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This 1966 Chevrolet Nova Was Built Like No Other

Dance At Your Own Risk: Dave Terry and friends prosecute his umpteenth L79 Nova

Ro McGonegal Sep 22, 2016
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“My older brother loved cars. When I realized that I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball or football player … I had to have something to do.” So began Dave Terry’s long association with the internal combustion engine and the sheetmetal it adheres to. In those 50 years, he’d built numbers-matching 1966 L79 Novas. He was beyond burnout with that fussy discipline.

“After selling my Nova parts and getting into early Corvettes, a friend brought over a ’66 sedan he’d just bought. It had a MagnaCharger supercharged LS motor in it. I drove it and that was it! It was a rocket—an L79 Nova on steroids,” said Dave, as balls of sweat rolled down his flanks. “Luckily, I’d held onto a sedan. So I got started, tore my car apart and after getting into it, I realized that it needed everything! I’d found it on eBay. It was a lot rustier than advertised.

1966 Pro Touring Nova 18 2/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 04 3/45

“Knowing it wasn’t worth squat torn apart, we decided to go ahead and build it. As such, the philosophy morphed on a familiar sentiment. The goal was to build a ’60’s-style hot rod—something that I would have driven when I was a kid, but with a modern kick.” The “we” Dave refers to includes old friends with expertise in the key realms; each of them putting their own signature to it. Those who prosecuted the Nova with Dave were Tom Thomason, Larry Blalock, Fred Maddox, Mike Lloyd, and Dave’s son J.D.

Aside from actual doing and the Nova’s approximate three-year jail sentence, Dave admitted that the wheels were his biggest concern. “We went back and forth for nearly three years trying to make a decision. Couldn’t be too flashy, but we didn’t want black. We wanted a ’60’s-looking wheel in large diameter.” The cadre couldn’t find what they liked so they torqued their hot-rodding roots and produced one-offs from modified American Racing Gasser hoops treated with a Cerakote finish. The polymer-ceramic coating is designed to minimize surface wear and increase corrosion resistance on everything from metal to plastic. It is commonly used by gunsmiths for the intended purpose as well as to customize appearance with myriad color choice. This is the first instance we’ve seen in an automotive application.

1966 Pro Touring Nova 06 4/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 05 5/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 23 6/45

As for the terminal rot Nova; Tom Thomason ripped out the oxidation, replacing the floor, including the firewall, plus both quarter-panels. The notion of black carries a great responsibility: Black does not compromise. You know the surface has got to be smoother than a baby’s behind. Thomason’s been there before. He knew how to do it. He made no changes to the sheetmetal but had Superior Chrome in Houston plate the bright stuff, and he fashioned inserts for the bumper to provide a mild ram effect from the cool, incoming air. The modification is subtle. You have to look twice.

1966 Pro Touring Nova 07 7/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 42 8/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 28 9/45

Dave maintained the “minimal” philosophy for the interior as well. Radio-delete plate. Stock steering wheel. Clean, simple, pristine. Original instruments enhanced by Shiftworks gauges. Williamson’s Instruments, Inc. (Chester, Arkansas) refurbished a ’60’s-vintage Sun tachometer and Dave hung it on the left side of the steering column just like back in the day. Larry Blalock did the upholstery. After he laid down a blanket of Dynamat he went at the stock seats, rebuilt them and covered them with SMS Auto Fabrics original cloth. He jazzed the door and side panels, making new spreads with SMS pieces crafted to factory specs.

Dave admitted that this was his first LS-powered car. Since he had this proclivity for supercharged air, he wanted a small measure of insurance for the engine, so he liked the LSX376 series for its cast-iron cylinder block, its forged internals, and its low-low 9.0:1 squeeze that he exploited with a Magnuson TVS 2300 blower and limited the positive manifold pressure to 6 psi. He changed the camshaft to a Comp hydraulic with 0.612/0.621-inch lift and 225/235-degrees duration at 0.050. At the wheels, this package puts out 509 hp at 6,500 rpm and 456 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. And Dave wouldn’t be caught with some slushbox underfoot, no. The L79 came with a four-speed, so his modern rendition has one, too, but it comes with that handy double-overdrive feature as well.

