Done Right – Butch Poe’s Tight and Tidy 1963 Chevy II
Butch Poe is a lucky guy. He’s retired and he lives in Florida. He’s got a tinker shop and an ex-drag racer buddy named Fred Kinney who is also retired, and they like to hang out and build cars. “I have plenty of time,” he says. “We don’t have to get in a hurry or worry about shop labor bills.” This allows him to spend his money wisely.
After doing a few high-end restorations on old Corvettes and such, they decided to build something a little more creative. This Nova came to Butch as a full-on basket case but was a solid California car and had a 427c.i. Dart block.
The back story on the car is a cool one. The project was originally started by an ex-Marine in Ohio. He took the car all the way apart and began mocking out his vision of a faster Nova. The Dart block and some of the suspension were roughed out and plans for an involved project were made. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with an Agent Orange-related illness and realized he wasn’t going to be able to finish this long-term commitment. Wanting something to enjoy, he bought another Nova project, a ’67, that was farther along than his. He chipped away at it as his health allowed.
The guy was a friend of Butch’s buddy, and the two went up there and spent a week helping him finish the Nova in time to make a Cruising the Coast deadline. They did, and everyone had a great time. The guy’s illness continued to progress, though, and eventually he called Butch and offered the car to him; he passed away a year later. Butch brought the car back to Florida and spent the next four-and-a-half years transforming it into his vision of a clean, old-school car built to modern standards.
Since shop buddy Fred Kinney is a gearhead and former drag racer, the 427c.i. Chevy small block from Dart was given the special attention. It’s a raised-cam block topped with Brodix heads and a simple BLP four-barrel carb on a single-plane intake. The Dart block also comes with a much wider pan rail surface on the bottom. They had to modify a Jeff Johnson oil pan until very little of it was left as they sculpted it to fit the chassis and clear a new billet oil pump. It’s a work of art.
The sheet metal valve covers were also hand built, and whatever couldn’t be hidden in the plumbing and wiring systems was detailed to a high level. Take a minute and really look at how tidy the engine bay is. Careful attention was paid to paint and color application. They even painted the Ring Brothers hood hinges, made headlight backing panels, and built pass-through panels with grommets for the heater and A/C hoses.
The Heim-jointed bars flanking the engine are part of a TCI Pro Touring front clip. TCI also supplied the four-link out back for the modular Ford 9-inch housing from Mark Williams. It features 31-spline axles and 4.56 gears that work well with the T-56 Magnum six-speed. Butch says with the twin-disc McLeod street clutch the car is a joy to drive.
QA1 coil-overs offer the adjustable suspension ride while 13- and 12-inch Wilwood brakes bring the car to a quick halt. Butch says he literally waited until the last minute to choose the Forgeline GT3 wheels, spying these in the catalog as he was ordering his first choice. They are 18x8s up front with 235/40/18s and concave 18x10s on 295/35/18 Michelins on the rear. He liked the open-spoke design and the way it allows one to see a lot of the rotor and caliper.
Nearly every fastener on the car is stainless steel and is either a button-head Allen bolt or an exposed 12-point bolt. Butch and Fred made and polished their own stainless steel exhaust, a lengthy adventure in itself.
While they are more than able to do a lot of hands-on assembly and mechanical work, Butch turned to the gang at Street Metal Concepts for help with the paint and fitment and final assembly on tricky things like the doors and vent windows. He says they were on the same page and communicated extremely well together, making the process an enjoyable one.
The car was mini-tubbed and the bumpers were tucked and smoothed. Bolt studs were welded to the bumper backs and they were treated to Advanced Plating’s lavish chroming services. Thanks to the flawless PPG BMW Artik Silver paint and stance, one really has to look a little longer to find the front spoiler and the subtle rear spoiler on the trunk. They wanted a little racy flair without being too flashy.
With the project shaping up, Butch was fortunate enough to land a spot at Avant-Garde Design in Palm City, Florida for the interior. They handle heavy hitters like Roadster Shop and really understand how to blend old essence with modern expectations without over-doing it.
Butch wanted the car in two colors, silver and red. The interior swaddles him in the latter hue and is very nicely done. Care was taken to integrate the A/C vents in the lower dash and to craft lower “sight panels” that cover the A/C and under-dash area. A Ringbrothers shift knob and door handles were used, and Avant Garde machined the custom interior trim on their CNC machines. Power window buttons and a volume knob for the MP3 player were added to the center console and a pair of import car bucket seats was custom tailored to fit.
The folks at CON2R will build a steering wheel from a variety of component choices, and they integrated the Chevy II emblem that is repeated within the cabin. The good-looking three-spoke wheel sits on a tilt column underneath the silver-faced gauge dials from Classic InstrumentsClassic InstrumentsClassic Instruments. Yards of red leather and plenty of matching red paint was used throughout and there isn’t a fastener in sight. Avant Garde uses powerful magnets to hold many of the panels in place.
Butch says the little Chevy II cars were simple little cars growing up. They were easy to make work well in terms of performance back in the day, and he’s tried to retain that character in this one, only making it a little nicer along the way.
It’s a low-tech hot rod. It has a rowdy traditional small block with a carb, it has three pedals and a tight suspension. Additionally, the fact that it is a two-door post makes the handling even tighter, and Butch is surprised at the low levels of cabin noise when driving. “You can talk and still be heard,” he says. “It’s quiet at cruise levels, but still has a healthy bark when you get into it. It’s perfect.”
Photos by Todd Ryden