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1966 Chevy Nova - Phantom Pro Tourer

Craig Mengarelli Builds One Without Knowing It

By Ro McGonegal, Photography by Robert McGaffin

Pioch firmed up the Nova's underside and tied the front and rear tight with Alston's subframe connectors, then created the exhaust system using aluminized 2 1/4-inch pipe routed through an X-pipe and on to Flowmaster three-chamber "silencers." Voil! The boys were in business.

Support systems include a stock-capacity Rock Valley stainless steel tank fitted with an internal fuel pump. No sucking air. No pump cavitation. No running out of juice on a midnight back road because somebody installed the sump a tad higher than the tank's floor. The Rock Valley unit goes right where the original tank was, thus availing all the trunk space so necessary for taking half of your life with you on a long haul.

That the Nova's body was pristine was instrumental in reducing construction time and expense, so it only took two years to make the car what it is. Although we think louvers are cool, too many of them let way too much moisture gather where it shouldn't. Mengarelli carefully placed the Nova's punched-out hangover in the closest dumpster and attached a steel 2-inch-cowl Goodmark hood for form as well as function. Bill's Auto Body (Wheeling, Illinois) blocked out the body and shot the DuPont Aztec Bronze. After the paint cured, Bill's applied the fenderwell brightwork and the SS nomenclature and called it done.

We are subjective, possibly even prejudiced, in a firm belief that the classic five-spoke rim is the best bet for most cars, especially those flying out of the 1960s. It's simple, uncluttered, and very easy to clean. Let's say that American Racing more or less invented this popular form for drag race cars in the late 1950s. The design is timeless, and here they are now, though somewhat morphed. Dan DeRose (Berry Tire, Libertyville, Illinois) paired Torq-Thrust Classic II 17x6 and 17x7 rims with BFG g-Force 215/45ZR17 and 225/45ZR17 rubber and created the perfect complement to this Nova's perfect stance.

As a dedicated road burner, the Nova would have to be as cool, calm, and comfortable as possible-an inner sanctum for its occupants. To this end, Mengarelli trashed the original bench and dropped in some electrically operated chairs from a midsize Buick, with Bow Tie-emblazoned leather by A1 Interior's (Kenosha, Wisconsin) Dan Krause. They are decidedly plush and comfortable looking. So far, so good.

Head too hot? Let the A/C waft, bro, and when the conversation becomes stale and tedious, the Kenwood KDCX769 head/CD, Infinity front speakers, Kenwood 6x9 rear speakers, and Kicker 12-inch subwoofer can pump in a different perspective. That groundwork was laid by ABT Electronics (Glenview, Illinois). Along with the seats, Dan Krause massaged the rest of the interior and built the center console as well. Gotta have that armrest on a long bout behind the wheel.

Mengarelli lives by a bunch of Auto Meter gauges and tachometer, works a Long shifter jutting straight up by the console (what's that Line-Loc for?), and twirls that funky wooden Grant steering wheel. Now that he's been intimate with the Nova, what would he do over again? The Richmond drops the rpm 1,100 from Fifth to Sixth gear, but Mengarelli would seriously contemplate a five-speed with a deeper overdrive.

"One thing lead to another until I was satisfied that I'd accomplished my vision and the car looked and performed like I wanted it to," said Mengarelli. "I was building a Pro Touring car without realizing that's what it would be." Life's funny like that.

By Ro McGonegal
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