How far has automotive technology come in the last 50 years?
Well, consider that if you bought a Chevrolet Nova SS in 1967, it was equipped with a 275-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 engine. Today that same Nova SS can be powered by a much more fuel-efficient and turbocharged engine with half as many cylinders that produces 272 horsepower and a stunning 295 pound-feet of torque.
To showcase the engine’s aftermarket potential even before it goes into the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro in a few months, engineers at General Motors’ Milford, Michigan, Proving Ground took a 48-year-old Nova SS and installed the new LTG directly injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder “crate” engine and its 6-speed manual transmission. The car made its debut on the recent Hot Rod Power Tour, a drive from Wisconsin to Louisiana, and is on display this week at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
What is being called the 1967 Chevrolet Nova Concept was built by a five-man team in Milford’s Building 32, where Rich Downing is the engineering program manager for creating such vehicles. The team also serves as the Motor Medics on the Power Tour, providing on-the-spot fixes for vehicles suffering mechanical maladies.
“We build our cars so they can survive the tour and so we can work on other people’s cars,” Downing said.
The ’67 donor Nova was owned by the father of a GM employee, but its original powertrain already had been replaced, so no sacrilege was being committed in the build, which included the new engine and gearbox, a 3.42 rear end, Chevrolet Performance engine controller kit, Chevrolet Performance accessory drive system, custom-fabricated stainless-steel side exhaust and a four-link rear with four-corner air suspension to improve ride on the road and the track, and so the car can sit low when parked.
The Nova originally was painted black, but to it make look truly “sinister and dark,” it got custom Black Gold exterior paint with Gloss Graphite trim and Satin Graphite underbody paint, custom-machined 17-inch Z/28 replica wheels in Satin Bronze, a billet aluminum grille and modified headlamp bezels, narrowed and tucked bumper assemblies, custom-machined quick-release gas fill port, shaved door handles and trunk lock, and custom Jet Black leather interior with Graphite and Satin Bronze accents.
“The reception was a little cold at first,” Downing said, “but people are falling in love with it, and we’re seeing a lot of dare-to-be-different kind of custom builds and this fits there.”
Downing noted that the turbo four pumps out 295 pound-feet of torque as low as 1,700 rpm.
A Chevrolet news release notes that a ’67 Nova weighed in a 3,100 pounds, but with the updated powertrain and a modified 50/50 front/rear weight split, the concept version sprints from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds.
Chevrolet has announced that a 2016 Camaro equipped with basically the same powertrain, updated gearing (4.40 first/3.27 final drive) and 18-inch wheels will weigh around 3,300 pounds but will hit 60 in just 5.4 seconds.