Survivor Sport – Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop Updates a Low-Mileage Chevy II
There are plenty of ways to approach a survivor vehicle project. You can enjoy it stock; you can give it minor mechanical updates, leaving yourself the option of returning it to original at a later date; or you can go all-in with major upgrades while retaining the original paint, upholstery, and other cosmetics.
The latter option is what George Poteet chose when he had Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop freshen up this low-mileage ’66 Nova. The JHRS team presented it appropriately on a recent social media post: “Purists, close your eyes! This old shoebox just got an upgrade to last a lifetime. With remarkably low mileage and a partial past restoration, it wasn’t even a question that this ’66 Nova was a perfect candidate for some modern-day power and comfort.”
Poteet is a big proponent of survivor-style builds. As he told us earlier this year, finding a nice original car or older restoration and updating the chassis and drivetrain shaves a tremendous amount of time and cost off the build process and gets him quicker to the goal of driving the car. And if there’s one thing Poteet enjoys, it’s a road trip in one of his old cars!
The JHRS team treated Poteet’s low-mileage Chevy II to a full complement of top-shelf aftermarket parts, starting with a Roadster Shop front subframe with RideTech adjustable coil-over shocks, and a matching Roadster Shop rear subframe with a four-link suspension, 9-inch rearend with a John’s Industries center section, and matching RideTech coil-overs. Wilwood four-piston disc brakes were used at each corner and covered up with Circle Racing wheels that mimic the steel originals, but in 17×7- and 17×8-inch sizes. They wear Michelin tires and Nova dog dish hubcaps.
Careful product selection and meticulous attention to detail helped Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop perform a successful survivor build on this Nova. These construction photos show some of the progress of installing Roadster Shop suspension components, Detroit Speed inner fenders, and Borla exhaust. Axalta paint materials were used on parts that needed finishing – primarily a lot of satin black on engine panels and chassis components.
The team turned to LS Classics for an LS3 crate engine dressed up to look like a stock L79 small-block, including a dual-snorkel air cleaner and steel valve covers. The coil packs were relocated behind the inner fender panels, while a Holley Terminator X Max system was used to control the electronic fuel injection and Bowler 4L65E transmission. Hooker exhaust manifolds were employed to direct the spent gases to a custom-built stainless exhaust system using Borla tubing and mufflers, with a Walker radiator and Cooling Components electric fan keeping things cool.
A primary goal of the build was to keep everything looking like it belonged. Parts like inner fender panels from Detroit Speed helped, as did detailing the smoothed firewall and engine bay panels in an Axalta satin black finish that looks OEM. The underside got similar factory-style, understated finishes.
The approach was similar inside, where the JHRS team reworked the foam on the original bucket seats to provide better comfort and support while keeping original-style upholstery. The IDIDIT Retrofit tilt column and Con2R wheel (with a Nova horn button) look right at home, as does the Classic Instruments gauge set. A layer of Boom Mat was used under the Auto Custom Carpet to keep things quiet, while a Vintage Air SureFit system provided modern heat and A/C while retaining a stock-style control panel.
The end result is a sedate, almost-stock-looking Super Sport Chevy II with a great stance and vastly improved performance in every aspect. “With its future destined for countless road trips, only the best and most proven components were going to do the job for another 50-plus years,” Johnson says. In other words, this Nova is doing more than just surviving – it’s thriving!
Photos by Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop