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What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova

That Nova was one of the vehicles displayed Tuesday at the Monterey Car Week Kickoff show in Pacific Grove

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So, what did you do during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020? Paul Molfino bought and restored a 1963 Chevrolet Nova, and he showed it Tuesday at the Classic Motorsports magazine Monterey Car Week Kickoff show in downtown Pacific Grove.

Molfino, who lives in Santa Cruz, said the Nova was in Southern California and needed a lot of work, and with the pandemic in full force, he refused to make the trip to check it out before making a purchase.

But the seller was eager and offered to trailer the car up to Gilroy, just north of Monterey, so Molfino could see the car for himself. He did, and while it did run, it didn’t stop on its own. But a deal was done, and the car was trailered to a friend of Molfino’s garage, where four months of 40-hour weeks produced a show-worthy vehicle, complete with a 383cid V8 engine and 700R4 automatic transmission.

Oh, and in his spare time, when he wasn’t restoring the Nova, Molfino was building a woodworking shop at home.

Monterey, What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova, ClassicCars.com Journal
Cars arrive for the Classic Motorsports Monterey week kickoff car show in Pacific Grove

The Nova and woodshop were Molfino’s latest projects. He’d sold his 1965 Ford Mustang fastback — to an Englishman — about a year before the pandemic. Before that, he’d built a 1934 highboy roadster. 

And before that, he built and owned a 1948 Ford Anglia for 21 years. For 13 years, he took the Anglia to the same car show and the same man would approach him and ask if the car was for sale.

For 12 years, Molfino said no. But that 13th year, he said maybe. How much, he was asked. Too much was the response. Until the following day when the man called and said he had a bank check ready to hand over.

Monterey, What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova, ClassicCars.com Journal
A 1959 Chevrolet El Camino turns heads
Monterey, What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova, ClassicCars.com Journal
A vintage Mini Cooper is dwarfed by a 1917 American La France fire truck, the first fire engine purchased by the city of Pacific Grove in 1920 and restored the fire-fighting volunteers in the mid 1980s
Monterey, What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova, ClassicCars.com Journal
The owner’s father bought this 1960 Imperial convertible new and refused to put the top down for the 22 years he drove the car daily
Monterey, What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova, ClassicCars.com Journal
Owned since 1975, this 1970 Plymouth Cuda has a 426 Hemi Vi
Monterey, What did you do during the pandemic? Paul Molfino restored a ’63 Nova, ClassicCars.com Journal
Showing their colors are the yellow 1956 Chevrolet pickup, green 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air, and tan and pinstriped 1952 Chevy Deluxe

And what of Mrs. Molfino and her husband’s automotive interests? 

Her name is Rhana, which she explained was the name of a princess in India, and for whatever reason, her parents heard of the princess and gave her the princess’s name. 

Paul Molfino noted when pronounced with a Latino accent, Rhana sounds like “rana,” the Spanish word for “frog.”  

“So, I’m the frog princess,” Rhana said.

Paul Molfino said that when he had a car with Bluetooth hands-free calling, the system couldn’t understand “Rhana,” so he started calling her “Bubbles,” which the car and smartphone could understand.

Rhana said she’s tolerated Paul for 53 years.

But that took Paul by surprise. After all, he pointed out, they’ve been married for 56 years.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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