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1966 Chevy Nova Drag Car - The Horsepower Connection

Twelve Years And 1,236 Horses Later, This '66 Nova Is Attacking The Track With Mind-Bending Fury

Mike Harrington May 1, 2008
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Big things truly do come in small packages. In the natural world, take, for example, badgers and wolverines, small ferocious animals that can tackle an opponent many times larger than themselves. For a mechanical example of this in the hot rod world, look no further than Brian Macy's super sick '66 Nova. This Chevy II is throwing out more than 1,200 horses, and it's fearless when combating asthmatic Fords and rusted-out Mopars.

With more than 1,236 horses at the rear wheels, you'd think this purpose-built car would have shed many of its OE features. Not so. The hand-crank windows and glass are still present and operating, as are the turn signals, taillights, and headlights. And yes, this Nova can be driven on the street should the thought cross Brian's mind. Ideas like these can get a fella into some trouble, and that's why you'll likely find Brian and the Nova at the local Seattle quarter-mile track rather than the slick local roads.

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This tale takes it roots 12-plus years ago when Brian first purchased the box Nova. As the years progressed, so did the little Chevy. Numerous engine swaps, upgrades, and suspension alterations are a part of the Nova's colorful past. All these upgrades and the quest for bigger power in smaller-displacement engines eventually led Brian to a career change that deals strictly with engine tuning.

So what is his secret? First, Brian has a sweetheart of a wife who let him store all his engine parts in her closet. Soon the closet was full and it was time to build his dream 434ci small-block. Along with race partner Jim Rowoldt, they met up with Britco Racing Engines in Centralia, Washington, and soon thereafter a nitrous-fed 434 Mouse rested under the Nova's hood. The Nova and its new mill ran a best of 9.33 at 155 mph. Not bad, but not good enough. For Brian and Jim, the nitrous bottle just wasn't a consistent form of power.

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After one season of sucking on the bottle, all the nitrous equipment was sold off; it was time for some power that would always be present. During this time Brian turned to the art of EFI tuning. After a thorough immersion into this newfangled way of engine tuning, he headed to Precision Turbo and Engine and walked away with a 106mm turbocharger.

Back at Britco Racing Engines, the 434 was reduced to 406ci. The engine's reworking included new pistons, exhaust valves, and perhaps the most difficult task of all, fitting and fabricating the turbo headers and intercooler, then getting it to fit in the saltine box-sized engine bay.

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So what does this dangerous new engine have in it? Like any competitive championship racer, Brian didn't reveal all his secrets to us, but this much he did tell: The cylinders have been bored to 4.124 inches and stroked at 3.75 inches with a Callies crank. AFR model 227 heads and JE Extreme turbo pistons compress the air and fuel into a 9:1 compression. The cam is from Comp Cams, but the lift and duration are super secret, and telling us would mean a trip to the nearest lake with a pair of cement galoshes. A Dart 4150 intake tops the engine with a FAST fuel-injection system. The water-to-air intercooled 106mm turbo force-feeds a wicked 30 psi into the engine.

As Brian dove deeper into the EFI world and tuning, he and Jim soon became so adept that they quit their day jobs, bought a chassis dyno, and started their own speed shop called the Horsepower Connection in Lacey, Washington. Currently, the Nova's lowest e.t. is 7.80 seconds at 180 mph. Not bad for a car that weighs 3,500 pounds and runs 315x60x15 Mickey Thompson tires. By the way, they had to add some weight to the car to compete in their particular PSCA class.

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During the flurry of engine development, friend and body technician "Bondo" Bob took the Nova into his care and reworked the body to include new Harwood fiberglass fenders and a hood. The rear quarterpanels were also stretched four inches during all this construction. Travos Moore took possession of the Nova after "Bondo" Bob shot the color and took care of the Nova's graphic work.

Twelve years in the making and 1,236-plus horses later, this Nova could very well be done, but most real hot rods are never complete-there's always something more. Let's see what the future holds for the Horsepower Connection Chevy II.



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