Chuck Jackson is a young dog--only 36--but he's a lucky pup, indeed. The older cats who've helped him with his ideas came on like prophets, offering what they knew from years of experience and know-how. Most of all, these angels never failed to encourage Chuck, never failed to keep his spirits up or to prepare him for the next logical step forward. Chuck got the power from several old hands, Gary Guerrero, Jackie Garcia, Gerald Lee, Rito Rios, Mark Millholin, Reese Baker, and "Gray Boy Fred" Stegger among them.

Now backpedal to 1989. A not-so-cherry daily driver '71 Nova belonging to a friend's wife up and died on her. Naturally, it disappeared into the garage and wasn't seen again for 10 years.

"It had a little rust on the quarters, and a few dings and dents, but all the molding and trim were intact." Opening the door put a whole new light on the zygote hot rod. The original 350 small-block and Turbo 350 transmission were still in it. The front seat was a bundle of rags and the headliner had flopped. It needed new floor pans too, but for $350 it was a deal. "We towed my new project home...where it sat for another three years in my garage." Does this have a familiar ring?

Chuck's street driver was an '83 El Camino prodded by an all-iron, low-compression 355. No matter. The whole deal got greased by a drunk driver while Chuck had it parked in front of his crib. Now he had a new drivetrain for his old Nova. He coddled the combo for about a year. In 2002, he changed jobs and met Gerald, who had a '72 Camaro fitted with a juiced small-block that had made its bones on both street and dragstrip. It got Chuck to thinkin'. The two hit it off famously and Gerald didn't waste a minute sharing some of his old street race secrets. They turned the 15-second driver into a high-12-second exciter with some obvious but inexpensive modifications that included a loftier camshaft, Vortec heads, an Air Gap intake, a 750 Holley, slapper bars, and deeper gears.

Then, as it is wont to do in such situations, the worm turned. Street driving morphed into hard-core dragstrip shenanigans. Gary and Jackie took over. They built a nitrous 406 for Chuck and turned him on to the Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA). Suspension upgrades were part of the deal. Now Chuck had a 10-second squeezer. The worm was venomous. It hooked him deep. Chuck had gone into battle with his small-bore automatic and laid down enough fire to win the PSCA Arizona Nationals ('05) and finish 10th in the 10.60 Index class that season.

In early '06, our intrepid racer began hanging out at Hot Rod Performance in Torrance, California. Proprietor Mark Millholin built him a new combo for the PSCA 10.60 class (on the motor). But the 9s beckoned and Mark responded. Reese at HRP rewired the tub; Chuck stuck the Nova with lighter, more responsive front suspension components and beefed up the 8.5-inch axle. HRP plumbed the motor for juice and added more gear to the differential. Finally, to tie it all together, a local shop installed a sturdy 12-point rollcage that laid the structure integrity out evenly.

With the means now at his disposal, Chuck turned to the appearance of his defiler. He wanted smooth and clean, but certainly not ostentation. Subtle but poignant pigmentation was what his all-business bomber needed."The car was running good but still had that ugly, faded gray paint that was on the car when I bought it. My friend Sammy Bonner gave me a 4-inch cowl hood, but it was gold so it wasn't gonna work. Gray Boy Fred took mercy on me and painted it at his house for little more than my labor." Gray Boy also mocked up some contrasting stripes and put 'em to hood.

Chuck's not gonna get off this horse right quick, either. He's got a jones for that 9-second blip. How do we know? There's the matter of that hidden parachute mount.