There are many ways that someone can become the owner of a project car. One of them is to simply come across a car sitting in a barn — although that doesn’t happen as much as it used to. Another way is to acquire it because someone else either lost interest in it or life got in the way. The way Jon Henson came about owning this ’65 Nova is a little different.
Jon acquired his beloved Nova in 2020. Although he hasn’t owned it very long, his relationship with it goes back more than a few years. In fact, Jon and the Nova made a connection all the way back in 2009. This is when his best friend, Shannon Gauthier, purchased the car. However, in January of 2020, Shannon was looking to “thin the herd” because another project was taking all his time and attention. Jon swooped in and scooped it up to keep it safe and in the family. Just like any other car guy who had just bought his dream car, Jon had ideas of what was in store for the little shoebox Nova.
At first glance, there is no mistaking this is a true hot rod. Covering the sheetmetal is a factory shade of Ermine White that is accented by a set of red racing stripes that grace the hood. If you like the hood grilles, they are courtesy of Eddie Motorsports. Hinting to this being more than just a show car is the Glasstek front chin spoiler and custom-built billet rear spoiler, and the cool one-off CNC-milled mirrors by Evans CNC.
Since the interior is the place Jon plans to spend most of his time — not in a lawn chair sitting behind the car — he wasted no time contacting the R&D department at TMI Products to get not only a complete custom interior, but one that had all of the details that would make this interior a true masterpiece.
To that end, he chose a complete interior kit that includes Pro-Series Universal Low Back Seats in the Sport-QR pattern covered with Madrid White Vinyl to compliment the exterior paint. He then had TMI add red vinyl with black Unisuede inserts and matching red accents down the middle. Finally, red stitching ties it all together. Matching door and rear quarter panels, as well as front kick panels, were included, along with a one-piece molded headliner.
If you are checking out the console, it is a truly custom interpretation of a TMI design. The TMI guys added a 3D-printed phone cradle that Jon’s buddy, Shannon, designed for him. Although it is currently in its raw plastic form in the images, it will be sent out to Evans CNC to be replicated in billet aluminum. Although the console itself is a TMI product, it’s not made for a Nova. It is actually designed for a 1971 Camaro. It was chosen because it is a full-length piece, and Jon needed a little extra space for the Vintage Air vents, the integrated cell phone dock and charger, and the aforementioned cup holder.
This was to be no typical cruiser, so shortly after arriving at Jon’s home, the small-block 350, 200R4 transmission, and the original 10-bolt leaf-sprung rearend were summarily removed. Jon wasting no time dropping a BluePrint Engines 6.0-liter LSX with LS3 rectangular port heads and a bevy of high-performance parts between the fenders. Jon then dressed up the modern mill with Eddie Motorsports valve covers, water pump and accessory-drive system, a K&N air cleaner, Champion radiator with Derale 16-inch fan, a DC Power Engineering alternator, and a FiTech ECU. I wouldn’t know how, but in case you missed it, this modern small block benefits from a little forced air via a Magnuson TVS2300 Supercharger equipped with Eaton twin four-lobe rotors.
The pressurized power is routed to a TCI Super Streetfighter 4L60E which spins a 4-inch Inland Empire driveshaft, which connects the Currie Enterprises Turn9 9-inch rearend. The rear is equipped with 3.70 gears an Eaton TruTrac differential. Spent gasses get sucked out of a set of TCI LS headers connected to a Gibson 3-inch exhaust system with Superflow WMA mufflers and X-pipe with side exit and rectangular tips. With the engine and transmission setup, Jon rolled onto the dyno and his Nova pushed out a healthy 634 horsepower and 572 lb-ft of torque.
Horsepower is useless if it doesn’t make firm contact with the highway. Jon’s Novas stays planted in the corners with a dialed-in Heidts front clip which is upgraded with a Classic Performance Products (CPP) power-assisted rack-and-pinion. A set of SPC adjustable upper control arms and QA1 coilovers finish the frontal support. For the rear, he selected, a Total Cost Involved rear suspension, subframe connectors, and Panhard bar. The TCI kit replaces the leaf springs with a four-link, and Jon upgraded the control arms from single- to double-adjustable bars with Johnny Joints.
Some car builders have talent, and the Nova is a testament to Jon’s. But, what would you say if I told you that Jon actually built the wheels? Yes, he designed, cut, and finished the wheels himself. His creation pays homage to a vintage Trans-Am wheel from the early ‘70s called the Mini-Lite. The wheels take the form of a three-piece billet aluminum wheel in Tinted Gold powdercoat over brushed aluminum and measure a meaty 19×8 and 19×9. Those one-off wonders are wearing Falken Azenis RT-510K tires measuring 235/35-19 in the front and 255/35-19 in the rear.
Jon’s goal for building his ’65 Nova was to create a very capable car that could hold its own on the track and be comfortable to drive on the street. With its perfect blend of classic styling, exceptionally well laid out TMI interior, and gobs of go-fast parts, there is no denying this Nova is a blast to drive. Jon says he likes to attend local shows and events in Southern California and is planning on tackling Hot Rod Power Tour and Hot August Nights. That makes this a true show-and-go masterpiece.