Carl Rossler’s L79-powered ’66 Chevy Nova Sport Coupe
Carl Rossler definitely qualifies for the highest level in the Nova Nuts universe. He bought his first Nova at 15 with money earned from a paper route (remember those?). It wasn’t much to start with – no engine, transmission, fenders, hood, or grille – but he made it roadworthy with the help of a donated Nova wagon.
Add the ownership of a ’67 283-powered Super Sport and later a 1968 two door, both drag racers, and you see where this headed. His current ’66 Nova is an ultra-rare (one of 124) L79-powered Sport Coupe (not an SS) with a steering-column-mounted three-speed manual transmission. And a front bench seat.
The L79 engine option in the mid-’60s was Chevy’s most potent naturally aspirated small block. The 327c.i. V8 produced 350 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque. A Holley four-barrel carburetor on a factory aluminum intake is mounted between high-performance cylinder heads featuring 2.02-inch intake valves. A dual-snorkel chrome air cleaner and chrome valve covers came standard on the L79 engines.
Exhaust fumes flow through high-performance factory manifolds mated to a dual-exhaust system that includes resonators to improve the exhaust note. Four-wheel drum brakes (and a single master cylinder) handle the stopping tasks. Reproduction BFGoodrich Silvertown 6.60-14 tires are mounted to red factory 14×5-inch wheels with small chrome hubcaps.
Carl found his latest Nova north of his Ohio home in Canada, via the internet, six years ago. It was unrestored, just freshened with a repaint, but it had the original, untouched drivetrain. Because the Nova was a Sport Coupe, not an SS (the usual home to an L79 engine), finding NOS parts was a challenge. “Nova NOS parts are very sought after and very expensive,” Carl says.
Carl turned to Nova guru Jack Duer and the crew at GM Classics in Taylorsville, Kentucky, to perform the restoration magic. Everything but the paint was handled by Duer’s team. The Madeira Maroon paint was applied by Bob Swarm at Universal Paint in Ohio.
The interior remains stock throughout, including the radio-delete option. GM Classics handled interior restoration work, which Carl says includes seven shades of red paint and fabric.
For the 1966 model year Chevrolet produced 172,485 Chevy IIs. That means fewer than 1-percent of the Novas that came off the assembly lines matched Carl’s rare survivor. For Nova fans that means you’ll be hard-pressed to see another Nova like this one.
Photos by John Jackson