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Omaha Magazine

Starstruck: Chad Hartmann’s 1963 Nova Super Sport Convertible

Jul 24, 2020 08:54AM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
inside driver's seat, Hartmann's Chevy Nova

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

High speeds and a nearly 60-year-old car may not be synonymous, but Chad Hartmann has created his own bright new star. His love of Chevy’s answer to the big-selling, compact Ford Falcon started as a teenager in the 1980s.

“I saw it on the movie Teen Wolf,” Hartmann said. “When I was 15, I was working as a busboy in Bakersfield, California, and I saw an ad for a 1963, two-door sedan, $500.”

He retained the first Nova until he got married. He then sold that vehicle, but bought a second Nova in the late 1990s that paid for this latest vehicle, the convertible version he bought in 2005.

The Super Sport designation itself is rare in a convertible, as 1963 is the only year in which this Nova was built with a drop-top. Also as rare is the engine that sits under the hood. The following year, 1964, Novas were sold with a V-8 engine, a popular upgrade for speed demons.

That wasn’t the way Hartmann sought to upgrade his Nova. He stuck with a V-6, but it was a turbocharged V-6 from a 1986 Buick Grand National. People don’t expect to see the body of a Chevy sporting the engine of a Buick, but in the mid-1980s, this Buick engine was reportedly faster than the stock engine in Camaros, Mustangs, and even Corvettes.

“Because of that combo, it gets a lot of attention,” Hartmann said.

Hartmann and his wife, Dawnielle, often take the car to Kearney for Cruise Nite, a five-day automobile festival. One memorable night during Cruise Nite 2017, Hartmann raced a bit too hard and blew up the engine. He turned to his friends at The Shop Inc. in Lincoln and found an engine from a 1987 Buick Grand National, which he immediately set to modifying. The last time Hartmann put the car on a dynamometer, the engine got 547 horsepower and the torque was 595. 

The Nova runs on E85 fuel so Hartmann can get more bang for the buck. Racing fuel cost $9.49/gallon in mid-June, whereas E85 cost $1.44/gallon that same day.

Although some work is done by professionals, Hartmann enjoys doing much of the work himself, spending hours in the garage building what he considers a perfect car. It took about a year after the engine blew to race again.

“I call it active relaxation,” said Hartmann, who by day is president of sales at Glenn Valley Foods. “It challenges my mind in a different way.”

Hartmann also made sure the suspension could handle the type of drag racing he enjoys, yet still appear stock. To obtain this look, he put in a four-link axle with coilovers that hold the axle in place and transfer the motion to the frame for better handling. The tires are drag radials with minimal tread, so they only last a couple of years, but grip well on dry strips.

All the modifications, however, cannot compare to the memories made with this car. The Hartmanns enjoy cruising to Kearney, to the drag strip near Glenwood, Iowa, and even to local shows such as Cars and Coffee Omaha, which happens Saturday mornings throughout the summer at 156th Street and West Maple Road.

 Another favorite trip was Hot Rod Drag Week 2011, an event put on by Motor Trend Group LLC in which participants must drive their cars to the racing locales during the day (locations are 100-300 miles apart), race their cars at night, and be able to fix their cars if they break down, thus requiring a lot of parts come along for the ride. Hartmann not only gained entry to this known event, he performed well and was featured in Hot Rod Magazine for his vehicle and great timing (11 minutes 38 seconds at 114 mph) on the drag strip.

“That trip was special because I got to challenge myself and my car,” Hartmann said, smiling as he thought of one of many incredible memories made with this special car.

This letter was in the August/September 2020 issue of B2B.