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Tim "Skyskrape" Katz of TapouT Talks Classic Chevy Muscle

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Tim "Skyskrape" Katz of TapouT Talks Classic Chevy Muscle

The saying goes that some people are larger than life. In the case of Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz, Vice President and Co-founder of TapouT that statement couldn't be more true. And let's face it; his nickname certainly alludes to that fact well in advance. Even if you don't know the man by name, you're certainly familiar with the omnipresent MMA brand TapouT that he helped to create, and whose clothing and equipment has been donned by some of the sport's best and brightest athletes.

The cool thing about Skrape is that not only is he an incredibly focused dude with a monstrous passion for the sport of MMA, but that same passion is only rivaled by his love for classic Chevy muscle cars. To that end, The BLOCK first linked up with Skrape when he was building his insane '66 Chevrolet Nova wagon. From the moment he told us about this LS3-sporting beast of his, which would one day be destined for the Pro Touring ranks, we said " Wait, Pro Touring?" And without missing a beat, Skrape said "Yeah, and I'm gonna throw some 70s luggage on the roof racks, too!"

Well, to say we were "intrigued" at that point would be a serious understatement. We spoke at length with Skrape about his Nova wagon project and a vast array of other topics, and he broke it down like only he could. So without further ado, join us as we go for a ride with a really good, down-to-earth dude who couldn't be any more proud to carry the flag for the Bowtie brigade!

Okay, inquiring minds want to know: How tall are you with, and without, hair?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

You know it's funny, we do these signing tours with TapouT, where we'd have a big bus and take it all around the U.S. We've gone from L.A. to NYC and back, six times now. And one time, a girl asked me: "How tall are you without your head?" I'm pretty sure she meant to say "How tall are you without your hair?" It was pretty funny, though. Without my head, maybe I'm 6'0 (laughs). I'm about 6'6, with the hair maybe 6'8, it puffs more out to the sides than it is tall.

How many times did you get the "Hey – you'd make a great basketball player!" thing when you were younger?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Well, I played basketball when I was younger. I have friends that play professionally here, as well as overseas. So, yeah, I get that all the time. But what I get even more than that is: "Hey, you know you look like that dude from LMFAO!" And my response is always: "No. He looks like me." I've been looking like this for 15 years!

Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks! How did you become a gearhead, and in particular, a fan of the Chevrolet brand?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

My dad, when I was a kid – it's just one of those things that's in the family blood. I can remember being five or six and there are pictures of me hanging out with him when he's wrenching on a sandrail. We used to go out to the desert and always took our motorcycles, sandrails, Odysseys and Baja bugs. It was weird, though, because my dad and my uncle were always Mopar guys, they had Chargers. My brother, he's not particularly a muscle car guy, he races trucks in desert. So he got my dad's truck for his first car.

But a year later, when I turned 16, and I got my first car, everyone wanted a cool, new car. Well, I wanted to look cool in my own way. So, my first car was a '64 Nova wagon. It was kind of a mess. It was blue and white and the paint was chipping. It had a small block in it; it had been converted to a V-8. I think it was originally a six-cylinder car. At my mom's house in the driveway, we stripped it to bare metal and primered it black. Then I put some rally wheels on it. I built a 383 for it, a turbo 350. And it ended up running low 11s. I even ran 10.90 in it a couple times. And that's what got me started with the Chevys, and my love for wagons. Hence this '66 Nova wagon that I'm currently building.

Outside of the wagon, we know you've built quite a few Chevrolets. Tell us about some of those other builds.

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

I've built a bunch of Novas. I have another Nova, currently, a '67 two-door sedan. It's got a 550hp 406 with the Turbo 350. It's "technically" my daughter's car. She's almost 17 now. I bought it for my wife, originally. But then my daughter took it over. Technically they share it. My wife, who I met when I was 14, her father bought her a '66 Super Sport Nova with a 4-speed when she was 16. So, she's a car girl, too.

