Regrets and Non-Regrets About My Nova

These are the top mistakes I wish I hadn’t made while restoring and driving my Nova:

  1. Wasting gobs of money. A few years ago, I blew through cubic dollars trying to get rid of a drive train vibration. In the end I got a rebuilt transmission, new engine, different bottom pulley, new water pump, different distributor, different alternator, and a few other miscellaneous parts. All of those parts only lightened my wallet. It turns out it almost all the vibrations were coming from my tires, which leads me to:
  2. Crappy tires. My BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires were complete crap. I will never buy them again. They had poor wet weather traction, were noisy, and poorly balanced. The replacement Michelin Pilot XGT H4s made the car handle far better, like night and day.
  3. Mismatched idler arm/pitman arm. For years my left turns “felt” different than my right turns, and directional stability wasn’t what it should be. It turns out that my Pitman arm and idler arms were off by ½”, thanks to Performance Suspension Components (PSC) where I got all my suspension parts from.
  4. The cheap poly bushings in my rear leaf springs. My front poly bushings, from PSC, never squeaked much, but my rear leaf spring bushings made noise with every suspension travel. I got the black poly bushings from Espo Springs N Things with my springs, and I think they were not graphite impregnated.
  5. Lower assist on the power steering gear. When I had Lee Manufacturing rebuild my P/S gear, I had him lower the assist, thinking that it would give me a better road feel. All it did was make the steering wheel harder to turn while giving no more road feel. The stock P/S assist was higher than modern cars, but it still gave a good amount of road feel.
  6. Analysis without physical diagnosis. I often tried to analyze things without physically tearing stuff apart and looking at it. On occasion I made a correct guess, but too often I ended up wasting time or money.
  7. Not checking the easy stuff first. If I did the easy stuff first, I would have swapped out wheels with someone else in 1999 and cured my drivetrain vibrations a long time ago.
  8. HEI. I don’t regret electronic ignition, but I do regret the HEI. It doesn’t fit right in a ’74 Nova, and I had to bash in the firewall to get it in. Next time I will do a remote coil type unit that can still fit in the stock location.
  9. Only had rear speakers. I had a great radio and 2-way Pioneer 6×9 speakers in the rear package shelf. It was “OK,” but I had to crank up the volume too much to hear stuff in the front seat. I would have rather had a front speaker.
  10. The worst one: Not paying more attention to the brakes. I totaled my Nova because my brakes malfunctioned as I avoided a wandering SUV. I guess that my rear brakes locked up as I jumped on them. There’s no telling what caused this: sticky cylinders, too much line pressure, bad proportioning valve? Who knows? I should have paid better attention to this vital system.

Things I don’t regret:

  1. Running A/C. A/C makes the car tolerable all year round in Dallas .
  2. Keeping the 2.73 rear gears. Those 2.73s may hurt low end torque, but they make the car reasonable at highway speeds. If I had an overdrive transmission I wouldn’t mind doing 3.73s, but that’s the only way I would consider that.
  3. 4 core brass radiator. Much less expensive than aluminum, and it never overheated, even with a 330 HP 350.
  4. Exhaust Manifolds. OK, so they reduced high end horsepower, but they actually fit, they don’t block spark plugs, and they don’t overheat the engine compartment.
  5. Stock hood. Cowl hoods are rice, and I still have yet to see any evidence that they do anything for you besides cause additional aerodynamic drag.
  6. Stock wheels. Aftermarket wheels look weird.
  7. Front bench seat. It is more practical. The only problem is the driver’s side cushions sagged from overuse, so my back would get sore on long trips.
  8. Replacing vinyl matting with carpet. The carpeting made the inside much nicer, although if I do it again I will go with cut pile instead of loop carpeting.
  9. Cheap oil. I still have yet to see any quantitative data showing that expensive oils do anything for you. All fingers point to at least getting API certified oil (even Wal Mart brand oil is API certified) and changing the oil semi-regularly. I yanked the intake at least twice, and I never noticed any sludge or anything else supposedly attributable to cheap oil.
  10. Daily driving a Nova. Yup, I drove my Nova to and from work every day. It was literally my daily driver. I enjoyed keeping a piece of history alive, and I enjoyed not driving the kind of car everyone else has.

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