In the attempt to shave precious tenths of seconds off our quarter-mile times,project cars frequently snowball out of control. Before you know it, you have to open the trunk just to pump gas into the fuel cell, climbing over the rollbar requires the flexibility of a contortionist, and the steep gears out back make your ears ring as the engine drones at 60 mph at a mere 4,000 rpm through its three-inch exhaust system. It's easy to end up with a race car with license plates hanging off each end. But how often do we build a car just to drive and enjoy?
Let us introduce you to Russell and Joanne Hohbein's '62 Nova convertible. Russ coveted this car for 10 years as it sat in the parking lot of a local body shop. One night, while chowing a burger and fries at a nearby eatery, he glanced out the window to see the Nova hooked to the back of a wrecker and being dragged out of the parking lot. He bolted out of the restaurant and offered the owner 750 bucks to save it from the crusher. It turned out the guy was merely moving the car to a different location, but the cash offer was enough to make Russ the proud owner of one very clapped-out '62 Nova convertible.
Russ had conjured a vision for this car during those years of dreaming, and he embarked on a painstaking frame-off restification. His son Jesse performed all the custom bodywork including shaving the door handles, side molding, and the trunk lock; relocating the gas filler; recessing the firewall (to clear an HEI); and fabricating custom inner wheelwells. Jesse is also responsible for shooting the retina-burning paint and applying the flames.
Since this little Chevy was slated to be a cruiser from the beginning, Russell spec'd out a mild 350 with a smooth cam, pump gas-friendly compression ratio, and a dual-plane intake topped off with a 600-cfm Edelbrock carb. He chose a bulletproof Turbo 400 for reliability and a 3.08 gear for cruiseability. Always-tasteful Torq-Thrust IIs decorate all four corners, and modern rubber ensures good grip.
This little Nova was built to drive, and drive it they did from their home in North Dakota to Car Craft's Summer Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota. That's a satisfying way to scratch a 10-year itch.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: You eyeballed this car for 10 years. What did you envision when you began the project?
Russ Hohbein: I built this car to drive. I've only trailered it once when I got the exhaust system done. Other than that, it's always been driven. In fact, I took it on its first real road trip to the Car Craft Summer Nationals in Minnesota, which is 525 miles one way. I have a number of other cars, including a '67 Chevelle and a '55 Chevy convertible that I also intend to build into drivers. I won't turn them into show vehicles.
CC: Who is responsible for the flawless bodywork and paint?RH: My son Jesse performed all of the bodywork and paint and a lot of the fabrication. He's actually responsible for a lot of the work on this car. Like the time we started hanging the front clip and I got called away to work. When I got home, the frontend was welded on. I figure if I can keep my son busy, I can get a lot of these projects done! I had to wait 'til he was old enough to take body shop classes in high school, but judging by the end result I would say it was worth the wait.
CC: Looks like you got the whole family involved.RH: You bet! I've developed a relationship with Jesse like no one else. Building cars has brought us really close together. My wife Joanne is also very involved with these projects and has a few of her own. She just bought a '57 Chevy hardtop and a '71 Caddy. We're all car nuts!
The DetailsCar: Russell and Joanne Hohbein's '62 Chevy II Nova
Engine: 355ci small-block
Heads: Factory cast-iron, 2.02 intake/1.60 exhaust valves
Induction: Edelbrock Performer aluminum dual-plane intake, 600-cfm Edelbrock carb