I've had a '62 Nova, as well as a '64, both two-door coupes. The motor that's now in the '67 used to be in a '66 Chevelle, which I used to drag race. That was a mid 10-second car. A friend of mine from Original Parts Group has that car now, and he just built a crazy 750 horsepower small block and the car currently runs 9.90s.

I have a two-door '63 Bel Air sedan. I've always liked sedans. I don't know why, but people always gave me crap about it. I always felt like with my '66 Chevelle, it makes the body stiffer for drag racing. I have a '55 210 sedan. But people tend to like the '55 Bel Airs, they don't like the 210s or the 150s.

Didn't you build some crazy Chevy Suburban that we saw?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Yeah. I built a '70 3-door Suburban. It was Candy Apple Red, with TapouT logos ghosted in all over it. I wanted to have the feeling as if you took a ton of stickers and threw 'em at the car like a deck of cards. There were logos in every direction: upside down, right side up, backwards. From little 3" stickers, all the way up to 12" stickers, all building up to a giant 6-foot logo on the roof.

To this point, what's been your favorite Chevrolet Performance engine?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Well, the LSX 454 is my favorite motor – ever. I dropped that in my '55 Bel Air with a 5-speed. And man, getting on the freeway is amazing. In third and fourth gear it's ridiculous. With the overdrive on the highway, I'm getting 23 mpg, too!

Okay. So, we've got to hear more about the '66 wagon. Tell us about this current project.

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Well, in Huntington Beach, every Saturday, people take their classic cars down to a place called the Donut Shop. No shows, no contests, just guys hanging out with their cars. And people get to the Donut Shop early. By 7 a.m., the parking lot is full. And it's a huge lot. I would go up there with my cars, and one particular Saturday, I saw this red, '66 Nova wagon. Now I walk over to it, and there's a guy in the driver's seat, seatbelt kicked back, and he's sleeping. But the car had a for sale sign on it. But since the dude was asleep, I didn't bother him, but I took the number down. After that, I'd sort of forgotten about it for a couple weeks. But one day I saw the number in my phone and it jogged my memory, so I called him. The car had a good 350, overdrive transmission, disc brakes on the front. And it was just a good little driver. So I took it, put a rear-end on it, a 10-bolt. Then I put new disc brakes on the front and back, and fixed the overdrive, which needed a little bit of love.

Then I started using it as my daily driver, making the commute from my house to my office, which is about 55 miles – one way. The car had no problems, whatsoever. Then I had the interior redone: We installed Cadillac power seats, and had them done in leather and suede. We put in a suede headliner, had TapouT stamped in the black seats, with red stitching. I kept that interior motif for about six months before I got tired of it. So, finally, I called a friend and said, "we're turning this thing into a road-racing car." And he said "cool." But he thought we were gonna do it with the white '67 Nova. But I said "No, the '66 wagon." And he laughed and was like, "man, you can't make a road race car out of a wagon!"

Did you really think you could pull it off?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Well, I asked him. I was like "why not?" Then he ran down a laundry list of reasons why we couldn't: It's not the right wheelbase; it's not typical of a road race car, etc… He didn't think it was right. I said, "okay, maybe we won't race it." But let's just cage it, work on the suspension and just drive it. And then after he started working on it, he ultimately realized that it had the potential to be a good road race car.

So then when it came time for the motor, I'd heard so much about the LS3, we went for it. I just love all the LS blocks. Then we threw the turbo from Turbonetics on it. And again, people were like "you can't put a turbo on a road race car!" But, see, I don't care what people say. I don't care what the "typical" Pro touring, road race car is." I just wanted to do something fun.

Dare to be different, as they say!

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Yeah. And it gets better… So, then I put four Kirkey aluminum race seats in the car with full harnesses. You know, because I want my friends to come along. Even if it's just to do donuts in my cul-de-sac all day – as long as I can have fun in it. If it's just three friends and I in the car, that's what it's all about. Like, if I wanted to go to, say the Optima Challenge, and win. Of course I want to win. But that wasn't my main goal. I mean, and with the turbo and the boost turned up to 10 pounds – the car is gonna make 800hp. I think I can have fun with that! At the end of the day, I just wanted to build something that I enjoyed – and, of course, tear up some tires!

