Home-Built Hero: Dave Belrose and Cindy Tabelin’s 1969 Nova

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This 1969 Chevrolet Nova belongs to Dave Belrose and his girlfriend of 15 years, Cindy Tabelin. The pair live in Stockton, California, and Dave actually built this car for Cindy. We don’t have to ask, we know you’re jealous. We wish our girlfriend wanted a car like this too.

Pay close attention to the license plate frame in this picture (left).

Cindy wanted a Nova for a long time, and she bought this one for the amazing price of only $1,000, albeit, 10 years ago. When Dave and Cindy bought the car, it was a simple six-cylinder car with the two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. Not quite the performer Cindy wanted, but before the upgrades could begin, life got in the way and the project sat for a few years on the back burner.

Once the project officially started, it took two years of weekends and evenings to complete. It’s easy to understand why it took so long, once you look close at details of what was done. As a matter of fact, you might begin to wonder how it got done so quickly when Dave was limited to weekends and evenings.

Just a few pictures of the project to highlight the man hours and effort that went into this build.

The car now sits on a Chris Alston’s Chassisworks frame that is complemented by a rollcage that was bent into shape by Chassisworks, and installed by Dave. Steering is handled by a Pinto rack-and-pinion with fabricated upper and lower A-arms and spindles, while Wilwood rotors and calipers bring everything to a halt when needed. “I extended the wheelbase by two inches at the front, to give it a retro look and make room for the exhaust,” Dave detailed. Along with customizing the frame and ride of the car, Dave tubbed the rear wheel wells to fit larger tires on the back. So of course, he had to improve the drive system to give it the power it would need.

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Dave originally built a 402 cubic-inch engine that was forced to breathe by a 671 blower, but when he started it, it wouldn’t idle and ran poorly. “I built that engine maybe 6 or 7 years ago, and when I started it, you could tell something was wrong,” Dave told us. “I pulled the engine and when I disassembled it, I  found deep craters in the cylinder walls, caused by sitting for so long.” After that, he started fresh by building a bullet-proof 468 cubic-inch big-block.

The old engine (left) and the new monster (Right).

Sitting on top of the supercharger are twin, 850 cfm Quick Fuel carburetors with Holley Performance float bowls. The big-block has four-bolt mains and a steel GM crankshaft with Icon pistons. It also has a big Crane camshaft. “It has all kinds of torque,” Dave explained. When it comes to the automatic transmission, Dave says, “I had the transmission in and out three times.” After a little extra work, the transmission is back in and shifting fine. It also has a 9-inch rearend with 4.56 gearing that really helps translate that big-block power into speed.

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A friend of Dave’s gets credit for the upholstery. “He came over to my garage and did it,” Dave quips. Dave and Cindy are both really happy with how the interior turned out. “Cindy is pretty protective of the car too. I need to have clean clothes on just to sit in it and drive it.”

The interior and dash (left), the floor of the car ready for insulation (center left), and the insulation installed before the interior went in (right two images).

This car isn’t a trailer queen either. They drive it where they want it to go. “Cindy likes to drive it, but it doesn’t have power steering. That makes it a little hard for her to turn.” Dave explained. “She drove it to some of the Hot August Nights shows, and I drove it to others.”

This car is a labor of love in more ways than one. The quality of craftsmanship speaks volumes about Dave’s talent, and the reason he built it shows us where his priorities are. Just like any relationship, when things got tough he didn’t give up either — he just put in a bigger, better engine and called it good.

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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