Photos by: Scott Schwartz / Video by: Sam McConnell
Eric Fuhrman’s ’63 Nova Convertible Packs a Hidden Punch
Like so many of us, Eric Fuhrman loves old cars. Eric has owned quite a few classic sports cars and muscle cars, and his baddest one yet came straight from everyone’s favorite online auction site, making it one heck of an eBay find.
Eric’s taste in cars have a way of evolving, while also following along the same path. He has an appreciation for modern-day concepts being utilized in older cars. Although these aren’t as old school as his current Nova build, he also has a C3 Corvette with a similar suspension setup you’d see underneath a C5 Corvette, while a stroker motor pushes the modern suspension of his C3.
Considering his build preferences and modernization goals, this 1963 Nova with turbo LS seems like a perfect fit, and a muscle car meant to be apart of the Fuhrman family. However, the story of this car began long before Eric found the for sale listing on eBay; this turbo LS classic Nova has done a lot of living before coming home with its current owner.
“I’m a car guy, I love old cars, especially ones with modern day drivetrains.” -Eric Fuhrman
This Nova started life as a special car. Of the small number of Nova convertibles built in 1963, even fewer of them were convertibles, with an estimated production number coming in under 5,000 total 1963 Nova SS Convertibles.
The droptop Nova lived a long time as a stock car, until its age started leaving the then owner stranded during cruises around town. A combination of mechanical issues, temperamental manual brakes, and a less-than-present feel from the manual steering caused the car to get parked for a few months. It was at this point that decisions had to be made about the Nova’s future. After all, what’s the point of having a car that’s not being driven? Then, on the other hand, it had become so unpleasant to drive, that it was more enjoyable as a garage ornament than means of transportation.
To add to Nova’s dwindling appeal, the owners at the time had other cars that needed their attention, including a 1963 Pontiac LeMans that somewhat famous in its own right. The LeMans had already earned its keep during a number of Ultimate Street Car Series events, at SEMA, and during an Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. So, who really had time for a problematic car when a turn-key streetcar was ready and willing to take the owners anywhere they wanted.
The saving grace of the Nova came around in a weird way. Basically, the LeMans was ‘too finished’ and there was nothing left to do. This got the gearhead owners anxious to start in on the Nova’s existing issues, starting with the steering and brake problems. Like so many projects do, this one went from routine maintenance, to a full-blown overhaul.
A few weeks into the project, the Nova was rolling on a totally new suspension, and an engine swap was in the works. The small-block engine had seen the end of the line when it was pulled and replaced by a 5.3L LS based engine with LS6 cam, LS6 heads, and the star of the show, a Turbonetics 72mm turbocharger. Not to skip ahead, but the Nova now has a 6.0L with the same heads, cam, and turbo. The 5.3L 9.0:1 compression ratio, boost-friendly engine was replaced by the 6.0L foundation in hopes of gaining more power, but the bigger displacement engine didn’t lend much in terms of gains.
Topline Design & Speed fabricated the intercooler, and it also has a TiAL Sport wastegate and blow-off valve. The Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump and Lingenfelter 60 lbs fuel injectors keep the engine adequately fed, while a Derale oil coiler and AFCO three-row radiator with single SPAL fan helps to keep the entire system cool. Holley cast manifolds help to sweep the exhaust out of the engine and into a 2-/12” exhaust and set of DynoMax mufflers, providing a killer exhaust note, and efficient flow.
“The car handles like a modern car in the turns. You can dial in the suspension to your preference. You do have to warm up the Nitto tires first. My first time behind the wheel will be at the NCM track soon.” -Eric Fuhrman
Back to the turbo setup, this has a cool little quirk when it comes to how the turbo is used. Since this car used to be owned by a couple, they installed a toggle switch in the dash to create two unique boost configurations. When the switch is in the “Hers” position, it runs on 5 psi of boost, and gets around 500-horsepower to the ground. In the “His” position, a neck breaking 15 psi of boost moves it into the 660-horsepower zone.
From there, the power is sent through a 4L60E, 4-speed automatic transmission with B&M shifter and 2800 stall torque converter from PATC. The driveline feeds into a GM 12-bolt with Detroit TrueTrac differential and 3.55:1 Strange gears.
Since all this power means nothing if the car can’t stay planted, the suspension had to be completely redone as the car was set to go on the compete in autocross and road race events in the years that followed the Nova’s makeover. A total aftermarket upgrade would lead to the use of a TCI Engineering 4-link rear suspension, TCI front clip and subframe, TCI A-Arms, and TCI spindles.
A TCI Mustang II steering suspension would replace the stock unit, and Viking adjustable coilover shocks would take duty on all four corners. To give it the braking power it needs, it runs with Brembos straight off a 2012 Camaro, which are 14” rotors, six-piston calipers up front, and four-piston calipers at the back. A set of 18×9” TSW wheels, wrapped in Nitto NT05 275/35 tires keep all four corners firmly planted.
Black Procar seats, upholstered by Ronnie Price Upholstery in Fairfield, OH adorn the interior, while a removable Topline Design Rollbar reminds you that you’re still sitting inside a bad little street car. A Dakota Digital VHX dash, Grant steering wheel, and Kenwood CD player have all also been added.
While Eric is planning an upcoming race day, the car itself has been on the track quite a bit. It has competed at the Real Street Eliminator by Car Craft in 2014, was a part of the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car, and was the 2014 Car Craft Magazine Muscle Car of the Year.
We have a feeling that once Eric gets in some wheel time, this awesome 1963 Chevy Nova SS Convertible will be showing up at road events. It would be impossible just to let this car sit with all of its power and suspension upgrades.
Shawn Henry is a Texas native who has spent the majority of his career building and selling F-Bodies and Corvettes. Now studying journalism, he is taking a new direction with his love of performance vehicles.