WASP Automotive’s 1970 Chevy Nova SS Combines Big Block Power With Daily Driver Status
WASP Automotive Built A 1970 Nova SS With Fuel Injection, Modern Amenities, And Big-Block Chevy Power.
Some cars shout at you with bright colors and loud exhaust, but others take a different approach—aiming to be unnoticed and unseen. They want to be the wolf in sheep's clothing. This 1970 Chevrolet Nova built by WASP Automotive is one such example. The plan from its inception was to refine the car with modern comforts, while having its appearance be nonchalant.
Robert Herricks had a love for building fast cars. He enjoyed the process of coming up with the project's goals, selecting and buying the parts, and seeing it come to life. He had another long-term project that has spanned over the years. A 1965 Mustang nicknamed the Blue Buffalo that has become WASP Automotive's signature car build featuring a mix of a race car, street car, and hot rod inspired custom parts. It was a dissertation of what WASP could do if money or limitations were not an object.
The downside of such a build was that it was so complex it progressed slowly, and the benefit of seeing its completion was far off. To assuage his desire to see a project evolve, he wanted to start another build that would progress faster. Despite being a die-hard Ford aficionado, he selected a 1970 Chevy Nova SS, which he refers to only as "the Chevy."
The 1970 Nova is an American classic, and the 396 powered SS model is coveted among collectors. With exclusivity comes a desire to preserve instead of change, so starting out, Herricks wanted to protect as much of that history as possible.
Originally Herricks bought the car online with the hopes of only doing a few upgrades such as wheels and tires along with some suspension upgrades, says Osvaldo "Oz" Asencio of WASP Automotive, but after the car arrived, it was clear it would need more work for it to meet Herricks' standards.
Initially, the plan was to leave the GM Berlin Black paint alone, but unfortunately that was untenable. "The paint started blistering," says Asencio; it was clear that the paint job was just good enough for the previous owner to sell the car. Not ones to leave the car completely stock, they thought about tastefully modifying the Nova while trying to keep as much of the original body as possible.
"The goal was to make a nice hot rod. Something that you can drive, has air conditioning, upgraded gauges, and to make it a little bit closer to what you expect in a new, modern car," says Asencio. "We tried to enhance the car without cutting the car. We tried to respect what it was and to update it without cutting anything up."
The car was stripped and repainted, but once it started coming together, Herricks decided he wanted more power. Asencio pulled out the 396 big-block and sent it to Thunder Works Engine Machining, in Victorville, California, to be rebuilt. The original block was cleaned, bored, and honed. The compression ratio was bumped up to 10.8:1 with a forged crankshaft, H-beam rods, and forged pistons. 265cc AFR cylinder heads were bolted onto the short block, Edelbrock's Air Gap intake manifold was installed on top, and a Comp hydraulic flat tapped camshaft was selected to dictate the timing of the valves.
The exhaust system is composed of Sanderson 1-inch coated steel headers that are attached to 3-inch Flowmaster H-pipe and mufflers, and the system provides the perfect compromise between flow and ground clearance. The original carburetor was ditched in favor of Holley's Sniper EFI system. The new powerplant made 500 horsepower, far more than the 375 horsepower that the SS came with when new.
Asencio designed and built a custom serpentine belt system to hold the alternator, power steering pump, A/C compressor, tensioner, idlers, and a crankcase vacuum pump. The vacuum pump is meant to stop the common oil issues with the 396. "Old big-blocks seep oil, and the crankcase vacuum system helps counter that," says Asencio. The accessory drive belt system is mounted on two large laser-cut brackets that were anodized black and refined to aid in appearance and lightness.
Bolted behind the 396 is a TH700R-4 transmission modified with a close-ratio gear set. It translates the power through a 12-bolt rearend. The housing was narrowed by 4 inches to allow for wider rear wheels and tires. The axle ratio was bumped up to 3.73:1 and augmented with an Eaton Posi and hardened axles.
Global West Suspension was installed front and rear. The suspension consists of tubular front A-arms, Del-a-Lum bushings, and Fox/Hotchkis shocks. The ride height was lowered an extra 3 inches at the front and 4 inches at the rear to achieve the perfect stance.
Asencio wanted a wheel that resembled the iconic Cragar SS but in all-aluminum construction, so he cut the centers out of a set and rewelded them on rotary forged aluminum barrels with custom backspacing. While we had them apart, they shot-peened the center section to add the texture of a raw wheel. They also trimmed 5/8-inch off the height of the center caps to give it a custom look. The wheels were then painted flat charcoal gray.
Wilwood Brakes provide the stopping power with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. Cross drilled and slotted 13-inch rotors dissipate the heat on all four corners. Wilwood parking brake calipers are mounted on the rear axle.
Exterior body enhancements are modest. The only exterior addition is a front chin spoiler from a 1969 Camaro that was added underneath the front bumper to visually lower the front of the car. It aids in the car's appearance while also hiding the front suspension, which is usually visible from the front. The trim around the windows was given a darker accent via black anodizing to draw less attention to the B-pillar, which helps focus the eye on the overall shape of the car rather than the chrome trim. New Delta LED headlights were installed to update the Nova with modern headlight technology.
Improving on the 1970 factory interior meant highlighting some factory accents while adding contemporary touches that make life inside the car more livable in the 21st century. "The factory door panels came with walnut trim, so we tied the rest of the interior with walnut," says Asencio. The original seats were modified and lowered in height before being reupholstered. Modern three-point seat belts were retrofitted, replacing the factory lap belts, and stainless-steel cup holders were added around the center console. The car's radio was also replaced with a seemingly traditional-looking piece that has dials and buttons but offers Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices.
Although Herricks loved watching this Nova build come to life, he never got to experience the car on the road. He passed away near the end of the process. The Nova build was a testament to his love of hot rodding. "He bought this car knowing that he was never going to drive it," says Asencio. "He enjoyed a good project and the whole process. The blue Mustang was so hardcore and everything took so long because it was going to such an extreme, but he bought this car so he could see something come together faster. Right up to the point to where he died, he never slowed down. He was interesting."
SSOURCE: HOT ROD NETWORK 2020