Thieves have no respect for, well, anything. They'll ransack your house, smash your stuff, do whatever's necessary to steal what's valuable and leave you feeling violated. A lucky break kept that painful trauma from happening to Ralph Cervantes and his '64 Nova SS.
Back in October of 2000, before the car underwent its restoration, Ralph got a call from his brother Juan asking where he was taking his car. A puzzled Ralph asked what he was talking about, and Juan said he spotted the Nova on a flatbed being towed someplace. Ralph bolted from his office and sped home to find that his Nova was indeed missing. Luckily, his brother got the towing company's name and number, so Ralph called and was told the tow company received a call to pick up the Nova and take it to a mechanic who lived in an apartment complex. Without asking any questions or for proof of ownership, the tow company picked the Nova up and hauled it away. By the time Ralph filed a police report and went to the apartment complex, the Nova was gone.
After a week of scouring the Oxnard area, putting the word out to friends and burning up the telephone lines, Ralph found the car stashed in an industrial business park. The would-be thieves had put a car cover over the Nova, and when Ralph looked closely, found the VIN plates had been changed, along with the license plates. Fortunately, Ralph got the car back, but no one was ever arrested for stealing it.
Ralph came by his Nova through a good friend. The car belonged to the friend's grandfather, Jackie Abitia, and had been sitting in a garage for about 13 years after he became too old to drive. The car had been bought new by Abitia in '64 from Connell Chevrolet in Killeen, Texas. It still had the original 283 backed by an iron-cased Powerglide, along with factory paint, interior, and trim that was in great shape. Ralph wanted to fix the car up so he could take Abitia for one last ride, but he passed away before the car was ready.
Wanting to give the car some extra pep, Ralph sent the Nova's 283 to Danny Ambriz for a rebuild. Compression was raised to 9.25:1, a set of "camel hump" 292 heads were freshened up and installed, along with a 0.442/0.465 lift cam, HEI ignition, Holley Street Avenger 570 CFM carb, Hedman headers, milled aluminum valve covers and air cleaner, chrome 100 amp alternator, and a Millerspeed 4-inch pulley set with cog tooth belt. On the dyno, the 283 made 280hp at 6,000 rpm. With only 34,000 miles on the clock, the Deuce's stock Powerglide was just getting broken in, so it was left alone and more than capable of handling the hopped-up 283.
To beef up the Nova's notoriously weak front end, an air suspension system from Masters Image Customs (MIC) in Chino, California, was installed at all four corners, along with a four-link system for the rear. Wilwood Dynalite Pro-series disc brakes with slotted and drilled rotors slow the '64.
On the outside, the body was stripped down to bare metal and prepped for a fresh coat of DuPont Chromabase Light Sandalwood Metallic paint by Chemo Ordaz of Oxnard, California, while Jose Avalos of Somis, California, handled smoothing out the body panels.
Inside, the Nova's stock interior was treated to a full refurbishment with a Classic Industries seat, carpet, and door panel kit, which was installed by Fernando Hernandez of Fernando's Upholstery in Oxnard. The car's original rolling stock was shelved in favor of American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels, 17x7s fore and 18x8s aft, wrapped in Kuhmo Ecsta tires.
Ralph admits it was a lucky break that he recovered his Nova, and savors every day he gets to enjoy it under the California sun.