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Chevy Nova Wagons - Morrow's Vision

Building Knowledge And Understanding By Circling The Wagons

Photography by Christian Morrow, Steve Campbell

Christian Morrow was overjoyed, but his girlfriend, Marlene, wasn't. It was 1996, and Morrow had just purchased a '66 Chevy Nova. He found it in the classified ads, paid $750 for it, and towed it home to his driveway.

Marlene wasn't opposed to cars or car crafting. Far from it, she had grown up with a father and mother who enjoyed classics. In fact, Marlene's father had bought her mother a '75 Corvette, and he worked on a modified van among other projects. But the Nova was different. It was a station wagon, a dilapidated grandma's car.

Christian couldn't explain it, but he had a vision for the wagon that began to develop early in his childhood when his parents bought a '63 four-door from his grandmother for $100.

The vision was refined by a '63 coupe that sat unmolested in a neighbor's driveway for years, but it came into full focus a few years later when Christian's best friend, Mason, bought a '63 wagon with a straight-six and drum brakes. The two of them went everywhere in that car during their high school days, building the memories that last a lifetime. Then, just after graduation, Mason bought another wagon. But this one rumbled with a small-block feeding Flowmasters, and another frame of reference clicked into place.

In the meantime, Christian had also become enamored with his dad's '74 Blazer. He bought one of his own, and having no money to spend on luxuries while attending college, he and Mason took an auto-body class and experimented on the Blazer. Christian replaced most of the sheetmetal, painted the truck, and gained confidence in his ability to complete auto projects-skills he later used to earn extra money working on other people's cars. He became so comfortable with the processes that he promised help with the buildup of any classic car his younger brother Brett might buy. The Nova vision was renewed when their dad bought Brett a '67 coupe and Christian worked on it for several months.

That's when he bought the '66.

Christian worked on the wagon with seemingly maniacal intensity. He made it an auto-shop project and toiled on it every morning before work and even on some evenings. He fabricated and welded a custom dash and a custom gas-filler door, shaved the rear door handles, repaired the cargo floor, welded up all the holes from the trim he removed, added a cowl-induction hood, and hung and separately painted all the parts that could be detached. The problem was the wagon still didn't match the image in his mind.

In 1998, Christian proposed to Marlene in front of the fountain at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. The young couple agreed the Nova project would have to be put on hold for a while-at least until they had accumulated enough money to buy their first home. But shortly after their honeymoon in August 1999, they decided to finish the wagon.

Christian again immersed himself in the project, spending most of his nights in the garage. He completed the buildup over the course of the next six months. In total, he did 90 percent of the work himself, including the engine buildup, the wiring, and the suspension work. The '66 had become a piece of automotive sculpture, a work of art, a fulfillment. But it wasn't the end of the vision.

One of Christian's favorite pastimes with the Nova is taking it to the Saturday Sunrise Car Cruisers-a 15-year-old weekend car cruise and show at a doughnut shop in Huntington Beach, California. The weekly Saturday-morning event takes place from about 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., which allows Christian and the other Donut Derelicts, as they're known, to engage in their passion for their cars and still return home in time for other pursuits with their families. One Saturday in May 2005 as Christian was lounging with friends in front of the '66, Nick Green struck up a conversation with him. Green's son had a '64 wagon he might want to sell. Was Christian interested?

Another Nova wagon was hoisted on the hook and towed home. This time, though, Christian spent only three months on the car, concentrating on its potential as a frequently driven cruiser. He kept it stock, for the most part, so he would worry less about door dings and parking-lot rash and be more willing to drive it. Still, it fit the vision, being a wagon, being different, being a car to be proud of.

The Morrows now have two sons, Casen and Daylen, and they own a stable of cars, including the original Blazer, the two Nova wagons and Marlene's '72 Corvette (a gift from him to her, taking a cue from the father-in-law). In the side yard and backyard of their home, however, is evidence of the ongoing Nova fascination: a '63 SS convertible, a V-8 '65 wagon, and two parts cars-one a '65, the other a '66.

As for Marlene, the anger has been replaced by understanding and an appreciation of Nova wagons. "I'm going to be picking up another one in about a week and a half," Christian said, "to build for her."

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