To get away from the hustle, bustle and stress of life, people have different kinds of escapes. It can be working on your car in the home garage, hanging out with friends or even just going out for a drive by yourself. Ed Leabough combines all of those things with this pristine ’65 Chevy II Nova race car.
“I used to own one back in nineteen-ninety, but with kids and all, it was just bad timing,” Ed recalled. “So, when I saw this car back on Racing Junk back in two-thousand seven, I fell in love with it,” he recalled. “It was just a bare shell. But it had already been tubbed and back halved, and it came with a lot of parts. We had just built a new house, but I had to have it. I promised her [Ed’s wife] that I would just let it sit until we got things situated.”
The deal was consummated and the car sat, but it still got a lot of attention in Leabough’s mind. That proved to be a welcome distraction from his job as a Henrico County, Virginia, police officer. It also proved to be a frequent topic of conversation among his racing buddies as he used this downtime to plan what he wanted his new Chevy II to be.
When it came to choosing an engine, Leabough found he got some good advice about going with a big-block combination from the late Bert Jackson, who lost his life in a racing accident at ADRL in Rockingham. Scott Duggins from PAR Racing Engines in Spartanburg, South Carolina, got the call to put together a 565-cid bracket bullet based off of a Merlin III block. With a 4.600 bore and 4.250 stroke, the bottom end features a Callies crank, Manley steel rods and Ross domed 15.0:1 pistons wrapped in Total Seal moly rings.
CNC-machined Brodix BB3 Xtra aluminum heads with the 119cc combustion chambers, 2.300/1.880 valves and 366cc intake runners were used along with a Brodix HV-1 intake. Fuel is pushed through the single APD 1,250-cfm carb by a Magnafuel QuickStar 300 electric pump, which can support up to 900 hp. Other bolt-ons include a Moroso 8-quart pan, Be Cool four-row aluminum radiator and a MSD 7AL-2 ignition box.
When the engine arrived, everything appeared to be going smoothly until Leabough discovered the pan was resting squarely atop the rack-and-pinion steering. Lincoln Campbell fixed that quickly by sectioning and then rewelding the oil pan to provide the needed clearance. Transmission Specialties in Aston, Pennsylvania, provided the Powerglide that uses a 5,700-stall converter. Tony’s High-Performance in Providence Forge, Virginia, finished the car by fabricating the headers, installing the wiring and plumbing, setting up the chassis and tending to all of the little details necessary to make this a turnkey bracket car.
A Heidt’s front 2-inch drop kit with new spindles and A-arms provides just the right stance for this pocket rocket, while QA-1 shocks on the front and Strange dampers on the rear control the suspension travel. A 12-bolt rear with 4.56 gears and Moser 35-spline axles work with the Chris Alston backhalf kit and an anti-roll bar with 62-inch long wheelie bars to plant the car when launching. Centerline Warrior wheels shod with Moroso rubber on the front and Hoosier W-15 drag slicks on the rear make up the rolling stock.
Anthony Barber of All Kolorz Paint & Body in Richmond, Virginia, did a masterful job of applying the Velocity Yellow paint, which is further accented by graphics by Michael Hall and Virginia Leabough. The car continues to have a full interior that even includes a factory ashtray and working dome light. Leabough installed most of the interior work himself with J&W Nova door panels, JEG’s seats and Auto Meter gauges. East End Glass in Richmond finished the job with carpeting, headliner and Lexan side glass.
When it was all said and done, the car exceeded Leabough’s expectations by dipping into the nines on the quarter-mile right off the bat. At just over 2,900 pounds with driver, an 8.60 at nearly 156 mph is his best at this writing. Besides those already mentioned, Leabough is quick to acknowledge Joe Hall, Donnie Hargrave, Tony Mangrum, Taylor Lewis, Don Rudd, Brent Leabough Realty and Henry P. for their efforts that lead to the finished product.
“A friend of mine who hadn’t seen the car run told me that I shouldn’t be bringing a street car to a race track,” Leabough recounted with a laugh. “He’s still eating crow!”
Leabough’s wily little Nova gets a lot of nods for its craftsmanship. It’s a solid eight-second performer that’s provides a worry-free, low-maintenance ride at the track for a welcome escape from what goes on in real life, and that’s what a perfect distraction should be!
Scott Duggins from PAR Racing Engines in Spartanburg, SC, built the 565-inch bullet based off of a Merlin III block. Only top-shelf parts were used.
Officer Leabough’s off-duty “office.” This amazingly stock interior was installed and detailed by the owner with assist from East End Glass in Richmond, VA.
Anthony Barber of All Kolorz Paint & Body in Richmond, VA, the shot the vibrant Velocity Yellow paint; graphics are by Michael Hall and Virginia Leabough.
The little Deuce has been a straight shooter right out of the box. Tony’s High-Performance in Providence Forge, VA, loved on the chassis.
Text and Photos by Rod Short