Gary Gipson's Pro Street 1964 Chevy II Nova SS
(from Volume 25, Issue 304)

story by owner Gary Gipson, photos by Michael B. Kelly


For me it all started back in Detroit, Michigan when I was a kid and received my first model car, a 1964 Pontiac Tempest. Then later when I was 11 my uncle bought a new Shelby Mustang GT KR500, which obviously made quite the impression on me. So I have been hooked on cars my whole life. That is why I always say, “Take a kid to a car show”.

Growing up on an 80 acre farm in Utica, Michigan, my first real vehicle came at the age of 15. It was a red 1952 Ford Pickup, just like Sanford and Son had. I traded it for a 1965 Impala SS with a 396 cubic inch engine. Back then we where blessed with the brand new Henry Ford II High School, which had a state of the art auto shop. For some reason I went straight for the auto upholstery side of the shop, and began leaning that craft. After the Army, I was then blessed by getting a job with Ford Motor Company in 1978, sewing Thunderbird seats at the Ford Chesterfield trim plant, and later ending up in the engineering department sewing prototype seats for upcoming models.

In 2003 I was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia to the Ford Taurus plant, dragging two 1965 Mustangs with me. In 2006 I was transferred to Ford’s service division in central Florida to export Ford parts to the Caribbean islands. That is when I bought a new 2007 Foose Mustang and started going to Old Town in Kissimmee. There I met Don Musica and Tara Bush of the Central Florida Cruisers (now Cruisin’ Orlando), and I also started missing not having an older classic car. Soon I was looking for another Mustang, and though I wanted a Pro Street car I didn’t find many for sale. What I did find was a beat up 1964 Chevy II Nova SS for sale down by lake Okeechobee. It was an old bracket racer with a small block, and between the abuse the car had been subjected to, along with the original 50 year old front suspension, it was dangerous to drive. The old Chevy II needed me to rescue her, so I had it towed 200 miles to Orlando, and then took it to my buddy Cipi Garcia. He owns Garcia Racing in Winter Haven, and together Cipi and I spent every weekend for four years working on this car. You know you have a true friend when he spends every weekend helping you work on your car in a barn!

My 1964 Chevy II Nova SS was a rust free car that had spent its whole life in south Florida. However, every time someone put a new set of bucket seats in they drilled eight more holes, and I wanted to be able to show the bottom of the car off too. I told Cipi that my intentions were to take this car to one of the best hot rod shows in the country; the Detroit Autorama. So the first thing Cipi did was install a new one piece floor pan, then in went the new TCI rack and pinion front suspension, and a coil over rear suspension to make room for some 18.5 inch wide tires. I wanted to build a street car so I only went with a 4-point roll cage, and then Cipi Garcia built me a killer 454 cubic inch big block Chevy motor with aluminum heads and an 8-71 billet blower with two 750 cfm Quick Fuel carbs and a “big and ugly” (BAU) air intake to top it off. Cipi and I are both old school, so the car had to have three pedals....and as a result he put a 4-speed in it for me. Having a blower car with a 4-speed is a blast because I don’t want to just steer my car, I want to drive it!

After Cipi painted the bottom of the car, he did the back half and got the car back on the ground. Then after fabricating the rear wing and doing the body work Cipi painted the car using a 2001 Plymouth Prowler gold paint (and yes, he also painted this car in the barn). He then re-installed the drive train, and I took the car to my house where I started building the interior, which ended up utilizing eight hides of leather throughout. I did all of the interior work, which included hand sewing the roll cage cover in leather, and also hand sewed the steering wheel cover. I bought a set of Procar seats, then took the factory covers off and designed my own leather seat covers. I also spent two weeks fabricating a one-piece carbon fiber headliner....but it was so shiny I couldn’t take it, so I was lucky I had a leather hide big enough to cover it in one piece without having to seem it. I covered the dash in birdseye maple veneer, which was then clear coated and buffed out. The dash pad I made out of foam, and used an attractive French seam along the crease. Then it was time to install all the new glass, which included the first time I had ever roped in a windshield by myself. Finally, she was done!

I can’t thank Cipi Garcia enough for making my dreams come true. It was a long labor of love, but one that was certainly rewarding. Plus I did in fact make my dream of showing the car at the Detroit Autorama a reality! I now have a blast driving the Nasty Nova to lots of various car shows and cruise-ins, always looking forward to the next fun outing. CN