Car Feature: John Calvert’s “Deathproof” 1969 Nova

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The Chevrolet Nova line debut back in 1962 and this platform was a base model, uni-body, compact car that was great for families. The Nova didn’t see much in the way of performance until the major redesign in 1968, where we started seeing big block’s stuffed under the hood along with Yenko and Baldwin Motion variations. Due to their light weight, stripped down design, Novas have been popular and successful in the drag racing scene. With the growing popularity of pro-touring, we are seeing more and more of these budget cars being turned into high performance cone killers. 

This Nova is a tribute to the fact that not every car that catches our eye is in perfect shape and ready for the high end show circuit. As you can see, this Nova is still lacking a paint job and most of it’s interior, but that’s why we like it. The car reminded us of the famous Nova from the Quentin Tarantino flick “Deathproof.” The flat black paint job and bare bones interior made the look. The only thing missing was the white skull and cross bones on the hood. 

When we caught up the owners, John and Yvonne Calvert, we found out the reason the car wasn’t finished off yet. After picking the car up in 2007, their primary focus has been pounding the streets and going to shows. They want to enjoy the car more than anything; Pretty cosmetics and creature comforts would come later. This car is all business yet still is pretty enough to catch our eyes. 

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Picking Up The Pieces

This 1969 Nova originally started its life when sold by De Anza Chevrolet, in Riverside, CA. The original owner cruised this Nova from 1969 to roughly 1990, when the car was decommissioned and stuffed in the backyard. For 17 long years the Nova sat there, slowly being taken back by mother earth. However after getting wind of the Nova, the Calvert’s made a deal with the original owners son-in-law, and drug it out the backyard. “Some how this Nova stayed in Riverside for all these years” says John. “We thought that added some neat history to the car, so we had to have it. I’m only the second owner.” Mind you John and Yvonne also reside in Riverside, CA, the Nova’s hometown. 

Right off the bat they knew that the Nova had to be a cruiser and reliable. The Calverts’ had joined Old Farts Racing, a local car club. This club participates in lots of shows and cruises, so they wanted get the car up to snuff to be able to cruise. They started by taking their prized Nova down to LAW Creations in Riverside for some help. LAW started the restoration by stripping everything from the car, leaving only a bare shell. 

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Sheetmetal, Suspension and Driveline

After assessing the the bare shell, LAW decided that all new floor pans and a trunk were needed to fix the rust. After welding in all new floors, the Calverts set out to make the car a roller. Since this car was made to drive and handle, they wanted a pro-touring type suspension under the car. To start, the entire sub frame was powder coated to ensure a lasting shine and rust prevention. A set of Heidts Suspension tubular upper and lower control arms were bolted up along with a set of CPP 13″ disc brakes combined with two inch drop spindles. 

Next on the list was to get some sort of power plant in order. John wanted something new that was reliable, with a punch, but was street-able for his wife Yvonne to drive. They opted for a ZZ4 crate 350 cubic inch motor. These hot little motors pack 355 hp right out of the box and the torque easily crests the 400 lb.-ft. mark. The ZZ4 is equipped with aluminum heads that give this motor a pump gas friendly 10:1 compression. In this light uni-body Nova, the motor easily moves this car down the road, or can boil the tires. We went for a ride in the Nova and had to hold on the entire time.  

To make the motor look as good as it runs, John added a brushed aluminum pulley set to finish off the motor along with a set of black valve covers, air filter and alternator help to keep the sinister look of the car. There’s no fancy chrome under the hood, only bare aluminum and black. The engine compartment is clean and precise, with nothing but business going on. 

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The exhaust is routed through a set of Dougs Headers but to add some fun to the mix, the Calverts added a set of electric cut outs. This allows them to run open header easily at car shows or to scare away any competition at a stop light. Keeping the entire motor cool is a complete BeCool aluminum radiator and fans. Again, being able to cruise the car anywhere was a top priority. 

Backing the motor is a 700R4 transmission that allows them to easily light up the tires, but cruise at a low RPM on the freeway. A B&M ratcheting shifter completes the trans and adds to the “Deathproof” feel of the Nova. The transmission was installed with the help of Lukes Transmission in Riverside, CA. 

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The rest of the car was outfitted through Classic Industries. They supplied the Calverts with all new trim pieces like the grill, moldings, weatherstripping and wiring. This made sure the car looked sharp and and didn’t have any problems catching the eyes of competition. 

Upgrading The Rear

After cruising the Nova for a few years, John wanted more out of the handling. He loved how the front of the car handled like it was on rails, but the back felt sluggish. The rear suspension had been rebuilt with new bushings, but still had the the factory leaf spring set up. John called up Heidts Suspension again, decided on one of their coil over four-link rear suspension kits. 

While the rear end was out of the car, the Calverts upgraded the gearing to a 4:11 posi unit to compliment the motor and transmission. They also threw on a new set of Rev Wheels to upgrade the look from the stock 15-inch steel wheels. The fronts are 17×7’s and the rears are 18×8’s mounted on a set of Falken tires. Now the rear of the car remains planted to the ground just like the front of the car. John can easily push this car into a corner and not worry. 

Future Plans

The interior is one area that the Calverts haven’t been too concerned with yet. Since all their attention has been on getting the car back in working order, not much has been done. They did install a set of aftermarket bucket seats with Crowe lap belts to keep them comfortable and in place. A full compliment of Autometer gauges adorns the dash, making sure the engine is running cool and below 55MPH so the cops won’t give him trouble. The rear seat isn’t present, but he does have it. 

Talking with John he says that he does plan on finishing off the car in time. “We want to put an actual interior in the car and paint it, but for now, we love the edge that the car has.” We couldn’t agree more. The important parts of the car have been finished, with cosmetics to come. 

Oh Baby, Red Hair and Black Leather

The pretty lady in the pictures is Emily Sherer from Orange County, California. She’s more than a pretty face though. Emily is a gear head as well, having grown up in the garage. “I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal; I love getting dirt on my jeans and grease under my fingernails.” Besides being a freelance model, she also works as a Photo Technician. Emily has aspirations to be in the automotive industry full time working in advertising and marketing. “I always see myself doing something automotive related, it’s a field that will never stop growing and changing.” 

When we approached Emily about shooting with this Nova, she was ecstatic. Being a big fan of the Deathproof movie with the Nova, she knew exactly what this car looked like. Her dream car is a black with pearl white interior 1955 Nomad. We think her bright red hair would look amazing against a subtle black Nomad. She said that she takes her dog with her just about everywhere she goes, so we imagine he would be riding shot gun. Be sure to look for a Babe Of The Month feature on Emily Sherer, full of pictures and a full bio. 

We hope to see Calvert’s Nova in a few years with a flashy paint job and interior so we can check out the car all over again. John wanted to thank Classic Industries, Waynes Engines, LAW Creations and Lukes Transmissions for all their help in getting his ride rolling. Keep up the great work! 

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Owners: John and Yvonne Calvert

Location: Riverside, CA

Car: 1969 Chevrolet Nova

Builder: Owner, Help from LAW Creations

Motor: GM Performance ZZ4

Transmission: 700R4

Front Suspension: Heidts tubular control arms, CPP disc brakes

Rear Suspension: Heidts coil over four-link, CPP disc brakes, 10 bolt posi

Wheels: REV, 17×7 front, 18×8 rear

Paint: Primer black, for now

Interior: Ididit tilt column, Autometer gauges, no finished upholstery

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About the author

Tim King

Tim grew up in the garage with his Father. From those early years grew a passion for anything with a motor. Helping his Dad and brother restore a '67 Nova is what fueled Tim’s passion for cars. At the age of 15 he bought his first car, a 1966 Chevelle which he still owns to this day. That car started his journey into the automotive world where he’s done just about everything, from being an auto mechanic to an aftermarket Sales Manager. Not only is he a gear head, but he also holds two Bachelors degrees from Cal State San Bernardino.
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