Sal Seeno’s 53, married, and has two kids who are in their 20s. His vocation? Well, he manages equipment, but didn’t tell us what kind. All we really care about is that he’s car crazy, and one with plenty of experience.
He’s already done stewardship with a bunch of ’68s: El Camino, Chevelle, and Camaro. He’s got a pure ’68 and a pure ’71 Nova. Since it is fiscally unwise to take snippets from bona fide authenticity, he sought a wasteland Nova and began to make it his own. He did all the work on this Nova except for laying down the striping and piecing the exhaust system together. Yes, paint, body, mechanical, all from his fertile mind and dexterous hands. It takes will, concentration, a good plan from the outset, and a sense of history.
Sal says: "I already had a ’68 and a ’71 Nova that had their precious numbers all in a row. So I built one I could modify. It took a couple of months, but I found one in the local paper out of San Benancio Canyon (Salinas-Castroville, California, area,) resting peacefully under a tree. The ad said connect the dots and the engine compartment was filled with pine needles and a straight-six."
Sal elaborates: "While retaining the basic external looks and characteristics of this 41-year-old automobile, my ’70 Nova has been extensively restored and modified and is now a modern high-performance vehicle. A high-performance 350 engine, five-speed manual transmission, power four-wheel disc brakes, power rack-and-pinion steering, front and rear subframes, solenoid-operated doors and trunk as well as a state-of-the-art multispeaker CD/stereo system are some of the unique features of this custom Pro Touring--style street machine."
That Sal is very handy and well versed in the car-building regimen saved him lots and lots of scoots. He figures he’s got about $20,000 in the whole projectthe car is valued at well over that. Not a bad return for three years worth of toil, wrapped in equal measures of enlightenment, ecstasy, and disappointment. He tended the Nova in the following order: bodywork, engine, suspension, paint, and interior.
By the looks of it, Sal hasn’t got a sanguinary bone in his body, has no bloodlust to win every award or autocross or road race. He’s happy just driving his new piece. And drive it, he does to Goodguys shows, the Dr. (Sebastian) George (Cancer Foundation) get-down in Palm Springs, the Peggy Sue slam in Santa Rosa, and whatever local trials he can find. At Goodguys, he won the Homebuilt Heaven award, the San Jose Classic & Custom Award of Excellence, and Goodguys’ Mighty Muscle.
Sal’s car would appeal to most everyone. It isn’t snotty. It isn’t painted black. Its creamsicle colors are calming, organic, and probably remind him of that frosty treat on a stick when he was a kid. It’s shiny. It’s pretty. It doesn’t taunt. It beckons; precisely the affect that Sal had envisioned. Its little-block crate motor has just the right amount of torque and power to the back tires of this 3,000-pound lightweight. In league with the upscale chassis modifications and four-wheel discs that Sal’s provided and the power-to-weight ratio is just about optimum. Sal’s Nova won’t spend a lot of time burning rubber; it’ll just squat and go leap straightforward with a minimum of fuss and sweat and look like a million bucks doing it. Sal sees no evil.
Underhood, Sal just wanted a reliable motor that sounded beefy, was kind to a gallon of gas, and spunky enough to twirl the tires should somebody get a little mouthy. His choice is nothing less than the hot rodder’s icon, the small-block.In this case a GMPP (PN 19210009) 350, offering four-bolt mains, 9.1:1 compression, Vortec heads, Edelbrock Performer intake and a Holley 780-cfm Avenger carburetor fed by a Blue pump. He began the exhaust tract with ceramic-coated Patriot block-hugger shorties and had outside labor complement them with a 2½-inch system and a brace of Flowmaster honkers. Electricals include an HEI distributor, ACCEL coil, and Taylor primary leads. Sal dressed the block with a March serpentine system, a Powermaster alternator, and a power steering pump. He fitted the radiator core support with a crossflow, four-row aluminum radiator razzed by a single thermostatically controlled fan. As equipped, the crate is rated at 380 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm and 330 hp at 5,000 rpm. Torque
Sal does like his creature comforts and pleasant surroundings from which to conduct business … er playtime. As a foil for the bright exterior, Sal went with neutralizing black as the interior theme. He did up the stock seats with Desert Sun Auto Interior’s embroidered covers and did the same to the bench in the back. He put down black carpeting throughout and put up a new headliner to match. Desert Sun came back with “Heartbeat” door and rear side panels. Sal got busy with the electronics, installing a Sony MEX-BT5100 AM/FM with Bluetooth/CD head unit. He concealed the speakers and constructed a package tray to hold the dual Xplod blasters. He rewired the car and fit a Classic Industries dash panel with six Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges. When he’s crankin’, he grips a custom billet steering wheel and manipulates a stock T5 shifter.
The suspension system is full-on Heidts, so setting the Nova’s stance was relatively uncomplicated. At front, the Pro-G clip is outfitted with a Mustang II steering rack, steering linkage with stainless tie rods, tubular control arms, 2-inch drop spindles, antisway bar, and coilover shocks. Heidts connectors join the front and rear Heidts subframes, the latter composed of upper and lower links, a Panhard rod, antisway bar, and Heidts coilovers.
Wheels & Brakes
For stopping energy, Sal relies on 12-inch Wilwoods at front and 11-inch Caddy Seville discs at the hind end. Oomph comes from a dual reservoir master and dual-diaphragm brake booster. These dainty discs are visually overpowered by polished aluminum 18x7 and 20x8.5 Intro V-Rod wheels. The frictional coefficient is established via 225/40ZR and 255/35ZR Nitto Extreme rubber.
Paint & Body
This is a great example of minimal changes that create maximum impact. Check out the smooth skin and the sleek silhouette. Look past the paint, and you’ll find that the Nova no longer has door handles, marker lights, driprails, or windshield cowl. The biggest contributors to the shaved exterior are the ’74 Nova doors; they have no vent windows and thus no visual break in body continuity. Sal wisely retained the sideview mirrors, though. He replaced the glass as well as the bumpers with Goodmark items. The grille and rear panel are repro SS. The headlights are Lucas Flamethrowers. Doors and trunk lid are now under the auspice of solenoid-actuated controls. Sal swarmed the body and applied the PPG Atomic Orange/Cream, laid down the spun gold striping and outlined them with purple. Home cookin’ at its best. CHP