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  1. #1
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    Jun 2012
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    Default Project Scope Creep - '74 Nova Spirit of America

    I really hope there are no Nova purists here who know what this car really is (sorry Ben), but my plan is to cut and to modify an original numbers matching 1974 Nova Spirit of America hatchback into a fun pro-touring driver. Only 14,463 of these cars were ever built of which few have survived. That is compared to the 21,419 Nova SS cars built the same year. It is a bit rare now.

    The low-down:

    I purchased this car in 1978 from a used car dealer when I was 15 years old. It was my first car. I wanted something that had a big engine bay. The Nova met the criteria and looked cool. It was blisteringly fast from zero to about 20 mph before the 145 horsepower 350 2 barrel started to get winded. The TH350 transmission and 3.08 axle did not help.

    I put a set of ported 462 camelhump heads, a Chevy first race design cam and a Holley Street Dominator single plane intake. That bumped the compression up to about 8.5:1 and the horsepower somewhere over 200 on a good day. It had no bottom end, but ran hard from 300o to 6500 rpm. I thought is was fast.

    A few years later when gasoline seemed expensive to a high schooler, I put the car up for sale. My dad liked it and bought it from me. I moved to a Vega GT 4-speed that was good and gas, but low on power. Years later after I finally finished college, my dad gave it back to me as a graduation present. I had a bit more appreciation for it then.

    It was my daily driver for several years before the engine got tired and I decided I needed a car that could turn. I took it all apart and began collecting parts for the suspension and for a new engine. Since it was garaged most of its life, it has much less rust than average and less than 100,000 miles.

    It has been sitting since before my youngest daughter, now 14, was born. Raising 5 children seemed to have consumed all my time and money during that time. Now, with only one left at home, I have time. A new job has inproved my financial situation. The move to take the new job netted an oversize garage with a 14' ceiling and room for 4 cars. Now I am out of excuses and back in the saddle.

    Here is what I have collected:



    377 small block
    Ported Vortec heads
    1.6:1 Comp Cams steel roller rockers
    Summit 1105 hydraulic cam
    Keith Black claimer series flat top pistons set a zero deck height
    Super Victor Vortec intake
    Holley 750 vacuum secondary carb (fuel injection is in the works)
    Scat steel crank and rods
    Balanced
    Vintage Corvette windage tray
    Blackjack vintage headers and 2 1/2" Summit dual exhaust system

    Landrum 700 lb front springs with adjustible spacer
    Landrum225 lb asphalt leaf springs with low arc
    Afco low friction A-arm bushings and ball joints
    IROC-Z quick ratio steering box
    Matching long pitman and idler arms

    Torq Thrust Originals - 17X8 (yeah, I know, they are like belly buttons, everyone has them, but they match the old school theme)
    Goodyear Eagle GT's - 245/45R17

    Muncie M21 4-speed
    Hurst competition shifter
    Joe's Racing aluminum shifter with an old school Hurst T-handle
    Centerforce dual friction clutch
    Lightened flywheel

    C3 front discs
    '74 C10 large (2 15/16") diameter piston calipers
    Modifed drum brake spindles
    Converting to Pozzi cheap big brakes

    Fiberglass inner and outer fenders and cowl induction hood

    And lots of antique, vintage and just low-buck stuff

    The stock interior including the white bucket seats and rear fold-down seat, bright red carpet and center console is still mostly intact. I plan to keep the original look of the interior. Somehow the bright white and red give me flashbacks of my childhood in the 70's. It gives me the urge to buy a plaid sport coat to where when I go cruising.

    Planned:

    Guldstrand mod the hard way
    Welded in and connected stock sub-frame
    Near stock paint scheme - I will get some renderings made as soon as I collect the money to pay Ben at Street Rod Designs
    The black vinyl in the picture will be replaced by black paint
    The hood will be black too like the early Trans Am racers

    This started out as a simple refresh, but has now taken on a mind of its own. Hence the name Scope Creep.

    Here is what is started out looking like:

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    Ain't she pretty? It looked aweful tame when I bought it.

