Mini Muscle Car: Scale Model of Dad’s 1968 Chevy II Nova

My dad’s pride and joy in high school was a modified 1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova. The story of this car was shared last year on The Journal. Fast forward a year, and I was able to present my dad with a replica of his old car – in scale-model form, anyway – over Thanksgiving.

Branson Evans, a fellow car enthusiast and friend of over 20 years, recently started expanding his personal diecast car collection. His artifacts range in scale from a massive 1/6 scale C1 Corvette all the way to 1/43 scale micro-cars. He has customized his display cases with specific genres or themes. Along with that, Branson has taken on some special projects involving commissioned customization. He expressed interest in helping with a re-creation of my dad’s old Nova, and that’s how things started.

By the time I was born in late 1981, dad’s Nova had already left the family. Luckily, we had several photos of his car – and its many engine variations – that have been preserved in boxes for over 40 years now. Branson used these photos as the basis for his work.

The diecast model started out life as a 1/18 scale car from Maisto. My dad’s car had some unique touches that Branson incorporated, including a black vinyl roof, white-letter tires, and of course a vanity “68 NOVA” Utah license plate. Branson managed to replicate all of that, and he took the level of interior detail even further: He replicated stickers in the engine bay, re-created a T-handle shifter, and fabricated some auxiliary gauges.

The icing on the cake was that he created a second model in even smaller 1/64 scale to go with the 1/18. I presented the gift to my dad over Thanksgiving weekend and he absolutely loved it. I’ll let the Q&A with Branson tell the rest of the story in greater detail.

What model(s) did you start with for the base vehicle?

I started with a Maisto 1/18 1970 Chevrolet Nova SS coupe in light blue. Halfway through the project, I learned that Maisto also did a red 1970 Nova SS coupe and decided it may be a better model to start with, since I would only have to add the black paint to the lower body panels and the model could retain the factory paint which is more durable than a repaint.

What was the most challenging aspect of the re-creation?

I think trying to figure out which decals were in the engine bay of the original car. I was working off of very old pictures of the actual car that weren’t super clear. I reached out to some internet car guys to identify a couple of the decals, but a couple still remain unidentified. Asking your dad would possibly have ruined the surprise.

What part of the final product are you most proud of?

I quite like the “vinyl” roof. First thought was just to paint the roof black to resemble the actual car but I had some leather repair tape in the drawer and decided to try adding a piece of it to the roof and it looked good, but the texture wasn’t quite right, so I ordered a different brand and I think it turned out great!

Any tricks or techniques on perfecting a DIY paint job?

I’m still trying. I do know that I need to practice more patience! The biggest thing I learned early on is that the paint surface must be very clean just before painting or you’ll get fisheyes and adhesion issues. Also, I now let models dry/cure for a week minimum after painting before putting them back together. The paint will mar easily if it is still soft.

I know you had to be innovative at some points, for example using exterior trim to create a shifter, and coming up with material for a vinyl top. Any other discoveries or learnings you want to share?

I am fairly new to re-creating and printing decals and I like tweaking the process to get better results. I changed the ‘Nova’ decals on the quarter panels and trunk of the model 3 times before I got a decal I was satisfied with. I want to get into 3D printing so I can make some of my own parts for future builds.

What is your next build? Are you interested in people reaching out for a quote if they have a specific project in mind?

I’m going to build my first 1:24 scale diorama soon of an auto shop with a paint booth and a 1963 Corvette on a dolly waiting to be painted. I have a lot of ideas for dioramas in my head, but getting them built will be a project for sure. People can reach me via my Instagram @6THGEARDETAILS for a quote.

How did you first get interested in the diecast hobby?

I collected a fair amount as a teen and then mostly abandoned the hobby for ~20 years. I recently got back into it, and have grown my collection probably tenfold this past year.

What are some of your other recent builds?

I just completed my first plastic model build of a lowrider 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS convertible that I surprised a co-worker with. It was a replica of his lowrider, metallic green paint, custom rims, dual whip antennas and all. Over the past couple of months, I have repainted a couple of 1955 Bel Airs with matching teardrop trailers, performed some engine swaps, completed a repaint on a couple of 1/12 1958 Corvettes, and completed a Frankenstein build of a Coca-Cola bottle delivery truck with a 1952 Jada model as the base along with parts from a Danbury mint model for the truck bed.

How many diecast cars do you have, and what is your favorite vehicle in your current diecast collection?

About 300 in scales 1:6 to 1/43 with the majority being 1/24 and then another ~95 in smaller scales. My favorite model is my 1/6 1957 Corvette Fuelie; it is quite rare, only 400 were made by Highway 61 in 2007. It is one of the most detailed and accurate models I have seen. It has working windows and cowl vent, a working drive shaft, removable dipstick, oil filter and gas cap, and a complete spare tire/jack.  

What part of the Nova project took the most patience and painstaking effort?

I think the vinyl roof took the most effort because I have never done one before. It took a few tries of applying different techniques to get it right. It still isn’t perfect but I think it was a detail that totally makes the Nova.

About how many hours would you say you invested into the project?

It’s going to sound insane but I think I have at least 30 hours into the project. This includes the first prototype car, a second car that was a bit better than the first and a final car that has the factory paint job. Here is a breakdown:

  • 2-hour prep/masking/paint body and interior floors
  • 3 hours researching/identifying decals and finding correct logos for the time period.
  • 3 hours sizing/printing/modifying decals
  • 6 hours vinyl top development
  • 2 hours t-handle hurst shifter
  • 3 hours hand painting side and vinyl top trim and then ultimately using pin striping for side trim
  • 4 hours modifying front grill and rear trim to remove “SS” look and modifying taillights to resemble a 1968 instead of a 1970.
  • 6+ hours on 1/64 model. This includes trying to do a vinyl top that didn’t work out so I had to strip it all and repaint.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most detailed one-off custom diecasts I’ve ever seen. Thanks, Branson, for making my dad’s day – and mine – with this build! The collector car hobby can sometimes be just as fun in scaled-down cars as it is with the full-size versions. 

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