1966 Chevy Nova, Fuel Curve

AJ’s 1966 Chevy Nova – Two Novas, Two miracles

There are many reasons people build cars like AJ’s 1966 Nova – whether it be just for fun, bringing back memories or to win awards. Winning not only equates to awards but also to battles. As a reward for winning the battle, young A.J. Kephart was awarded a killer Turquoise 1966 Nova his Father built for him. His foe was worse than having the Terminator on your tail. It was Cancer and for several years it constantly said, “I’ll be back.”

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

It all started in 2012 with a painfull knee at age 13. The Doctors just told them it was growing pains during A.J.’s adolescence. Six months later he had a lump on his knee and finally was diagnosed with Stage 4 Bone Cancer. Things moved faster than his father’s Nova and in that short time had spread to his lungs.

AJ’s bones became very brittle from the Chemotherapy breaking his arm and foot. In May 2013, he had surgery to remove the tumor on his knee. In April and June 2014, A.J. had two surgeries to remove the tumors in his lungs after spending months with breathing tubes.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

During this time, his father Chris talked to him about building a car for his 16th birthday hoping he’d keep up the fight. Since Chris had a 7-second Nova he raced, when they asked A.J. what car would he like, the obvious choice was a Nova so they found a ’66 V8 car with plans to build it for him.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

A.J. planned out the whole car while in the Hospital. Then in January 2015 things took a turn for the worse. A.J. had more surgery this time on his spine to remove more tumors. With his spine now full of pins and bolts not to mention some nerve damage, the doctors found 20 more tumors in his left lung.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

It was back and the onocologist told Chris and Sheila A.J. had only 3 months to live and to make plans for hospice care. With his father being a drag racer, Chris went full throttle on A.J.’s Nova planning on finishing it in 30 days while there was still time for A.J. to get behind the wheel of his own car. Building a car in that time frame would be Miracle number one.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve


The build was moving at a rapid pace thanks to A.J.’s older brother C.J. and friend Pete Suterko. Time was running out with A.J. getting worse, fighting the severe pain he was experiencing and had stopped eating. Still his parents searched for an answer to save their son.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

They learned of Dr. Bonnie Goldstein from CannaCare who put A.J. on a cannabis/CBD regiment. Improvements were immediate and he started eating again in three days and his pain was subsiding. By July 2015, scans showed A.J.’s body was Cancer free.

1966 Chevy Nova, Fuel Curve

The deadline had been met to build the Nova but despite the Cancer being gone, it had taken a toll on his body and it was a year after his 16th birthday before he was well enough to get behind the wheel of a car specifically built with A.J. in mind.

Chris tore the ’66 Nova down to nothing and worked to make the car easy to drive and dependable. He ripped out the mediocre Nova front suspension and replaced it with a Mustang II front clip with rack ‘n pinion steering and Wilwood brakes. Under the hood is a 5.3 LS II V8 mated to a Turbo 350 transmission. Part of A.J.’s concept was to go with a “Sleeper” look with Wheel Vintique 17-inch steelies with factory dog dish hub caps. Chris painted the car in PPG Artiesian Turquoise before restoring the interior with goodies from OER.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

Now despite all the late nights building A.J.’s car, Chris formulated a plan to make the most of his time with recovering son. Chris sold his Nova drag car and purchased another Nova he would build for the street and go to car shows with his sons A.J. and C.J.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

Chris’ ’67 Patina Twin Turbo Nova

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

With Chris being accustomed to some wicked 1/4 mile times, his new street Nova had to fit the bill and not put him to sleep going down the road. Best way to accomplish that is to install a 6.2 LS III with twin Precision 58 turbos, custom built headers, custom exhaust and Holley EFI.

He added a Speedway Motors front clip, Wilwood brakes, a TCI 4 link out back hooked to a FAB 9 differential. Power transfer is via an Autogear 4 speed with a McLeod twin disc clutch. He then mounted a set of Asanti wheels (19 x 8 front, 20 x 10 rear).

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

The interior deviates from A.J.’s stock interior with a set of Dakota Digital gauges, roll cage and Crow Enterprises racing belts. Chris did add a creature comfort to the car installing a Vintage Air A/C unit.

The car is still in red with some patina but it certainly looks the part with sound and stance. It’s not quite the sleeper A.J.’s Nova is and that’s the point.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

It’s been over three years now since the Kephart’s were told they had only three months left to spend with their son A.J. Who could think of a better reason to build a car? A project where everyone wins.

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

A.J. fought the hard fight and won. His parents awarded him with a killer first car and never gave up hope. And finally, the coming fun and memories to be found down the road for A.J. and his family are all the right reasons for building a set of cool cars. Two Novas, two miracles!

Two Novas, Two Miracles, Fuel Curve

After spending most of his life working in automotive dealerships, Michael Breeding picked up a copy of Musclecars Magazine one day and that simple choice changed his life. Already an experienced photographer, he submitted photos of his AMX to the magazine and that feature became his first published article in 1992. Over the years Michael has written for about a dozen magazines including Muscle Car Review, Super Chevy, High Performance Mopar, Vette, and spent a number of years as Feature Editor for Rod & Custom Magazine.

Share With: