Stealthy Star – Edgar Arceneaux’s Subtle 1971 Nova Packs the Surprise of Big Block Power
Pleasanton, California is beautiful in the fall, and the late-season colors are augmented with the rumble of hot rods and cool rides when Goodguys Autumn Get Together rolls into town. Not only is the show great for seeing cool cars and trucks, but the parking lot out front is heaven for pickers, swap meet junkies, and folks looking to buy cars.
Edgar Arceneaux’s 1971 Nova might have been among the many cars in the spectator parking lot if he hadn’t made a last-minute decision to register and enter it in the event. Edgar told us he wasn’t sure if the Nova was “show material”. We assured him it was, as did the hundreds of people who stopped for a closer look during the event. In fact, we liked the street-smart Nova so well we awarded it our Fuel Curve Pick.
Edgar bought the Nova 20 years ago as a low-mileage beauty with just 64,000 miles on the clock. His dad used to have a ’69 Nova, so the family has long had Bow Ties in their blood. Edgar joined the U.S. Army 2002 and deployed to Afghanistan in 2004; dad kept the car covered up and safely tucked away while Edgar was gone.
When Edgar returned home in 2005, he began to work on the Nova, and the car evolved through several different iterations. In 2012, he commissioned Vince Ortiz at MSP Fabrication in Gilroy, California to take the car to the next level. When the dust settled in 2013, the Nova emerged from the shop with some very tender, yet brutal updates.
Originally equipped with a 307ci small block, there’s now a 496ci big-block Chevy thumping under the hood and pumping out a stump-pulling 600hp and 568 ft-lbs of torque. The big rat motor is equipped with a roller cam, aluminum heads, and FiTech Fuel Injection and is backed up by a Tremec six-speed manual transmission. The front suspension is a SpeedTech Road Assault setup with tubular control arms and adjustable shocks. Out back, the car is running a four-link RideTech system with coil-overs and a 12-bolt rearend. Gigantic 14-inch Baer brakes with six-piston calipers drop the anchor on command. A textbook example of a sleeper, the only clues that suggest otherwise are the perfect stance, the fantastic 18-inch Forgeline wheels, and big BFGoodrich tires.
All this firepower is wrapped up in a darn near stock fuselage. This generation of Nova was essentially a 5/8-scale Chevelle and was a complete rethink styling wise from its rectilinear predecessor. It was a very pure design and Edgar and Vince were wise to leave it mostly alone. The car is now sporting a tasty Toyota shade of metallic green that could have easily been in GM’s color palette back when Richard Nixon was president. The laser-straight bodywork and paint were performed by Rick at Timeless Custom Innovation.
Inside, the stock look is augmented with Corbeau racing seats, carbon fiber accents, Lokar pedals, and AutoMeter gauges. The Billet Specialties steering wheel is the crowning touch. A roll bar was added to improve safety and stiffness. All this gear was incorporated into the build with tight tolerances and meticulous build quality.
The Nova has been on the road now for a number of years and Edgar enjoys cruising and showing it around his Pinole, California home, with his sons Manuel and Nathaniel often tagging along. Young scion Manuel is the family’s newest Chevy fan and Edgar says when he inherits the Nova, he’ll be tasked will keeping old school Chevys alive and well for the next generation.
Photos by Steven Bunker