“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.
There aren’t many normally aspirated, nuts-only, street-driven small-blocks built like this one. QMP braced the Dart Iron Eagle block (cam bores raised 0.391 inch) with 50mm roller bearings, 0.904-inch-diameter bushed lifter bores and coated Clevite bearing shells. The rotating assembly turns off a Scat 3.5-inch stroke Super Lite crankshaft, 6.00-inch-long Crower connecting rods, and custom 4.125-inch bore JE pistons with corresponding ring-and-pinion packs. Doubtless, the lubrication system is quite out of the ordinary for a street car and has become the de facto showcase of the project. The oiling ancillaries stack like this: Williams four-stage pan, Aviaid four-stage pump, and Patterson Enterprises 3-gallon tank. A Jesel beltdrive links the secret-spec 50mm COMP cam (bumping 0.904-inch Crower Hippo lifters) with the crank, which is fitted with an ATI damper. The top half is cultivated by CFE 15-degree aluminum cylinder heads outfitted with Manley titanium 2.150/1.60-inch valves, Manley Nex-Tec springs and titanium retainers and Jesel Mohawk shaft rocker arms. Manton 3/8x0.168-wall pushrods comprise the vital link. Induction ceremonies are part of the Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold and the Dave Braswell-modified 4150 Holley. Fuel is fed from a Rick’s baffled stainless tank and AN -10 lines. An MSD Digital 6 provides the spark and timing is all in at 38 degrees. A Jones Racing accessory drive gathers the alternator and power steering pump but an A/C compressor is not included. Waste gases are routed through custom-built headers with primaries that step from 15/8 to 13/4 inches and terminate in 3-inch collectors. Sire chose a skinny 31/2-inch SpinTech oval-pipe system for its excellent ground clearance. The pipes dump just forward of the rear tires. On the SuperFlow 902, the combo revealed 700 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque. Applying said grunt falls to a McLeod Racing dual-disc clutch assembly (1,000hp clamping) with hydraulic linkage, a close-ratio TKO 650 five-speed and Hurst shifter and a Cook’s Machine Works 3-inch aluminum driveshaft. A Tom’s Differentials POE 12-bolt (narrowed 3 inches per side) holds the massaged Eaton differential, 31-spline axleshafts and 4.10:1 gears. Gearing caps top speed at approximately 165 mph.
The car originally came with a Chassisworks clip, Jon upgraded to their latest upper and lower tubular control arms and a 1-inch diameter antisway bar (pickup points modified to accommodate the dry-sump). The close-ratio steering box, spindles, and coil springs are Chassisworks pieces that cohabit with QA1 adjustable shocks. From the original, Sire braced the unibody with stiffeners, additional crossmembers, triangulated the frame and tied it all into the rollcage. Sire embraced Hot Rods to Hell’s truck arm suspension, a fluid, highly effective system that incorporates QA1 dual-adjustable dampers, a Panhard rod, and a trunk-mounted custom splined antisway bar tied into the ’cage.
To receive the narrowed 12-bolt housing and make room for the 10-inch rear wheels, Sire installed the appropriate tubs and rolled the fender inside lips. They stripped the body side molding. They removed the gas filler flap and tapped into the trunk for new access to the Rick’s fuel tank filler neck. They got a 4-inch cowl hood for it. They took the whole deal to Lanse’s Collision in West Los Angeles for the denouement. “The Nova was destined to be black,” Jon says. “I found an old-school artisan who wasn’t even going to think about using body filler to make it smooth as glass. Lanse’s stripped it down to bare metal and block-sanded copiously. Black as black should be.
Considering the purpose, the interior is downright homey but still eschews anything that has to do with the expected creature comforts. Aside from Scat bucket seats, custom dash insert holding a gaggle of Auto Meter gauges and the Crow Enterprizes harnesses, the scene could be right out of 1967.
The Nova’s road-race demeanor includes large binders, in this case the ever-popular Baer six-piston, 14-inch-diameter discs followed by 12-inch, four-piston replicas in the rear. Rolling stock is composed of Billet Specialties 18x8 and 18x10 Hiboy hoops set with 245/40 and 295/35 Toyo rubber.