"I wanted to make it look mellow," says Randy Robinson of his '64 Nova SS. Nice try, Randy. A casual observer might see a nice Nova, painted retina-busting yellow and rolling on old-school Torq-Thrusts, with little chrome, no hood scoop-not even an SS emblem in sight. Of course, that's all an old street racer like Robinson wants most people to see; not the fat Mickeys out back, not the rollcage, harnesses, or gauges, and certainly not the 1,000hp supercharged small-block residing underhood. And while the act might hold while this SS is at rest, all bets are off once it's fired up. This Nova's dead-serious intent is announced for blocks around in a cacophony of rumpity cam, bellowing exhaust note, and heart-quickening super-charger whine. Black streaks and broken pavement during "test" runs further attest that mellow is strictly for appearance's sake. Robinson got his hot-rodding start at an early age, growing up during the '70s in West Covina, California, where his neighbors were none other than Bob and George Vrbancic, now proprietors of The Carb Shop and Vrbancic Bros. Racing. Robinson developed "a big-brother type of thing" with them. The brothers were then campaigning a 10-second '62 Corvette bracket car, complete with Hillborn injection and a straight front axle. Seven-year-old Randy would ride his bike to where the brothers were working and help, handing them tools and cleaning up.
The brothers helped Robinson with his first race car when he was 16, a '70 Camaro. "It was a 10-second sort-of-a-street car," he recalls. "I drove it to school, but it had Bob and George's hand-me-down race parts, such as a 468ci big-block race motor and a Turbo 400 with a trans brake." Robinson raced the car at (now defunct) Orange County Raceway, but also at various So Cal street-racing venues, where he learned the gamesmanship that still influences his car-building philosophy.
Robinson then left for the University of Nevada, Reno, where he majored in business, and became a CPA. He landed a job with the now-defunct Super Shops, a gig he held for nearly 12 years. Although he was working for a speed shop and kept building cars, Robinson admits that he hated spending his time indoors wearing a suit and tie. Proving that you can go home again, he reunited with his childhood mentors, the Vrbancic Bros., and now spends his time building hi-po engines and carburetors. Summing up the career change he made a decade ago, Robinson says, "I'm getting paid to do my hobby." Building hot street cars that also take care of business at the track is Randy's forte. His creations include a parade of Camaros: a '71, a '72 454 SS, and '73 Z28; a '66 Chevelle also came into the mix at some point. Like they often do, projects came and projects went, but two themes remained constant: "If it didn't run 10 seconds or quicker, it was boring," Robinson affirmed. "But I've gotta be able to drive it," he continued. "Especially to the track." The pinnacle was his '70 RS Camaro, which tore the quarter in 10.60 at 128 mph.