Home Builder – Joe Seeno Did It All on This ’63 Chevy Nova SS
We all seem to gravitate toward certain vehicles. No matter how much we might appreciate classic cars of all years, makes, and styles, there will always be that one specific vehicle that led us to where we are today. For Joe Seeno, that vehicle is the first-gen Chevrolet Nova. Over the years Joe has owned his fair share of 1962-64 Novas, but his latest may be his best one yet.
At 37 years old, Joe is still relatively young for the number of Nova builds he has under his belt. His first a, a ’64 two-door hardtop, got him hooked on the body style. He was just a teenager when the build started and in 2005 he won a Goodguys YoungGuys award at the All-American Get-Together. Since then, this YoungGuy alumnus (now called the Goolsby Next Generation award) has had more than 10 Novas come through his Northern California garage. Joe currently owns three, including this red ’63 SS, a green ’64 LS-swapped family-cruiser wagon, and another wagon project that he recently started.
But let’s dive into this ’63 SS. Back in February of 2017 Joe was prowling Craigslist and stumbled across a fresh posting for a 1963 Nova SS that had only been up for about 10 minutes. The ad was vague with limited images and what was shown led Joe to believe there were a lot of missing pieces. He called the number and asked the owner to hold the car for him. The car was only a couple hours away, so Joe loaded up the trailer and some front body dollies and optimistically hit the road.
Upon arriving, Joe inspected the car more closely. He noted the “X” on the body tag, the SS trim holes along the body, and the SS interior trim on the dash and gauges. The car was still just a shell – no suspension, no front clip, no engine or transmission, no seats, and A LOT of boxes. Luckily most of the front end parts were stashed with those boxes – fenders, grille, bumpers, glass, hood and more. Joe exchanged $1,000 for the title, bolted up the body dollies, and loaded it on the trailer.
Joe already had a ’71 C10 project in the works so he collected Nova parts while the truck was getting finished. Once done with the C10, he made quick work on the Nova. When the winter of 2017 rolled around (less than nine months after dragging it home), Joe had the Nova on the road, albeit in “rough” condition.
In January 2018 Joe began disassembling the Nova after about a month of trial running it around town making sure his work was sound. He stripped the car down to prepare it for bodywork, which he did in his two-car home garage, before spraying the Matrix GM Torch Red paint over the panels. At the same time, he smoothed the firewall and core support, restored the side trim, made some custom grille filler pieces, and opted to go with a cowl induction hood.
For the underpinnings, Joe went with TCI’s pro touring front clip with a power rack-and-pinion paired with TCI’s torque arm rear setup stuffed with a 4.11:1 posi gearset from Eaton. Wilwood 12-inch disc brakes ride up front and Joe fitted 1998-02 F-body rear disc brakes out back. Schott’s Octane 18×8-inch wheels are fitted on all corners and are wrapped with 225/40 and 245/40 tires.
What makes Joe’s Nova distinctive among other ’60s-era pro-touring builds these days is the lack of an LS-based engine, or even EFI. Instead, Joe built a traditional 355c.i. small block he had sitting in his garage using Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads, an Edelbrock Air Gap intake topped with a Holley Street Avenger 670cfm carburetor, Edelbrock camshaft, Proform valve covers, MSD ignition, and a RAB Performance serpentine drive. The engine is good for 450 horsepower breathing through TCI headers and a newly installed 2.5-inch Black Widow Venom exhaust system. Power is delivered through a Centerforce clutch and a T-56 six-speed transmission.
On the inside Joe showed more range of his talent by reupholstering the SS bucket seats, installing the headliner, and running the Painless wiring harness to all connection points. The interior has a mostly stock appearance aside from the Flashpower billet steering wheel, Dakota Digital VHX gauges, and Hurst shifter.
It’s enthusiasts like Joe Seeno who breathe fresh air into the hot rod hobby we all enjoy. And we know there are many more like him all over America making up the backbone of rodding – do-it-yourselfers who build old cars and trucks because they thoroughly enjoy both the process and the reward when the work is finished. We already know this won’t be Joe’s last Nova, but will it be one he lets go? From the way he talked to us about it, we have a feeling this Red ’63 SS will be a NorCal staple in the Seeno garage for many years to come.
Photos by Steven Bunker