The article featured on this page is from the April 2011 issue of Auto Enthusiast Magazine.
AUTOMOTIVE ARCHAEOLOGYInside An Original 1969 Nova Engine Compartment
Story Wayne Scraba
Cars can serve as learning tools, like this super-low mileage 1969 Nova. It’s a 9,317-mile virgin car (although it was repainted once, but the rest of it is pretty much as-produced).
Under the hood, it’s had maintenance – the spark plugs, battery, radiator hoses and air filter element have been changed. The rest is exactly like it left the assembly line.
While this little coupe is only a 307 Powerglide example, there are plenty of similarities inside the engine compartment to the more robust SS350 and SS396 Nova examples. The car is a very late 1969 build; it rolled off the Willow Run, Michigan, assembly line on third week of July, 1969. It’s probably one of the last 1969 Novas built. You’ll note it’s a bit dirty (mainly dust and road dirt). We didn’t wash the engine compartment on purpose. There are several fragile vintage markings and tags we didn’t want to disturb for the purpose of capturing the archaeological details.
1 The underhood area is completely blacked out (semi-gloss black). You can see a bit of overspray here, but we’re sure it is primarily due to the repaint. The hood catch assembly is medium-gray phosphate-plated. Ditto with the fasteners.
2 Hood hinges, hood springs and associated fasteners are all medium-gray phosphate-plated. As a tip, if you have phosphate-plated parts and they’re looking a bit dodgy, try spraying them lightly with WD40, then wipe off the excess. Otherwise, you’re better off having the parts re-plated.
3 Two things are important here – the routing of the forward (headlamp) wiring harness and the routing of the windshield washer hose. Both run through the push-in plastic retainers on the driver-side inner fender panel. Note the wiring for the water temperature lamp (idiot lamp) sender on the driver-side cylinder head. It exits past the wiring harness, just past the first retainer.
4 The Saginaw steering box is natural in color (unpainted) with an aluminum top plate. Check out the routing of the power steering hoses. Note the orientation of the hose clip. The yellow spot is an inspection sticker.
5 We’re not positive what the “BL” crayon mark signifies. Camaros of this era often carry the letters “BTP” (in various combinations) for “Body Trim Paint” somewhere on the firewall (although we suspect their prominence has been greatly blown out of proportion). Because of that, we’re speculating the “BL” signifies “Body Line” or something to that order.
6 This is definitely an original trim tag. The rivets have been dabbed in body caulking. The light-blue turquoise overspray is from the repaint. The trim tag should be semi-gloss black.
7 The original manual drum brake master cylinder is finished in natural (rust) with a gold cadmium-plated lid. The bail wire is silver cad dichromate. The “RC” tag on the bail wire spells out the type of brakes. In this case, it’s manual drums.
8 Both the forward lamp wiring harness and the engine harness have tags located close to the leading edge of the harness wrap. The tags likely indicate what engine/transmission/gauge combination is intended for each harness. For example, cars with optional gauges used a different harness than those with idiot lights.
9 We’ve seen it stated several times over that the windshield washer squirters were “natural.” These obviously are not. If they were unplated, they surely would have rusted over the past 41 or so years. They look silver cadmium-plated to us.
10 The fasteners that hold the washer nozzles in place, along with the (similar) fasteners used elsewhere to fasten the cowl panel, are all silver-plated. They’re not shiny, so we suspect they’re cad-plated like the nozzles.
11 The engine harness stretches over the firewall with the wiring routed to the starter. The lone wire for the heater blower motor is routed over the heater box. The application of body sealer on the firewall was “liberal.”
12 Heater hoses were always routed from the heater box over to the passenger-side fender and back to the intake manifold and water pump. You can clearly see that 1969 model year hoses had raised “ribs.” Later model year Novas had “GM” lettered on the hose. These do not.
13 The top post battery is obviously a replacement, but the battery cables are original spring ring jobs. GM part numbers were found on the cables. Note the “N” clearly visible on the negative cable spring ring. There’s a similar “P” on the positive cable. In addition, the cables carry this “#4 GA. SAE” lettering.
14 Here’s a look at a part of the cable routing: The negative cable runs over the heater hoses toward the stud on the alternator mount (top of the water neck). Note the clip on the alternator bracket. The positive cable uses a similar clip on the subframe crossmember. These are regularly missing in action.
15 This is how the alternator wiring breaks out of the back of the harness wrap. Note the orientation of the boot for the large positive wire. These are often missing or installed “loose.”
16 As you can see by the overspray patterns on the exhaust manifolds, the engine was factory-painted with the manifolds in place.
17 Alternator pulleys on all engine combinations incorporated a silver dichromate plating. Ditto with the nut that holds the pulley in place. This (obviously) is not one of the deep groove pulleys used on special high-performance engines.
18A, B & C Primary engine decals included the “Tonawanda Team” job on the passenger-side valve cover, the “Turbo-Fire” decal on the air cleaner along with the “Keep Your GM Car All GM” decal on the driver side of the air cleaner. Although not shown, the tune-up (emission) decal was located on the radiator support.
19A & B With the air cleaner removed, you can get a better look at the way the spark plug wires are oriented and routed through the original looms. The date code is interesting. The car is a very, very late 1969 build (3rd week of July 1969), and carries a few 1970 pieces such as the grille (not uncommon, by the way). Our interpretation of the wire date code of “1Q-69” is “First Quarter, 1969.” It doesn’t match, and the wires do not appear to have been replaced. Was the production line getting to the bottom of the barrel when it came to wires (and consequently used what was left over)?
20 Here’s a look at the windshield wiper/washer motor. Note the white washer pump base. Many replacements are black.
21 This is how the dual-throttle return springs were oriented on the small block. One was looped around the bolt on the coil bracket, while another was hooked to the the driver-side ignition wire retainer.
22 The vacuum fitting for the transmission modulator line is equipped with a single rubber hose (vibration connection). No clamps were used. The fitting appears to be cad dichromate-plated.
23 The engine dipstick is “natural” in color. Some replacements are colored. The automatic transmission dipstick (although not shown) is also natural.
24 Here’s a look at the original horn relay as well as the original Delco Remy voltage regulator. The date code on the regulator is “9F” or 1969, 6th month (June).