“Going straight no longer got my blood going. Eventually, I got tired of just going fast in a straight line and not being able to stop on a dime or take a turn. I wanted an old hot rod that was fast and handled well,” Jon Steinberg decried from his Santa Monica, California, digs.
His prior Chevrolet experience was couched in ’66 Chevelles, at least three of them in various strengths and maturity, as well as a lone ’65 El Camino. This X-body, however, is now the darling. “I have always loved the ’67 box Nova. It’s my favorite hot rod of all time. But as anyone who’s messed with them knows they are notorious for poor handling and braking ... so I had my work cut out for me.”
The plan was certainly not original. He started from scratch. He searched for six months until he unearthed a firm candidate. He didn’t want an SS because the plan included slicing and dicing. He found his intact body in 2003 in Chehalis, Washington. It was as if he’d entered a dream episode. The owner had the car on a lift in his sumptuous garage, the underbelly naked and exposed. What? There was no rust, no corrosion, nothing to compromise or extend the build and Jon saw an already progressive Nova humping a Chassisworks clip, 427 fat-block, and a Richmond four-speed transmission.
Throughout the project’s many chapters, Jon’s blood brothers were Yannick Sire (Sire Custom Performance, Inglewood), QMP Racing (Chatsworth), Hot Rods to Hell (Anderson), Lanse’s Collision (West Los Angeles), Chuck Mason Wet Look (Beverly Hills), and Stokes Tire (Santa Monica). QMP’s Brad and Rat asked Jon how nuts he really wanted to get with the small-block, the cooked 377-incher with a dry-sump and cylinder heads with a 15-degree valve angle. Jon admitted, “With the big-block, when I got on it, it was like driving on ice. The powerband was much too violent and instantaneous for the design of the road race chassis.” What he needed was usable power and torque, something that an engine of modest displacement would avail. At 2,900 pounds, the Nova is a bantamweight.
Along with Chassisworks’ inner fenderwell panels, Jon installed SPAL fans in the wells to purge the hot, stagnant atmosphere. He had Ron Davis build a custom radiator core with integrated oil cooler, now cuddled up adjacent to the Patterson dry-sump oil tank. Whether it’s running wide open at 7,000 rpm or simmering in a traffic snarl, the 377 stays at a temperate 180-190 degrees.
Jon also wanted to retain the 12-bolt ethos, although the fruit from the Tom’s Differentials is about as tweaked as a 12-bolt can be. Tom’s disassembles an Eaton Positraction unit and hardens the cases and other assets that let it laugh at 1,000 hp. So, yeah, next time you canyon dwellers hear what sounds like a NASCAR qualifying lap, it’s just Jon and his sick 377 ringing off the walls.