Ask just about any car guy what memory stands out above all others, and he will probably begin telling you stories about the things he did with his first car. Many times, the memory might be 10, 20, or 30 years old, but as they continue to speak, it’s as if the events happened just moments ago. Unfortunately for many of us, memories of our first car are all that we have.
We met one lucky car guy that cannot only recall his memories like they happened yesterday, but he is still lucky enough to tell them to whoever will listen, while still standing next to his first car. Aaron Lindquist of Lakeland, Florida, has owned this 1973 Nova since 2000 when he was still in high school.
Like many stories, Aaron’s begins when he found the car, but not the car’s owner. Aaron tells us, “When I first found the Nova, it was sitting in Plant City, Florida. It was a pale yellow color and had a faded white top.” Aaron is not the type of guy that quickly gives up on something, and he left a note on the car, hoping the owner would contact him. When you really want something, waiting is one thing that no one can do with any kind of patience. Luckily, Aaron didn’t have to wait very long, as the following week, the owner’s grasp on the car’s title loosened, and he agreed that Aaron should be the new owner.
I built the engine so long ago, I forget all the camshaft specs. – Aaron Lindquist
In 2003, a rebuildable engine was located and purchased. Aaron continued building one engine while the other was still in the car, keeping it drivable. With the help of his dad, Robert, a 355 cubic-inch small-block was built to reside under the hood. Since finances were those of a recent high school graduate, the small-block was built using a stock, cast-iron crankshaft and connecting rods.
Mounted to the ends of those rods are .030-inch oversized cast pistons that came in an auto store rebuilder’s kit. While these parts might not be considered performance-oriented, the engine still does quite well after all these years. Yes, after years of abuse, the engine you see under the hood is the one that Aaron and his father built in 2003.
Spinning in the center of the block is a Doug Herbert solid-roller camshaft with .525-inch lift. Aaron tells us, “I built the engine so long ago, I forget all the camshaft specs.” What Aaron does remember, is that the cylinder heads are a pair of economy-based Dart Iron Eagle’s. With a final compression ratio of 9.0:1, just about any fuel can be poured into the cylinders, and the engine will run. Speaking of fuel, it is sprayed from a Holley 700 cfm carburetor through an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake.
In true small-block trim, the spent gasses exit through a pair of headers with 1 5/8-inch primary tubes that feed a set of single-chamber mufflers. Even with the cast rotating assembly, Aaron has no fear, and consistently hits the switch that supplies a 150 horsepower shot of nitrous oxide. Behind the tried-and-true small-block is the venerable Turbo 350 transmission that has been outfitted with parts from TCI, and was rebuilt by friend, Kenny Hankins.
Since the car was built on a high-school budget, the front suspension was freshened with stock replacement parts, but does benefit from a set of Moroso Trick Springs, and Calvert Racing 90/10 shocks. Out back, the Corporate 10-bolt rear was filled with a Powertrax locker unit, Moser 28-spline axles, and a set of 4.10 gears.
When climbing behind the steering wheel, the first thing you will notice about the interior is how utilitarian it is. You will not find the factory-installed air-conditioning or a stereo system, as this Nova was built for one thing – driving with purpose. When we asked Aaron where the stereo was located, he opened the hood – touché. Don’t think for a minute that this is a car built solely for use at the race track. Aaron is one of those guys that is content without a lot of creature comforts when he drives to the grocery store.
The black and gray tweed interior was custom designed and installed by Emo’s Upholstery in Lakeland, Florida and has been in the car for 14 years. The dash is very minimalistic, and only displays the vital gauges for proper engine function. Surrounding the interior is a six-point rollbar to keep Aaron safe while he is “playing” at one of Florida’s drag strips.
If you know anything about painting cars, you know that black is one of the hardest colors to properly spray. If you like the black and gray exterior, Aaron gets the nod for that. It goes without saying that Aaron has a passion for building cars, and this was the very first paint job that he completed by himself. But before any paint could be applied to the sheetmetal, he had the task of repairing all of the rust on the car. That eradication included replacing both quarter-panels, the tail panel, trunk floor, both door skins, and both front fenders.
If you think the car has retained its good looks all these years by spending most of its time in a garage, think again. This car not only does duty as a street driver, but it’s been thoroughly tested on just about every dragstrip located in the state of Florida. Aaron and his Nova even competed at a Pink’s All Out Event in 2010. In 2015, the young driver was honored with a Number One qualifying spot at the Florida Street Outlaws event. While his car might not be one of the quickest cars we’ve ever featured on our website, it is consistent enough that it is well respected around his hometown.
Aaron is quick to admit that he did have some help and guidance from a friend, Tim Washall. But, would you guess that he sprayed the car in 2010? The car still looks great, and is a testament to his handy work. In fact, the Nova was his inspiration to work on cars, and has become his rolling business card. He recently started Ratchet Garage, a shop dedicated to fixing and building hot rods.
So, how fortunate are you to still own your first car? For Aaron Lindquist, fortunate is not the correct word to describe his situation. Inspired would be more appropriate.