In simpler times, the bad guys always wore black. In today's world of camouflaged urban warfare, it's more difficult to distinguish good from bad. It used to be the polished gleam machines were just poseurs, the fast ones foretold their intentions with outrageous idle characteristics, and the primered cruisers were works in progress. Now primer is in and that gloss-challenged machine sitting next to you at the light with its near-stock idle is packin' a turbocharged small-block. That's what Chad Moskrey drives-a cloaking device cleverly disguised as a primered '67 Nova.
The Nova looks like a machine in need of a little jeweler's rouge for the rough edges, but in reality, that's exactly the carefully articulated image Chad desires to portray. I almost walked right by it during a Missouri car show until the open engine bay gently nudged me with its twin-turbocharged Gen III small-block. There's something inherently troubling about a primered Nova stuffed with a pair of turbochargers. It's like looking down the barrels of a side-by-side shotgun-it's unnerving because you understand the designed malevolence. A quick glance into the interior revealed a manual transmission lever and a clutch pedal. The car all but whispered, "Go ahead-ask."
Chad was lounging in a lawn chair, sipping a clear liquid when I began my questions. It was obvious from the moment the conversation began that the Nova's primered, no-nonsense image directly reflected its owner's head-on approach to life.
I began with the classic, "How big's the engine?"
"It's an iron 6.0L with ported LS6 heads."
"And the turbos?"
"They're Precision 64 mm. We made more than 1,000 hp on the chassis dyno just like you see it here. This is Blake Hughes; he did the installation."
I met Blake, who could pass for Chad's brother-not so much that they're physically alike but rather they exude the same confidence and aggressive attitude you see in guys who know what they're doing. Here were two guys who don't mind working hard, don't sweat the small stuff, and aren't afraid of leaning on their equipment-hard. The six-speed was the obvious clue.
"I noticed you're running a manual trans. How do you make it live?" I asked.
"It's a T56 that's had the Viper treatment done to it. So far, it's been great." Chad looked at me and then added, "I built it to drive without worrying about scratching it."
I spent a little more time walking around the car and everything pointed to this being the real deal. The rat rod craze has fired off a whole new subculture that has spun the ratty, flat-black image into a finished piece. Few cars, however, pack the substance to reinforce the stance. To some, it's enough to create the bad boy, racer look. With Chad's Nova, form collides directly with function. During my walk-around, I noticed an odd vertical seam in the front third on both rear wheelwells, which prompted another query.
Chad smiled with that one. "This was originally a four-door grandma car. It was really nice with only 40,000 miles on it. I sell Nova parts, so I had the pieces to convert it into a two-door post. I wanted people to see the seam, so we left it."
The story kept getting richer. We agreed to meet the following day to photograph the Nova and fill in the details. We both had a full schedule and didn't hook up until the end of the next day. Chad looked a little rough, like the previous 24 hours had not gone well and some sort of mechanical mayhem had predated his arrival. As I walked up to the car, he was unloading a T56 out of the trunk, ceremoniously kicking it as it teetered on the asphalt parking lot.
"We broke that last night, just after a hard pass," Chad offered. "I lost everything except Fourth. I think the cluster's broke."