Going through the ordeal of a full restoration is one of those things you’d probably never tackle if you knew up front exactly how much angst you were going to have to go through. Enigmatically, it’s also one of those experiences you would never trade for anything in the world. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of bringing a car back from the dead to become an object coveted by everyone—even non-car people. The ’68 Nova restored in this issue is that “warm fuzzy” for me.
Most of the credit for the Project Nova restoration must go to Ron Aschtgen of Outlaw Motorsports in Riverside, California. I’d love to be able to say I did it all—but I merely helped out when I could. (Ron’s probably laughing right now, saying something like, “Is that what you call that!?”) One thing we discovered, much to our delight, is that Ron likes to work fast. Perhaps too fast? While building a kickass hot rod is the obvious point of it all, the real goal here is to document every detail so we can show you how it’s done. Over the course of the six-month resto, I interrupted Ron a thousand times to slow down, stop, or redo something so I could get my camera in the right position to capture it. One time, Ron sprayed some primer on a day I wasn’t there. The next day, I had him fill the gun with water, and spray it on dry primer while I took the photo. (Magazine magic at it best!)
At some point, it dawns on you that you’re past the halfway point. It starts looking like a car again. "
Through the Nova resto, I was a nervous wreck. At one point in August, the subframe was off, the interior was out, the paint was stripped, the floor was littered with unsalvageable junk, a doorskin was peeled off, and a quarter-panel was cut out. I was freaking out—the Nova was a car in name only. I’ve seen thousands of guys get to this point, then just throw their project on Craigslist. This is around the time it was discovered that the “box o’ death” needed a lot more help than originally thought. Then, I put in a frantic call to YearOne. With the paint stripped down to bare naked metal, I found out what was really under my prom date’s dress, and this time it wasn’t pretty! What you need in a situation like this is the expert advice and huge in-stock inventory of a YearOne to get you out of such a pinch.
From the very beginning, however, we always knew we were going to use Eastwood tools and products. I remember many years ago the first time I saw an Eastwood catalog. It was both wonderful and strange. Wonderful because they had every kind of tool and supply I’d ever seen for tackling a body and paint project, and strange in the sense that there was stuff in there I’d never seen before. Guess what? Dive into a resto project, and you quickly find that the difference between doing something the really hard way and doing it the super easy way is having the right tool, or can of stuff. That’s when all those “strange” things in the catalog start to make sense. The Eastwood guys have been around the block a time or two, and if there’s ever been a call for something (doorskin crimping tool, anyone?), they have it, and at a price you can afford.
At some point, it dawns on you that you’re past the halfway point. It starts looking like a car again. For me, that moment was called “primer.” Once you put paint on a car—even primer—you pass or fail the litmus test. Your burning desire to get to that point can be a trap though. How many cars have you seen get to primer, then stop? I think I know the answer. If all the metalwork and prep prior to the primer isn’t good, the primer looks like total crap. Seeing your car in wavy primer is a huge fun killer; it tells you too late in the game that you cut too many corners. That’s why I was so relieved to see the PHR Nova in primer—it was ruler flat. Now that it’s all finished, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that it’s the same car. If you ever saw it in its refrigerator-white box-o’-death form, then you understand.
So now I present to you the annual PHR body and paint issue, brought to you in the sage voice of resto expert Steve Dulcich. I hope you enjoy seeing our progress over six months, sped up in a scant 13 pages. And don’t forget to hit up our YouTube channel (YouTube.com/PopularHotRodding) for some cool videos of the whole process!