Overdrive and air conditioning. These are the two modern conveniences we purposely left off the Nova SS509 project car when we decided to build it. It was going to be a street/strip machine that went to the occasional cruise night. What did we need overdrive and air conditioning for?
Naturally, once it was mechanically complete, we decided to drive it 1,100 miles from South Jersey's Pine Barrens to Tampa. Without overdrive and without air conditioning. Call me a wuss, but you just don't realize how dependent you've become on these two things until you've driven some 24 hours in a vintage car with a screaming big-block that lacks these conveniences.
Despite a lack of tailpipes, the roar from the throaty 3-inch pipes wasn't too bad (we angled the mufflers' outlets towards each other as a noise cancellation trick). We had the side windows up and the kick panel vents open, but as we got further south later in the trip (we left at 6:15 a.m. from Virginia) and the humidity started climbing, it was getting a smidge uncomfortable in our X-body.
We didn't fear for our big-block 509's health, as it was built for high-rpm operation with Comp Cams' latest valvetrain technology. When we switched to a solid roller cam (see the July ’13 issue of Super Chevy), we knew we could get away with a lot less spring pressure. The engine responded with flawless operation and another perfect oil check.
We had tunes, thanks to the previous owner installing a modern CD player. With an iPod hookup that played through the 88.3 frequency, we could listen to all our favorite songs from the previous century. But the Nova's base high-back bucket seats were truly not comfortable. They had dead seat bottoms, no side bolstering, and the non-adjustable seat backs were too bolt-upright for my 51-year-old back.
And can someone tell me when was the last time they paved I-95 in South Carolina? I'm sure they have smoother roads in Afghanistan. The right lane was unusable, and the left slightly better, but unless we wanted to travel at 85 mph
we were relegated to the slow lane. At 3,500 rpm at 70, this was our course of action.
After we entered Georgia, we spotted some signage for Macon. As we wasted much of our teen years in theaters watching flicks like "Two-Lane Blacktop," "Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry," and the timeless(?) ’57 Chevy thriller, "Return To Macon County," how could we resist taking the photo you see here?