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1966 Chevy Nova - Deep Purple

Phil Cooper and his '66 Chevy Nova have been tearing it up street/strip-style for years-including the inaugural Super Chevy True Street race

Thomas J. Lyman Aug 31, 2007
Sucp_0709_02_z 1966_chevy_nova Burnout 2/8

The longest-running trend in the world of hot rodding is the phenomenon of the streetable drag car. Events like the newly created Super Chevy True Street competition, which is being held all over the U.S. at Super Chevy Shows (go to to find a date near you) and other, older events are extremely popular, even after a decade and a half. Regardless of popularity, the idea of driving a car into single digits in the quarter-mile, right after it's been driven around on a multiple-mile road cruise, is quite an impressive feat.

Phil Cooper started his drag racing career years ago-in fact, back in the early '70s, he held countless NHRA and IHRA records in a '65 Chevelle Malibu SS, with a 283 sourced from an earlier racer he owned, a '57 210 sedan. Long story short, Cooper is a competitor in the truest form. He loves nothing more than going fast, and usually goes to just about any length to do so.

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As far as Purple 1 goes, Cooper had decided, after years of contemplating action from the confines of his home, to get off the couch and get back on track. Fast forward to 2002, when, as Phil puts it: "the need for speed reared its ugly head and I had to have a pro street Nova." Cooper started his search, and quickly found a dark purple '66, with a pro street 383 SBC stroker and a fake convertible top-the perfect donor for his project.

"The car was so ugly with that fake convertible top that I didn't even bring it home," Cooper recalled. "I sent it straight to Central Illinois Auto Body and had them remove the cover."

The car was shortly thereafter entered into the 2005 Hot Rod magazine Pump Gas Drags, and to the surprise of both Cooper and close friend Charlie "Crazy Charlie" Smith, the car was accepted by the editors of Hot Rod. However, since the car still had the 383, Cooper and Smith had, at best, a 10- or 11-second car that was going to an 8-second race. Cooper quickly sourced out a race-prepped 457ci Brodix all-aluminum small-block, and sent it (after speaking to Brodix) to Tony Parker Engines in Mendenhall, Mississippi. There, the motor was balanced and blueprinted, a bunch of go-fast goodies were added, and with a nice massage from a modified NOS system, the 457 put out around 726 hp at 6200 rpm, and 690 lb-ft at 6000 rpm.

The nasties are dispatched through Hooker 2-inch ceramic coated headers (modified by Charlie's Performance) and a modified Flowmaster 4-inch exhaust with dual-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. Power gets put to the ground by a TH400 rebuilt by TCI, along with a torque converter from the same company, with a 3200-rpm stall speed. The rear is a Moser-built Ford 9-inch, with 3.70 gears and a Detroit Locker limited-slip. The entire combination was put together at Charlie's Performance.

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The interior is appointed with everything necessary to scourge the car down the dragstrip. The upholstery was done by Superior Interior of Fort Worth, Texas, and is very small airplane-like, with exquisite VDO and Auto Meter gauges. Other highlights in the cabin include the B&M ratchet shifter, Lecarra steering wheel, and an Alston Race Cars custom rollcage. On the outside, the car is far from hard on the eyes. The lovely Purple color that is the car's namesake comes via PPG, and was originally a Honda hue from 2000.

The Nova rips down the track on Cragar Drag Stars up front, tiny 15x4s, and Center Line Convo Pros in the rear, massive 15x15s, with a 4-inch backspace. Front rubber is Mickey Thompson Sportsman skinnies, and Hoosier Quick Time D.O.T.s at the back: wallet-busting 33x17x15s. The suspension is very much a custom job. The front contains Chassis Engineering A-arms and QA1 shocks, while the rear carries a 4-link coilover setup, with QA1s as well, all assembled, again, by Crazy Charlie at Charlie's Performance.

Sucp_0709_05_z 1966_chevy_nova Rear_view 8/8

This car is no stranger to competing, and winning the inaugural Super Chevy True Street competition with a 9.35 average was just another piece of hardware the owner rightly deserves. The best Purple 1 has done is an 8.56 at 159.86 mph. Clearly the need for speed has been satisfied. Or has it?

At the time we went to press, Phil and Crazy Charlie had just put the finishing touches on another '66 Nova, and this time it sounds as if the pair has really gone over the edge.

"It's a streetable, tube-chassis big-block car," Cooper says, "and relatively untested. We hope to have it ironed out pretty soon, and figure it should run in the mid 7s. Our plan is to have both cars out at the Super Chevy True Street event in Joliet, Illinois, in August."

If that's not a call to arms, we don't know what is.



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