an all-black carbon-fiber theme. Keith Eitelgeorge of Joe Gibbs Racing designed the interior patterns, and hand-made the aluminum panel bucks that Joe Hoffman of Fibreworks Composites used to make the carbon-fiber panels. Joe installed the carbon-fiber pieces and laid out the custom dash using Dakota Digital VRX-series gauges.
The headliner, seats, and additional interior panel work were completed by Finish Line Interiors. The front seats were designed to work with five-point seat belts to keep Rob and a lucky friend in place while taking the Novad out for a spin. The steering wheel is a Max Papis Innovations creation that Rob keeps his left hand on while his right hand nudges the transmission to the next gear via a 2006 Chevy Trailblazer shifter.
Doug Ward of Lutz, Florida, has always been a fan of the Tri-Five Chevy. In fact, “Ever since I first started driving back in 1968, I have owned a 1955 Chevy,” he stated with a chuckle. Doug’s claim is not one that many can make, as that would entail ownership of a particular model for nearly 50 years.
The 235ci engine under the hood also received a few upgrades like forged 9.0:1 pistons, a mild hydraulic flat-tappet camshaft, and a Clifford four-barrel intake with a Holley 390 cfm carburetor.
Behind the little six-cylinder is a Borg-Warner five-speed transmission that he removed from an S10 pickup. Finishing the drivetrain is a 10-bolt rear with 3.36 gears. “The car cruises down the highway at 70 mph, and the engine is only turning 2,000 rpm,” Doug said.
Zach Straits was adopted at birth and thought he might never know his birth mother. But after years of searching, one eventful trip in 2006 to Los Angeles, changed everything. A chance meeting put him on the path to owning one seriously cool Camaro.
He learned his grandmother, Betty, wanted something fast and comfortable to drive. In 1967, she sold her 1959 Ford wagon and special ordered a 1967 Camaro. Betty chose the Super Sport and Rally Sport options, and to meet her need for speed, she had a 295-horse 350 with a Powerglide transmission installed at the factory.
In 2012, the Camaro was moved to Zach’s home in Virginia. For several years, the Camaro toured the circuit making the rounds at the large events and has been on display at several museums as a barn find, but now a restoration is planned.
Gordy Frank of Palmetto, Florida, found this SS427 when a friend tipped him off. “A friend of mine found the car on eBay” Gordy stated. “The restoration had been started, but not completed. Finding this car brought back a lot of teenage memories, as a friend of mine owned one in 1973. I remember going to the drive-in movies and doing smoky burnouts. Of course, the girls like riding in a red convertible as well.”
The interior was back to life with new Parchment and red materials from PUI Interiors covering the bucket seats and door panels. Look close at the interior, and you’ll quickly notice the floor shifter connected to the Turbo 400 transmission, full instrumentation, air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, and an AM/FM radio connected to an optional 8-track player. It is an “Impala” after all, and it’s loaded.
The engine in this car is the 385-horsepower version that has been rebuilt as close to factory specs as possible. The .030-inch overbore supports cast TRW pistons, creating a 10.2:1 compression ratio. In factory form, the L36 427 engine featured a camshaft with a duration of 214/218 at .050-inch lift. Valve lift was a conservative .461/.480-inch. The replacement specs out at .461/.480-inch lift, and 268/274 degrees duration at .008-inch lift. The cast, oval-port heads support the stock intake and Quadrajet carburetor.
Roger Barr of Lakeland, Florida, found this particular little hauler in 2004. It wasn’t in the condition you see now, but back then, it was a cool driver. “When I found this truck, I was actually looking for a ’50 through ’59 Chevy Apache. I was living and working in Florida when I did find it, and it looked decent from 15-feet away. There was no rust, and it already had a small-block V-8 under the hood,” Roger said.
Now, it looks much better, and he chose to reach out to Chevrolet Performance, to get a new 350ci Ramjet engine. With 345 horsepower and 396 lb-ft of torque, it makes the perfect engine for a vehicle that will be thoroughly enjoyed on the street. Behind the small-block is a Monster Transmissions-built 4L60E.
Inside, Dale’s Hot Rod Interiors of Dade City, Florida, covered the modified 2003 GM bucket seats – and the rest of the interior – with a Saddle Tan leather. Finally, cruising without tunes is akin to committing heresy, so a Kenwood sound system makes sure to please the ears.
Steve Rowe tells us that he has owned this 1969 Chevelle SS for approximately 22 years. He was perusing the local newspaper one day, when he found the ad for the Chevelle. “l just had to go see it,” he told us. Upon arrival, he found an old barn covered in snow. Needless to say, the barn, and ultimately, the car, had seen better days.
Under the hood is a bored and stroked big-block, now displacing 496 cubic inches. This classic is fed by fuel-injection and is kept lukewarm by dual Derale fans hanging on a BeCool radiator. The engine is connected to an American Powertrain six-speed transmission, and a Moser 9-inch rear is filled with 3.70 gears, which hold highway revs to a moderately minor level. Finally, a set of Hooker headers lead into Magnaflow mufflers which deliver a robust rumble.
New Acquisition = Old Friend
Russel was 18-years-old when he decided the new Nova Super Sport was the car he wanted. “I ordered the car at Williams Chevrolet in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, on October 9, 1971. My father co-signed for me. It was a bare-bones car with the SS package,” Russel continued. “My gearhead friends told me not to order Rally wheels, because I would end up putting mags on it anyway. So, the car came with the stock steel wheels and dog-dish hubcaps.”
In 2005, a restoration began, and when it was time to make a decision about whether to rebuild the engine and transmission, there were only 72,000 miles on the car, so it really didn’t need anything. All of the factory components are still in use. In fact, all it received was a good cleaning and some fresh paint.
The interior was also in exceptional shape and didn’t need new seat skins or other soft parts replaced. Even the carpet, headliner, and AM/FM radio are the same pieces the factory installed.
There is the list of twelve feature cars that are in contention for the 2018 Chevy Hardcore Feature Car of the Year. Now that you see what cars have made the list, we really need to hear from you. You can let us know which car should be crowned king by either emailing us at [email protected], by commenting below, or reaching out to us on our Facebook page. We look forward to hearing from you. We will close the voting on February 8, 2019.