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Old 12-11-2014, 01:00 PM   #1
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Default 1971 Nova - Insanity in Progress

I bought this Nova last year when I sold my mustang, I was a active member here when this was CSVT so all the info of my old car is still on this site. Some of you know me from other sites as well as some of the old CSVT members who are still around. I apologize in advance for being a little long winded.

I was looking to get back into a classic muscle car that I could restore and modify to my liking. I choose a Nova since they are cheap and my wife wanted it to be a chevy. I enjoy all makes/models domestic or import which is why I enjoy TCG.

Specs:
1971 2 Door Nova factory v8 auto

Engine
350 block 383 stroker
Cam - unknown (I have several cam cards from the previous owners not sure which one is installed)
Rods/pistons - unknown
Heads - stock
Edelbrock intake - unknown which model
Holley 750 double pumper

Trans
700R4
3200 Stall
Shift Kit - Jegs brand

Rearend
10 bolt 8.5
3:56 gears

I knew the car needed some work before I bought it....I just underestimated how bad some of it was going to be. When I got the car the owner I purchased it from had just primer bombed the car and splatter painted the trunk (was still fresh when I went to look at the car). I would have still bought the car but would have negotiated a better price, but hey live and learn. The guy I bought the car from purchased the car from an elderly couple in Ohio who had a binder of documentation which was a huge selling point to me. Unfortunately I didn't look closely to see that the receipts didn't have much specific information. So the documentation only shows dates and what parts were replaced not what they were replaced with (for the most part anyways.) Again no biggie.

The car had 3 paint jobs in it's life plus the primer the guy I bought the car from put on it. Under the primer was a Suzuki gold that was applied in 2002. (what a FUGLY ass color) under the gold was a red. Whenever the red was put on the car it also had extensive body filler applied but no rust or sheet metal repair, more on that later. Under the red was a factory correct blue. The cowl tag says the car should be Sandalwood, while I did find it on a few parts of the car this leads me to believe someone painted the car early on in it's life or worse someone swapped the vin and cowl tag to another car . Also there were a few spots where Green was found, I'm assuming a donor car or junk yard parts replacement. To be honest with all the documentation I have it just confuses things even further. The car was also in a few fender benders, the worst being the passenger front fender.

In 2001 the whole suspension was replaced with stock equipment minus air shocks, this was also when the whole drive line was overhauled and the engine was turned into a 383 stroker. I'm just guessing and based on some info I've accumulated from Steves Nova Site SNS, everyone seems to agree this theoretical combo should be around 350-400hp 400+tq.

I drove the car for a few weeks and fixed some legal and safety equipment such as putting on the rear bumper, side mirrors and attaching the seat belts. The car actually drives pretty good, has some good low end torque and the trans shifts firm. These were all the reasons I purchased the car as I didn't want to blow the budget replacing the mechanical's right away while I concentrated on restoring the body and getting it in paint. I was originally hoping to have it in paint in early spring of this year. Currently it may see paint by spring summer of 2015. (crosses fingers)

Goals:
For now I want a nice cruiser that's got some decent hp/tq. I'd like to drive it around town and take it to a few cruises/car shows. During winter I always like to tinker and do upgrades.

My unrealistic dream goal would be to turn it into a pro-touring car. Sitting low on 18x10 or larger wheels. I would also drop in a LS series engine maybe a LQ4 on a tight budget or go wild with a LS3/6 variation. The car will stay an auto, I know some people won't understand that but I love a good auto as much as banging gears in a stick car.

Short term goals that are more realistic is to just restore the vehicle to good quality, I will keep the drivetrain as it is for now as it's in good shape and if anything blows up take it to the next level at that time (budget pending of course). The body will be fully repaired and painted by myself. It will be painted a blue (unsure of which specific color code at this time) but it will be a medium to dark hue.

Bottom line is all work will be done by me, in my garage with whatever tools I currently have or acquire. Hence the whole reason for purchasing this car.

Now to what's happened since I started work along with pics.

As I purchased it, as you can see the body doesn't look bad at all. Looking at it very throughly I could tell there was bondo/mud applied and I did notice some rust in the rear quarters and in the trunk area (which is common for these cars) I also noticed the body bushings were bad again another common problem with age.

