Getting His Fix
Is there such a thing as a performance addiction? If so, sign Jim Kaske up for the 12-step program. Jim is admittedly addicted to big-block-powered Chevy musclecars (just ask his wife, Diane). So after selling his '68 Nova, he needed a new Rat-motored machine to keep him wired. When his first choice, a 454-powered '67 Nova, turned out to be a rust bucket, he parted it out, bought a clean '67 body shell from a fellow National Nostalgic Nova club member, and began building this beast from the ground up.
Since he was planning on producing plenty of power, Jim commissioned Dennis Spal of High Speed Welding (Westmont, Illinois) to build a race-worthy, double-rail, full-tube chassis. Dennis equipped the chassis with a narrowed 9-inch rearend, suspending it with a Chassisworks four-link system and AVO coilovers. Then he crafted a front suspension using Morrison struts and spindles and a Wilwood rack-and-pinion. Wilwood brakes found their way onto all four corners, as did Center Line Convo Pro wheels (15x3- and 15x14-inch) and Mickey Thompson rubber.
As the chassis was going together, Jim came across an ad for a 572-inch Keith Black aluminum block, complete with a Callies crank, Carrillo rods, Jesel belt drive, Comp Cams roller cam, and Ross 7:1 blower pistons. So he bought the unassembled short-block and had Step-Up Performance build it using Dart 360 heads, a BDS Stage III blower, and twin 1050 Dominators. With a 14-percent overdrive pulley on the blower, the massive Rat sends an estimated 800hp through the TSI-built Turbo 400. To quiet down all those ponies, Jim had Dennis make up custom headers and a full-length dual exhaust with both Flowmaster and SuperTrapp mufflers.
Before attaching the body to the chassis, Supreme Bodywerks massaged it, stretched the rear wheel openings, and sprayed on the Sikkens Evening Orchid paint (the color was a '65 Impala offering). Then it was up to Jim to finish off the interior using Jaz seats, Auto Meter gauges, Simpson harnesses, and a Grant wheel.
It took nearly six years for Jim to complete the Nova, but you can see that it was well worth the wait. These days, when the Chicago-area weather permits, Jim can be found driving it to local cruise nights and shows with his crewchief (and son) Timmy riding shotgun. And should Jim feel the need for speed, the Nova can deliver-to the tune of 9.70s at 135 mph in street trim. That's the kind of fix that would satisfy any performance enthusiast.
Completing The Trio
Some problems are just more enjoyable to solve than others. Take Rodger Weihe's predicament from a few years ago, for example. At the time he owned both a '55 and a '56 Chevy, but he was missing the all-important bookend of a Tri-five trio-a '57. (Sounds like the type of problem we'd like to have.) Being the true enthusiast that he is, Rodger figured there was only one way to rectify his situation. He'd have to build a Pro Street '57 to occupy the empty slot in his garage.
Beginning with a beater '57 in need of a total rebuild, Rodger enlisted the help of friends and employees (he owns Rodger's Body Shop, in Louisville, Kentucky) to create a show- and street-ready machine. The car was torn down to the bare frame, which was then molded, smoothed, and back-halved. A ladder-bar suspension was built to hang the 4.86:1-geared 9-inch rearend and monster Mickey Thompsons, while the front end was treated to 2-inch dropped spindles, disc brakes, and skinny Cragar wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber.
A 502-inch GM crate engine was elected to power the Pro Streeter, with a 3-percent overdriven Weiand 6-71 blower adding an extra degree of horsepower and visual impact. Rodger bolted on a duo of Holley 660-cfm carbs to distribute fuel to the beast, while Hooker headers were added to expel the Mallory-sparked fumes. A Turbo 400 automatic with a B&M shifter and TCI converter was bolted up behind the big-block.
Considering that Rodger owns a body shop, it's no surprise that the '57's sheetmetal was given the utmost attention. Though the body was left essentially stock (except for the stretched rear wheel openings and a few shaved emblems), it was thoroughly straightened and smoothed before being sprayed Cardinal Red. The real custom metalwork took place inside the car, where a '55 Chevy dash was installed and modified with molded gauge pods housing Mallory instruments. Scott's Upholstery was given the task of finishing the show-winning interior, and did so by stitching the custom seats, console and door panels in a great-looking combination of tan vinyl and tweed. Other appointments included an '85 Cutlass tilt steering column and a billet wheel.
With the '57 on the road (and winning awards wherever it goes), it seems that Rodger has solved his dilemma, and done so in fine style. Like we said, some problems are more fun to solve than others. This one looks like a blast to us!
Keeping The Priorities Straight
Jim Wingo, of Woodbine, Maryland, had every intention of putting his cars on hold a few years ago. His goal was to get some general fix-up work done around the house-tasks his wife, Barbara, was looking forward to seeing done. Jim even went as far as selling his blown '57 Chevy for extra cash to put into the house. That was until he "happened across" a '67 El Camino. After all, there just aren't that many '67 Caminos around (especially on the East Coast) and Jim had just sold the only toy he had. So how could he pass this up?
After purchasing the Camino, Jim found the stock small-block's power to be less than thrilling, so he began planning to install a stroker small-block. But then he "happened across" a Weiand 6-71 blower which, strangely enough, fit the 427 short-block he just "happened" to have. The Rat was specifically built for a blower, with a steel crank and rods, and Ross forged 8:1 pistons. So Jim completed it by bolting on a set of ported Edelbrock aluminum heads and the aforementioned blower, which was topped off with a pair of Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetors and a NOS nitrous system. An MSD 6AL was added to keep the fire burning, while exhaust was handled with Hooker headers and Flowmaster mufflers. Considering the big-block's power, Jim needed to make sure that both hands were on the wheel as much as possible, so he installed a tricked-out Turbo 400 automatic transmission.
Jim didn't want to just drop a new engine into an aging car, so he removed the body to give the frame a "quickie cleanup." But after painting the body Guards Red, the frame cleanup turned into a full repaint (also Guards Red) and rebuild using all-new suspension components (including a 9-inch rearend with 3.89:1 gears). The interior was redone in vintage-style red and white vinyl, and a full complement of Auto Meter gauges was also added. Once reassembled, the Camino was finished off with a set of Weld Pro Stars measuring 15x6- and 15x8-inches.
Since the El Camino has been together, Jim has earned a host of show trophies with it. And at the track, with a set of 9-inch slicks installed, the little red A-body has tripped the lights to the tune of 11.31 at 121 mph on the engine, and 10.78 at 128 mph on the squeeze. Now Jim can finally think about getting back to the housework. But be forewarned-he just "happened" to come across a '57 Chevy. Sorry Barbara, but the house may have to wait another year!