We all know “that guy,” the neighbor down the street or perhaps a fellow competitor we see often at the track. His car may not be the quickest out there, but you can tell there’s something special about his connection with his hot rod, a connection that can only come from decades spent behind the wheel of the same car. Jefferson City, Missouri resident Chris Smyer was “that guy,” having owned his 1970 Nova for some 32 years — only the story of Chris and the beloved Nova he’d owned since the age of 14 came to a devastating halt recently at the hands of an EF3 rated tornado.
Smyer grew up on the East coast, where his father was stationed as a sailor in the U.S. Navy. Chris and his father picked up the Nova, which had a six cylinder engine and a Powerglide transmission, along with era-specific shag carpeting, and Chris was given the option to keep the car a daily driver or turn it into a drag car. Like most of us would, Chris opted for the latter path, and off he went, transforming the car into the small-tire bracket and index class killer seen in the accompanying photos.
Smyer had the car torn down for some upgrades, including swapping the small-block that had been powering the car for a 468-inch big-block that formerly powered the ’68 Camaro owned and raced by his fiance’s late mother, when his family’s home took a direct hit from the twister during a recent outbreak of severe weather that swept its way from Texas and Oklahoma to Pennsylvania and New York and points in between. “I always liked carrying the wheels 100-feet out, then pulling off the hood and fans seeing the small-block under there,” Smyer quipped of his mighty mouse motor.
The home itself withstood the hit as far as remaining standing after the storm, but was heavily damaged, while his garage/shop was completely leveled, leaving nothing but debris, devastation and heartbreak behind. As you can see in the photos, the Nova was demolished. While the driver’s compartment of the car did stand up to the thrashing, thanks to the well-built cage, the rest of the car was left virtually unrecognizable. Chris and his fiance were able to trudge through the wreckage and find the parts of the unassembled big-block build, including digging a carburetor out of the dirt after it was driven into the ground so far that only one of the bowls was visible. That’s just one small indicator of the forces at play in a storm of this magnitude, and helps explain what makes tornadoes so terrifying.
Of course, Chris is thankful for his loved ones being spared, and while the loss of his car and heavy damage to his property and possessions are less than ideal, his family being spared from what could have easily been a life-threatening storm is what is most important. After taking a few days to assess the damage and talk with his insurance company, Chris was hit with another bit of bad news when he found out his insurance policy would not cover damage to his Nova, nor would it cover his gorgeous G-Body wagon that he cruised around in when the weather was, well, better.
“If people take anything from this, I hope they go ahead and get some kind of racecar insurance that covers things like this,” Chris said, hoping to help others avoid the situation he’s currently navigating. While we won’t be diving into the details of homeowners policies versus specialty insurance policies just for racecars, ensuring your race car, truck, trailer and tools are covered is a necessity for all racers from all types of motorsports.
Moving forward, Chris hopes to eventually build another car and get back to racing with all of his buddies and racing family. Smyer extended thanks to his fiance and his parents, as well as the countless friends who have stepped up to offer help in a number of ways. It’s said that the friends you meet in the racing community often become like a second family, and situations like this certainly drive that point home.