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Thread: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

  1. #1
    ***Euro-Nova Supporter***
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    Hello All

    I just bought a Nova, and have now joined your very friendly looking forum.

    I think I had better relate the tale (rambling though it is), seeing as it culminated last week (began?) with one of the most stressful days I have had for many years... Take a deep breath, this post is way bigger than I intended...

    Back when I was 20ish (25 years ago), I, like many others devoured "Alternative Cars" and "Kit Car" magazine every month as the possible means to my dream car. The first kit car I saw was in fact a black and white shot of a Nova from the three quarters rear view angle, and I immediately fell in love. My other dream car was a completely different proposition - a Triumph based Spartan 2+2 using the long wheelbase Spartan chassis. The latter I wanted because it is built largely from aluminium in the way that real vintage cars are.

    The Nova was out of my reach; far too much money for me then (and besides, I knew I needed something at least a bit practical), but dodgy second hand Spartans could be bought for less than a grand and after a couple of years of searching and saving (amazing how much work you can pack in when you're young) I bought one and rebuilt it from the ground up over several years. I still run that car every day now and still love it (I consider it one of the best Triumph Spartans around - but then I would...).

    But that hankering after a Nova has never gone away.... and this year I had to sell some company shares. The company I work for gave all its employees several hundred shares in the year 2000, with the caveat that they had to be sold by 2010. I sold them a couple of months ago and cleared just over five grand. Excellent - I could fix a load of things around the house, get that big HDMI telly me and the wife wanted, replace my aging PC and have some left over for emergencies (such as the leaking roof that I now have...). But, I just happened to be surfing e-bay one night and idly put in "Nova Kit Car"... Up came a MK1 with just the right wheels and ride height, and no apparent bodywork modifications (I prefer them stock/original). It read like a good runner too - very unusual as I now know after months of looking at/for Nova adverts.

    After much heart thumping and thoughts like "no, I must be mad, I can't take on another project..." I confessed my continuing obsession to Alison (my wife) and surprisingly she was fairly positive on the subject - once she had seen the pictures anyway....

    Most of you are likely to have seen it over the last few months - it's the dark blue one that was also advertised on Volkszone as well as E-bay. It was located in Stoke on Trent and myself and Alison travelled up from Eastbourne on a beautiful sunny day a few months ago. The owner was a very pleasant guy and gave us both rides in it, total access to examine the car, and answered as many questions as he was able to. The car looked great, albeit with a fairly average paint job, but the interior and many of the fitments are typical kit car - an unfinished mess with virtually no working instruments, although the owner has done a very good job with the carpets. Not surprisingly I loved it, but Alison was shocked by its unfinished nature (especially the 'graunching' squeeky steering wheel) and absolutely detested it. After much 'discussion' (and silence) on the way home 'we' decided that I would not go for it - at least not at the price advertised as "buy it now".

    The car did not sell - not even a bidding war, and did not go on Volkszone either (I was watching). I looked in vain for another cheaper Nova (not a bodyshell - relatively loads of those around but I have neither the time nor money for a full project) and soon realised that good ones come up very rarely indeed (shame I missed Nova Nigel's and that Alfa based rebuild - I wasn't looking then). Those of you (Lauren/Spacenut) who have videos up on You Tube might have noticed the view count tick up recently - that's me (The T33 Green Machine sounds absolutely incredible by the way - Alfa power is the way to go).

    From various posts on Volkszone I was aware that the blue one was having a newly rebuilt engine fitted and in the absence of other Novas to buy I convinced Alison that it was a good idea. She agreed - although part of the price was the new telly too.... Long story short - I bought it, for two grand more than I wanted to - because that's how much the engine had cost the owner. I definitely paid over the odds and I was/am taking a big chance - because the new engine comes with absolutely no guarantee and the builder is not answering my e-mails so far.

    And so at last we come to Saturday the 21st of November - when myself and a good friend (and fellow Spartan owner) took the train up to Stoke to bring the car back. We had to go from Lewes (a nearby town) because of Engineering works. No problems getting there - 10/10 to National Rail/Virgin.

    It's raining..... Okay..... Loaded the car up - very crowded with all the bits and bobs we are taking away (e.g. nearly but not quite finished interior parts for the canopy, engine cover - which currently doesn't fit because (annoyingly) bits have been cut out of the bodywork to get the twin dellortos to fit).

