Soup it Up: Breathing new life into ’67 Nova SS

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Once upon a time (actually, it was the mid-1960s), if you bought a Chevrolet Nova SS you could opt for Chevy’s small-block V-8 that displaced 327 cubic inches and pumped out 275 horsepower. The car was compact and light, and the engine was powerful enough that the package could sprint to 60 miles per hour in less than 7 seconds.

Fast-forward half a century and Chevrolet introduces its new-generation Camaro that in its basic form comes not with a small-block V-8 or even an amazingly strong V-6, but with a turbocharged four-cylinder that is both powerful and fuel efficient.

How powerful? Well, the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder — the LTG — provides 272 horsepower, nearly as much as that much larger V-8. It produces an impressive 295 pound-feet of torque, and that torque curve reaches its peak as soon as 1,700 rpm.

The turb-four will be available for aftermarket use as a crate engine. To showcase its potential for hot-rodders and other custom car builders, a team of five engineers from GM’s Milford Proving Ground put one of the new LTG engines in a 1967 Nova SS. The car made its debut on the most recent Hot Rod Power Tour, a drive from Wisconsin to Louisiana, and also was part of the Chevrolet display at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show.

The crew at Milford that built up the ’67 Nova goes on the tour every year as its “Motor Medics.” Their role is to provide mechanical support for any vehicle that breaks down on the trip.

Thus, said Rich Downing, engineering program manager at Milford, “We build our cars so they can survive the tour and so we can work on other people’s cars.”

When the Motor Medics showed up for the Power Tour with a turbo-four under the hood of its redone ’67 Nova SS, “the reception was a little cold at first,” Downing said. But after it was proven on the drive, “People are falling in love with it,” Downing reported.

And why not? Like the original Nova SS with a V-8, the revised car weighs 3,100 pounds. But with the fuel-efficient but spunky turbo-four, the car sprints to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds. (FYI, in the new Camaro, the engine gets you to that speed in just 5.4 seconds.)

The Nova SS was owned by the father of a GM staffer. In addition to the engine, the team installed a six-speed manual gearbox, 3:42 differential gearing, Chevrolet Performance engine controller, accessory drive setup, a stainless-steel exhaust with side-mounted exit, four-link rear suspension and four-corner air suspension so the car has proper clearance for cruising but can be slammed when parked.

While the team was at it, it covered the exterior in black-gold paint with graphite trim. It also got custom-built 17-inch wheels, an billet aluminum grille, modified headlamp bezels, narrowed and tucked bumpers, quick-release gas filler and shaved door handles and trunk lock. The interior was done in jet black with graphite and bronze trim.

Details on the engine and other parts are available at the Chevrolet Performance website.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at