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1964 Chevy Nova SS - A Bronx Tale

Michael Strubeck's fascination with early-model Novas led him to a dark corner of The Bronx late one Saturday night to find this 1964 Chevrolet Nova SS

By Thomas J. Lyman, Photography by Jim Rizzo

In most cases, people are highly influenced by their parents from a young age. In later life, this can show up in things such as one's political leanings, musical interests, favorite foods-even the type of people one dates. And, when it comes to cars, model-specific loyalty is often passed from father to son. A perfect case in point: Michael Strubeck's father was a Nova driver over 25 years ago, and something about that car stuck. Michael can't find any other reason why he caught the Nova bug, other than the fact that his dad had one a quarter century ago.

In 1999 he gave in and started perusing local ads for '64 Novas.

"It's not a very common car," Strubeck said, "but with my dad owning one 25 years ago, I decided that it would be great to build one." At the time, Michael was living on New York's Long Island. One fateful night, he and some friends came across a car, a '64 SS from The Bronx, an area of New York City that isn't exactly Green Acres or car friendly. The vehicle was listed for $4,000. Strubeck and some friends drove out to see it, which, to their surprise, was in great shape.

"The car had a 350 small-block, an automatic transmission, and a stock 10-bolt rear," Strubeck recalled. The car was white with a black interior, and after a week of deliberations, Michael and his friends drove back out to The Bronx to pick it up.Strubeck remembers the night being surreal: "It felt like a robbery or a drug bust or something," Strubeck said. "Cash changing hands late at night-in The Bronx."

The car was taken back to Long Island, and work began about six months later, in May 2000. Plans for the build-up included some version of the venerable small-block, with the hopes of power somewhere in the 500hp/500-lb-ft range, a four-speed rather than the automatic box, and a really over-the-top paint job. Under the tutelage of his father, Lou, Michael sent the car out to be sandblasted, had some minor body repairs performed, all the while assessing his powerplant options.

In March 2001, family friend Tom Londino (who just so happens to be an engine builder) and Strubeck decided on a '70 Chevy 400ci small-block, bored out to 406. Londino employed Brodix Track 1 aluminum heads and JE 10:1 compression pistons in the build, along with a Crane solid lifter camshaft, an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, and a Holley 4150 HP Series carb with an 830-cfm rating. Strubeck's original power hopes would prove to be short of the mark when the car made its first dyno run. Power was 504.3 hp at 5500 rpm, and a colossal 532.8 lb-ft of torque, actually surpassing Strubeck's estimates.

The front suspension includes 2-inch drop Fat Man spindles, stock A-arms, and stock springs, with Competition Engineering three-way adjustable shocks. Out back, most of the stock geometry was retained-but Strubeck did add Competition Engineering shocks in the rear as well. A Master Power 10-inch disc brake kit was installed up front to help stop the Nova.

The car rides on American Racing Torq Thrusts, 15x6 up front, and 15x10 in the rear, with Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pros on the front tires, and BFGoodrich drag radials taking up much of the rear space.

The exterior color, which is a source of pride and joy for Strubeck, is quite a tongue twister-he calls it "Nova Orange Shimrin with Kandy Lime Gold." Whatever that means, it sure does pop out at you, and Strubeck considers it one of the most unusual aspects of his re-creation from an earlier era.

"I really love it," Strubeck said. "The color shows up differently at all times of the day, from morning to night."

After years of following his father's guidance, especially in an automotive sense, Michael Strubeck's earliest memories of Novas have brought him to where he is today, with this awesome '64 SS.

By Thomas J. Lyman
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