    Down comes the canopy (hydraulic - Smith's pump) and at this point the first feelings of claustrophobia start to appear - largely because having had the owner adjust the side mirror for me I am realising just how little you can see behind you (left hand one is purely cosmetic) and just how much water stays around on the rather scratched perspex side windows - preventing you from seeing the mirror anyway.... Seat is a little too far back for me (even though I am five foot 11) but I can just reach the pedals, not ideal, but I can manage. Said pedals feel very weird - loads of free travel and all at the wrong angles because I am of course virtually lying down (I know you all know this already... sorry) Headroom is absolutely fine - this car has very deeply lowered floorpans.

    Okay.... just a little apprehensive I ease it out of the driveway (yes, I stalled it a couple of times of course.....). First impression is seriously HEAVY steering with no self-return, and the wheel still squeeks.

    Moving down the hill now having waved goodbye - towards a roundabout. Switch the wipers on.... the view disappears entirely as what remains of the wiper blade scrapes across the RainX and grime coated windscreen. There is no wiper blade! Just the remains of the plastic fixing with enough rubber left to not actually damage the glass.

    Did I panic for this reason ? No - I panicked because at this point I discover there are apparently NO BRAKES ! There's about half a foot of movement on the pedal before I can feel anything, followed by some resistance but no apparent braking, followed by me pushing the pedal with all my might (and accidentally reving hard at the same time because the damn brake pedal is so close to the accelerator pedal) and just about stopping before we hit the roundabout.

    I am sure my companion was highly reassured by my cry of "Sh*t! No brakes! Arggghhh!..... as we careered down the hill (well - probably only 25MPH really - but there's no speedo anyway).

    Okay.... so we're in a city we don't know, in the rain in a car we can't see out of, with death trap brakes (I really don't think I exaggerate) and indicators located on a small switch in amongst some other small switches.... :-) We pulled over, cleaned the windscreen as best we could, followed the owner's perfectly well described instructions and got lost anyway, asked a kindly passer by or two and after several more utterly fear-filled encounters with the requirement to brake did manage to find our way out onto the motorway.

    At this point I started to relax just a little because at over 30MPH the Nova's well known party trick started to work - the rain was running off the windscreen without the need to use the useless windscreen wiper. Not that we were going fast - we estimate between 40and 50MPH because the engine is essentially brand new and needs running in. Once you can actully see properly, the view over the bonet is excellent of course.

    Getting through the toll booths at the Birmingham bypass was fun - too low to get the money up there without releasing the four point harness, climbing up, climbing down, driving through and then making the poor guy behind wait whilst I struggled back into the harness and lowered the canopy.

    The car was running OK - lots of spitting back from the carbs - will have to sort that out before the filters are chewed up - but running fine, for an hour and a half; after which we suddently lost power dramatically and found the car struggling to climb even mild inclines. It was time to eat anyway so we pulled into the next Services thinking perhaps it was overheating (no temperature gauge connected up either). Our first encounter with a speed bump revealed that the extra scoop under the front valence (there is an unplumbed radiator there - the previous owner started the process of going water cooled) is uncompromisingly low - scrape, graunch, phew.... and after another "oh my God - no brakes" moment managed to park up and go eat. My ever relaxed friend ate a hearty meal whilst I stared glumly at my apparently tasteless Chilli Con Carne and thought along the lines of "oh my God, what have I done?...". The enormously impressed guy admiring the car when we got back lifted my spirits just a little and we pressed on - power was apparently back but very shortly afterwards went back to just barely ticking over. We pressed on - we didn't want to be driving it in the dark and rain.

    The rain stopped for a while.... huzzah.... Eventually we have to get petrol - loads of speed bumps at this Services - scrape, graunch, bump, scrape, uh oh - there's a Cop behind me - hope he can't see I am barely in control of the car! Petrol has to be "eased" into the tank, but OK, will get used to that or find the solution some day. Will also sort out a way of holding up the louvres whilst doing so. Crowds of people stop and stare.....

    This is taking a LONG time (so is this post...) - the journey from Stoke to Eastbourne should be four and a half hours at normal speeds, but we've been crawling along for six or seven hours at least and the night is closing in as we go round the M25. The rain now sets in hard and joy of joys, the bl@@dy lights are less than useless - we might as well shine torches through the windscreen. Have also now discovered that the ultra-raked Nova windscreen means the sodium lights shine and reflect/refract straight through all the rain droplets causing momentary blindness when directly underneath them.