    She won't be the prettiest girl at the prom, but she will be fun to drive hard. I plan to exercise her up and down the local canyon roads when I get her on the road.

    Later this week I will add the photos of the basket case it is today.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    ohio
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    awesome i cant wait to see the update....im from steves under same user name... im rooting for ya
    keep the wheels a spinning and the Beavers a grinning(burt reynolds-smokey and the bandit)

  3. #3
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    Sep 2004
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    DFW, Texas
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    Can't wait to see where this goes, I owned two of these cars back in the 90's and wish I had built either of them into pro-touring rides.

  4. #4
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    Mar 2012
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    I had a '74 Nova hatchback back in highscool. It made it to 150k miles before the body rusted away. You're lucky to have one with only minor rust.
    I rarely saw another hatchback and have never seen or heard of the "Spirit of America" model. Good luck. Subscribed.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2012
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    South Lyon, MI
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    Default More photos and an update

    Well, it looks like there is nowhere to go but up with this one. I have the motor almost back together after I pulled it down to balance it.

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    I will also be fuel injecting the motor with a Mototron 128 pin ECM. I need to learn the software better for work and thought it would give me some great hands-on experience. I now work at Woodward, Inc. who produces the Mototron ECM,s and Motohawk calibration tools.

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    I will need to add injector fitting into my intake (Super Victor Vortec) and then modify an old GM Marine fuel rail to fit. I will be using fuel injectors from a Buick 3.8L supercharged motor. They will give me enough flow at 60 psi for abotu 500 horsepower, which is about 20% more than I will be making. That will give me some room to grow.

    More later...

  6. #6
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    I worked a bit on the motor today. I spent some time going through the I/O for the new ECM. The Mototron ECM's have a very open format and are very flexible. I will be using two Bosch LSU4.2 wide band O2 sensors to control fuel. I have a fuel rail, throttle body and MAP sensor from a GM Marine 5.7L intake. I will be using them. I am not sure what to use for the ignition. I have a Northstar V8 coil pack, but the ECM works best with Woodward smart coils. I will have to cross that bridge soon.

    The motor is a 400 block bored 0.030" over. The pistons are hypereutectic flat tops. The block was decked to make them flush with the deck. With the Vortec heads it is about 10.6:1. I installed a cast steel 350 crank to make it a 377.

    I had it all together and ran it a bit, but did not like the way it felt. I tore it all down and had it balanced. It was out a bit. I hope it feels better now. The power and torque are great though. It pulls hard right of idle and doesn't run out of wind until over 6000 RPM. It is a nice street motor. About 400 HP and 425 ft/lb of torque and a smooth idle.

    I cleaned up the deck and got one head installed. They are Vortec 906 castings that I ported and flowed on the Bosch Superflow bench before I left there. A buddy of mine from Bosch gave them a radius valve job just for fun. They don't flow too bad. I was able to wake up the exhaust ports where they were weak.

    The other should go on tomorrow night.

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    Now I need to swap out the pushrod guides for flat ones (I am not using the self-aligning rockers). I need to flat guides so I can install the adapters to mount my genuine LT1 Corvette valve covers for that nostalgic look. I am refinishing them and have a new Corvette crossed flags sticker ready to install. Yeah, I like old stuff.
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    Progress is slow. But I hope to have her running with a carb and distributor soon before I install the EFI and mess it all up again.

  7. #7
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    Jun 2011
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    Progress, little or mass quantities, is all the same- GOOD. Yeah I'm not so much a purist, I'd hack up an SS Nova any day. But your car I would struggle with not restoring to goofy factory fresh. Maybe upgrade the engine with "hidden" changes and add 6 hole Nova rallies from Wheel Vintiques in 15", but not much more. OK, maybe a 6 speed too. I at least wouldn't change anything visually. But since you own the car and don't care about changing a piece of history , we'll come up with something Ultralord cool but still reminiscent of the SOA Nova it originally was.
    -Ben, Your friendly neighborhood Rendering dude

