Though it appears a polestar of a genre called Pro Touring, as in a complete vehicle that has exemplary road skills and affords a comfortable refuge for the driver as well, Mark Turner's Nova is none such. It's a living, breathing Hun, a Visigoth, a take-no-prisoners Cossack.
Pro Touring cars always include equipment that is not necessarily key to raw performance, creature comforts (HVAC, high-zoot audio, iPod docks, GPS, etc.) that are summarily gathered to enhance the total. Turner looked only to get the job in a manner most expedient. Thus, this 1970 Nova is no such thing as Pro Touring. It's stripped to the bone.
Hot Rod Transformations in Nashville, Tennessee, is steered by Brian Finch, a well-known and fiercely competitive Pro Touring pilot in his own right. His "neighbor" Mark Turner engaged Brian to construct the Nova.
"We wanted to push the boundary between street car and race car," said Finch. "The goal was a simple recipe: put in the biggest engine, remove as much weight as possible, and fit the largest tire you can on something other than a Camaro." We love to hear sentiments like that. In the day, we didn't care if the car even had brakes much less an AM radio so long as the motor made the right noises. "During the design phase, everything was performance-focused, which made the selection of parts actually easier than with a street car, where personal style often gets in the way."
Hot Rod Transformations began with the obvious, removing the rust and the scale. With saws shimmering, they pie-cut the front fenders to fit the large-by-huge 295-series tires, which "is no easy task on second-gen Novas," Brian remarked, a bright ball of sweat dangling from the tip of his nose.
Once they had the cutouts right, they went to the rear wheelwells and sliced some more to match the look of the front. Then, the engine set back. What? Yup. "Since weight balance was key, we recessed the firewall 8 inches and installed floor-mounted pedals and master cylinders, then fabbed up new seat mounts based on the pedal location." Suffice that there was even more work to do to achieve that coveted 50/50 weight distribution.
As a race monger, you might expect an interior burnished with sheet metal, screw heads, and no humor at all. Mark's had more hot rods than he can remember but he never suffered one with a sterile, ragged-out gut. The Nova home base is pin-neat, uncluttered and highly functional.
A large part of the race-only vibe is the way the car feels under power. The brakes, for instance, are not power assisted and according to the principals "are a thing of beauty and can be manhandled into turns." After a year of thrash, the Nova was completed in March of 2012. Mark got it wet at 2012 Columbus and Nashville Goodguys, attends the Holley LS Fest, Optima Qualifiers, and American Street Car Series' events and has been having a tire-shredding good time ever since.
Once Tune Motorsports in Charleston, Tennessee, had prepared the components to build a large displacement LS in a compact, lightweight cylinder block from Racing Head Service, Scott at Hot Rod Transformations took charge of the actual engine assembly. The bore of the tall deck cylinder case, and the stroke of a Lunati steel crankshaft produce 501ci. Diamond pistons (on Lunati connecting rods) provide a compression ratio of 11.5:1 and feature Total Seal ring packs. By any estimation, the COMP camshaft is a bumpy one, flaunting a 6.75-inch lift on both valves and accompanied by 259/269 degrees of duration. Lobe separation angle is 115 degrees. It's hooked to the crankshaft with a RHS timing chain. The bottom end is serviced by a baffled Autocraft 5.5-quart wet sump and corresponding pump and pick-up. Scott sealed the cylinders with Mast Motorsports Black Label heads that carry 2.20/1.60 stainless steel valves, Mast dual-coil springs and steel retainers. The CNC-prepped intake ports maintain a 280cc volume. Pushrods are COMP items. Rather than the expected carburetor, Mark incorporated Holley HP electronic fuel injection, feeding from a custom cell and twin Aeromotive A1000 pumps. Hot Rod Transformations detailed the rest of the installation with a custom-built cold-air tub that's sealed to the hood. Brian sparked the torch, crawled underneath and built the full-length 2-inch primary pipe headers. Factory coils supply the juice. And speaking of juice, there is none, but this nuts-only motor produces nitrous-like numbers: 736 lb-ft of torque at 5,400 rpm and 810 hp at 7,000 rpm. For maximum flexibility, the drivetrain included a Tremec T56 working off a Ram 10.5-inch dual-disc clutch assembly. Torque gets to the Moser 9-inch Floater via a Kiesler prop shaft that twists 3.50:1 gears on a TrueTrac limited-slip.
Pretty much the standard formula here. Brian installed the Detroit Speed sub-frame and front suspension with (8-inch tall) 450-lb/in springs, DSE splined anti-sway bar, and Afco dampers. Brian formed the members for the 10-point chromemoly ‘cage and welded it up, embedding the stringers in the inner rear panels and in the A-pillars. The back of the car is fixed with a DSE QUADRAlink system that support the Moser axle (52 inches flange-to-flange) as well as (8-inch tall) 250-lb/in coils springs on double-adjustable Afco dampers that draw from remote canisters. A Panhard rod is also employed. The DSE manual rack steering colludes with C6 Corvette spindles as directed by the custom (extended length to compensate for engine set-back) ididit steering column.
There are no comforts in this poisonous creature. You want sound? Listen to the motor as it climbs the scales. You want cool air? Drop the glass. You want heat? Keep the windows shut. But despite a paucity of baubles and distracting gimmicks, Mark's sanctum is elegantly understated and very much to the point. To begin, Hot Rod Transformations revitalized the sagging electrical grid with an American Autowire loom. To incorporate the controls displaced by the engine set back, Brian removed the rear seat and moved the front ones 10 inches from the factory position. Then he put the Wilwood pedals and master cylinders right on the floor so you could never miss them. Mark had some custom parts machined to allow a quick-release feature for the steering wheel. Brian and crew wailed on the dashboard, fitting a DSE insert for the Auto Meter gauges as well as a Camaro dash pad before smoothing out the rest of the expanse. Finally, the Nova went to David Lewallen Street Rod Interiors in Cleveland, Tennessee. David finished off the Pro Car seats, installed the interior panels, new factory-style door panels, carpeting, leather headliner, rear close-out panel and Daytona carpeting, then took a long sip of something cool.
Apart from the 1½-inch wheelwell stretching exercise, HRT shaved all the chrome and selected an Anvil carbon fiber for the hood, cowl, and decklid and then flush-mounted the windshield glass for a clean appearance. Brian topped it with PPG White Platinum Tri-Coat, a color taken from the 2010 Ford F250 Super Duty palette.
Wheels & brakes
Since the Nova tips in at approximately 3,100 lbs and offers more than 800 hp, it requires some mighty capable energy burners. Wilwood 14-inch rotors, front and rear, are clamped by six-piston calipers that are impossible to hide beneath the dusky GX3 Forgelines. Those pie-cut front-wheel openings easily accommodate those burly 18x10 hoops and BFG KDW 295/35 tires. DSE deep wheel tubs do the trick out back, all but swallowing 12-inch rims and 335/30 fatties.