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'64 Nova

Jerry Coleman's 406ci '64 Nova Bruiser

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This is a classic car crafting kind of story. Jerry Coleman was looking for a hot street car project. He ran across a college kid who had trashed a little '64 Nova to the point that it was almost undriveable and picked it up cheap. Since he lives in California where the smog laws are tough, this pre-smog car was the perfect place to start. Of course, it didn't take long before the project "just got out of hand," Jerry says.

It had to have fat back tires because Jerry planned on some serious horsepower, so initial efforts went into stretching the rear outer sheetmetal and then punching in some monster wheeltubs. He didn't farm this out to some chassis shop though. In fact, Jerry's very proud of the fact that he did all the work on this red rider, including the rear tubs, the narrowed 9-inch, and even the tubular front chassis clip that employs a Mustang II front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and more than a little fabrication work. "Right after I finished building this frontend, Heidt's came out with its Nova kit." Combined with 15x15 Cragars on the rear with 31x18.5-15 Mickey Thompson treads along with a pair of skinny BFG's up front, it didn't take Jerry long to have the stance he wanted. Then it was time for some power.

With his new front subframe, there was certainly room for a Rat motor, but Jerry opted for a Speed-O-Motive 406ci small-block instead to keep the weight down in the front. The healthy Mouse is filled with a stock crank and 5.7-inch rods, and was line-bored and torque-plate honed to fit a set of Keith Black hypereutectic pistons that work alongside a Herbert flat-tappet solid cam spun by an Erson geardrive. Jerry also added a set of Dart Iron Eagle 200cc heads with 2.08/1.60 Manley valves actuated by a set of Crane roller rockers. Topped with a Weiand Team G intake and a 750-cfm Holley carb, it's fired with an MSD-6 box and a Mallory distributor. Finishing off the powerplant is a set of Hooker Super Comp headers and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. Behind the engine is a TH350 trans spinning a 3,200-rpm converter and a 9-inch with 4.56 gears.

The interior sports a LeCarra steering wheel, Auto Meter Utra-Lite tach, speedo, and gauges surrounded with gray tweed that Jerry installed along with help from his buddy Dave Powell. Those are Honda front seats that the guys re-covered, along with Crow 3-inch belts that keep Jerry in place when he stabs the throttle. There's also a Pioneer CD and a 100-watt amp just to keep the cruising interesting.

This is hardly a pampered garage queen, since Jerry's not timid behind the wheel. He drives it to all the shows, and at a recent sweltering summer event in nearby Fontana, his hand-fabbed fan shroud came in handy when many hot rods around him were losing their cool. Perhaps that's the best part of building your own car--when you pull past the "professionally built" hot rods that have fallen by the wayside while yours keeps running. There's a satisfaction quotient there that makes all the effort worthwhile.

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Car Craft