It's safe to say that most everyone knows your brand, TapouT. Tell us how your passion for the sport of MMA perhaps parallels or intertwines with your love of cars.

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

For me, it's just a love and a passion for something that brings you joy. My best friend, Charles Lewis, Dan Caldwell and myself, started TapouT. Charles founded the company and was working with Dan, as they were friends. And then I partnered up with them after the company had originally been started. We were all training together and passionate for the sport, and we knew we wanted to attach ourselves to it. We had foresight and we knew one day it was going to be huge. You know, back then it was the UFC, whereas nowadays, it's called Mixed Martial Arts. In those days it was called NHB, or "No Holds Barred." No athletic commissions, no weight classes, nothing.

So, how did you know years out that the sport would grow to what it's become now? The sport is getting major coverage everywhere.

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Well, here's when we realized it. One night Charles and I were at a Metallica concert. About halfway through their set, a fight breaks out behind us. Here's one of the biggest bands in the world headlining this show, and where is everybody looking? At the fight in the crowd. It's human nature; everybody loves two combatants going toe-to-toe.

So early on, we aligned ourselves with the UFC, and this was before Dana White and the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC, we just believed they were the best organization around.

Sounds like TapouT was really one of those one-in-a-million success stories.

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Yeah. And people thought we were crazy. They thought I was nuts for dropping out of school to create this clothing company. Charles was a deputy sheriff, who had been promoted a number of times, and he just dropped everything. He lost his car, his house, his motorcycle, and was living on couches and out of his car just to chase his dream. I was young, so I had the luxury of still living at my mom's house. But, Dan was working as a security guard to keep some money coming in, so we could stock some clothing.

We started with just a couple of t-shirts, a sweatshirt, a hat, a couple pairs of shorts – it was very limited. But we knew we were going to see this through and become the Nike, so to speak, of Mixed Martial Arts. At some point we could have branched out to other sports, but we wanted to stick with MMA. People were like, "you guys are dreaming, you're wasting your time – nothing's ever gonna happen with that." You name it, we heard it all.

But, we would sit around dreaming and talk about getting on TV and in the movies at some point. Charles once said "Only you have the foglights to see through the fog. This is our dream, nobody else's. Only we can see the finish line. Because it's not their dream – it's our dream."

Although it's unique, it certainly sounds a lot like your passion for cars.

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

Yeah, and that's why I've had so many over the years. And I don't like selling them. You put your blood, sweat and tears into them, and I don't want to let them go. I've got different motifs for each. The '55 with LSX 454, it screams down the highway. My '63 has hydraulics on it, it's a low-rider. The white '67 Nova, it's a street car. And then the wagon is the racecar. Each one fulfills a different need.

And that's where I think the two parallel one another. Just the love and passion for doing something you genuinely enjoy.

So last but not least, a little birdie told us at some point you may be competitively racing the '66 Nova Wagon with a full set of vintage, 70's-era luggage on the roof racks?

Tim "SKYSKRAPE" Katz

(Laughs). Yes, I can confirm there is truth to the rumor that I will be racing the wagon. However, the roof rack full of 70s-era luggage is yet to be seen. But that is the plan!

The BLOCK Crew would like to give a spirited shout out to Skrape and thank him for giving graciously of his time for this interview.

So tell us, folks: What do you think of Skrape's insane '66 Nova Wagon? Anybody out there currently racing a wagon or planning on it in the near future? Let us know! And, hey, as a special accompaniment to this piece we've created a one-of-a-kind "Skrape" '66 Nova Wagon wallpaper for your downloading pleasure. Check out the preview below, then head over to the Downloads section to grab it for your desktop, laptop or iPad! For information on the LS3 check out ChevroletPerformance.com!