    We had left my companion's car in Lewes - a medieval town with lots of narrow streets and it's rush hour... and now a yellow light is flashing on and off on the dashboard. That was scary.... but we made it through with my friend doing the navigation/thinking for me and whilst I wait for him to get his car (the speed hump by the carpark is too big to get the Nova over - we noticed that when we left the car in the morning) I text/phone the owner to find out what the yellow light is - yes I know I should have asked that one before we left! No answer yet. I'm parked outside the front of the train station so I hear many comments; many crude and along the lines of "Jesus '*******' Christ man, that is seriously '*******' hardcore...." which makes me feel slightly better.

    It is now pitch dark, there is a full scale howling storm on and there are pretty much no overhead lights between Lewes and Eastbourne so the only way to get it back is to follow my companion's car as closely as I dare so I can hang on to his tail lights - I really cannot see anything else at all now. Very dangerous, very stupid. About halfway there the car finally dies altogether - on comes the yellow light permanently along with all the ignition lights and off goes the engine. There's a lay-by ! Pull in - oh, bugg*r, it's not a lay-by, it's a turning, can't brake - CRUNCH!; there goes the underscoop as it hits the kerb on the other side. Switch everything off..... silence apart from the drumming rain and traffic........Feeling just a bit depressed now.... The owner phones and tells me the yellow light is oil pressure...

    My friend returns shortly afterwards and we decide that actually, we don't really fancy looking at the problem in the pitch black cats-and-dogs pouring rain and gale force winds, so we phone the nice RAC man. There is a huge lit up sign proclaiming "Middle Farm" right ahead of the car (it is a well known local farm shop's entranceway) which I use as a landmark for the RAC guy to find us. A few minutes later the sign goes out with a fzztt... This did actually make us laugh out loud.
    I'm thinking depressing "blown engine" type thoughts but my ever positive friend points out that there have been absolutely no other untoward noises, just the power loss; it sounds fine when it goes. Both of us felt very stupid when the entirely unphased RAC man turns up an hour later (he didn't even mention the unusual nature of the car) and shines his torch on the coil - which has dropped off the tinware and fallen into the engine bay, causing the power loss and eventual failure when the wires finally came off. One gash bracket later (it won't tighten back onto the tinware), a little scratching of heads and voltmeter use to work out which wires are which (one seems to be redundant...) and the car starts and runs perfectly. By the way - any advice on the best place to put the coil on a Beetle engined Nova gratefully accepted since I have not sorted that out permanently yet.

    The rest of the way home was still exceptionally scary - I continued following the tail lights to get there with no windscreen wiper or apparent lights, but we did make it without further incident - albeit smacking several more speed bumps that I couldn't see in time. I parked it up at a friend's place - I don't have a second garage to put it in yet.

    Oh, an addendum - overnight one of the headlamp covers blew off and was found in the garden next door...... Such is life - at least it didn't come off on the way down.

    I did not, by the way, relate too many details of that excessively stressful and indeed heroic day to my lovely wife, who is very keen for this car not to be "another project". Oh dear.

    Yes, yes, yes, but do I have anything positive to say about it ? you ask...

    Well - it doesn't leak. Not one drop, and it hasn't stopped raining here for weeks (the car will go in a garage eventually, but not yet sadly). This has to be unique among kit cars..... and RainX is definitely good stuff - no problem with the interior misting up despite the heat exchangers not being plumbed in.

    It's a Nova, and I've wanted one for over half my life, so how can I not still love it ? Plus it has (largely) not been mucked about with body wise, I like the Nova shape exactly as Richard Oakes left it - just my personal preference, I have no problem with any of the wild and whacky mod's that people have made to their cars, but this one is staying stock bar the interior and wing mirrors.

    However the car is not moving one more damn inch until I have sorted out the following:

    Brakes: Please tell me it isn't just that Beetle brakes are really seriously rubbish; the brakes on my 1964 Spitfire based Spartan are like a Ferrari's by comparison... Currently fitted (Nova) are disks at the front and drums at the rear - all a good size so I see no reason for them not to work perfectly adequately. Handbrake feels tight but fairly useless - you can tighten up worn out or glazed brakes.

    Steering - stupidly heavy at the moment, especially for a car with no weight at the front, and there's that annoying squeek to look at - basically it steers exactly like a Go-cart right now.

    Pedals - they just feel all wrong; I press both the accelerator and brake at the same time constantly - and sincerely hope something can be done about that. There are elastic bands all over the pedals and the throttle linkages, presumably to speed up return and so prevent overrun.... gulp...

