Wagons rock. Really. While the boxy shape may not appeal to everyone, having the carrying capacity of a small pickup with the diversity and comfort of a car definitely has its advantages. And if your wagon is a two-tone Chevy II Nova with a Vette motor, then you have entered the elite group of hot rods with hatches or "Draggin' Wagons"-vehicles that don't just haul, they haul ass.
But John Patricolo's '64 wasn't always such a stunning example. "It all started in 1996 when a couple of buddies who were also Nova owners found me a station wagon," said John. "It was a an ugly green Nova 400 with a 283 and a Powerglide transmission. It was drivable, but it was smoking and popping all the way home."
While the hue may have been horrific, the body was solid, with only a little rust in the rear quarter panel. After a little negotiating, John picked up the wagon for 800 bucks. The buddies who found it had bought it immediately before John from the original owner, an elderly lady. Whether they made a tidy profit we'll never know but they did get John to own a Nova. Now that he had one though, it was time to set about sorting it out.
"I got the car home and found the 283 was very worn out," said John. "I yanked that out and took it over to the Santos family at SS Machine. They took it apart and found that both heads were cracked and one cylinder was scored." SS Machine rebuilt the engine, sleeved the bad cylinder and threw a couple of rebuilt heads on it. John reinstalled the motor and got the Nova (alias "The Pickle") back on the road as his daily driver. "I used the wagon every day for about three years before I enrolled in an auto body program and started to work on it," said John. "The winters had been pretty rough on it."
With his new skills as a body man improving quickly, John got to work. He replaced the rear part of the roof and drip rail. Then came one of his crowning performances. You see, the Nova you see before you didn't originally come with that sweet little backwards-facing rear seat. John found one that did, cut down the fold-down rear seat well and installed it in his. Talk about DIY!
By the way these seats are the perfect place for kids to sit after bad break-ups, leaving a cherished home or a divorce. Being forced to watch your loved ones disappear in the distance as you ride backwards is just so much more exquisitely painful. The "break-up seat" would be the last major upgrade for a few years. The car sat in John's garage while he worked on other projects. In 2003, John's wife Brenda became pregnant. He decided then that he wanted to get the wagon going as a family cruiser.
At this point, one mans tragedy became another one's treasure. John found a donor car in the form of a roll over '95 Impala with 35K miles on the fuel-injected LT1 and a 4L60E transmission. The engine bay wasn't the only place to get a smattering of modernity. John picked up a TCI front clip with drop spindles, disc brakes and a power rack. He fitted this to the LT1 and reworked the factory wiring harness.
With the front end on its way to being sorted, John got cracking on the rear with a set of multi-leaf springs and Monroe shocks and 12-inch Camaro rear disc brakes to bring a stop to all this madness. Finally John was ready to install the 17x7 American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels with 235/45R17 tires. "That tire size rubbed a little with people in the car," said John. "So I swapped them out for a set of 215/45/17 Essenza 210 Type R. So far, I haven't had any problems."
It was at this point that John took the wheels off and everything apart and painted the firewall, inner fenders and dash. Having the car apart gave him a chance to get the car over to Sid's upholstery in Northglenn, Colorado. The folks there made custom door panels for the Autoloc power windows and installed a factory headliner, as well as the blue tweed on all three seats and door panels. "The wagon took about 10 yards of carpet in all," said John.
Though this wagon retains classic looks in the cabin, many modern accoutrements are cleverly disguised there. For example, the overhead DVD player and motorized Kenwood deck are tucked up and hidden with a radio delete plate. The theme of total coolness extends to the cabin-in the form of air conditioning that is, with a Vintage Air system modified to fit a '62-65 Nova. On top of that, John installed a power tailgate window.
With the interior complete, the fenders painted and the engine and front clip reinstalled, John could get to the final stage, paint and body. "I brought the car to my buddy's house, who has a paint booth and finished all the block sanding," said John. "Then my friend and I, mainly my friend that is, laid down a beautiful paint job."
From the windows down is a '64 factory-Silver-Blue poly made with PPG Global basecoat while the top of the car is painted with arctic white from a newer GM vehicle. You just can't go wrong with two-tone. If you don't like one, just look at the other, right? The finishing touches include the highly polished grille, headlight and tail bezels and drip rail moldings. And, of course, the freehanded red stripe from "Louie the Pinstriper."
Said John. "Then I decided the wagon was too nice to be an everyday family cruiser and started to show it." Which is where Super Chevy found John, at a Goodguys' show in Loveland, Colorado. And while he may have turned his family cruiser into a nearly full-blown show car, he still takes the family out on weekends for a little showing off. You can bet anything they're happy as clams looking back at all the attention the kids are getting from that rear-facing seat.