    SRD on Facebook

    79 Cutlass wagon build


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by SRD art View Post
    Progress, little or mass quantities, is all the same- GOOD. Yeah I'm not so much a purist, I'd hack up an SS Nova any day. But your car I would struggle with not restoring to goofy factory fresh. Maybe upgrade the engine with "hidden" changes and add 6 hole Nova rallies from Wheel Vintiques in 15", but not much more. OK, maybe a 6 speed too. I at least wouldn't change anything visually. But since you own the car and don't care about changing a piece of history , we'll come up with something Ultralord cool but still reminiscent of the SOA Nova it originally was.
    As the saying goes, "Anyone can restore one, but it takes a real man to cut one up." I'm not sure I am a real man, but I have a new blade in my sawzall.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornfedbill View Post
    As the saying goes, "Anyone can restore one, but it takes a real man to cut one up." I'm not sure I am a real man, but I have a new blade in my sawzall.
    lol......hahah
    keep the wheels a spinning and the Beavers a grinning(burt reynolds-smokey and the bandit)

  10. #10
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    I installed the other head today. I placed the intake on just to get a look at it. I still need to install the lifters and pushrods and set the lash.

    I am dragging my feet on the valvetrain a bit because I really want to convert it to a hydraulic roller to get some more power. Right now it is cam limited and has a lot left in the heads. I don't want much more duration, just more area under the curve.

    Anybody have some hydraulic roller lifters they are dying to part with?

    This weekend I hope to get some time to swap out the pushrod guides so I can install the adapters and LT1 valve covers. The ball milled centerbolt valve covers just don't look right on the vintage motor.

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  11. #11
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    I installed the lifters and pushrods yesterday. I found that my Speedway Motors valve cover adapters do not like my Comp Cams roller rockers. There is no room between the rockers for the adapters.

    I will be cutting them and then adding another bolt down into the pushrod guides to support the inboard side of the adapters. I hope it works well.

    I have almost all of the paint off the LT1 valve covers. I like the bare metal and may leave them unpainted.

  12. #12
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    I wonder if this would improve my cornering?

  13. #13
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    I saw that for sale recently on Craig's list. Fairly cheap too. Wonder why? :P

    Might be fun to convert into a street driven limo.
    -Ben, Your friendly neighborhood Rendering dude

    SRD on Facebook

    79 Cutlass wagon build


  14. #14
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    Nah...
    -Ben, Your friendly neighborhood Rendering dude

    SRD on Facebook

    79 Cutlass wagon build


  15. #15
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    I finally finished building and installing a new motor for my '95 Saturn wagon. It's 100 horsepower rating is underwhelming to say the least. But it is great on gas and just freed up a stall in the garage so I have room to work on Scope Creep.

    I pulled it out from under my loft to give me elbow room to work.

    I am ready to take their needed measurements before I remove the subframe and begin cutting and welding. I love power tools that make lots of noise and sparks!
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  16. #16
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    Default A little progress

    I think I have collected more jack stands than I need. It comes from having too many project going at the same time.

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    The suspension is coming off. The Landrum 700lb. springs and adjusters will go back in. I have an Afco low friction bushing kit with ball joints to replace the old dry rotted rubber. I will use the stock arms.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornfedbill View Post
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    I wonder if this would improve my cornering?

    NO!

    We have all seen your driving skills!
    Mike

    Remember, "Drive Fast, Turn Heads, Break Hearts!"

    www.musclecardeals.com

  18. #18
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    Default Throw back Thursday

    I built this in 1980, long before pro-touring came along. That handsome youngster is none other than yours truly in about 1982.

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  19. #19
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    I removed the front seats and carpet. Surprisingly, the carpet was in pretty good shape after I cleaned it a bit.

    As you can see the floor is in fair shape for 40 years old. This car lived most of its life in Iowa and Michigan. It survived very well.

    I need to make my measurements and begin cutting to channel the frame about 1/2 inch up into the body.

    Wish me luck on that endeavor. Measure three time and cut once!
    Attached Images Attached Images      

  20. #20
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    Nice to see a lack of major rust holes!
    -Ben, Your friendly neighborhood Rendering dude

    SRD on Facebook

    79 Cutlass wagon build


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