1966 Nova SS L79 – Malibu Muscle
We have known “Malibu” Jerry Ruskin since the early 90s when bling and billet ruled the day – long before this gorgeous 1966 Nova SS L79. Jerry had a deuce roadster that was literally a work of art but seldom driven. It was a serious contender for both AMBR and Goodguys Street Rod d’Elegance. We also went for a ride with him on the street that parallels Pomona dragstrip in a street freak ’55 Chevy of his which ruined a perfectly good pair of our undergarments. Though he dabbled in trophy cars for a period, he’s been a road warrior and street survivor most of his life.
Success in the food industry afforded him a comfortable life in his native Malibu but more importantly for him – gave him the opportunity to mess around with hot cars the bulk of his life. His latest automotive obsession is this 1966 Nova SS – a real L79 car he found in 2005 while visiting Timeless Kustoms in Camarillo. The car brought back a flood of memories, especially to the summer of 1966 when he purchased an Aztec Bronze ‘66 Chevelle with black guts. This Nova had sat at Timeless Kustoms off to the side for a number of years. Jerry took it off their hands and stashed it away for a decade. It needed fresh drip rails, a rear pan and was in dire need of a freshening after sitting for so long. When the time came to give it a new lease on life, he sent it to Rich and Famous Auto Body in Van Nuys.
While the paint and body chores commenced including shooting the two-stage silver BASF paint with silver leaf pinstriping by Gerald at Valley Customs, up and coming young fabricator Ryan Shostle handled various mechanical projects including handling and suspension. He bolted up TCI’s custom Nova IFS then fabbed up mini tubs before adding a 4-link rear and RideTech triple adjustable coilovers on all four corners. Then, Jerry’s longtime friends lent a hand starting with Alan Budnik. Custom coated Budnik “Tungsten” wheels (18×9 and 18×11), and matching Tungsten steering wheel add a G-machine feel as does the Wilwood big brake kit.
The engine is a story of trial and error. The first go-around was to rebuild the original 327ci V8 small block with hi-flow heads, manifold, a hot cam and some added compression. But it didn’t come close to satisfying Jerry’s butt dyno. After driving it for a year (and some ribbing from his childhood friend Les Juhos), Jerry came to terms with the inevitable LS swap. In went a new 5.7-liter LSX with ported heads and an angry bumpstick sitting underneath a hand fabricated and pinstriped engine cover by Shostle. Further dress-up items include Vintage Air’s front runner system and a host of other goodies. Early returns are favorable. The FAST-equipped LSX with custom tuning by Simi Valley’s Limitless Performance is putting down 460 rwhp which makes the stage III 4L60E trans and stall converter happy. “It jumps really, really good” Ruskin said, happily quieting his horsepower critics.
While the smoothed exterior, ample power, rolling stock, and spot-on stance attract plenty of “Lookie Lou’s”, our favorite feature on Jerry’s L79 is the red leather interior by “Drunk Louie.” Ol’ Louie made it look damn near stock incorporating original emblems throughout. And what about that matching Sombrero? “We were on a trip to Goodguys Pleasanton and my buddy Walt Banes was 20 minutes ahead of us. He called me on my cell and told me about a red velvet sombrero in a second-hand store along our route. I stopped in, got it and it hasn’t left the car since. Every time I have driven the Nova up to Pleasanton, it has gone with me.”
Even though his body is 70-something years old, Ruskin remains the same kid who bought that Aztec Bronze ’66 Chevelle in the summer of ’66. He has just as much enthusiasm and energy he did as back then. He also can act like that kid behind the wheel. If prompted, he will smoke the tires faster than most. Thanks to new and improved power, his striking silver 1966 Nova SS L79 can roast the back end balonies whenever and wherever Jerry feels like it. It should also be noted that since its been finished, the Nova has 14,500 road miles on the clock. We tip our sombrero to that!