17-year-old Pleasanton boy builds a dream machine for his uncle. Or was it?
Johnny Scholz IV will be one of thousands of classic car aficionados waxing up and showing off their vintage American iron at this weekend's Goodguys 29th All American Get-Together car show and swap meet at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. His meticulously restored 1963 Chevrolet Nova will be one of the cleanest cars on the grounds during the two-day show, which is expected to draw over 70,000.
But this isn't your ordinary classic American car story -- the kind the Goodguys see over and over and over again throughout their 21-event national tour. This story is different. Much different, due to the fact that Johnny is a junior at Foothill High School and the meticulous restoration came by his own hands.
The most intriguing twist of the plot is that during the entire build, Johnny was told the car he was restoring was for his uncle and it was to be given to him at a special dinner for Nova enthusiasts. It wasn't until the party that the Scholz family broke the news to Johnny that the car he labored over for so many nights and weekends was in fact his own. It was a life-changing moment for him and his father John, also known for showing classic Chevy's with Goodguys.
It all started last winter when Johnny's Uncle "Novajoe" found a mothballed 4-door Nova that he could use as a "parts" donor vehicle for a 2-door coupe he was working on. Novajoe thought the 4-door "would be perfect for Johnny."
Like so many Americans, the Scholzes had come upon difficult economic times and were struggling just to pay the bills. A "project" car for Johnny just wasn't in the cards. But Novajoe and the Local Nor Cal Nova Group supplied an additional Nova carcass and all needed parts to save the-4 door for Johnny from its sure junkyard demise.
That's when Johnny's dad told him about a "project" car he wanted help with and that he would pay Johnny $5 hour to work on it. The 16-year-old gladly jumped in, excited at the prospect of learning the ins and outs of vehicle restoration.
The long, slow process began by stripping the old paint, replacing the complete drivetrain and cleaning the car's sub frame. Along with help from the online Nova community -- known as stevesnovasite.com -- the project began to take shape. Parts were refinished and brought back to life. A fresh interior was upholstered. Used and new stock parts were donated from many of the Nor Cal Nova friends.
While his father was at work, Johnny poured over every detail of a 1963 Nova, researching part numbers, online catalogs and even attending swap meets to hunt for "Nova treasure." He took it one step at a time, progressing little by little. He spent every single day last summer working countless hours on a car he thought he was restoring for his uncle Joe.
"I wanted him to stay focused," his father John said with a laugh. "It was the only way I could think of to make him stay focused and do things correct. He stepped up and then some."
Johnny finished the car in August. The gleaming, stock-appearing '63 Nova, powered by a 194 cubic inch inline 6 cylinder engine, turned out so good it looked as if General Motors technicians had delivered it to Pleasanton themselves. The form was so perfect, Auguste Rodin would be pleased.
Then came the night Johnny was to proudly present the car to Uncle Joe at the National Nostalgic Nova's 2010 Mini Nationals dinner at the Pleasanton Hilton. With the entire Scholz family and dozens of Nova collectors from around the country and Canada gathered around, John Scholz stood up, tears in his eyes, and told his son:
"This is actually your car, Johnny, and here are the keys. ... Congratulations, son. We love you! Oh, and by the way -- that $5 hour I promised you -- you going to have to take a rain check on it!"
Johnny was overwhelmed. There wasn't a dry eye in the entire ball room.
The teenager proudly showed his car alongside his father's at the final Goodguys event of the year in November to rave reviews. It was chosen as the "Young Guys Pick" -- a special award presented to a hot rodder 25 years or younger.
Goodguys sets aside a special parking area for the Young Guys at every one of their 21 events for kids like Johnny. It's a special place where special cars have wonderful back stories and young imaginations run wild. While most kids are sending text messages at a feverish clip and playing video games, the Johnny Scholzes of the world are hard at work in the garage, learning a valuable skill and experiencing the pride that comes with accomplishing a hard earned goal. Johnny's already got his favorite car shows plotted out to attend this season, beginning with this weekend's Goodguys Get-Together.
It's the Young Guys like Johnny Scholz that remind even the hardest, crustiest gray beard car guys the magic and pride involved in restoring something uniquely American. It's why the Goodguys keep comin' back, year after year.
Car show this weekend
What: Goodguys 29th All American Get-Together
When: Saturday-Sunday, March 26-27
Where: Alameda County Fairgrounds
Tickets: Adults, $18; children 7-12, $6
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Information: 838-9876; www.good-guys.com
Highlights: Goodguys will crown the "West Coast Custom of the Year" on Sunday during a special awards ceremony. Attendees have the opportunity to win a restored 1969 Chevelle courtesy of Live 105 FM and Danville's J Rockcliff Realtors.