The phrase “you don’t know what you’re missing” comes to mind when we think of what happened when we set out to tune up Markas Platt’s ’63 Chevy II station wagon at Westech Performance Group in Mira Loma, California. Even when you think your car is running the best it possibly could, an expert can always show you how to improve it. After driving Platt’s Nova wagon for a couple of days we were impressed with how smooth it ran, without realizing how much smoother it could run.
Platt’s station wagon is exactly what we picture when we think of a surf wagon, and it turns out, that’s exactly what it gets used for—transporting Platt’s surf gear to various spots along the Southern California coastline. It cruises with a solid powertrain recipe consisting of a 350ci crate engine from Chevrolet Performance, backed by a 700-R4 transmission, and good list of reliable performance parts that are perfect for a hot rod wagon that gets driven often. At the helm of this streetable engine combo—what essentially dictates the engine’s behavior—is Holley’s 670-cfm Street Avenger carburetor with vacuum secondaries. When the car was converted to V-8 power in 2011, the carburetor was basically pulled out of the box and bolted to the manifold—no tuning or tweaking whatsoever. The fact that this combination ran so well without any jet changes is great, but we always felt there could be something left on the table.
Driving the car on the first real hot day in SoCal for 2012 had some slight concern churning in our minds, but the sensation of leisurely cruising down the 60 freeway in a comfortable muscle wagon quickly drowned those thoughts away, and the 195-degree temps reading steadily throughout the drive (even up steep grades) and smooth acceleration had us wondering what, if any improvements could be made to this well-planned, functional hot rod wagon.
“I have never seen one come in that’s perfect,” tuner Ernie Mena said, after we boasted how well the car drove on the way to the appointment, “so I’ll be very surprised if I can’t make it run better than it does.” Turns out after our first baseline pull, Platt’s Nova wasn’t running as impeccable as we thought.