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Radical 1966 Chevrolet Box Nova Will Leave You Holding on for Dear Life!

White Knuckler

Scotty Lachenauer Nov 3, 2016
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When Mike Raup was an impressionable pre-teen, the youngster would ride along on his bike and watch the neighborhood motorheads wrench on their cars out in their driveways. It was here where the local car culture was instilled in young Mike, and later on it pushed him to purchase a basic, hot-roddable street car when he turned 16 and received his learners permit. That car; well, it was a stout ’71 Chevy Nova acquired with a $1,300 loan from his dad.

By the time he had graduated to full-time driver, Mike and his friends were out on weekend nights, betting their small-time paychecks and participating in local street races in and around his hometown of Laurel, Maryland. What money ended up in his wallet at the end of the night was re-invested into the Nova to help build it into a well-rounded, top performer out on the street.

Mike’s first employment was at a local Jaguar dealer doing the things that a kid with his first job normally does: cleaning cars, rustproofing rides, and getting Jags ready for shipment. But soon he found himself at Thomas Garage, a local auto repair shop, where he would learn the basics of the car repair technician trade. Owner Joe Thomas showed him the ropes and instilled in Mike the values of an honest, hard-working neighborhood mechanic. Mike would then head back to Jaguar where he gained both his ASE and Jaguar technician certifications, to help build a career keeping these classy British rides on the road.

1966 Chevrolet Nova Front 2/20
1966 Chevrolet Nova Engine Bay 3/20
1966 Chevrolet Nova Rollcage 4/20

Over the years Mike reminisced about that first Nova, and entertained the thought of getting back into a sweet example of the compact Chevy ride. But this time around he was more interested in finding a Chevy II to build his dream car from, as the boxy sedan’s style was always a favorite of his. So in 2004, after a few years of searching, Mike saw an interesting ad in Racing Junk magazine for a roller car. And even though the car was located in Morristown, Tennessee, nearly 500 miles away, Mike didn’t hesitate borrowing a trailer and heading to the Volunteer state to take a closer look.

Unfortunately, the car’s condition was not as advertised. The Nova was missing many parts, including important things like the engine, trans, all the glass and the floors! But that sight brought out the inner savior in good ol’ Mike as he then decided that this car needed to be saved, and he was just the guy to do it. So he loaded up the boxes of parts, and the spent carcass of the Chevy and brought it all back to Maryland for the start of what turned out to be a 7-year rebuild. Mike’s goal; to build a nice, clean Pro Street-style ride sporting outlaw good looks, a high-horsepower mill, and a killer stance to die for. And Mike knew he was the guy to pull it all together and get it done.

Once back from Tennessee, Mike started a plan on how to bring this Nova back to life. His first step was to contact Rob Hamilton at AutoFab Race Cars in nearby Elkridge, Maryland, to see about getting the initial frame and tin work done. Unfortunately, it took over a year and a half to get the Nova a spot in the popular shop. Once there, the build moved steadily, taking 18 months to get the chromoly chassis built and the car’s stainless metalwork completed.

1966 Chevrolet Nova Rear 5/20
1966 Chevrolet Nova Side View 9/20

From there, the chassis came back to Mike’s shop where he would take on the Nova during his downtime. Having a growing family, free time didn’t come too easy, and Mike did the best he could, hammering away at the Box whenever possible. It was a big project to tackle, but Mike was up to the task of bringing this build to a whole new level.

Mike grappled with the extensive bodywork, stitching on fresh Goodmark panels to get the body up to snuff. A Harwood 4-inch rise show hood was chosen to encase the future powerplant. Since this project came with few parts, he had to source many of the key ingredients that make up these compact Chevys. Luckily, practically every part is available for Novas, and thus all the notable parts needed, including the glass and trim, were easily found and purchased.

Once the body started to come together, Mike keyed on building the powerplant that would propel this Nova out on the streets. He started with a Brodix all-aluminum small-block, which was punched out to a full 442 cubic inches. Pro Action 14-degree heads top the cylinders, which are filled with JE pistons. These slugs push the compression to a massive 15.06:1. To keep this beast fed, a Hogan 4500 series intake is topped by a pair of 1,050-cfm DaVinci carburetors. A Moroso single-stage fuel pump keeps this engine lubed and ready to run and an MSD 7AL-3 ignition control system handles the spark. The build is finished off with a Cloyes timing chain to keep all this GM-flavored goodness in sync.

1966 Chevrolet Nova Interior Gauges 10/20
1966 Chevrolet Nova Shifter 11/20
1966 Chevrolet Nova Interior 12/20

A Turbo 400 short shaft transmission with a reverse manual valvebody gets this ride through the gears. An ATI 4,500-stall converter was added to this rodder’s recipe for more horses at takeoff. All that power is sent out back to a built Ford 9-inch rear stuffed with 4.10 gears. The differential sports a Strange Ultra centersection and it twists Strange 38-spline axles. AlumaStar wheels, 15x3.5 up front and 15x15 out back, are shod with Hoosier Draglites and 31x18.5x15 Hoosier Quick Time Pros, respectively. Wilwood disc brakes at all four corners give this Nova serious stopping power.

The cockpit on this Pro Street behemoth is a thing of beauty. A custom dash is filled with Auto Meter gauges to help keep tabs on all the muscle under the hood. A B&M shifter gets this Nova through the gears with Pro Street style. Polished Kirkey Racing seats add a little bling to the Nova’s control center and work well with the Lecarra steering wheel and billet steering column. Stock carpet and door panels give the interior a mid-’60’s perfect look.

The trunk is as nice as the interior, complete with stainless tubs and a Jaz Racing fuel cell. A Magna Fuel pump gets the juice to the Chevy powerplant. A pair of Optima Red-Top batteries handles the duties of keeping this bad boy charged, and in-charge.! The car is skinned in Axalta two-stage paint in Arctic White, a 1968 Buick Riviera hue that just hit a note with Mike. Along with the black interior, it’s just the way the owner envisioned this Nova from the get-go.

1966 Chevrolet Performance Nova Engine 13/20
1966 Chevrolet Nova Grille 14/20

Today, along with good friend Shane Ewing, Mike co-owns English Auto LLC, a full-service Jaguar and Land Rover repair facility in Odenton, Maryland. In his off-time, Mike makes the rounds with his potent Bow Tie Box, getting the car out on the street whenever possible. Future plans for the Nova are to hit the major indoor and outdoor shows and to continue competing in the ISCA. The stunning Chevy is currently pounding out over 850 hp and 676 lb-ft of torque at the crank; a massive number for any naturally aspirated ride, let alone one with show car looks.

Thanks go out to Mike’s wife, Dawn, and his children Melanie, Michael, and Megan, as well as future son-in-law Wesley Knightstep for their help and support during the build. Additional shout-outs go to John Thomas for his help with body and paint, Ray Boteler for engine and exhaust work, and Shane Ewing who helped in tracking down Nova parts and pertinent pieces. Mike knows he couldn’t have built this “Baddass Box” without the help. The White Knuckler … no doubt the title says it all.

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