When you're a whippersnapper and think you know everything, you're more likely to want to get your hands dirty and lie on the ground under your four-wheeled paramour more often than in your own bed. You wash your hands in gear oil and the stench stays with you long after the fact. Your girlfriend or whoever might take a look at your hands and fingernails and decide that she won't be getting near you until you've scrubbed them raw, and it's winter. None of this really matters, of course, because at once you are the absolute master of your own destiny and physically indestructible.

Then you grow older and hopefully wiser. You've got a job because you must feed your family. Time shrinks in proportion to your wallet. You should be saving for the kids' education. Finally, you shrink back, too, no longer obsessed with spinning wrenches on your oh-so-cool short (aka hot rod), and when you climb back down that rickety ladder, you realize that nobody else cared about what you'd been doing but you.

But you can't quit that dirty old habit . . . ever. Ron Poole's been there about 18 times in his 58 years, having a hand in building them all. "For once", thought the Clinton, Maryland, Homeland Security specialist, "I'll find a solid piece that someone else has done the drone work on and add some bits that I must have."

Ron's kids are way past college now, so he felt pretty secure about buying a finished piece and tinkering with it. He found this '72 SS in an issue of Deals on Wheels. It was for sale at Oldtown Automobile in Huntingtown, Maryland. Ron drove about 15 miles to have a look. As soon as he cleared the door, the Viper Red coupe threw a sleeper hold on him. It blew his eyes out. He had to have it, and he hadn't even heard it run. When the guy cranked it up, Ron nearly levitated-then whipped open his checkbook like a switchblade.

The rumbling under that fake-out flat hood came from a ZZ502 crate motor jittering in front of a modified Turbo 350. Ron said it was as if he went into a pet store and found the puppy he'd always wanted. Some gnarly little dog, this. The stock 502 pumps out 567 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm and a tickle over 500 hp at 5,200 from its forged innards, and its 9.2:1 compression ratio absolutely screams for a charged air system. So that's what Ron got for his fat rat, a Vortech V7 Universal kit (8 psi). Bubba's East Coast Rods & Customs in Fairfax, Virginia, did the install, which required some fabbed brackets and relocation of the power steering pump.

Aside from buying a complete running car with some major upgrades, what really spurred Ron's interest was the nearly flawless red paint, so much so that he got some training from Meguiar's pertinent to surface restoration. He wet-sanded the body and rubbed it back to a mirror finish. "I've spent countless hours on this one thing," said Ron. Indeed, the hot red literally rushes to your eyes, glistening, shimmering, never looking this good on the Viper from whence it came.

Ron is a member of the Unity Thunder Car Club (Camp Springs, Maryland), participates at Goodguys events, and makes sure he gets a little time in his Nova every week. "My wife and I have been married for 37 years," he said, "during which time I owned all those cars, but none of them impressed her like this red-hot one. Now she has her very own classic and attends many events with me." Attaboy, Ron. It's a wise man that keeps the boss happy.

Motor & Drivetrain
A crate 502 makes a wonderful platform for supercharging or turbocharging because all its rotating parts are forged and it is based on a four-bolt main cylinder case. At 8 psi, but without an intercooler in the wings, the Vortech should be able to build at least 800 hp. Ron specified an Edelbrock intake manifold and GMPP oval port heads, and Bubba's boys put a 4150 Holley right up there with them. Hooker Super Comp headers dump into a 3-inch-diameter system replete with QTP electrically controlled exhaust cutouts. The Turbo 350 transmission was part of the original deal, and though it is modified, Ron isn't sure what that entailed but says that it works without fail. He changes up the gears with a B&M Pro Stick shifter and relies on a B&M fluid cooler on those high-heat days south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The 3,500-stall converter is about as hairy as you can get and still be spot-on streetable. A rebuilt but otherwise stock driveshaft relays torque to a beefed 12-bolt holding 3.73:1 gears on a Posi-Traction carrier.