The first time we saw Brian Omatsu, he rumbled into Hot Rod Performance in Torrance, California, to crash one of our photo shoots in his '67 Nova with a blower poking out of the hood and a mid-'90s color scheme. To paint a picture, it was on the cover of Car Craft in 1977 alongside a blurb that read "blown Hemi van!" The car hadn't changed much in the vibe department, but it still managed to get a cameo in the May '05 feature of Mike Moore's 10-second surf wagon.
Nearly a year later, staffers are clinging to the inside of the monkey-bar rollcage of Brian's other Nova. The pounding from the huge cam makes the interior sound like a big tin drum in a hailstorm as he creeps down the street to show us that you can drive a low-9-second car on the street if you try hard enough.
Brian has lived in Southern California's South Bay his entire life. When he was young, his uncle took him to the Lions Drag Strip and "old" Irwindale to watch some family friends run their '55 Chevy. The sounds, smells, and speed hooked him forever.
In the early '70s, Brian's older brother Dave and his buddies got their licenses and a couple of musclecars. As Brian put it, "They were a great group of guys who would take me cruising and to the street races on weekends and let me hang out in their garages while they worked on the cars for Wednesday Grudge Night at Orange County Raceway." Years later, he still hangs out with some of those guys.
Brian turned 16 in 1975 and got his first car, a '66 Chevelle. He tinkered with that, then got into mid-'80s trucks and did the car-show thing. Track-bleacher seat time introduced him to the '67 Nova cover car, and Brian somehow managed to buy it and turn it from Car Craft cover fluff into a drag car for racing at Terminal Island. The car was retired back to the street in 2001, right about the same time his friends were getting into Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA) racing.
Being a lover of Novas, Brian scored a '66 to build for the PSCA True Street class, getting all the way through the chassis until the typical paint snafu ensued. After four years in primer, the '66 was sold when we came across the '70 Nova the gang calls the Red Car or Cupholder because of the same welded onto the floor while Brian wasn't looking. It was built for the Outlaw class but never made it to the track.
It needed rear axles and trim parts, and he wanted steel bumpers, so he put those on. Though this car is a '70, the marker lights and maybe a few other items are from different years. "I usually call it a Gen III," Brian says. Otherwise, the chassis and body were completed, and since Brian already had an engine slated for his '66, a match was made. After some sorting, Brian went to the PSCA race in Fontana, where the car went into the 9s on the motor. At Irwindale's eighth-mile, he ran 6.20 skating around in the hot air.
"After doing car-show stuff for a few years, I try to do the little things that make a car right in my eyes," Brian says. "This Nova is not the fastest or cleanest, but it is what I wanted. I plan on running the car at some PSCA events. It is a good show with clean, fast, cars and great racers and fans. I don't take racing too seriously. I just like to go down the track once in a while or take the car to a show or cruise and talk cars with people. I have made many friends and met some really neat people at all of these activities."