September 2016

The Car: 1967 Straight Axle Nova

This straight axle ’67 Chevy II Nova was childhood dream fulfilled.

By Randy Irwin • Photography by Colin Date

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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!

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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.

nova-engineIn 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….

1967 El Camino: Dream Becomes Reality

Owned by: Warren Sutton Olive Branch, MS

This once worn out ’67 El Camino was transformed into a 993 point show car!

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Since high school, I had longed for two things. A 1957 Chevy convertible was number one and number two was an El Camino. The ’57 Chevy came first, and the search for an El Camino came later. I started with a ’71 then sold it and bought a ’77, then ’80 SS. My desire still had not been fulfilled, much to my disappointment. The sun did shine on me however the day I stood looking at this ’67. My heart skipped a few beats when it dawned on me that this car had a lot of potential. After much discussion with my wife regarding my vision for purchasing this El Camino and doing a restoration, the car became a reality. That was in April of 2006.

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After doing some research, I picked my colors for a new paint job and designed the interior to complement the exterior. This old, rather beat-up El Camino became the vehicle I’d always wanted. A lot of work, time, and money eventually brought out the true beauty of this dream.

1967-El-Camino-interiorTime began to slip away quickly from the time restoration began until its completion. Patience began to grow thin, and eventually impatience took over. Originally, the builder lived only 2 miles from our house. However, the car ended up 200 miles from us after my restoration man moved. Seven years passed by and the El Camino was still not completed. The body was painted but no other cosmetic work had been done. Finally, the decision was made to move the car back home. Thanks to several knowledgeable friends who came to my assistance, we finished our beauty 2 years later. Then the day came when I could back it off the trailer at Eckler’s 2016 Winter National in Orlando, Florida. It scored 993 points out of 1000 at this show, which made all the ups and downs worth it!

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Some special features on this 1967 El Camino include:

  • The paint is a deep maroon on top and champagne at the bottom with special striping separating the colors (which also include some Chevy bowties).
  • The interior was completely replaced. It has a 1958 Impala steering wheel, which was painted with exterior colors.
  • The dash instrument panel was replaced with Dakota gauges. The interior was done in a light and dark beige with brown carpet.
  • The power plant is a 454 cube big-block with a roller hydraulic cam. It has a 700-R4 overdrive tranny. Under the hood there are many chrome parts and stainless braided hoses. We also installed a serpentine belt system.

Special thanks to Rob Cox and Lester Foreman for all their help in getting the car “show ready”.

My dream to get this beautiful ’67 El Camino has brought many smiles and taught me lots of patience. Amen, “Thank You Lord!”

Rockin’ Down the Highway

Colin-Date-head-shotIt’s funny sometimes how ideas for this column just pop into my brain. Writing my View typically means the magazine is just about wrapped up. All the stories are in, artwork layouts are being finalized and ads are in place. Whew. So, when I’m satisfied the guts of the issue are put to bed, it’s time for me to start rattling the keyboard. What shall we talk about this time ’round? I’ve had my ear buds in for the past half hour and what comes on the iPod? The Doobie Brothers’ “Rockin’ Down The Highway”. A driving song if there ever was one! This particular tune has almost landed me in hot water a few times – it just makes me want to downshift and peg the pedal hard against the floorboard. I’m typing away here – the Doobies’ tune has come to an end, and what’s next on the playlist? The Doors – “Riders On The Storm”. Haunting, to say the least. This one sounds best on a lonely highway at sundown, storm clouds roiling overhead.

It’s amazing how huge a role music plays in our classic car hobby. Listening to Elvis through that tinny 6” dash speaker while cruisin’ ’round the block in your Tri-5, or filling the cockpit with Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” on some wide open stretch of Interstate – the tunes set the mood, big time!

How about car shows? Ever been to one where there’s no music blaring through the loudspeakers? Neither have I. The songs that have been written over the years about cars and driving are too numerous to count! Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys certainly focused their efforts on the road tunes. Oh, here we go – The Eagles’ “Hotel California” just started – that ominous beat coming through my ear buds. As you can imagine, I’ve got a huge “car/road” collection of songs on my iPod. Little Old Lady From Pasadena, 409, Little Deuce Couple, Hot Rod Lincoln – all perennial favs.

The best moments (for me, anyway) come from matching the music to the moment. I took a ride (not as the driver – bummer) in a ’62 Impala SS about 10 years ago. The owner had “409” pumping out of his beefy aftermarket sound system. And yes, that big Chevy happened to sport a 409 under the hood. It was an incredible moment for me and still sticks in my brain. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t even have to be music. I used to love listening to afternoon ball games on the little Sonomatic AM radio in my ’69 Buick. Single dash speaker, kind of crackly, just set the mood – good times indeed.

Like drive-in movie theaters and old time burger joints, music in our cars tugs us (sometimes not so gently) back into days gone by. And sometimes, that’s just where we want to go. Would love to hear your thoughts here. Tell us a great story – some magical moment that linked a song to your car or road trip – an indelible slice of time. I can’t wait to hear it! colin.date@ecklers.net

OK, onto this issue of our magazine. The part you’ve all been dying to see – full coverage of this past February’s Winter National in Orlando – all 10 pages of it –begins on page 6. Is your ride there? Next up is a black ’57 Chevy that is driven and raced, everywhere! Check out this awesome classic on page 16. After that, some Reader’s Rides – a ’55 Chevy, a ’71 Chevelle, and four – count ’em – four ’57s!

The centerfold spot this month belongs to Warren Sutton’s beautiful ’67 El Camino, and I think you agree – this is one clean, nicely modified car. Er, truck. Er, car…

Our tech centers around the ins and outs of quarter panel replacement. Watch how it’s done on this ’56 Two-Ten. Hopefully this story will take some of the trepidation out of tackling this job yourself.

A newer, periodic feature we have in Chevy Classics is “Future Collectible”. This month, you’ll find a piece on the 1996 Caprice. It may not be that old now, but give it time!

There’s an update on our Project ’55 on pages 38 and 39. That car heads to the body shop for some serious sheet metal scrutiny. Watch the action as Stan’s Cocoa Corvette’s shop gets busy on this Bel Air.

I hope you enjoy this issue as much as we did putting it all together. Don’t forget – let’s hear some great music-in-your-ride type stories!

Colin