This straight axle ’67 Chevy II Nova was childhood dream fulfilled.
By Randy Irwin • Photography by Colin Date
Like most young car guys, I always remembered that local older car guy that had “The Car”. I would only see him at the weekend car cruises, or maybe if I got lucky, I’d see him driving down the road during the week. This cool guy and his car were quite mysterious to my young mind. In the early 1970s here in Orlando, the place to cruise your car and to be seen was the Colonial Plaza on East SR50. The plaza had bench seats along the sidewalks, and my gang would just sit there until we had to go home, waiting to see who would cruise by. I was 16 at the time.
The mystery guy turned out to be a man named Ed Shay. Ed had a 1966 or ’67 Chevy II (I really didn’t know the difference back then) and it was B-A-D. The car had Cragar SS wheels, skinnys up front, 7″ wide wheels out back with F-60 Firestones, bucket seats, a 4-speed Muncie, ladder bars, a tunnel ram with two-fours and velocity stacks sticking out the hood and yes – a straight axle up front!
In the early ’80s, Ed moved to Texas for work, and as often happens, that Chevy II got left behind. The car was parked in his parent’s backyard, covered with a tarp. After a few years, his parents wanted it out of there, so it got moved to one of Ed’s buddies’ interior shop and parked outside – under a tarp, again. After another few years, Ed had his buddy sell the engine and transmission out of the car before they went bad. Eventually, the wheels and tires were sold off as well. A few more years went by, and the car got so rusty that Ed told his buddy to junk it. Ed was still living out of town and didn’t plan on coming back to Orlando. I became interested in finding the car and searched for it on and off for years. I never learned the entire story until the car was long gone.
In 2001 I was lucky enough to find a 1967 Chevy II in Tucson, AZ. Now I could build it just as I remembered it as a kid – the car I just described. The car that was to be mine was purchased new in November of 1966 at Tucson Chevrolet – and it remained in Tucson until I bought it. I am the car’s second owner. It was originally two-tone blue and white, but when I got it, it had been repainted solid white. It had a 283 ci engine, Powerglide transmission, factory air conditioning, disc brakes, power steering and a bench seat interior. It was truly a rust-free Arizona car and the A/C blew ice cold when I got it – but I had bigger plans for this ride.
In 2005 I installed a tubular straight axle and a tunnel ram with two fours and still drove it back and forth to work – Eckler’s – 54 miles each way. In 2014 I decided to go all the way and do a full rotisserie restoration. I painted the car Marina Blue, added Chevy II bucket seats, installed a .040 over 350 ci engine, a Muncie 4-speed with a Hurst shifter and changed the rear end gears from 3.50 to a 4.11.
I finished the car in August of 2015 and took it to the first show since the restoration was finished – the NSRA Nationals in Louisville, KY. I had a blast.
I still drive this Chevy II everywhere. This year I took the car to Eckler’s Winter National here in Orlando and scored a 992 out of 1000 points. What a blast to be on the other side of the judging sheets after working for Eckler’s for eighteen years!
I found out recently that Ed Shay has moved back to south Florida. I’m going to try to track him down so I can show him my rendition of “The Car”. He won’t believe it – it’s been over thirty years since his original car was on the road!
From our June issue….