As of late, the semi-precious little sister of gold and silver has gone up in value. It seems like every time you turn on the news a bunch of crackheads is getting busted ripping out the copper of some building site. Hey, at least they check the market before going out to rob and steal. Give them credit for that.
You have to give Colorado's Steve Jones credit as well. In his attempt to build a sort of tribute to a Baldwin-Motion Nova, he's succeeded in not only doing that but also getting a small-tire street car into the 10s at altitude. But the road to this respectable e.t. didn't come without its dings and divots.
"In 2009, Arm Drop Live was in town. So I purchased a ticket and went to the race," said Jones. "In the second qualifying pass for the event I leaned out and melted down a couple of pistons. Which was my fault as I had changed to a smaller supercharger pulley. So I hauled the car home with my tail between my legs and parked it for the season."
What Jones failed to mention is that he ran a 10.81 on the run before that big meltdown which is pretty quick for a car on 16-inch American Racing Torq Thrust rims and Yokohama YK420 tires at the mile-high altitude of Bandimere.
But we're a little ahead of ourselves. The road to 10-second slips didn't get traveled overnight. Like most of us, Jones' passion for automobiles started, as my Grandpa Whitey would say, "back when he was a lil' shaver."
"I have always been interested in muscle cars as far back as I can remember," said Jones. "I think it was sparked around the age of nine watching my uncles tinker with everything from mini bikes to Oldsmobiles."
Fast forward 20 years or so right through the Denver Bronco's phenomenal season to 1991 when Jones picked up a four-speed Pontiac Firebird, which he owned and built for seven years or so until the call came to sacrifice the 'bird to come up with the down payment on a house. A while after getting the new crib, Jones started to get the itch again. He scratched it by laying down $2,700 for the Nova.
"I was looking for a different car when I came across this one," said Jones. "It was fairly clean with some rust, dents, dings, and a purple paint job. It had '80s grey velour-covered seats, a 350 four-barrel, a Turbo 350, a 10-bolt single leg rear and no brakes. I could see this car's potential and how easy it would be to drop in a big-block."
Jones low-balled, but as usually occurs in this situation the owner said that someone had promised to pay more. "I had forgotten about the car until a week and a half later when I got a call from the seller's mother asking me if I was still interested," said Steve. "I said yes. She said, 'Bring the money and it's yours.' I went to work right away upgrading the brakes with CPP front and rear discs. Then I transplanted a GM crate ZZ502, a 700R4 transmission, and a 9-inch Ford rear end."
Jones then bracket raced the car for a while clocking up mid- to high-12 second passes on a consistent basis. Around this time, Jones' mother and sister passed away within the same month. "My wife and I took my sister's kid in and as you can imagine, there was not a lot of time for the Nova," Jones said. "But after a year or so I needed some garage therapy so I decided to pull the car apart and have the paint and bodywork done."
While he did the majority of the work on the car, Jones entrusted the paint and body to Brad Aregood at R-Goods Auto Body in Arvada, Colorado. After spraying the Atomic Orange, Brad laid down the white stripes and misted them with orange pearl before clearing. Jones took the car back home for reassembly and drove it on the streets that summer until the snow started falling. This is where he started to take the X-body to another level, to make the Nova really shine brightly, so to speak.
Upon hearing that Pinks would be coming to town, he decided to increase the power. "I bought a ticket to Pinks with about three minutes to spare before they sold out," said Jones. "I scrambled to get the roll cage installed, change the radiator to a Ron Davis aluminum double pass and install the Pro Charger F1-R." Jones really brought it down to the wire for Pinks, struggling with the installation of the newer 4185E HD transmission with a TCI converter, as well as getting the driveshaft built and swapped in during the three days leading up to the event.
As you can imagine, his session at Pinks didn't go so well, Jones had plenty of bugs to work out.
"After Pinks I took the car in for dyno tuning. After a bunch of jet changes, opening up passages, changing power valves, and timing adjustments, we found the sweet spot," said Jones. "A couple of days later, I took it to test and tune and ran a 10.81 at 128 mph."
It was after this that Jones had his little melt down. The Supernova's motor imploded. It was at this point that Jones decided to go fully-built NA. He pulled the motor and dropped it off to be balanced, bored 30 over and assembled as a 509ci with Blower pistons, forged H-beam rods and a more boost-friendly camshaft from Howards Custom Roller.
Jones was busy cruising around town with his QA1 coilovers and CPP spindles providing a functional ride height when he stopped into a local car show. Super Chevy contributors can generally be found lurking around these parts and it was with much aplomb that we came upon this stunning example. We were even more delighted when Jones opted to reinstall the Procharger for the shoot. It's one beautiful hunk of metal and its covered by a Harrell fiberglass hood.
While the Baldwin-Motion Novas never had ProChagers on them, we like Jones' style.