When someone who has worked his entire life suddenly quits the ingrained cycle in order to “retire and take it easy,” it usually doesn’t work out that smoothly. Easier said than done, ladies and gentlemen. You’d be a lucky soul if that was the case, perhaps a figurative paradise in which any number of disciplines await. Certainly no traditional morning ride, no “work” to go to, but things that would enrich that life and give traction to ideas and projects that lay dormant for decades.
Case in point: Don Clark of McKinney, Texas. Just a tick north of Big D, an area rife with suppliers, fabricators, car builders, and a Longhorn large appetite for just about anything that’s fast and on fire. OK, Don’s been around awhile and has played with hot rods long enough to know the subtext or the backstory as well as anyone.
His car history, as represented on the tech sheet (though we suspect there were a few others that didn’t make his cut), account for two ’56 Chevys, a pair of ’63 Olds Jetfires (equipped with futuristic turbocharged 215ci all-aluminum V-8), ’32 Ford, ’69 Camaro, ’71 Camaro, and “a bunch of midyear Corvettes”. It seems to be his method to choose cars that have seen minimal invasion by the elements and oxidation. Having to administer massive body reconstruction tends to shred patience as easily as it does the bank account. Don began his latest excursion into wonderland with a relative newcomer, a car he probably would have already had were it not for the others in his barn.
Don is this car’s second owner. A friend in California did the sleuth work. Its female owner had bought a ’67 Nova SS, Butternut Yellow, black vinyl top, black interior, bucket seats, console, and a six-cylinder ’Glide. As you can see, there’s nothing left of the original form. The car is now a complete reflection of its owner, perhaps the nicest piece he’s ever owned. Don wanted a well-mannered driver, not something to sling around a race course or ignite dragstrip tarmac.
The Nova was in such fine shape, that all the trim, save for the NOS wheelwell opening molding and the headlight and taillight bezels, is straight out of 1967. The bumpers were re-chromed, plastic lenses were replaced, the floor was reconfigured, enabling the car to be lower on the chassis and to make room for the top bars of the four-link suspension system.
Wylie is well within the Dallas/Fort Worth grid, on the eastside just a spit and holler from McKinney. Wades Rod & Customs is in Wylie, close to home, so even if Don wasn’t working this particular project, he’s in tight proximity so he could drop in at will to check out the progress. Anyone who has ever had a car built knows the importance of this physical fact. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Wades gets credit for building and painting the car. Shawn Cook in Murphy did the interior. The engine was a simple no-brainer. All Wades had to do was drop it home. All Don had to do was slide in, twist the key, mat the throttle—and never look back. Ain’t retirement grand?
To save time and money, Don chose a turnkey Street & Performance crate engine that has a 9.4:1 compression ratio, which means that in a pinch, regular fuel will do nicely. The Ram Jet 350 features electronic fuel injection (MEFI 4 engine controller) and is rated at 350 hp at 5,200 rpm and 400 lb-ft of grunt at 3,500 rpm. Thing is, that torque is extruded in a nearly flat line from 1,750 rpm almost to redline. This means that whenever Don jumps on it, the Nova will not stutter or hesitate. The precious link lies in the clutch assembly and the Keisler five-speed conversion (complete from hydraulic clutch control to modified crossmember and all the bits in between). A Coleman driveshaft shifts the current to the Currie 9-inch carrying a positive traction unit and 3.73:1 gears. Fuel is stored in a Rock Valley polished stainless cell. Cooling is handled by a Griffin radiator and dual puller fans.