For years, we've been espousing that any project car should have a plan up front. Do a rendering, research all the parts, make a list for everything, and know exactly what you plan to do with it when you're done. That's the sane way to do things, but is it necessarily the most fun? Sometimes improvisation trumps all. Take for instance those times as a teenager when your folks were out, it was a Friday night, your friends were coming over, and you had money to burn? Or a last-minute weekend trip to the beach or the racetrack? Some of the best times in life aren't scripted, and that's exactly the case with Project Nova. Heck, we don't even have a name for it, but it's shaping up to be wicked fun.

Just like a spontaneous weekend getaway, you might not have a specific plan in mind, but you've already combined-mostly by happenstance-the proper ingredients for fun. In our case, we bought a lightweight '68 Nova, which just so happened to share garage space with our 523hp Dart SHP 400 small-block crate motor that we built back in the January issue (see "Power In A Package"). The Dart SHP 400 makes stupid power on pump gas with a hydraulic roller cam. And so easy, a trained monkey could build one. Hmm, light car, powerful small-block. What to do? Like star-crossed lovers, the Nova and the Dart crate naturally gravitated to each other.

Over the course of a weekend, and with the help of friends-namely Andy Mitchell of Outlaw Racing Engines-we tackled the job. Beforehand, we did our best to order the basic parts we thought we'd need for the swap. We burned up the Summit Racing order hotline for a fuel pump, fuel lines, fittings, oil dipstick, air filter assembly, water pump, pulleys, fasteners, and flexplate. We found that some of the stuff worked like a charm. Some of the parts didn't work out, but it was entirely due to circumstance-and us making wild guesses. At any rate, it was a fun learning experience, and we're here to tell you all about both the good stuff, and the inconvenient stuff.

The most rewarding part was hearing it fire up on cue that very first time. After a few cursory checks and an easy drive around the block, we put the little Nova through a few one-legged test burnouts in the parking lot. The incongruity of a refrigerator-white little-old-lady Nova with 14-inch tires on poverty rims, highway gears, and an open rearend fed by a maniacal small-block is too much to bear. On the street when we roll into the throttle, the Flowmaster exhaust bellows off the buildings, the left front lifts a bit, the right rear tire breaks loose, and you just steer it at the rev limit to keep it straight. The whole thing is so much fun to drive, we laughed ourselves silly.

We're not totally crazy though. With 42-year-old drum brakes, bald tires, monoleaf rear springs, no sway bar, and a stock drivetrain, this thing is living on borrowed time in too many areas to count. We'd love to get it to the track for some numbers, but we need to make it safe first.