Want to attract a crowd online – or anywhere, really? All you have to do is build a smaller version of something people already love: puppies (miniature dogs!), castles (Lego castles!), ships-in-a-bottle (tiny piracy!). It really doesn’t matter, because as long as it’s itty-bitty and twee, there’s a place for you in the online world. Missouri’s Darrell Hurt certainly wasn’t courting instant Internet fame when he built his mini Chevy Nova, but once a video or two of his tiny Nova efforts made their rounds of YouTube, the attention came fast and furious. After all, it’s not every day that someone with Hurt’s level of fabrication skills devotes them to something as whimsical – and cool – as producing a muscle car that looks like it’s been hit with a shrink ray. “I’ve always built dune buggies and race cars, and I’m a big fan of TV shows like ‘Street Outlaws,’” Hurt told us. “It occurred to me that it wouldn’t be that hard to apply what I’d learned on circle tracks working on cars like Mod Light to a street ride. It’s always been easier and less expensive for me to build my own rather than buy someone else’s, whether that’s a car or a trailer or a buggy.”
And so the first Mini Nova was born, a glorious mash-up of a Craigslist-sourced, fuel injected ZX12 600 cc motorcycle engine and a complete disregard for following the crowd. With 185 horsepower on tap, Darrell’s Nova-kart was “crazy fast,” what with its ultra-lightweight chassis and tiny dimensions. “A lot of the technology was already there,” he said. “I had to use some bolt-on adapters from the racing scene to make the drivetrain work in a wider street car, however. In a Mod Light, for example, the cars run the driveshaft differently due to their narrow size.”
If you think a miniature Chevrolet Nova gets noticed online, wait until you drive it down the street. “I took it to an SCCA event in Missouri,” said Darrell, “and it was the first time I had ever been to one. I parked beside a Viper, which I was gaping at because you really don’t see exotics in the small town where I’m from, but when I came back from registration there were 10 people gathered around the Nova with their backs to the Dodge, waiting to ask me questions. It was the first time I realized wow, this might actually turn in to something.” Fortunately, that didn’t translate into extra heat from the local fuzz. “I used to drive the car back and forth to work,” Hurt, who is a GM mechanic, told us. “It was just a few blocks, but I was constantly looking over my shoulder when I would pass a cop thinking they were going to pull me over, but it never happened.” Darrell says that Missouri’s vehicle registration laws are a lot simpler than in his home state of Illinois, requiring just the VIN numbers from all of the car’s key parts along with an inspection and receipts in order to qualify for a specialty built title.
Remember when we said “first Mini Nova?” That’s because the micro-car seen in the original Internet sensation video is long gone, having been sold by Hurt back in August of 2016. “I drove the Nova about 3 months before putting it up for sale on Craigslist – and that’s how the guy who posted the video found me. He came up to meet me, shot the car, and then went home. By the time it was online, I’d already sold it.”
Darrell is now working on his second version of the micro-Nova concept – and is about three months away from completing the project – only this time he’s made a number of key improvements to the design. “That first car was cool and fun,” he said, “but it wasn’t to scale. It had the general Chevy shape and the front clip, but the overall look was really helped by the Yenko stripe I had on it, and the vinyl roof.” This time, Hurt is building on a 3/4 scale based on a 1970 Nova – the one that sits in his own driveway, in fact – that he has painstakingly measured and re-measured to get the dimensions right. “I’ve scaled it down, and it has all the proper body lines. Even with no paint on it, you can tell it’s a Nova.”
Of all the muscle cars out there, we had to ask Darrell: why Novas?
“I had a 73 many years ago, but I never cared for that body style, really,” he told us.
“I’m more into the 68-72 versions of the car, which I’ve always thought of as the ‘cheap man’s muscle car.’ That’s right up my alley because I’ve always been about affordable performance and fun.” He paused. “And everyone else has got a Camaro or a Corvette, right?”