High-Bank Hot Rodding: Going In Circles In A ’63 Nova Vintage Racer

There is no denying that nostalgia is a hot trend in the automotive world right now. It seems everything old is new once again. Heck, even the Big Three are making cars that hearken back to a “better time.” The automotive aftermarket thrives on nostalgia, as it’s easy to find something that sparks a memory and encourages that ‘gotta have it’ feeling.

Many cars are enjoying a resurgence because of this sentiment, but are not being restored to like-new condition. Rather, they are being recreated to resemble a once-enjoyed condition. Although this ’63 Nova build doesn’t fit within the boundaries of our typical Chevy Hardcore feature, we thought many of you will still appreciate this high-bank hot rod.

63 Nova

The Chevrolet Performance “604” crate engine includes a bulletproof bottom-end, anchored by a forged-steel crankshaft and hypereutectic pistons. The 23-degree, Fast Burn aluminum heads enable tremendous power due to the unique chamber design that quickly and completely burns all of the air/fuel mixture – giving it maximum power.

This ’63 Nova is owned by Steve Howard of central South Carolina. “It started out as a Late-Model-Class race car that made quite an impression at the local tracks on Friday and Saturday nights,” Steve relayed. Eventually though, it became outdated for the class and was relegated to spending several years in storage.

“I finally purchased it and made a vintage stock car out of it,” added Steve. He also affirmed this little ’63 Nova racer took all of six-months to rebuild. As many can attest, that’s not very long in the grand scheme of rebuilding a car.

63 Nova

When this car was originally built by Eugene Leicht, in 1998, the round-tube frame was designed to be strong, survive the rigors of racing, and protect the driver. We all know the life of a race car can be destructive. Let’s face it, have you ever seen a race where one did not hit a wall – or another car? Luckily, the Leicht-built frame under Steve’s Nova was driven by a good – or lucky – driver, as it was in relatively good shape and exhibited no excessive tweaks or buckles when he purchased it.

I’m a 56-year-old rookie living out a childhood dream. – Steve Howard

The chassis carries a truck-style trailing arm suspension on the rear, and custom-fabbed, double-wishbone tubular control arms on the front. QA1 coilovers support all four corners, custom sway bars control body lean, and Wilwood disc brakes bring it to a halt before contact with any wall can be made.

Under the hood, you’ll find a Chevrolet Performance “604” circle track crate engine. This is a factory-sealed mill designed specifically for circle track competition. The steel crankshaft and powdered metal connecting rods sling a set of hypereutectic pistons in the bores to create a 9.72:1 compression ratio. Moving the valves in the Fast-Burn aluminum heads is a hydraulic-roller stick with .474-/.510-inch lift and 208/221 degrees of duration at .050-inch lift. Up top is a single-plane intake and Holley carburetor. Delivering 400 horsepower at a conservative 5,500 rpm, it’s a stout combination for the lightweight (3,000 pounds) vintage racer.

Spartan and functional is the name of the game.

Behind the factory-sealed engine is a Borg-Warner Super T10 four-speed connected to a Tiger quick-change rearend with a set of 4.86 gears.

This Nova has been a race car most of its recent life, and the body definitely needed a little attention when Steve acquired it. After Greg Porter got the sheetmetal dent and ding free, he then covered it in a bright shade of Camaro blue that is typically found on Chevrolet’s 2017 hot rod. Once the blue was dry, Gene Clayton gave it the final lettering that really makes this car stand out.

63 Nova

Now that the car is back together, Steve and his ’63 Nova now spend time competing in the Vintage Stock Car Races in South Carolina. “I am 56 years old, and I have been to many races,” says Steve. “I have always loved circle-track racing, but never had the funds to do it. Now, the vintage racing events came along, and I have been blessed to finally be able to live out my passion. I’m a 56-year-old rookie living out a childhood dream.”

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Steve’s passion and gorgeous hot rod solidifies the fact a can-do attitude will allow you to accomplish your dreams, and that makes him and his ’63 Nova a winner in our book.

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
Read My Articles

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