Unearthed: A 1969 Nova For A Young Gun Gearhead


Unearthed: A 1969 Nova For A Young Gun Gearhead


Dan Hatch of Clinton, New Jersey remembers the moment he fell in love with Chevrolet’s compact Nova. “In 2006, a Hot Rod Magazine article titled “A Suckers Bet” came out and it was about Kurt Urban’s beat up, “jenky” Nova that was all rusty and dented. From the outside looked like nothing special. However, with this particular car it was everything that you couldn’t see that made the car so impressive. From the moment I saw that car it immediately made me fall in love with third-gen [1968-1972] Novas.”

Over the years Dan learned about muscle cars from the adults in his life. “Both my dad and my grandfather were heavily involved in the industry and hobby and got me started at a very young age with hot rods and muscle cars. I had my own T-Bird Jr. [editor’s note: the T-Bird Jr. was an electric toy replica of a 1955 Ford Thunderbird built by Powercar that were made in the late 1950s] that I helped restore. We would tow it to the shows behind grandpa’s real ’57 T-Bird. Dad has a 396 Chevelle drop-top that I learned how to wrench on. I’m a third-generation muscle car maniac,” he says.

hatch Nova stance

Dan has already done numerous upgrades underneath the Nova, including QA1 shocks, Calvert mono-leafs and CalTracs out back.

During middle school and into high school, young Dan began searching for his first hot rod. “I would spend thousands of hours combing through “treasure hunt” classifieds, Craigslist, and wherever else looking for a decent Nova.” Dan began working many different jobs to save up money to buy his dream car. These included at his grandfather’s upholstery shop, a diner, a classic car/truck restoration shop, and his own snowplowing business that he operated in the winter months. “I dragged my parents to look at probably hundreds of Novas for sale along the East Coast!”

Nova Quest

Hatch Nova When Bought

Dan bought this Nova sight unseen and luckily found that sometimes you can get what you pay for on the internet as the car was in as good or better shape than he expected for the cash layout.

In 2020, Dan was temporarily “in the money” enough to start searching again for a Nova, after selling a truck that he rescued and flipped. “After months of striking out on my own, a coworker sent me an old ad that was 30 pages deep in on the Auto Trader website. It was for a 1969 Nova with the 250ci six cylinder and a Powerglide, and luckily it was dirt cheap.” After looking through the photos of the car Dan figured there was no way this thing was still available, but he sent an email anyway inquiring about the car. A few days later to his surprise he received a response that the car was still for sale.

Dan decided to buy the ride on a whim, going by the rudimentary photos that were posted online of the Nova sitting in a carport, burnt and crispy from the Mojave Desert sun.

Hatch Nova engine bay

The Nova came with its original 250ci inline-six, which the Dan will keep until he decided on which V8 he wants to swap in. “The engine runs smooth and has gotten me from point A to point B while I’ve worked on the interior and suspension."

So, Dan pulled the trigger and sent the money out to the owner.” To tell you the truth, I didn’t even think this car existed. I wasn’t expecting it to even show up.” Imagine Dan’s surprise when the Nova not only showed up in New Jersey, but amazingly, it looked better than he thought. “For what I paid, you couldn’t even get a good parts car here on the East Coast. This car was solid, and I got the inline six to start up with just a little bit of persuasion.”

Diving In

Right away, Dan got to work. ‘I went through the fuel system to make it drivable. The floors were rusty due to rubber floormats, so we welded in some replacements. I cleaned up the interior, added Dynomat, repainted the dash and added Mexican blanket seat covers for the time being. I then hit the suspension, adding QA1 adjustable coilovers, tubular upper and lower control arms, double adjustable rear shocks, and Comp Engineering subframe connectors.”

Hatch Nova interior

Nothing much to see here, just the basics. The column shift will stay in the Nova and the blanket seat covers are there for the meantime. The rest of the interior shows heat damage from the tough Southwest temperatures.

Then more additions were installed “I added Calvert split mono-leafs, CalTrac bars, and a Currie Ford 9-inch rear end with an Eaton True Trac differential stuffed with 3.70 gears.” Dan went on to replace all front steering components and upgraded the front brakes with a Wilwood big brake kit, while in the back he replaced the factory drum brakes with a set of 11” Ford Explorer brakes. Next, the original 14x6 wheels were replaced with 15” steel wheels, now wearing dog dish hubcaps. This helped give the car the proper “sleeper” look he had been aiming for since he was a kid.

Future plans for this Nova include more power. “I’m going to select what V8 I’m going to use for the powerplant over the next few months. Behind it will be a TH350 automatic transmission with a full manual valve body. I plan to keep the column shift, which will play into that sleeper look.”

Hatch Nova wheels

Once Dan upgraded the suspension and brakes, he added 15-inch black steel wheels so he could add some generous rubber out back and give the car that “sleeper” look he was after.

Follow The Progress!

Early on, Dan decided he was going to document his journey with this ’69 Nova. “There isn’t much in the way of Nova restorations online, especially in video form. So, I started recording the process of bringing my ride back to life. I have a YouTube channel, Hatch's Recreational Engineering. There you can check out the Nova and see what I’ve done.”

Take some time and checkout Dan’s progress on this awesome Nova and his other projects. You can see more on Dan’s Instagram account, @dan_hatch.


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