1966 Pro Touring Nova 12 10/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 33 11/45
1966 Pro Touring Nova 43 12/45

To lasso the LSX’s grunt and plant it where it does the most good, Dave assigned the chassis changes to Scott’s Hot Rods & Customs in Oxnard, California. Scott’s delivered their subframe front suspension module based on a Mustang II-style assembly with rack steering, tubular A-arms, coilover shocks, and antisway bar. Dave and his impromptu crew played the traction end with a Detroit Speed QUADRALink system. They put up mini-tubs and strengthened the unibody with frame connectors. They massaged the 12-bolt, reducing the distance between those big Ford late-model axle ends so it would fit properly. They inserted 31-spline Strange Engineering axleshafts. To see how it worked, bolted on the 285 Nittos, dropped the hammer and laid rubber. The engine screamed. Dave screamed.

Would Dave Terry do it again? In a heartbeat, he said, but he’d use a rust-free Nova corpse or a C1 Corvette with the same drivetrain. Stay tuned.

1966 Pro Touring Nova 22 13/45

Tech Check
Owner Dave Terry, Edmond, Oklahoma
Vehicle 1966 Nova
Type GMPP LSX376-B15 crate
Displacement 376 ci
Compression Ratio 9.0:1
Bore 4.065 inches
Stroke 3.622 inches
Cylinder Heads LS3 rectangular port, 68cc combustion chambers, 2.16/1.55 valves
Rotating Assembly Forged steel crankshaft, forged powdered metal connecting rods, forged pistons
Valvetrain OE 1.7:1 ratio rockers, Comp Cams lifters, OE springs and retainers
Camshaft Comp Cams hydraulic roller (0.612/0.621-inch lift; 225/235-deg. duration at 0.050, 114 LSA)
Induction Magnuson TVS 2300 supercharger at 6 psi, Rock Valley fuel tank, stainless steel lines, Aeromotive Stealth 340 pump
Ignition LSX controller, OE coil-near-plug
Exhaust Ultimate Headers, 1 7/8-inch primaries, custom 2 1/2-inch system, Hedman Turbo mufflers
Ancillaries Custom aluminum radiator, small-block rocker cover adaptation, 2010 Camaro alternator, custom aluminum radiator core
Machine Work R&P Machine (Tecumseh, OK)
Output (at the wheels) 509 hp at 6,500 rpm, 456 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm
Transmission TREMEC Magnum six-speed, Z06 clutch assembly and flywheel
Rear Axle ’66 Chevrolet 12-bolt (narrowed), late-model Ford ends, Posi-traction differential, 3.73:1 ratio, 31-spline Strange Engineering axles, custom driveshaft
Front Suspension Scott’s Hot Rods & Customs (Oxnard, CA) subframe and Mustang II-style assembly, Aldan coilover shocks
Rear Suspension Detroit Speed QUADRALink, frame connectors and mini-tubs, Aldan coilover shocks
Brakes Wilwood 11-inch discs, four-piston calipers front and rear; Wilwood proportioning valve; stainless steel lines
Wheels & Tires
Wheels American Racing Gasser (Cerakoted) 18x7 front, 18x10 rear
Tires Nitto Extreme 555 225/40 front, 285/40 rear
Upholstery Larry Blalock (Oklahoma City, OK)
Material SMS Auto Fabrics (Canby, OR) factory N.O.S.
Seats OE, OE seatbelts redone
Steering Rack-and-pinion, stock 100-series wheel
Shifter American Powertrain White Lightning
Dash OE
Instrumentation Shiftworks gauges, vintage Sun tachometer
Audio “Who wants a radio in a hot rod?”—D. Terry
HVAC Vintage Air, Old Air Products dash vents
Bodywork Tom’s Country Body Shop (Blanchard, OK)
Paint By Tom Thomason (Blanchard, OK)
Paint BASF Black
Hood OE
Grille OE
Bumpers OE, with custom air-intake inserts


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