Paul Soliz/El Monte, CA
Every neighborhood has a guy like Paul-one who has a steady stream of cars going in and out of his driveway as he buys and sells them. The ground shakes when he cranks them into life, and the air is thick with gasoline, motor oil, and the sound of ratchets spinning and wrenches turning. Some people, of course, will consider this guy a nuisance, but they are shortsighted. He represents the indomitable spirit of car crafting, and the culture passes on to younger generations because of guys like Paul. He's been building and racing cars since 1972, and gassers are his specialty. Save for the occasional VW Bug or Karmann-Ghia, nearly everything Paul builds has a straight axle and either a tunnel-ram or a Hilborn fuel injection. CC contributor and fellow gasser cultist Steve Magnante tipped us off to Paul's 700-square-foot garage he built on the back of his property a few years ago.
A. This vintage Texaco gas pump only cost Paul $100. A guy from Yucaipa, California, sold it to him for a song. Today, that lone Benjamin might buy the globe on top.
B. The tunnel-ram'd big-block on the stand behind the Nova is one Paul built and destroyed in a Nova he's since sold. During a photo shoot for Hot Rod, he knocked a connecting rod cap loose and wiped out the engine. He doesn't have any plans for it, but he keeps it assembled because it is easier to store all the parts that way.
C. "Under construction for four years" is how Paul describes his '64 Nova. "It keeps getting pushed aside as I find other stuff to work on." He bought it six years ago from a rat rodder (explains the flat-black paint) who bought it from its original owner (explains the mint interior). The formerly I6/Powerglide cruiser will eventually be a 396 big-block terror. Paul built the front clip and straight-axle suspension. A TH400 and Pontiac rear get the power to the ground.
D. Paul collects lots of stuff, and because he's known as a collector, people give him more stuff to collect. He keeps the nicer things in these trophy cases he bought from a local elementary school.
E. The nicer mechanical parts are kept on these shelves. Paul has several sets of hard-to-find Mickey Thompson small- and big-block Chevy valve covers, a brace of intake manifolds, a set of Hooker fenderwell headers for a Nova, and a couple of spare big-block Chevys behind the Willys tailgate.
F. Like any good racer, Paul can't leave well enough alone. He's got several minibikes he roars around the pits on, but he's especially proud of this one-a scooter complete with a slick and wheelie bars. It's currently waiting for a big-bore two-stroke weed-eater engine.
G. On the rolling cart is a 301 SBC soon to be installed in the Willys. It's a 283-bore block with a forged crank, 12.5:1 TRW pistons, and Hilborn mechanical fuel injection. Paul reckons the engine will make around 400 hp once the fuel system is dialed in by fuelie guru Augie Delgado.
H. Paul bought this '41 Willys pickup about eight years ago, and it has so much history it should be in a museum. Paul has wheels-up pictures of the truck from 1965. The guy who transformed the truck into a race car underestimated just how much its over-the-top crazy lace and metalflake paint job would cost-more than $8,000 in 1964-and had to surrender the fully built truck to the paint shop. It traded hands several times before being retired to a barn in the '70s. The fuelie 301 will be mated with the truck's transmission and 4.88:1 gears in the Pontiac rearend as soon as Paul is done fixing the hacked-up floor and firewall. Fortunately, he has no plans to mess with the paint job.