IMG_1489 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1490 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr


Engine Bay, looks can be decieving, the whole front accessory system is a redneck engineer mess along with the fan and rad shroud.
IMG_1487 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1503 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr


IMG_1504 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Pics of the interior, the seats are trashed and the carpet doesn't fit right as it's either a universal or not the correct for this make/model/year.
IMG_1499 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr





I'll break this up into a few posts.
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1971 Nova - Rust bucket in process of restoration

Last edited by cap42; 12-06-2017 at 01:30 PM
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Old 12-11-2014, 01:01 PM   #2
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So first order of business after winter showed up last year was to begin stripping off the multiple layers of paint to get down to bare metal and see what I was working with. I started with the driver rear quarter as I could tell there was work done there already. After stripping it down I found the wheel well lip was made entirely of bondo. I'm actually quite amazed how well the body man did the work as he recreated the lip and it lasted for at least 12 years. Regardless of how well the craftsmanship was you should never put that much bondo on a car.

IMG_1441 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Here I took one of my 3m Discs and just ground into the bondo to see how deep it was, I was just assuming there was sheetmetal somewhere underneath. Nope nada nothing just mud....

IMG_1440 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Same thing on the Passenger rear quarter, if you look at the wheel curve you can see where I just stripped off the filler to give a better picture of how much filler was slung on this things

IMG_1427 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Passenger rear wheel lip

IMG_1426 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Drivers Fender, left the bondo in place to see how much was slapped on to cover a fender bender.

IMG_1424 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

I'm missing the picture of the passenger front fender but when I pulled that fender the whole core support shifted. The picture also shows the whole passenger side of the body that looks like someone practiced their golf in front of the car. Here is a pic of the passenger door and part of the front fender, the yellow patches are deep pockets of bondo.

IMG_1425 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

So at this point I know I need to do some extensive bodywork, no big deal I've done this many times in the past with some of my older cars. I move on to looking at replacing the body bushings. This should have been a 2 hour job, it turned into a 2 month job.

Pics of the body bushings, at this point I pulled the front outer and inner fenders as you need them off the car. If you don't when replacing the bushings the subframe may shift and bind the outer fenders causing more damage to the sheet metal.

Bushings at the firewall (there are a total of 6, 4 for the chassis 2 at the core support.)
IMG_1420 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Core Support bushings

IMG_1398 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

new vs. old

IMG_1397 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Core support, at this point I know I need to replace this with new sheet metal, as it turns out there was more rust damage to parts of the core support so I just purchased a replacement core support.

IMG_1396 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Pics of the new bushings going into place... wait a minute something's not right!!!! Here is where the 2 hour job turned into a 2 month job.

IMG_1392 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

I took the bushing out thinking I did something wrong, nope the body bushing mounts rusted out and the whole opened up over a inch in diameter. The rear 2 subframe bushings were ok but the firewall bushings wouldn't hold the bushing or bolt in place it would just pass through the mount.

IMG_1394 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

So now I had to pull the drivetrain to be able to pull the subframe, then weld in new plates for the body mounts. Happy Happy Joy Joy! NOT!

Motor/trans out
IMG_1375 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr


IMG_1376 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr
Subframe out.

IMG_1373 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr


During the removal of the front subframe I had to cut off the subframe connectors, now most people weld in subframes to make it stiffer/stronger. On this X body you really don't do that because unless your going to take the rear leaf springs off and drop the axle you would't be able to pull the front subframe. Plus Nova's are known for breaking the j'clips that hold the leaf spring mounts in place. Which was the case here. MORE to come on that clusterfuck later!

New body mount plates being welded in.

IMG_1359 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1358 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1361 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1360 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1357 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Even though the rear 2 were ok I still replaced all of them, I had the replacement plates why not. While the subframe was out I also ground down all the surface rust, rust coverted and painted the subframe inside and out with chassis black.


Subframe back on the car.

IMG_1346 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

I also took the opportunity to strip the firewall and cowl down to bare metal and replace some rusted sheet metal. There is a spot near the brake booster I didn't fix yet.

