Phil had commissioned me to build a few other pro-touring cars that turned out awesome. You could say we had really similar tastes which makes building a car much more enjoyable. Phil wanted to do a ’66-67 Nova hardtop with LS power and the latest suspension goodies. What Chevy lover doesn’t like the classic lines of the mid year GM compact? I began the search and came up with overpriced rusted out basket cases. I knew of a car that was destined for Street Machine of the Year competition in 2003 but was a stalled project in bare metal. I called the owner and the car was not for sale but…his business partner had a rust free, black plate, LS9 car he would consider. Within 24 hours a deal was struck and a solid body with the Holy Grail of LS engines showed up at the shop.
Naturally a game plan was hatched. Every part Detroit Speed and Engineering offered for the little shoe box was ordered up. Rick Elam at Bear Brakes supplied the necessary equipment to slow the 650+ HP car down in the form of 6 piston calipers and 14″ rotors on all four corners. Wilwood gets the nod for the master cylinder complete with a Marquez design lid. The brakes, fuel and oil systems are all plumbed with stainless hardlines.
19×11 and 18×9 Forgelines are wrapped in Continental tires and we always get asked if that is the ride height, and the answer is yes! It drives amazingly easy and isn’t harsh, a true testament to the engineering that when into the suspension and brake systems. We were able to build a complete 3″ exhaust and tuck it under the car, wrap it around the Rick’s Vaporworks tank out a custom fabricated rear bumper. The only items we needed to get the LS9 to play nice in the vintage tin was a Peterson dry sump tank, an a/c pulley and bracket kit from Concept One and a bunch of time fabricating the air intake to look like it belonged there. The GM connect and cruise computer and harness took care of the rest.
With every car there is a story and this little black Nova is no different. Last June it was obvious that Phil’s 850hp ’69 Camaro wasn’t coming along fast enough to make it to the “big dance” known as SEMA 2013. We talked about dusting off the Nova and bumping it up the list to be the back up car. Ideas were revisited, the old concept was trashed and a fresh build was underway. We finished the mock up, got it off the rotisserie and to paint by August. In typical SEMA fashion the car was completed in the final hours and loaded into the trailer without any fan-fare on a stormy Seattle morning headed for the lights and fame of Las Vegas. The back up car was finished!
SEMA always creates a rush and that rush is ten fold when you bring a car to Hot Rod Alley. But this year I will never forget. We shared a booth with Tom Neslon’s stunning Charger in bare metal that was drawing quite a crowd. Tuesday was real quiet and the little Nova seemed to blend into the crowd. Which was fine we built a car that we were proud of and it was subtle and didn’t command attention until you looked at all the details. Wednesday morning was a different story. We were notified that the car had been picked for the Goodguys inaugural Top 5 Golden Builder award. We went over and received the award and ran into our buddy Rob Kibbie when I get a text from one of the guys saying the Sony Playstation guys picked the car for the Gran Turismo hot rod category. They were all over the car admiring the simple details. That night we were invited to a party hosted by Sony where it won Best of Show and selected to be in an upcoming version of the game. To be in the company of Morrison’s Vette, Stielow’s Red Devil, and Mary’s ’73 still gives me chills! Needless to say the little black Nova did alright as a back up car. Who knows, maybe that ’69 Camaro will hit the floor in Vegas this year….
It takes many quality people to put a car together in a short period of time. People were asked to put their lives on hold while the clock was winding down for SEMA. Josh Ewing handled all the custom metal work including the air intake and engine cover. I would have an idea of what I wanted and Josh would take it to a whole new level. Austin Riddle got the body in shape and the black PPG paint laid out while Kevin Hansen took on the task of hard blocking the clear and buffing. Jamie McFarland stitched up a beautiful leather interior to compliment the body. The crew at Chris Holstrom Concepts went over the top putting in countless hours to build a car that Phil can be proud of. Speaking of Phil, there are not many people who would sign up for the stress of full on build to debut at SEMA, but he has done it more than once and has given us an opportunity to build some really fun cars. If you’ve enjoyed the back up car there is a certain Camaro in the works that is really something special…