    BIG wing mirrors - there were some really good looking ones on a Silver Nova with BMW 3 Series Headlamps mentioned in another thread - must see if I can find out what those were. I do like the look of the chrome bullet ones on there now, but practically speaking they are useless.

    Rear view camera - much research required, but surprisingly not anywhere near as expensive as I thought.

    Quick release pins on the canopy arms - I'm a glass half empty type so I want to feel safe when that canopy is down. There is a glass sunroof on this car, but I suspect it has been sealed permanently - I have not had a chance to check yet since it will not stop raining.

    Ignition barrel switch to be replaced - right now there is a hole and an old socket held in place by gaffer tape to prevent the steering lock from suddenly activating.... very worrying....

    New headlamps - either the BMW solution mentioned above or projector lamps I think - again twins if they will fit. I would rather fit oblong lamps (Allegro/Metro mentioned in another thread) since I do think they look much better, but the quality of light output must come first.

    The now damaged under-scoop (not as bad as I thought - mainly the grille smashed in) is not actually necessary and will have to be removed to aid ground clearance.

    Fit remote air filters to the Dellortos so that I can re-glass in the missing bits of bodywork and hopefully put the original cover back on to at least keep some of the rain off the engine.

    Then there's all the stuff that I THOUGHT was all I had to do when I bought it - basically tart up the interior and add some nice instruments. I fancy something vaguely Space 1999 / 2001 (i.e. retro-futuristic), but suspect finding and fitting said instruments/senders will be problematic.

    And finally there's the really expensive stuff - ideally glass to replace all the perspex bar the headlamp covers, a quieter stainless steel exhaust and a better gearbox some time (suspect what's in there is from a 1300, which is not ideal).

    I am told that a load of work has been done on the chassis, but I will not truly know how good or bad it is until I can get under there; obviously I am hoping that the news will not be too bad. I did read a slightly worrying post yesterday from a previous owner who said they knew what needed doing though.....

    And that's it. So do I get the record for the most ridiculously long first post ever ?

    If anyone is interested I will post some pictures when my PC is back up and running (as is normal whenever anything expensive is purchased, pretty much eveything has gone wrong since I bought this car - and the internet filter at my workplace prevents me uploading pictures), but in the meantime thanks for reading, and I look forward to badgering you all on various issues. I do promise to try and find the answers on the forum first though.

    Regards from

    Vasco Da Gamer (Steve)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Brisbane, Australia

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    Seriously good read , thanks Steve and welcome to the forum .

    PL30 Eureka, 12A Turbo, Kennedy Stage 2 pressure plate, Greedy Organic Solid Clutch plate, Haltec E8 EFI, swingarm axle, 205/55/15 front, 245/60/15 rear, EA rear disc, VW front, EA bolt pattern, White VDO Guages.

  3. #3
    Euro-Nova Founder bobbybrown's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Tamworth, Staffordshire, UK

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    Fantastic post, only read half of it, I have to go out so I will read the rest later.

    Congratulations on the best and most detailed welcome post ever!

    Welcome to the forum Steve!

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    NSW, Oz

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    Welcome Steve!

    I think there are many stories like yours about that fateful first trip home after you just bought your Nova/Eureka/Stirling/Avante. Though the only thing that happened to me on my first trip home was getting used to the Bug clutch, hadn't driven one since before I should of had my license...

    You can upgrade the rear brakes to disc if you feel the need, it would depend on the how much power your engine is putting out. Has it been modified for more grunt?

    Steering in mine is heavy too, until I get up to crusing speed. Of course I have wide rubber up front, so that makes it a bit heavier too. Also don't forget that unless the steering has been upgraded, it's the Bug steering you're dealing with, and that's positively prehistoric. Again, that can be modified/updated.

    Pedals. Sounds like you'll be needing to check various master cylinders, linkages etc. Also, the pedals can either be bent or relocated, or you can choose to buy a new pedal box. You guys over the pond have more options than us poor colonials.

    Mirrors are always a subject for these cars. I believe someone is using Hyundai Getz mirrors there, and they're meant to be fairly good for rearward vision.

    Rearview camera, there's an entire section of the forum dedicated to these.

    Quick release pins, those have indeed been done before, I believe there are a few Nova running around with these on these forums.