IMG_1345 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

So now onto fixing the jclips that hold the front leaf spring mounts in place that attach the SFC's to. These jclips are known to break there are shitty hardware to begin with. Piss poor engineering on GM's part, what's worse is they are sandwiched in between the rear seat pan and floor pan inside a pocket. Well this jclips were broken years ago and someone during the cars lifetime figured it would be a good idea to torch a hole in the seat pan to get to the jclips and bolts. Then slather JBWeld to hold the bolts in place, then use metal shelving with fake wood grain to cover the torch holes up and slather some more JBWeld on the metal shelving patch.


Here you can see the JBWeld just slathered on to hold the patch panels in place and "hide" the repair... I use the word hide very loosely.

IMG_1343 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Here is one spot, the shiny spot is the shelving patch panel with the JBWeld chiseled off.

IMG_1344 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr


The torch hole, if you look closely you can see one of the bolts that hold the leaf spring pad in place.

IMG_1342 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

So I cut open the rear seat pans to get access to the bolts and instead of replacing the jclips I decided to weld in the bolts so they never move again. I know this is not the correct way of a repair but those clips are known for breaking if you ever over torque them. I wanted a good fix, since this will never be seen when the seat pans are repaired I choose this option.

IMG_1338 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1334 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1332 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Seat pan all closed up and the cuts and patch panels fully stitch welded. Not a beatiful job but with primer and eventually a undercoating on it you will never know they were opened up.

IMG_1326 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Next up was the drivers floor pan, once I knew that JBWeld was used in the repairs of this car I instantly saw it all over the drivers floor pan. I knew it was rusty when I bought it but didn't know the extent till I dug into it. Here is a pic of the pan cut out, you can see the grey painted JBWeld. Again trusty metal shelving was used as patch panels and the JBWeld gooped on to hold it in place.

IMG_1323 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1318 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

New pan being mocked up.

IMG_1319 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

New one in.

IMG_1312 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr
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Old 12-11-2014, 01:01 PM   #3
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So now that I've corrected the subframe it was bolted back up, fixed the leaf spring pockets and put in a new floor pan. I put in new subframe connectors aligned the subframe front to back and side to side and torqued it all down. The motor was thrown back in I started working on the inner fenders. They were gross, had a bad undercoating job thrown on both sides and just generally looked bad.

IMG_1308 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1305 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1300 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

After three 3M 36grit sanding discs later both inner fenders looked like this.

IMG_1301 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1303 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1302 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Now I painted them chassis black just to keep them from flash rusting, I still need to do a few sheet metal repairs on them as some spots were rusted through and I had to cut a few sections to get these inner and outer fenders off during dissasembly. Again more broken hardware that wasn't replaced and someone through JBWeld and bondo on the bolts to keep them attached. The inner fenders are bolted to the outer fenders and the outer fender to the core support and firewall held in by again Jclips. So I will get these these repairs when I begin body work this winter.

New Core support, inner fenders temporarily painted and hanging.

IMG_1293 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1292 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

Now between the fender cleanup and temporary paint and re-assemble I had quite a few things going on that caused a few month hiatus. So needless to say the car didn't get touched from June till the end of September. I need to get the car moveable so I can work on my daily drivers as well as my mom's car so it was a rush to get everything hooked up to get to where I am today where the car can move in and out of the garage on it's own.


So some of the items I didn't cover was I dropped the gas tank when we pulled the motor, I wanted to strip the under carriage and make it look good. I started with the trunk pan while the gas tank was out. I knew there were some pin holes but didn't know the extent of the damage until I sanded all the shit down to bare metal. Needless to say the trunk pan needs to be replaced. For now I put the tank back in till I finish with working on the other cars and the tank will come back down for the pan replacement.

Trunk pan with tank removed before cleanup.

IMG_1291 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr


After cleanup, it actually doesn't look bad at all, however once I moved to the inside of the trunk and removed tons of bondo it's just not worth saving original sheet metal. It will be easier to replace the pan then try and patch all the holes.

IMG_1286 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1287 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1282 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1283 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

IMG_1281 by Chris Watkins, on Flickr

So the tank went up I began hooking the wiring harness up, fuel lines and all the other necessities to fire the car up on it's own. Let's say I didn't do a very good job documenting the wiring when I took the engine harness off. Stupid on my part as the hardness was in really bad shape. Several splices on the same wire, random wire color and gauge used, just a complete mess. So it took me a few weekends to figure out how to get it all hooked back up properly.

