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1972 Chevrolet Nova - The Real Pro Street

No pink paint or roof-tall blowers here, this ’72 Nova is the real deal

Stephen Kim Nov 28, 2014
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Let’s face it. As the country that invented drag racing, America is a land of transbrake poppin’, wheel-standing drag racers. To most of us, the quintessential hot rod packs big cubic inches, fat rear slicks, and itty-bitty front skinnies. It’s no wonder Pro Street gained so much steam in the ’80s, but unfortunately the trend got hijacked by those who transformed these track-inspired machines into non-functional show cars. No thanks to cars festooned with monster blowers and multi-stage nitrous kits that could barely limp around a parking lot, people have been walking away from Pro Street ever since.

In truth, however, Pro Street never went away. As the show crowd lost interest and moved on to the next big trend, Pro Street returned to its roots by evolving into thinly disguised race cars tamed just enough to drive down to cruise night. With a 901-horsepower big-block, a four-link, and 33-inch rear meats all wrapped in a tastefully functional package, Al McAloney’s ’72 Nova is a real, 100-percent show-free Pro Street.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Rear Side View 2/10

Like most dudes from the Midwest, Al eats, sleeps, and breathes the hot rodder lifestyle. He hangs out at chassis shops for fun, works as a safety tech at the local dragstrip, and loves lending a hand when his buddies need help building their cars. One of his friends was in the process of building a Nova for a popular 10.5 racing class called King Street when he ran out of time and money to finish the project. That’s when Al stepped in. “I actually painted the car for him, so I was very familiar with the project,” he recalls. “The build was on hold for over a year before it got shipped off to Dukes Speed Shop to complete the chassis, engine, and drivetrain work. My friend needed to dump the project, so I was at the right place at the right time to take it over. I wanted to build a car that straddled the fence between street car and race car, which is very difficult to pull off.”

The car started life as a plain-Jane Rally Nova with yellow paint and a black vinyl top. To prep it for track duty, TNT Specialties built a custom rollcage certified to 8.50. Since the King Street class mandated a stock subframe, it was modified to accommodate custom down bars connecting it to the main ’cage, then fitted with custom control arms and QA1 coilovers. In the rear, the leaf springs got chucked for a custom four-link system. It swings a Chassisworks FAB9 rearend that encases a spool and 4.30:1 gears. Strange Engineering coilovers prop the back end up, while a custom antiroll bar distributes weight transfer evenly between the wheels.

With projected e.t.’s in the low-9s, the Nova needed a serious engine to get it moving out of the hole. To accomplish this, Al opted for a 565ci big-block. The bottom half of the Rat utilizes a Chevrolet Performance Bow Tie block, a forged Eagle crankshaft, Scat steel connecting rods, and Mahle 10.5:1 pistons. Providing the air supply are ported Edelbrock Victor cylinder heads and intake manifold topped by a 1,150-cfm Holley Dominator carb. That many cubes combined with a relatively high (for the street) static compression ratio means that the Rat can handle a lot of cam without sacrificing streetability. As such, it relies on a gigantic 280/292-at-0.050 Erson solid roller cam to kick open the valves. The result is 901 horsepower and 704 lb-ft of torque on pump gas. Coupling the big-block to the FAB9 rearend is a heavily fortified Powerglide trans.

Even with a full interior, the Nova weighs in at a very reasonable 3,100 pounds, including the driver. Al hasn’t taken it down the dragstrip just yet, but his projected low-9-second e.t.’s seem entirely feasible. Furthermore, from its potent-yet-driveable engine and all-business stance to its tasteful interior, Al’s Nova harkens back to the early days of Pro Street when functionality trumped showmanship. This is the real Pro Street. Show cars need not apply.

Powertrain

Under the hood, everything’s big: 901 horsepower, 565 cubic inches, and a 280/292-at-0.050 camshaft. This serious Rat is based on a Chevrolet Performance Bow Tie block that’s been bored to 4.600 inches and fitted with an Eagle 4.250-inch steel crank, Scat H-beam rods, and forged Mahle 10.5:1 pistons. Inward airflow comes courtesy of ported Edelbrock Victor cylinder heads and intake manifold matched with a Holley 1,150-cfm Dominator carb. A massive Erson solid roller camshaft picks the valves up 0.800-inch via Crower pushrods and T&D shaft-mount rockers, while exhaust exits through custom 2.25-inch headers and dual 4-inch Flowmaster mufflers. Thanks to the healthy displacement, peak power arrives at a pedestrian 7,200 rpm, which plays quite nicely with the 704 lb-ft of torque available at 5,700 rpm. A built Powerglide trans, and a spooled Chassisworks FAB9 rearend with 4.30:1 gears completes the balance of the driveline.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Engine View 3/10

Chassis

Since big power and mega tires would twist up the unibody Nova in no time, a TNT Specialties rollcage certified to 8.50 fortifies the chassis. The factory front clip has been modified to accommodate custom down bars and custom tubular front control arms. A custom four-link and an antiroll bar help plant the giant meats. Managing weight transfer are QA1 coilovers up front and Strange Engineering coilovers out back.

Wheels, Tires, Brakes

The classic big ’n’ littles look is accomplished with Holeshot wheels measuring 15x4 and 15x15, front and rear, respectively. They’re wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires that check in at 26x7.50x15 in the front and 33x18.5x15 in the rear. Four-wheel Strange Engineering disc brakes bring the X-body to a halt.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Suspension 4/10

Body

With the exception of the cowl hood, the body is stock. Hardware Kustoms (Ramsey, MN) sprayed the Nova PPG Deltron Black. Krazy Kolors (Minneapolis, MN) laid down the Yenko-inspired graphics.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Headlights 5/10
1972 Chevrolet Nova Taillights 6/10
1972 Chevrolet Nova Emblem 7/10

Interior

The cabin retains most of the stock Nova DNA, but with some purposeful updates. Occupants sit in Kirkey seats and face a custom carbon-fiber dash fitted with Auto Meter instrumentation. A removable custom trans tunnel allows for easy servicing, and the Hurst shifter sits on a custom aluminum console.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Interior 8/10
1972 Chevrolet Nova Gauges 9/10
1972 Chevrolet Nova Trunk 10/10

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