If you grew up in the right time period of the car culture, you know just how important “cruising” was to a gearhead. The local cruising spot was where everyone went to hang out, show off their ride, and maybe engage in a horsepower display on the street. These were magical times and they influenced multiple generations of car enthusiasts.
Drew Fleming grew up in the Houston area and spent a lot of time at local cruising spots. His older brother and father were always into cars and that’s what pushed him into the automotive world.
“My dad and brother were Ford guys. My brother had several Boss 302 Mustangs when I was a kid. When I got my license the first vehicle I owned was a truck. I was able to work out a deal and trade the truck for a 1967 RS Camaro. I started working on that car when I was 16. I started adding bolt-on parts to the car, like headers, to make it go faster,” Drew says.
Kids who are into cars tend to travel in packs in high school. Drew had a core group of friends that also enjoyed hot rodding, so they all worked on their cars together. They all enjoyed turning wrenches and hitting the local cruise spots any chance they got.
“My friends from high school were into cars, as well. Back then, people still went to the local hot spots to cruise. That would always lead to street racing where guys from different parts of town would challenge each other. Sleeper cars back then were a really sought-after thing. You didn’t want your car to look fast, you just wanted it to be really fast and catch others off guard,” Drew states.
Drew went on to start his own business and that allowed him to keep building cars. The projects Drew was building were awesome, but he got the itch to go back to his roots and build a sleeper. Drew wanted to build a car that didn’t look fancy, but would be super-fast, and that’s where the idea for his 1972 Nova project began.
“Finding the Nova was a lucky deal. I always comb through Craigslist looking at different year cars to see what I can find that catches my eye. The Nova got my attention…it was a rust-free North Carolina car that was a one-owner deal. You never know what you’re going to find when you go to look at a Craigslist car. When my friend Jimmy Rinehart and I looked at the car, we realized how clean it really was, so I decided to buy it right then,” Drew explains.
Drew was very happy with his purchase, because the car checked every box and then some. The classic Chevy had solid floorpans, had no real body issues, and it ran. According to the previous owner, it had been parked since 2006 and had just 49,000 miles on the clock. After Drew got the Nova home, he decided he was going to do a full restoration and make the car an SS big-block clone car, due to its condition. That plan changed after Drew started spending some time behind the wheel of the Nova.
“I drove the car as it was around town and people would tell me how awesome it was. I kept thinking to myself how rough it looked based on my other projects, and thought people were crazy. Jimmy and I were talking about people’s reactions to the car and I thought about leaving it as it was. So, we just built a killer turbo setup for the car and just left it alone, hubcaps and all,” Drew says.
When Drew was building cars back in the day, nitrous was the power-adder of choice for a traditional small-block Chevy. Drew saw how much power people were making with boosted LS engines, so he decided that’s what the Nova needed.
Rinehart took the lead at his shop, Boosted By Rhino, and built Drew a healthy 327 cubic-inch LS engine. The OEM aluminum block is home to a stock rotating assembly along with a Texas Speed hydraulic roller camshaft. A set of Trick Flow GenX heads and Holley Mid Ram intake finish off the engine. The engine is controlled by a Holley Terminator X Max ECU and is tuned by Rinehart. This simple combination generates 750 horsepower and has laid down a best e.t. of 9.40 at 141 mph.
Drew’s main goal for the Nova was to make it a real cruiser so he could enjoy it as much as possible. That meant keeping the car’s stock looks intact right down to the original interior. However, that didn’t mean the Nova’s underpinnings couldn’t receive a massive update to help it drive better.
“We started to think about what direction to go with the build and decided to make everything under the car as modern as possible while leaving the outside as stock as possible. We totally upgraded the entire suspension and added the roll bar to make the car safe. The Nova also had to have A/C since I drive it during the summer all the time. Now, I drive this car any chance I get. I’ll drive it in the rain, park it on the street, and just enjoy any chance I get. It drives like a new car and has more than enough power to get me in trouble on the streets,” Drew says.
Drew had created the concept for the Nova in his mind, but it was Jimmy at Boosted By Rhino that made it a real thing.
“I can’t thank Jimmy Rinehart enough for everything he’s done on this build. He literally made all of my ideas come together perfectly. His fabrication work is simply amazing, and he’s built every other custom hot rod I’ve ever owned. He was my co-pilot on Sick Week with this Nova and it didn’t skip a beat the entire time. We plan on running this car at other drag-and-drive events in the future,” Drew says.
Drew Fleming’s 1972 Nova checks every box for the type of sleeper you’d find at any classic cruising spot. The level of detail and planning that went into Drew’s Nova is just amazing and the final result is a legitimate 9-second cruiser that can be driven anywhere.
Vehicle Tech Information
8-point chromoly roll cage
Complete Smith Racecraft front subframe
Smith Racecraft front suspension
Calvert Racing Caltrac mono leaf rear springs
Quick Performance 9-inch rearend
Strange Engineering gears and axles
Boosted By Rhino Engine
Stock 5.3 liter GM aluminum block
OEM connecting rods
10.1 compression ratio
Holley Muscle Car oil pan
OEM oil pump
Cylinder Heads & Valvetrain
Trick Flow GenX 205 cylinder heads
Texas Speed hydraulic roller camshaft
Harland Sharp 1.7 ratio rocker arms
Trick Flow valves
ECU, Induction, Fuel, And Spark
Holley Terminator X Max tuned by Rhino
Holley Mid Ram intake manifold
Twin 525 Walboro fuel pumps
210cc fuel injectors
MSD spark plug wires
NGK spark plugs
Precision Turbo billet 76/75 turbo
Precision Turbo blow-off valve
Precision Turbo wastegate
Rhino-built GM 4L80E transmission with Rossler Transbrake
FTI 9.5-inch torque converter
Tires and Wheels
Front: OEM 15×6 steel wheels
Rear: Vintiques 15×10 wheels
Front Tires: Mickey Thompson radials
Rear Tires: 295/55/15 ET drag radials
OEM original interior
Dakota Digital gauges
Vintage Air A/C
NVX Audio system