I've now come to today, I need to replace the radiator as it's slowly leaking new coolant all over the garage, I don't even think it's the right radiator just sucks I have to spend the money on it now. The good side to that is the radiator shroud and clutch fan are not the right ones for this car.

Someone ground down the fan blades to get them to fit in the radiator shroud, now that I have replaced the body bushings this fan no longer fits that shroud. This is due to the new bushings bringing the subframe to the correct height and angle, which affects the core support and inner outer fenders.

I also had to replace the shifter cable for the transmission, it never worked right because it was kinked (routed incorrectly) and it accidentally caught fire when I was putting in the floor pan... DOH! So it melted off the insulation. No biggie as it needed to be fixed anyways. The car will move in and out of the garage on it's own, the brakes need to be bleed and I'm sitting on the floorpan but it's good enough to make it in and out of the driveway.

I doubt I will have any further updates for the next month or so due to xmas and desperately needing to do the brakes on my daily driver (it's needed new brakes since July...ooops! ) Next updates will most likely be a new radiator with a built in trans cooler vs re-using the shitty one bolted to the front of the radiator. I'll also be picking up a new trunk pan, once the pan is welded in I will start on the Detroit Speed deep tubs I have for the rear wheel wells.

These Nova's were never meant to run a wide tire, the Deep tubs will allow me to run a 12.5 wide tire, the only caveat to that is the shocks and leaf springs need to be moved or the suspension changed to a 4 link or torque arm setup. The gas tank also needs to be narrowed, these are very costly upgrades but the tubs were cheap, the current inner and outer wheel houses need to be replaced so I will be doing this now vs later when the car's been painted. If I never run a wider wheel no biggie but if I want to I am one step closer to being able to do that.

Once the tubs are done I can actually begin body work, I can do the mechanical and electrical fixes in between or when I get tired of sanding. I hope to get the car on the road for a little bit this summer if not in paint before the end of 2015's driving season.
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Old 12-11-2014, 01:04 PM   #4
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Body looks to be in great shape. Are you going to restore the interior at all (not that it looks bad)? Maybe do some more "modern" upgrades?
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Old 12-11-2014, 01:06 PM   #5
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Looks nice really aside from the few flaws you've pointed out. I like it!
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Old 12-11-2014, 01:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mook View Post
Body looks to be in great shape. Are you going to restore the interior at all (not that it looks bad)? Maybe do some more "modern" upgrades?
You haven't seen the updated 2nd post yet...

Yes the interior needs a full restore, headliner, sail panels, carpet and seats recovered. I'm torn between doing a era correct restoration or doing a full out custom interior. For now it will just get new carpet and maybe new front seat covers. We will see how much money is left over for everything else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Euro View Post
Looks nice really aside from the few flaws you've pointed out. I like it!
Again see post #2 now that I've updated that Post #3 will also cover some of the misc items I've done as well that show some more WTF scratch your head type of redneck engineering.
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Old 12-11-2014, 02:44 PM   #7
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A shout out to Pratt AKA PressureRatio here on TCG, he has been my supplier of all my parts for this POS. Where he works is a camaro/chevelle restoration supplier, he just so happens to have most of the parts I need or has gotten them for me at a lower rate than classic industries and other sites.
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Old 12-11-2014, 04:29 PM   #8
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Damn, that is a lot of Bondo. glad to see it's being properly taken care of now!
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Old 12-11-2014, 05:08 PM   #9
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great write up / picture selection.

to some classic muscle
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Old 12-11-2014, 05:12 PM   #10
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Love the 71 Nova, Subscribed!
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Old 12-11-2014, 09:11 PM   #11
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Holy crap, you have some skills! Keep the pics coming, I like where this is going. It's going to be a clean car when you're done!
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Old 12-11-2014, 09:19 PM   #12
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Keep up the great work! I had a 72 that I tore down and never got back together. The body on it was a wreck though. I've still got all kinds of trim and a gauge cluster in the basement from it. Need anything?
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Old 12-12-2014, 01:56 AM   #13
 
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70 Nova was my first car. Had it 4 years sold it when I bought a 74 Firebird. 4 weeks later they buried a telephone pole half was through the front end. Still miss her.
Keep up the great work, thanks for taking time to share with us.
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Old 12-12-2014, 08:55 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfe View Post
Keep up the great work! I had a 72 that I tore down and never got back together. The body on it was a wreck though. I've still got all kinds of trim and a gauge cluster in the basement from it. Need anything?
Potentially, what condition is it in? Most of the trim on this car was painted with primer from the PO, I could sand it and polish it since it's stainless but if I remember right some of it was damaged. Sorry was the first thing I removed from the car.

