Andre’s Little Giant
Built box Nova grapples with the big boys
Andre Rodriguez has been wrestling with hot rod mechanicals since he was 8 years old. No, he didn’t have his own shop yet, but his dad was a mechanic and little Andre would tag-team along with him just to get a chance to help out with the choice rides in his pop’s garage. Andre continues on with his dream to this day, working as an ace mechanic based out of Oceanside, New York.
At age 17, Andre purchased his first car: a 1967 Chevelle. From there he branched out to other Chevys; ’69 and ’75 Camaros had stints in his driveway, as well as a pair of slant-back Novas and a quartet of G-body street burners. But now there’s a car that has snatched him up with a bionic grip and held his heart in a full nelson of sorts. That car is the main event here: his compact 1964 box Nova.
Andre and the Nova met up a few years ago and have been inseparable since. He saw the car for sale online and immediately took a shot at it. The car had been previously towed to New York from Ohio and was sporting the interesting pearl green paint it’s wearing now. It was a 350/350 car, but Andre knew that this docile daily driver would not stay that way for long. His goal was to build a scantily dressed retro-rocket that he could use on the street and take down unsuspecting opponents at will.
Andre has had extensive experience street racing in and around New York City, and his race rides were always top builds. These street terrors were built-up screamers that just loved laying the rear bumper on the ground. With this particular Nova, Andre wanted to continue with tradition and needed a car that would not only hook up and handle well, but also a machine that could put some serious power to the pavement.
To start, Andre disassembled the little box body. The front end was then built up with a Smith Racecraft chromoly tube frame. Not only does it add structural integrity, it also cuts weight and is a great way to build a ride that can take the punishment only the mean streets of New York can dish out. Out back, Calvert split mono-leaf springs handle the main suspension duties. The Rancho 9000 shocks were next and help even out the ride. Crazy Don Chassis Works in Ronkonkoma, New York, did much of this build.
For motorvation, this box is pushed by a healthy small-block that Andre dreamed up. The backbone of this mighty mill is a 406ci Bowtie block. For the internals, a Crower crank spins an octet of Ross pistons, which are connected by a set of Lunati rods. This combo makes for a healthy 13:1-compression. A pair of Dart 23-degree heads covers the cylinders and matches up with a Dart intake. To clear out the crankcase, Andre sourced a Moroso three-vane vacuum pump to get the job done.
Up top, a Holley 4150 E85 carb pumps in the go-juice/air mixture. A serious shot of NOS was added for good measure. Crazy Don then jumped in again and built the 3-inch exhaust, which includes 1 7/8-inch custom headers, an X-pipe, and 3-inch tailpipes. Dynamax mufflers give the Chevy a deep growl. The ignition was designed with an HVH coil and runs a 7531 MSD box to boot. A Bullet solid roller cam with a custom grind gets the valves jumping. All in all, this small-block built by JA Performance (Lynbrook, New York) can lay one nasty piledriver on the competition.
A Freddy Brown AOD shifts this beast through the gears and feeds a Chrysler 8 3/4-inch rear, which coincidently replaced a Dana 60 that was in the car when Andre bought it. “I needed to drop some weight, so I went with the smaller unit,” informs Andre. The differential is stuffed with 3.90 gears locked in with a pair of 35-spline axles. This spins the big 15×10 Drag Lite rims shod in 275/60R15 Drag Radials out back. Up front, a pair of 15×4 rims is set up with Mickey Thompson 26×6 tires. Custom-made adapters hold a set of 1963 “dog dish” caps on the powdercoated wheels for the desired old-school look. A combination of Wilwood brakes up front and Aerospace brakes out back do the stopping.
The interior is sparse to say the least, as this ride’s only goal is to go fast. A set of Procar seats keep the driver and passenger comfy and a B&M shifter sits between the buckets while a Budnik wheel keeps the Nova pointed in the right direction. Custom-made gauge pods filled with AutoMeter gauges help keep track of the vitals. Lastly, a modern console makes a great armrest and has room for Andre’s thirst quenchers.
Once finished, Andre’s Nova hit the streets looking to do some hammer-time on the pavement. Needless to say, like his other builds over the years, this one did not disappoint. Its power-to-weight ratio is solely in his favor, and it’s a choice combination that’s tough to beat on the street. Then add in its sleeper-infused good looks, and you’ve got a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
So, Andre’s “pretend” granny-driven grocery-getter will continue to pummel the earth, while its façade continues to attract curious competitors at every stoplight. But don’t let its sublime looks fool you; this ride means business.
Special thanks go to Crazy Don Chassis Works and Freddy Brown for their help in their respective fields. Another shout-out goes to George the Greek for his help with the NOS. And finally, a super-sized holler goes to nephew Jon Carlo for being Andre’s right-hand man and being omnipresent with his much-needed support keeping this Nova out on the street where it belongs. CHP
Owner: Andre Rodriguez, Oceanside, New York
Vehicle: 1964 Nova
Type: Chevy Bowtie Block
Displacement: 406 ci
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Bore: 4.155 inches
Stroke: 3.750 inches
Cylinder Heads: Dart 23-degree
Rotating Assembly: Crower crank, Ross pistons, Lunati rods
Camshaft: Bullet solid roller
Induction: Dart intake, Holley 4150 E85
Ignition: MSD 7531
Built By: JA Performance
Tuned By: JA Performance
Output (to the tires): 650 hp N/A, 800 hp on nitrous
Transmission: Freddy Brown AOD
Rear Axle: Chrysler 8 3/4-inch, 3.90:1 gears
Front Suspension: Smith Racecraft chromoly front with rack-and-pinion
Rear Suspension: Calvert split mono-leaf, Rancho 9000 shocks
Brakes: Wilwood disc front, Aerospace rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Weld Drag Lite 15×4 front, 15×10 rear
Tires: Mickey Thompson 26×6 front, Mickey Thompson ET Street R 275/60R15 rear
Steering Wheel: Budnik
Paint: Pearl Green (unknown make)
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