Ask Frank Serafine if he knows anything about interminably long, cold winters. He hangs in Rochester, New York, a perennial victim of lake-effect snow storms and the mentality required to cope with them. Where Frank's from, the stuff routinely piles on 12 or more feet thick. So must Frank come and go by scrabbling in and out of his second-story windows? No. Mostly, he prepares for the Big Whiteout by piling Chevy parts in his garage and stoking the furnace with old Ford ones-and tunneling through to where he wants to go.
Cabin fever never quite reaches high C because Frank's take on winter is that the Florida peninsula will continue to simmer regardless of the seasonal misery in Upstate New York. If it gets bad enough, his escape route is a given. On the other paw, Frank's 16 previous hot rods have taught him a thing or two about the build ethic. He's way beyond scrubbing stuff in an icy tub of solvent when it's below zero and the sun barely squints beyond the Arctic Circle.
Nearly four years ago, he bought a car that had already been scoured with gallons of someone else's sweat. For all intents, the seller figured his car was done. Frank took one look at the Kansas-based '63 Nova he found on eBay and deemed it ready for sacrifice. Though it was an immaculate as well as a numbers-matching example, it was completely stock, Blue Flame six and Powerglide bumbling along. Frank had a vision. He would terminate all that cheap crap and its ox-cart mentality with prejudice.
He and pal Jim Drake drove the car around for a couple of months then got down to business excising all the Nova's rejuvenated organs-drivetrain, suspension, and front clip-and began to install the mini-tubs. Jim got seriously ill and unable to continue, and Frank just went ahead with it. That is, Frank and his wife Cheryl just went ahead with it. His soulmate spent many hours planning the project, chasing down the stuff, and most importantly, assisting her husband in the garage.
Try this 10 years ago and it would have been messy, but the Nova is a kindred spirit, loved and embraced by the whole hot rod world, probably from the day we saw Bill Thomas' 327 Fuelie swap on the pages of a 1963 issue of Hot Rod. It would follow that the wherewithal for any area of the car is tended by an aftermarket overloaded with parts, pieces, and even complete systems ready to be bolted into place. So when Frank went looking for the contents of his newest suitcase, he was not thwarted.
The plan went something like this: We want a clean, subdued piece, sure, but one that oozes power and solidity from every corner, one with only the tips of its claws showing. We want function now, and not particularly form. We want reliability and the utmost drivability, and we want it all at the touch of a finger or two. To reside in that place, Frank finished the wheel tubs and made 2x2x0.083-wall frame connectors to bridge the gap between the front and rear of the unibody bastard, or more accurately between the four-link suspension and the Total Cost Involved (TCI) front clip. A Chassisworks dropped crossmember provides attachment points for the front of the four-link setup. Stitz Street Rods supplied the upper shock-absorber mounts.
Doing something about the abysmal front suspension was high on Frank's list of What To Change Immediately years before he bought the Nova. TCI supplied the basis for the Air Ride ShockWave apparatus, the lower control arms, and the front subframe. Frank included Mustang II control arms and spindles and installed a Flaming River manual rack steering assembly.
As spectacularly as Frank has violated the numbers-matching idiocy, he has just as spectacularly paid homage to the original. The Nova's rugged, simple mission is outlined pin-neat in the interior that is equally rugged, simple, and designed specifically for this car. Frank remembers.