What gauge cluster is it you have?

Lastly what are you looking for these items?
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cap42 View Post
Potentially, what condition is it in? Most of the trim on this car was painted with primer from the PO, I could sand it and polish it since it's stainless but if I remember right some of it was damaged. Sorry was the first thing I removed from the car.

What gauge cluster is it you have?

Lastly what are you looking for these items?
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Old 01-18-2015, 08:27 PM   #16
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Since the trunk pan is on back order I decided to start mockup of the 2 rear quarters.

The driver side fit pretty good, not surprising since it was the better condition of the two. The passenger side was a whole different story. After about 2 dozen times of pulling the fender and making some relief cuts and hammer/dolly work its 90% ready.

I had to cut out a section of the wheel well and outer wheel tub as it was tweaking the fender. There is still some tweaking to do under the rear quarter window by the rocker panel to get the lower body line matched up. I will be cutting both new and old at the same time so I can get a nice 1/4 gap for butt welding. I'll get to this next time I work on it.

Remember the red neck engineering I referenced earlier in this thread? Here are some more pics referencing such ingenuity!

Passenger rear quarter with the bondo chiseled out.


What was found inside the fender to hold in inches of bondo... Yes that is steel wool used as a mesh backing.


Patch panels made out of that same shelving with the fake wood grain, I had to pull these off as it was interfering with the alignment of the panel.




Pics of the quarters on



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Old 01-18-2015, 09:41 PM   #17
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Wow, you updated some stuff since I've checked in last. You really do have quite a bit of work on your hands. Everything you've done looks great! Keep up the awesome work!
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Old 01-18-2015, 10:39 PM   #18
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yep, 1/4s look great
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Old 01-18-2015, 11:54 PM   #19
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Wow is that a lot of work. Looks like you're taking care of it in the right way though!
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Old 01-19-2015, 01:28 AM   #20
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I respect bodywork so much, shit is not easy! Keep up the good work.
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Old 01-19-2015, 02:55 AM   #21
 
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Nice! Love seeing more old iron on here.

And @Pressure Ratio, what company do you work for? Any parts for Oldsmobile?
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Old 01-19-2015, 09:26 AM   #22
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Wow, awesome updates so far.

@Outlaw, if it's in Warrenville it's probably D&R Classic Auto. AFAIK they're just Chevelle/Monte/Camaro/Nova, but I'm not positive.
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Old 01-19-2015, 11:47 AM   #23
 
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Nice seeing progress. Body work, paint and back on the road by spring? lol


Quote:
Originally Posted by Outlaw View Post
Nice! Love seeing more old iron on here.

And @Pressure Ratio, what company do you work for? Any parts for Oldsmobile?

Like Euro said, I work at D&R Classic Automotive Inc. We do carry some Cutlass stuff. What we don't stock we can get. We don't have a catalog for the Cutlass. But if you give me part numbers from Year One, OPG or the like, I can let you know stock, prices and so on.
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Old 01-19-2015, 11:53 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pressure Ratio View Post
Nice seeing progress. Body work, paint and back on the road by spring? lol





Like Euro said, I work at D&R Classic Automotive Inc. We do carry some Cutlass stuff. What we don't stock we can get. We don't have a catalog for the Cutlass. But if you give me part numbers from Year One, OPG or the like, I can let you know stock, prices and so on.
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Old 01-19-2015, 12:03 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Euro View Post
Wow, awesome updates so far.

@Outlaw, if it's in Warrenville it's probably D&R Classic Auto. AFAIK they're just Chevelle/Monte/Camaro/Nova, but I'm not positive.
IT is D&R Classic, I can't speak for Pratt on olds parts he'll chime in here sooner or later.
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