Jeff Bjustrom makes his muscle car debut with this Nova SS raggie. He's never had another, never had a hot car when he was coming up. He's 46 now and this represents his first venture in a world where things are not always what they seem to be. We suspect his buttoned-down work ethic as a CPA might have been the impetus for going whole hog … or almost whole hog, as you will see. Since he is eternally defined by numbers, either on paper or in the Ethernet, he wanted something tangible, something active to define what would soon become another important part of his life.
As is usually the case, this whole thing walked in a completely different direction and then progressed with freight-train urgency to the unimaginable. There is a backstory. Jeff had decided to restore his wife's Honda trail bike that she'd gotten for her 12th birthday; it was his first attempt at redeeming any sort of piston-powered machine. During his research for the perfect painter, he discovered a wealth of experience and expertise eddying right below his nose in neighboring Rogers, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis).
That would be Bo Vescio's Customizing and Restoration citadel. While idling there with the bike, he realized that he was absolutely helpless. He could not ignore the things gathered on the shop floor. "I had always had a great interest in cars but after seeing the shop and various projects, I was hooked," he declared.
"I started searching the Internet and when I found something of interest, I'd forward it to Bo for his advice. After two failed attempts—a '66 Chevelle and '65 Cutlass convertible, I acquired the '63 Nova in March 2012. It was decent driver with an older restoration. I was surprised by the attention it drew. Even driving down the highway, I would get a lot of thumbs-up recognition and heard a lot of stories about cars from people who'd had them back in the day."
During an involvement like this, there is usually a phase or modification that remains forever in the owner's brainpan. In Jeff's case it's the color of the car. "I wanted it to have an aggressive look. We had a few renderings of the project completed and I was thinking we would go with a more traditional color—silver with burnt orange accents. However, one of them showed the car in brown with dark accent stripes. I was intrigued but I was also doubtful. I'd never seen a customized classic with brown paint."
"The Vescio crew convinced me that the Mini-Cooper brown was the way to go. When I told my friends … they looked at me like I was crazy. After I saw it on a couple of the body panels, I knew we'd made the right decision. It's different and gives the car a mean look."
So the hook went in very deep. Jeff's got the disease now and it's a full-blown case. The Nova drop top took First Place in the Mild Custom Convertible class at the 2013 Detroit Autorama. He was not the least bit sheepish when he confessed: "I have met some very interesting and friendly people in the custom car community. I am currently looking for my next project while anxiously awaiting for summer to return to Minnesota."
Power & Drivetrain
Although it would seem that every hot car has a real hot engine and enough power and torque for two cars, the majority surely doesn't live in Hot Rod Heaven. They are perfectly satisfied with a moderate plant that's smooth and reliable. They aren't trying to turn the world a quarter-mile at a time; they want only to drive away and drive home again without incident and see a modicum of fuel mileage as well. Suffice that the details of the 350 in Jeff's street roller are unknown, but that it has the aforementioned qualities. We don't know what's whirling within the cylinder case or under the rocker covers, but Vescio's compelling engine detail makes that a non-issue. We do know that the small-block has acquired an Edelbrock intake manifold and matching carburetor, Billet Specialties air cleaner, an Accel HEI ignition, and ceramic-coated Ram's Horn exhaust manifolds. Output for the mild-mannered peanut wholly depends on weather and the time of day. Managing the torque for this wraith is a simple proposition: a clutch and an ancient Saginaw 4-speed pass the meager grunt via a custom-built 2½-inch diameter steel driveshaft to a narrowed 9-inch axle holding 3.55:1 gears and Posi-traction differential.
If Jeff's Nova doesn't walk the walk, Bo Vescio made absolutely sure that it looks like it does. Since the original suspension is a horror show waiting for trouble, Vescio's put up a TCI sub-frame and outfitted it with Firestone double-convoluted air springs, TCI Mustang II shock absorbers and an anti-sway bar. Before they were done, Vescio's installed a TCI power steering rack. TCI Frame connectors were next on the list. Vescio's back-half modifications include a RideTech 4-link setup, Shock Wave air springs and shocks, and companion anti-sway bar. Is the in-the weeds stance sick or what?
Rollers & Binders
You don't need a ton of brakes to pull down a 3,000-pound elf; Jeff reels in the speedo needle with 12.88- and 12.19-inch drilled and slotted Wilwood rotors and Dynalite 4-piston calipers enabled by a Wilwood master cylinder. And for a car with naturally cramped wheel clearance, the Nova is aptly serviced by Rushforth 18x7 and 18x8 Rated X hoops plastered with 225/40 and 255/45 Hankook Ventus V12 tires.
As you can see, the Nova's interior is sumptuous, engaging, and quite unlike the original digs. While comfortable, it also presents an uncluttered working environment. Bo Vescio's crew put up the American Auto Wire harness and worked out the smooth, fluid dashboard and incorporated flush-mounted Classic Instruments gauges. Aural titillation streams from a Pioneer double din head unit, 8-inch Infinity sub-woofer and two 6x9 Infinity speakers, all of it boosted by a Boss 1500-watt monoblock power amplifier. Premiere Upholstery in Rogers sewed the interior, making liberal use of doeskin leather accented by kinky inserts of stingray hide. The door and side panels thus absorb the two-tone chocolate theme. The Billet Specialties Stiletto steering wheel is also swathed in string ray. Jeff spins it on an Ididit tilt column and whacks the Saginaw with a real Hurst shifter. Vescio's finished the compartment with Mercedes carpet.
Bo and the boys did a full massage on the sheet metal, applying Kindig It Design smooth door handles and a Hans Hagen fuel door. They did the mini-tub dance, shaved the trim holes, smoothed and fitted the headlight bezels, smoothed out inner quarter panels, routed the custom quarter-panel exhaust exits and put fine detail on the engine compartment. That controversial dusky hue is actually Valspar 999-series urethane basecoat and BMW/Mini Cooper Hot Chocolate Metallic with matte body line accent stripes. Lenny Schwartz of Krazy Kolors in Oakdale, Minnesota, laid down the fine pinstriping.