We chatted with John Parsons in the main hall at the 2006 PRI show in Orlando, Florida. We stood away from his chilling blue bomber, watching and commenting on clots of flabby and suave alike, as they ransacked it with nervous eyes and flighty, meaningless comments. But John's car is always about much, much more than meets the eye. It's a subtle dog, but the cues are there-and once you discover one of them, it leads to all the rest.
This story is about that kind of thing: like a K-bar knife-with its leather handle stacked like a boot heel juxtaposed against its flat, black killing surface-John's car is an immaculately simple design meant for only one thing. The Nova is definitely polarizing, and it is certainly for more than one purpose. It also appears to be the issue of any one of the hobby's current high-dollar darlings (Boyd, Foose, Trepanier, and others). But it isn't. It was built in a home garage by a hot rodder next door with inordinate desire, a sound perspective, and a learn-as-you-go attitude. All the more incredible is that John drives it for real-as in full-out through the esses at Road Atlanta.
Skinning the cat another way: a sleeved LS2 block and a Lunati rotating assembly yield a 4
"I've owned dozens of hot rods-Novas, Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs, GTOs, V-8 Vegas, and more. I've never been one to buy a car and leave it alone. I've always lusted after the high-end custom-built cars," John pipes. "I've been a magazine reader all my life, and I dug how simple pieces of metal could be cut and hammered and welded into useful car parts. I particularly liked reading the fabrication sequences, always thinking that I could do what I read about. I bought a nice '66 Nova with a TPI engine and automatic transmission. I was going to upgrade it over time to the car I really wanted: one of those Trepanier supercars, like 'Sniper' or 'Intruder.'"
Then John stumbled over his destiny, right there on the Mac's CRT screen. He found the Art Morrison Web site, and ordered a catalog, reading it hundreds of times. He saved to buy one of its chassis, but realized that if he wanted to build the car anytime soon, he'd have to sell the Nova for seed money. John bought Morrison's rails, complete with a street rod front and rear suspension, as well as a bare body for about what he sold the Nova for. Now he had a shiny new chassis, a carcass he'd hauled out of somebody's shed, and no money.
For all John knew, the plan was proceeding right on schedule. He bought a refurbished Lincoln MIG welder from Home Depot, and began practicing-effectually decimating the poor Nova, and cutting out the floor, trunk, wheelwells, and firewall. When he was confident enough, he welded the body to the Morrison frame. Then John bought a take-out LS motor with a couple of spun rod bearings-at least the block was good enough to fabricate motor mounts. He copped a Viper T56 on eBay, and used it to make the first transmission crossmember.
Next, John stepped up to a TIG welder, and used it on the Morrison rollcage, plotting what he'd need to make the headers and exhaust system so that he could finish the floor panels. Then his whole world went up in a mushroom cloud: he discovered Pro-Touring.com, where a bunch of like-minded guys celebrate full-bore race-inspired suspensions, 500hp motors, air-conditioned interiors, and show car exteriors.
"Here was the blueprint to building a supercar, all laid out with help from dozens of people who had built stuff themselves, knew somebody who did, or knew where to buy such stuff," John says. "And best of all, these cars were designed to be driven hard. It was like giving water to someone lost in the desert."