While rolling around the pits during the 2012 Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green last summer something strange caught my eye. It actually caught my entire body as I executed a full throttle U-turn and sped back to the pit space occupied by Tennessean Kelvin Cannon and his girl friend Christy. Thankfully they didn’t run for cover when I went running over yelling, “Is this a real one?!” Kelvin told me that it wasn’t but that he had constructed this car himself over the span of about three months. I was referencing the cars that served as the model for this one, a handful of Chevy Novas built by the factory initially to go stock car racing, then road racing, but ultimately ended up drag racing. Five original cars were constructed and Kelvin’s is close enough to be considered a sixth in our eyes. So what’s the deal with the weird roof? Read on to find out.
The story begins in 1963 when the big three in Detroit were beating each other over their heads at an ever escalating pace on race tracks across the country. Each company had special projects, development work, and clandestine development departments going around the clock to stay ahead of the other. One of the ideas that came from the GM camp was to improve the aerodynamics of the Chevy Nova for road racing and stock car racing by adding a sloped roof or what we now call a “fastback”. Plans were hurriedly drawn up and five 1963 Nova convertibles were shipped to the Corvette plant to have fiberglass hoods, fenders, doors, bumpers, and most importantly roofs made. The guts of the convertible tops were removed, the ‘glass was melded to the steel quarter panels and the cars sported a unique…if not a little weird…fastback roof at the end of the process. The cars then had Corvette independent suspension installed and were shipped to Bill Thomas Race Cars on the west coast which was like the Area 51 of GM racing at the time. Thomas was shipped five “mystery” motors that were to be installed in the cars before they were sent out into the world. Then GM pulled the plug on all of their racing. They called and demanded the engines back but Thomas was able to keep the five cars to settle a debt that GM owed him. Initially they were supposed to be crushed. Thomas then took the cars, converted them into drag machines by relocating their rear axles, adding his funny car front clip kit, and ditching the IRS for straight axles. As best Kelvin knows, none of the cars left Thomas’s shop with an engine in them. One was supposedly turned into a street car, one was wrecked in a high speed crash not too long after getting on the track, and three of the five had long careers and exist in some form or another today. Kelvin’s is probably the most accurate reproduction of a fastback Nova in the world and he built it himself…in three months without having ever seen one of the real cars in person.
This car started life as a junkyard take out that Kelvin had hounded Tex Scalf to buy for three years before the car showed up to his shop on the back of Scalf’s ramp truck. Studying photos and magazine articles that were published at the time the cars were built, Kelvin scanned articles and studied them to get an idea of scale and size with respect to the roof and the other custom pieces on the car. His research paid off because he has been told by people intimately familiar with the originals that his rendition is just about dead nuts on. Obviously there are a couple of small modern additions, like an MSD ignition system, 12-point cage, and front disc brakes, but that is all stuff that basically hides itself and the appearance of the car is very true to its rare roots.
AS WE LOVE TO DO, WE’RE GOING TO TELL YOU THE REST OF THE STORY THROUGH PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS – SCROLL DOWN BELOW TO SEE THIS AMAZING HOMAGE TO ONE OF THE MOST OBSCURE CHEVY DRAG MODELS OF ALL TIME – THE FASTBACK NOVA!