How many of you reading this can remember buying what is now a classic, on a used car lot? Can you remember when buying a car like the Nova pictured above was as easy as driving downtown? Back then, it was just a used car for $999. As soon as you hit the lot, the salesman — drenched in Old Spice — would come out of his office and explain how you focused in on the best deal on the lot. For the next hour or two, the two of you would be in a battle worthy of gladiators simply haggling about the price. Eventually, a deal would be struck, and you were the proud owner of someone else’s former problems.
Mike Horger of Willits, California, remembers the process well. “I bought my Nova in 1996,” he recalls. “I was working at a Chevy dealership at the time, and it was a trade-in.” However, unlike many car buyers, Mike didn’t purchase the car for himself, it was actually for a family member.
“I bought the Nova for my nephew who drove it all through high school,” says Mike. “He eventually parked it after changing out the tired 350 with a 327 that my brother built. Eventually, he went to college, and it sat by my parent’s house for seven years.”
However, the car was not destined to remain lawn art for very long. “I injured my back as a volunteer firefighter,” Mike states.” I needed something to do. I took the car down to the bare metal, and removed the frontend and had it sandblasted and powdercoated. A friend, Fred Barry, did the bodywork and covered the metal with a shade of red found on ‘93 chevy trucks.”
When it came time for motivational selection, Mike had a decision to make. “I originally built a 350 small-block for in the Nova, but after too many beers, I decided to use the engine I was building for my drag car,” Mike says with a smile on his face. To build the new engine, he used a Bow Tie block and filled the bottom end with an Eagle crankshaft and rods, SRP pistons, and a COMP Cams roller cam. Up top, we find an MSD ignition, Chevrolet Performance aluminum heads, and an Edelbrock intake supporting a 4500-series Holley carburetor. Finally, Hooker Super Comp headers expel fumes through a 3-inch exhaust with Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers. Sending the power to the Quick Performance 9-inch rear is a Coan-built turbo 400 with a transbrake and a Hughes 10-inch torque converter.
Mike wanted to make some changes to the interior, so the bench seat was removed and a pair of Corbeau buckets took its place. To keep things consistent, he had the rear seat covered to match.
Do you want to read about more Home-Built Heroes? All you need to do is click here. If you own a Home-Built Hero, we want to hear about it. Since I’ve started the series, I have received more than a few candidates, but I still want to see more — I can never get enough. If you want to see more cars built by you the readers, send a few pictures of your car showing the engine, interior, and exterior, along with all of the pertinent information, and I’ll make you Internet famous. You can send your submissions to [email protected].