Two Novas Showcasing Different Ideas Of Hot Rodding

In this feature, we take a peek at a pair of 1966 Novas from the same town that take on different looks. One resides on the West side of Denver, Colorado, in a suburb named Lakewood, and the other resides on the East side of Denver in Aurora.

Sandi’s “cute” little Nova

Our first Hot Rod Nova is owned by Sandi Robben. It’s simple and relies on a stock appearance with regard to body and interior. How she acquired it is also a simple story. Sandi is married to a Corvette guy, so as you can imagine, most of the car shows attended are Corvette events. However, there are times when a non-Corvette owner will check out the Vettes at the event. Such was the case in Ft. Collins, Colorado in August of 1985.

That’s when Sandi Robben laid her eyes on this cute little 1966 Nova. It was in the spectator’s parking area. She told her husband, Tom, that she’d like to have a car like that as a daily driver. Tom waited until the owner returned to the car and expressed his interest in buying the car. “No deal,” said the owner. “I’m not interested in selling it.” Tom gave him his phone number and said if the car was ever for sale to call him.

Sandi's Nova retains its factory look. The Nova has received a few subtle changes for the better, what with its new paint and V8 engine.

A couple of months passed, and in October, that call finally came. The guys settled on a price, and Tom and Sandi drove to Ft. Collins to retrieve the car. On the way, home Sandi told Tom the car felt a “bit underpowered,” what with its six-cylinder engine and Powerglide transmission. Not only that, but she felt it was hard to steer. “That’s an easy fix,” Tom remarked. “A new 350ci engine and a Turbo 350 transmission will solve that.”

But, Tom was heavily involved in everything Corvette, including the building a Corvette Grand Sport replica. The Nova was put on the back burner, and for nearly 22 years, progress continued to get side-tracked as something else Corvette related got placed in front of it.  During that time, the engine seals, and gaskets dried out and needed replacing. The brakes also fell into a sad state while parked for so long,  and of course, the tires dry rotted. Eventually, Sandi had enough of the excuses.

The interior is stone stock. Sandi gets a lot of grief about it, as many people tell her it's not factory stock. Sandi states it came from the factory like this.

Tom conceded, and found a 350ci engine and had a Turbo 350 transmission rebuilt. A Heidt’s subframe, with rack-and-pinion steering, disc brakes, and 2-inch drop spindles was installed on the Nova. Mini-tubs were added to the rear to accommodate 8 x 15 Corvette Rally wheels, and 15 x 6 Rallys were mounted up front. A Vintage Air A/C was installed to combat those hot Colorodo days.

Since the Nova’s body was in excellent shape, Tom hired Stu Waldron to make it flat and paint it in a two-tone paint scheme. The original interior was pulled and stored while Stu sprayed the Mist Blue-hue on the bottom and a Deep Water Blue on the top.

Sandi used the Nova as her daily driver for many years, and occasionally drives the Nova to car events.

Once the body and paintwork were done, Tom took the car to Zoomer’s Rod Shop in Denver and had them rewire the car and handle the final fitting of the body panels.

Clint’s Street Nova
If you found a little old lady who has a really nice 1966 Nova and you want it, would you hound your wife about it and have her suggest to the lady (in this case, your wife’s grandmother) that you’d be a good caretaker? Clint was in such a predicament.

The little old lady, bought the car new from Burt Chevrolet in Denver, Colorado for the whopping sum of $3,182.00. It was an SS car, and it came from the factory with a boring white paint job, six-cylinder engine, and “three on the tree”. The only thing that enlivened the car’s appearance was the Aqua interior.

Grandma financed the car with $625.46 down, which resulted in 35 monthly payments of $56.46. The car was driven until 1976, when grandma retired, and quit driving. In those 10 years, the car had acquired 69,000 miles on the odometer. Eventually, grandma’s daughter took up driving the car, except she didn’t really like it. It had no power steering or power brakes, and to her, the car was useless. Clint Rodriguez decided the time to own that Nova was within reach since grandma’s daughter wanted a better car. Clint found a Mercury Lynx that was in nice shape and made a trade.

Clint drove the Nova for a few years, putting about 100 miles on it each year. In 1983, he decided the six cylinder wasn’t as much fun as he thought, so he removed it and installed a stock 350ci Chevy engine and a Turbo 350 transmission. That engine lasted about ten years, and then another Chevy engine and transmission were slipped in its place.

One day, he decided the white exterior of the Nova needed to be changed, so he stripped the car to bare metal. Clint chose a green from a ’97 GMC pickup, which his brother, Roland, sprayed. Over the years, the interior had become worn, so a new interior was ordered from Classic Industries and Clint installed it himself.

Engine goodies consist of a four-bolt main block, Brodix heads, Sanderson shorty headers, and dual 750 cfm Edelbrock carbs atop the 6-71 blower

With the exterior looking much better, another small-block Chevy was installed. This one was topped with a 6-71 blower. The engine goodies consist of an 8.0:1 compression ratio, four-bolt-main block, Brodix heads, Sanderson shorty headers, and two  750 cfm Edelbrock carbs atop the blower. The Turbo 350 transmission has been treated to a 4,500-rpm stall converter, sending power to a 9-inch rearend with Strange axles and a 4.10-geared posi. Clint’s been showing off the car for a few years now, getting it out of storage in April (or May) depending on Colorado’s strange weather!

Left: Interior sports a Classic Industries redo. The owner did the upholstery himself. Right: A couple of extra gauges reside in the dash as well as a tach on the column.

Clint doesn’t brag much about the car, but he does state it runs an 11.80 at a 116 mph. That was on his first — and last — trip down the track. The car didn’t have the proper safety equipment, and the track officials wouldn’t allow him any more passes. Nonetheless, he will tell anyone that listens that it’s an awesome street car.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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