1968 Chevrolet Fred Gibb COPO Chevy II Nova With Dick Harrell 427 Conversion
Bench-racing sessions between Fred Gibb, owner of Gibb Chevrolet, and racer Dick Harrell convinced them that a 1968 Chevy II Nova with an L78 396/375hp engine and a Turbo 400 transmission would be great for NHRA Super Stock competition. But Chevrolet did not offer that combination for sale to the public. Gibb called his friend Vince Piggins at Chevrolet to help him get approval for building 50 of these L78/Turbo 400 Chevy II Novas through the Central Office Production Order (COPO) system.
The cars were approved, and by July 1968 had arrived at Gibb Chevrolet. All 50 of the COPO 9738 Chevy II Novas came equipped with the L78 engine, heavy-duty radiator, TH400 transmission, power drum brakes, bucket seat interior, floor shift with console, and 4.10 Positraction 12-bolt rear. Four colors were ordered: Fathom Blue, Grecian Green, Matador Red, and Tripoli Turquoise. Interior colors were either blue or black.
Some of these COPO 9738 Chevy II Novas were sent to Dick Harrell Performance Center to receive a 427 swap. The actual number of cars sent is uncertain. Harrell would typically install aftermarket speed equipment, like an A&A fiberglass Stinger hood, a Sun tach, and an aftermarket intake manifold. The featured Matador Red example, owned by Rick Thayer, is one of those cars that received the Harrell treatment.
Thayer called on Brian Henderson and crew at Super Car Workshop in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to restore his Gibb/Harrell Chevy II Nova to perfection. Henderson said that a big reason he was able to make the restoration as accurate as possible was Thayer’s ability and tenacity in hunting down hard-to-find, period-correct, and date-correct parts and components. The end product is absolutely stunning.
n The 50 COPO 9738 Chevy II Novas were ordered by Fred Gibb in four colors. Brian Henderson reports that 20 of them were Fathom Blue with a blue interior, 10 were Grecian Green with a black interior, 10 were Tripoli Turquoise with a black interior, and 10 were Matador Red with black interior.
n Keystone Raceway Park in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, was kind enough to host the shoot of the three Super Stock cars.
The dragstrip hosts a number of professional and amateur events during the racing season. Keystone Raceway Park is scenic and clean, a great place for familyfriendly drag racing.
n All of the COPO 9738 Gibb Chevy II Novas came with either black or blue interiors with bucket seats and the floor shift/ console combination. Dick Harrell added the Sun tachometer. An interesting 1968-only feature is the ignition key placement in the dash rather than on the steering column.
n The 427 engine is built from a correct 1968 CE block with aluminum heads, a Weiand dualquad manifold with Carter 4762S carburetors, a Joe Hunt magneto, and N.O.S. Mickey Thompson Super Scavenger headers that have been coated to a sparkling white color. Mickey Thompson 427 valve covers, Mickey Thompson breathers, and Cal Custom 40-40 chrome air scoops supply eye candy.
n “We’d seen a number of pictures of the Harrell cars with custom paint on the Stingers,” says Henderson, “so we decided to do the lace treatment as well.”
n The rear cove panel is blacked out and features the SS emblem. Trunk gaps, body fitment, and panel alignment on this restoration from Super Car Workshop are outstanding.
“The end product is absolutely stunning”