74CHOP - by Miranda Kurpe

74CHOP - by Miranda Kurpe

California is known for many things, palm trees, sandy beaches and in the car scene it is notorious for ruthless smog requirements. But for one LA native those smog requirements would push her to make a decision that would change everything.

A huge advocate for “Built Not Bought”, Natasha Adams’ passion and attention to detail helped her create one-of-a-kind vehicles. Whether it is a ratty muscle car, fully built rock crawler or an import turned off-road machine.

One of her early creations was a 1978 Volvo 242 Bertone, with an “illegally” swapped Chevy 355 in it! But all good things must come to an end, and on May 4th, 2021 a letter came in the mail that the Volvo was due for its next smog exam and that was the end of the Volvo.

The 1974 Nova was just a rolling shell when Natasha stumbled on the for-sale ad that same night. She reached out to the seller right away and by the next day it was hers. Natasha trailered the Nova home that day and parked it beside the Volvo in her yard. Then the engine swap began. There was some trial and error getting the engine in, with wrong engine mounts and a slightly wrong transmission crossmember, but with some adapter brackets the swap was right back on track.

The Chevy 355 was a 350 bored over by .30 with a 700r4 Transmission, a 2000rpm stall and a Super Stock open diff. The engine had Camel Hump heads and she installed black finned valve covers. She installed a 3-core aluminum radiator and dual electric fans. Natasha installed drilled and slotted disc brakes on the front with lowering spindles. She cut off the battery tray and relocated it to the trunk to free up space and give the engine bay a cleaner look. Natasha also installed Hooker Headers and put all new 2.5 inch exhaust from the headers back with Black Widow mufflers.

She updated the headlights to be LED’s and the car got a more aggressive look with a 2 inch Cowl hood with pins. The Nova got 16” aluminum Enkei Wheels on the front, 16” aluminum American Racing Wheels on the back and BFG Radial T/A’s all around with a staggered setup.

One of the Nova’s unique features is the custom plate that reads 74CHOP, seemingly obvious given the choppy engine in the ‘74 Nova. But the sentimental value comes from it being a US marine Plate. The plate was to honor her father who served as a US Marine for many years. This would prove to be very handy after the magazine shoot on our way back. We had turned off the freeway and we noticed a police officer…

turn in behind us. He followed us for about a block and was definitely running the plate. When we stopped at a light, he pulled up beside us and said, “Who's the marine?” to which Natasha in shock replied “My Dad” he simply replied “Cool, you ladies have a good night” gave us the “Shaka” hand gesture and drove away. He had every reason to pull us over, the car doesn’t meet noise restrictions, the registration was expired, and we had been cruising all night, we were 4 towns away from her place. Not wanting to push our luck we went straight home.

Natasha knows the importance of safety, installing a harness bar and Racequip harnesses. She also had a detachable OMP steering wheel.

After finishing the drivetrain and safety features, Natasha turned her attention to the body work. Deciding to “unpaint” the car, stripping it of its unflattering “wild flower” blue spray paint. Originally, she wanted the car to be black but she decided to go with a grey primer. She did not want the stress of shiny paint when her main goal was to daily drive it. Natasha loved to take it to the grocery store without worrying about carts scratching it. That would just give extra character anyway. There also used to be boat engines that were branded Volvo and painted red but they were actually 350 Chevy’s. Natasha jumped at this hilarious coincidence and looked up the paint code for her 355 when it was in the Volvo. Paying respects to the previous car Natasha left the engine “Volvo Red” when she put it in the Nova.

Once the Nova was finished, she drove it twice a week. After a trial period she daily drove it for 6 months. In the summer it just got too hot, so the car became an evening cruiser, winter daily, and summer cruiser. Natasha’s favorite place to take the car was the grocery store. She never took it on cruises or events, she treated it like any other car. She even had it on normal insurance and not classic car insurance.

Natasha wants to thank her boyfriend Brian for having patience all those late nights and teaching her so many things about working on cars over the years. She said she could not have done it without him. She also wants to thank Rory Fontana of Fontana Motorsports for answering all her questions and being a fountain of knowledge about these cars.

Natasha would also like to mention her friend and ex coworker Chris Penido. On her way home from work one day the car started misfiring causing it to overheat. Luckily Chris was behind her, he went to an Auto parts store to get the tools they needed to fix the misfiring. But when they went to close the hood one of the hood hinges bent inward. Unable to close the hood they decide to take it off and load it into the back of Chris’s Suburban. He followed her all the way home to deliver the hood and make sure there were no other issues with the car. Natasha ended up leaving the hood off for another month, just because it looked bad ass.

Soon after, I flew out to meet Natasha and do the photos for this article. We toyed with the idea of fixing the hood but decided to leave it off because it was very “roadkill”. But being picky I was set on having shots with the cowl hood too. So, we called up her friend Miranda Gilhuys. We had Miranda come with us for the shoot, putting the hood in the back of her Ford ranger.

Natasha has a truly diverse collection of vehicles, each one an extension of her.

She currently has a 1973 Ford F100, with a 360 FE engine and C6 Transmission. It is two-tone orange and white. Natasha plans to make it a Desert Pre-runner and is even thinking of swapping in a Cummins.

She also has a 1991 Jeep Comanche which is her favorite. It has an inline six 4.0L engine and manual transmission, 4x4, with long arm setup on 35’s. She is currently collecting parts to swap the axles to early 2000’s F250 Dana 60’s so she can run 40’s.

Natasha is also known for her highly modified 1990 Lexus, with an LS400 4.0L V8. It's fully custom with TRD Ironman Stewart inspired livery. It has completely custom rally spec coil overs all the way around, tubular control arms on the front, a roll cage and racing bucket seats.

In the summer Natasha drives a 1994 Toyota pickup daily. It is black and “slightly” lowered with good tint, she says, “so no one can see me singing” and sometimes she drives the F100.

Natasha currently works at a small hotrod shop in Alhambra, California as an automotive technician, restoring and maintaining 30’s-60’s vehicles but specializing in 40’s roadsters. In her spare time, she is the owner and host of the Hardline Ladies off-road group, and she is the host of her very own YouTube channel, @NatashasCars.

Natasha had numerous offers on the car and eventually decided to let it go, she sold it to a gentleman who currently drives it daily and plans to fully restore it for his son. Natasha was happy to see it go to someone who would love it and he even plans to paint it black like Natasha had originally wanted to.

In the future Natasha would like to build a 1968 Chevelle, but to be honest, she would need a few... One to offload, one to lowered and one to just cruise! There are very few people who can seamlessly fit into multiple car scenes and Natasha Adams is one of them. She is proof that with a little determination you can achieve anything. She is the living embodiment of the American Dream, starting at the bottom and working her way to the top, and she has only just begun!

For more information about Natasha and her builds follow her Instagram @natashaadams and her YouTube channel @NatashaCars.


Article and photos by Miranda Kurpe MNK Photography

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