    Headlamps. Plenty of discussions for those too. I have 5 1/2" round headlights on my Eureka. I went with a H4 conversion kit (which included fitting for the parkers, so all in one), and a HID conversion kit. Cost me around $200 AUD. Now I could probably go 'roo shooting. lol

    Again, with the exhaust and gearbox, there are a number of options, just depends on how deep your pockets are.

    Good luck with it!

  5. #5

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    Great story for the first thing in the morning here in the States! Yep, similar stories all around for first time owners. Mine wasn't so horrific; I trailered my car 12 hours from it's home... in the rain. And it wasn't water tight. So when I stopped for fuel it was dripping orange from all the sopping wet '70's orange shag carpet that occupied every square inch of the interior. But the spectator comments made it all worthwhile, even more so when the car was officially finished and on the road.

    welcome aboard - you'll find most of the answers to your questions here!


  6. #6

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    As others have said welcome to the fold.
    As for removable pins I wouldn't bother in your case as the sunroof will need to be an opener otherwise in the summer weekend you will fry.

    Make the roof opening as it should and you will help on the heat front and if the hydraulics or electric's do fail you will still have an out option.

    Good Luck.

  7. #7
    ***Euro-Nova Supporter***
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    A quick reply - and thank you for your kind comments folks.

    My pockets are shallow (now) so initial work will concentrate on safety. I entirely agree that the sunroof will need to be made to open though - but on really sunny days I will be driving my Spartan with the hood down anyway :-)

    Sodden 1970's Orange Shag Pile carpet made me laugh... I truly am relieved not to have to start by making the thing leak proof.

    Now you mention it, the tyres on the Nova are much bigger than on the Spartan so I could well be expecting too much on the steering front - as yet I don't know if the old Beetle steering box is present, but I should think it is. Looking at the Manuals available on this excellent site evidently the pedals should have been modified to make them easier to use, I don't know what unmodified Beetle pedals look like, but the ones present do not look like the drawings shown in the manual... :-) I have a friend with a rather excellent VW Camper (called Mutley) which I am going to try out to get an idea of what "sorted" Beetle controls 'should' feel like....

    Thanks for the heads up on Hyundai Getz mirrors - they do indeed look good, plenty of "shape" to them which I think is important to continue the Nova's generally shapely look.

    Oh - Gunna's original post mentioned what sounded like an even worse experience than me when picking his car up.... much worse in fact. And ironically - only yesterday I missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Australia with most expenses paid - and it was Brisbane ! A friend is holding a no expenses spared party for her husband's 60th birthday party there, and me and Alison were invited - all we had to do was find the money for the tickets - hotel, food, and a Limo' (yes really) to be provided for two weeks... wow. Sadly family issues have meant we could not go.

    Thanks again folks, have a good evening.

  8. #8

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    Welcome Steve (and great to see you wanted to be a donator right from the start! ) I had nearly as bad a drive back from Brighton to Cornwall with my newly bought Nova about 5 years back.... I chose to buy it during a November of continuous freezing fog - very pretty with all the trees covered in white. Nova had no heater (no ducts and never had 'em) buggy exhausts with no baffles (absurdly loud for no benefit) and crucially no heater tubes from exhaust to intake manifold - result, every single roundabout (and they seemed to have bred them very successfully on the road we were on) the carb froze as the revs dropped and the car couldn't be restarted for a few minutes until the engine warmth had crept up and thawed it. Oh and the speedo cable broke after the first 10 miles or so. You'd never have thought it could have earned it's MOT, and it took nearly all the time between buying it and the next one to get it to the state where I thought it could pass.

    Hopefully you won't be put off by your 'experience' - I had one more than 20 years ago and hadn't completely forgotten how awful some aspects of owning and driving them can be! Cured the rear vision thing, can't do much about the effects of street lamps or low sun (sun visors help a bit!) Driving with the sun roof out really helps with the claustrophobia, though you do tend to get a bit sunburnt!
    It's a 52 year old car and everything works, just not always at the same time.......and it's probably about to get jealous!
    *Donate to Euro-Nova today!*

  9. #9
    Senior Member bushboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Grays Essex

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    "Always do what you are afraid to do"
    "I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying"

  10. #10
    Senior Member bushboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Grays Essex

    Re: A small novel on "The Heroicism of Nova Ownership"

    do I get the prize for the shortest reply to the longest introduction???

    What an adventure. Thats what I like to see, a good story to go with a unique car. It would have been boring if all you could say was I picked it up & it drove like a new car & never missed a beat!!!

    "Always do what you are afraid to do"
    "I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying"

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