Situated in the heart of California’s automotive culture, Ken Johnson has experienced an exhilarating journey in the world of high-performance vehicles. It’s a tale steeped in the roar of powerful V8 engines, a story of relentless passion for machines that deliver an adrenaline rush like no other. Today, Ken gets his adrenaline fix from behind the wheel of his boosted Nova.
Ken’s adventure began with an irresistible attraction to an iconic muscle car during his formative years. This magnetic pull came courtesy of his charismatic uncle, the proud owner of a Pro Street ’67 Camaro. The vivid memories of this iconic machine’s thunderous engine and its fierce aesthetics left an indelible mark on Ken’s soul. Little did he know that this encounter would be the spark that ignited a lifelong infatuation.
During his high school years, Ken’s interests initially gravitated toward motocross and the thrill of off-road adventures. However, a powerful attraction to a group of dedicated gearheads gradually steered him toward the mesmerizing world of muscle cars. Among the circle of friends he ran with were iconic cars like a ’68 Mustang, a ’70 Chevelle, and several more muscle cars that only added to his infatuation.
Ken’s affinity for motocross eventually introduced him to the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Here, he was exposed to a plethora of high-powered racing vehicles, ranging from race trucks to UTVs and other formidable dirt-devouring machines. This immersive experience provided Ken with an entirely new perspective on automotive performance, setting the stage for the next thrilling chapter in his journey.
It was during this phase of his life that Ken became the proud owner of a 1971 Chevelle, a capable cruiser in its own right. Yet, the demands of the industry prompted him to seek a more formidable contender, a vehicle that could match the relentless spirit of his new surroundings. This quest led him to the doorstep of a ’71 Nova, a classic car brimming with potential.
The Nova had an intriguing beginning, having started life as a SEMA build project for a local high school. It spent years in hibernation within a warehouse, yearning for a passionate owner who could unlock all of its potential. Ken had long coveted this particular Nova, even contemplating its purchase despite facing constraints in budget and space at the time. Fate, however, had other plans. After changing hands of ownership among several friends, the opportunity of a lifetime was presented to Ken when the car’s owner at that time, Jerry Ziden, lost interest in the Nova and told Ken he would sell it to him. This fortuitous moment was the spark that ignited a fire of transformation.
Upon taking delivery of the Nova, Ken drove it for a time as-is, but he had a grand vision for the car that had more of a Pro Touring flavor, and he sought the expertise of Rob Lindsay and the skilled artisans at RJ Fabrication, located in Hesperia, California. The project was aptly named “Boosted Nova,” as Ken had known since before he owned the muscle car that a supercharger would be involved if he was to ever own it.
The first challenge was to upgrade the Nova’s suspension to match the power and capabilities Ken had in mind. He worked out a deal with Alex Stivaletti at Detroit Speed to swap the suspension kit he had originally purchased to use on his Chevelle for a kit designed for the Nova. The new Detroit Speed Kit 3 not only improved its stance and performance but also set the stage for a visual transformation that was sure to turn heads.
Under the guidance of Rob Lindsay, the Boosted Nova underwent a comprehensive transformation. The framerails were skillfully moved inward by 3 inches on each side, creating space for the installation of larger wheels and tires, enhancing both the aesthetics and performance of the Nova. To complement the rear’s transformation, custom wheel tubs were fabricated, ready to house massive rear tires. The rear suspension received a comprehensive upgrade, featuring a Detroit Speed QUADRALink system, equipped with JRi double-adjustable shocks, a substantial ¾-inch sway bar, and a panhard bar.
The braking system, another critical aspect of high-performance driving, was entrusted to Baer Brakes. The Nova now boasts 14-inch rotors and imposing six-piston calipers, their Burnt Bronze finish adding a touch of elegance to the package. A Baer Remaster master cylinder and a Baer proportion valve were integrated, ensuring precise brake control.
The wheels, a defining element of the Nova’s personality, were sourced from the esteemed manufacturer Budnik. A set of striking black Vapor wheels, measuring 18×8 inches in the front and an imposing 19×12 inches at the rear, were chosen to complete the package. Wrapped in Toyo R888 rubber, these wheels, combined with the enhanced suspension, ensured the Nova was ready to deliver on both its aesthetics and performance.
With the stage set for an exhilarating driving experience, Ken focused on the heart of the Boosted Nova, its engine. To achieve the desired level of power and performance, he turned to Moruzzi Race Motors, a respected name in the high-performance engine-building world. The result was a formidable 418 cubic-inch LS3, boasting a 4-inch stroke, a 4.080-inch bore, and a rotating assembly that included a forged crankshaft and H-beam connecting rods from Callies, and DSS forged pistons.
Intricate work on the GM LS3’s aluminum heads by Moruzzi Race Motors further enhanced the engine’s power potential. A Cam Motion camshaft, matched to the Magnuson TVS2300 supercharger, ensured that the engine could breathe deeply and perform at its peak. The supercharger, valve covers, and other bits under the hood were given a Burnt Bronze cerakote treatment by Cerakote 21 of Murrieta, California.
The Nova’s exhaust system is equally impressive. Stainless Works headers lead to an RJ Fabrication 3-inch stainless exhaust system, with Black Widow Venom 250 mufflers putting the finishing touches on the symphony of power. The result is a breathtaking 754 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. To harness the Nova’s newfound power, a 4L80E automatic transmission was installed, ensuring seamless transmission of power to the wheels. A Hi Desert 3.5-inch driveshaft was the next crucial link in the chain, providing durability and reliability.
Stepping inside the Nova’s cabin reveals a cockpit tailored for performance and safety. The fabricated carbon-fiber dash, meticulously designed by Kenny Pfitzer Designs, houses a Holley 12.3-inch Pro Dash, providing Ken with real-time information. The interior’s visual appeal was enhanced by TMI door panels and Pro Chicane II seats, featuring a captivating combination of distressed blood red and black carbon-fiber weave synthetic leather.
A full roll cage, artfully crafted by Lindsay at RJ Fabrication, provided an essential safety component. This was complemented by a Sparco five-point harness, ensuring Ken’s well-being in high-performance scenarios. The Nova’s interior is completed with carpet and a center console from TMI.
The finishing touch to the Boosted Nova’s transformation came through the artistic hands of Ricardo Lopez at Customs by Lopez. The bodywork was expertly perfected, ensuring that the muscle car would be a showstopper. Juan Sandoval Lopes was entrusted with the task of giving the Nova its stunning exterior identity, applying the BASF Anthracite Metallic paint. A layer of black pigment on the Auto Metal Direct aluminum hood and Harwood fiberglass bumpers added a dramatic twist to the Nova’s aesthetics. The result has a commanding presence, a street machine exuding power and elegance in equal measure.
The journey Ken Johnson took with this Boosted Nova is a testament to his unwavering commitment to the pursuit of high-performance excellence. It’s a story of transformation and the relentless passion for machines that embody power, speed, and style. Through meticulous planning, skilled craftsmanship, and a keen eye for detail, Ken has breathed new life into a classic ’71 Nova, turning it into a captivating symbol of automotive artistry. With its formidable engine, meticulously upgraded chassis and striking exterior, the Nova stands as a testament to the enduring allure of high-performance vehicles and the drive to make a dream a reality. In the heart of California’s automotive culture, Ken Johnson’s Boosted Nova has found its place, a roaring testament to the limitless possibilities of automotive transformation and the unyielding pursuit of power and perfection.