No one knows what to make of this thing. It isn't a barn car or a survivor because the speed parts are new, but it suckers you into thinking it might be due to its field-fresh exterior. It's not a street machine in the traditional sense, as it lacks a painted finish, and it isn't simply a car in primer or a beater when heavily modified with the latest techno gadgetry and drivetrain parts. And you can't call it a sleeper because it's not meant for racing, but it isn't slow. These cars don't have a label, but they're cool enough to create their own peripheral car show outside the gates and are becoming hard to ignore. So what do you call this type of car? We're using the term "rat machine" as a placeholder.
We've been keeping an eye on the trend, and as with all me-too fads, only one in a 100 builds is executed with enough wit to transcend other forms and stand out as something new. From our standpoint, there are a few guys west of the Mississippi who have the eye to get bad paint some measure of respect. Without trying, Marty Stromberger from Spokane, Washington, Chad Moskery from Des Moines, Iowa, and Blake Hughes from 417 Motorsports in Springfield, Missouri, are getting it right. There are others who come close. We've documented the likes of Jim Moran's '70 twin-turbo Chevelle ("Quietus," Mar. '11), and that big red magazine bothered to run Kurt Urban's '72 Nova, but both of those cars are closer to sleepers than rat machines for their race car pedigrees. Marty and the gang were detailed in our Jan. '12 issue ("Turbo Guys"), and Chad and Blake were seen driving the blackout twin-turbo Nova in our Dec. '08 issue ("The Deep End") and the diesel-powered Nova wagon in our Jan. '11 issue ("Torque") and they are here again as owners/builders of this trend-setting '66 Nova.
"Anyone can have a car painted and put together in a shop," Chad says, "but they are only original once." Chad admits this build style wouldn't be possible without the Internet: "You could call this the Craigslist car or an Internet build." This particular score came out of Texas from a man who had purchased it in 1971 and parked it in 1983 when the then-new Cross-Fire Corvette caught his eye. When it was dragged from the field, it looked much like it does today. Chad added the 14x6 cast Cragars to tweak the style.
At that point, the car would have just been a garden-variety Nova with some old wheels. It's the LS stuff and the stance that stops traffic. Inside, Chad carefully placed a 6.0L LS engine on a Jim Weimer front clip and a six-speed from an '02 F-body. The coilovers get the ride height sweet, and the nitrous and clutch make sure the car is fun on the street. "I like the reliability of the fuel injection and the gas mileage because I drive my cars as much as I can in the summer. The nitrous is cheap bang for the buck," Chad says.
As magazine guys, we're often reminded that our job is to reflect the hobby without leading or meddling. We will have to sit and watch the Pro Touring, Street Machine, Pro Street, and maybe even the rat-rod movement evolve into a different version of go fast, have fun, and don't spend a lot of cash when you don't have to. It reminds us that traditional is just another name for cheap. It's not primer, yet it's not perfection. It's a new way to look at street machines.
"Wanted to build a beater with more than a heater." Chad Moskery
What: '66 Chevy Nova
Where: Des Moines, Iowa.
Bodywork: The east Texas sun charmed the paint off most of this car, and the 35-year-old rattle-can primer fixed the dents.
Interior: It's old-old stock (O.O.S.). Chad tells us when this car gets up to speed, it blows stuffing like a popcorn machine. A can of spray glue was used to hold the interior together.
Suspension: The foundation for the swap is a front clip from Jim Weimer Rod Garage in Belgium, Wisconsin. The clip provided the upper and lower control arms, power rack-and-pinion, springs, shocks, and brakes. It makes the car sit and handle right.
Engine: Yup, it's a 6.0L LS swap from an Escalade. Chad and Blake fabricate everything themselves, so there are no part numbers for the headers. The motor-mount conversion brackets were found on eBay. The L92 heads are from Scoggin Dickey, and the eBay intake is from an LS3 Camaro. The engine makes 505 hp on pump gas and 680 hp on nitrous. The torque numbers are an equally stunning: 520 on pump and 720 on the button. The intake elbow is made from a 3-inch PVC sewer pipe that was sanded and spray-painted. The F-body FEAD is from Craigslist and uses only the power steering and alternator with a shorter belt. The nitrous is patched together from other kits and activated by a throttle switch.
Transmission: Somewhere, F-body cars are still coughing up transmissions for this sort of build, and Chad found a gearbox along with the F-body hydraulic throwout bearing, a master, and a slave cylinder. There is no such thing as a good deal on a used clutch, so he went to a Spec Stage 3 disc with carbon-graphite friction material and a six-puck, spring hub disc. Ya know, to hold the nitrous.
Rearend: The Nova has a 12-bolt housing from a '67 Chevelle that was cut down to fit. Chad added a limited-slip and 4.10:1 gears.
Brakes: The rear brakes are stock drums. The 10.5-inch front discs are G-body parts that come with the Jim Weimer front frame clip. The master cylinder is from Strange and has a 11?8-inch bore.
Wheels/Tires: The crusty 14x6 cast Cragars complete the look. We're sure the 185/65-14 tires were a bargain. Rust repair: No.
The guys: We've run into both Chad and Blake at several different events throughout the year. Although they are based in Iowa and Missouri, they somehow manage to show up in Minnesota for the Car Craft Summer Nationals and Memphis for the LSX shootout, and they regularly get on planes to buy cars out in the desert and wheel them home. That is a lot of driving.