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Supercharged 1969 Chevy Nova - High School Confidential

From Being A 15-Year-Old's Hot Rod To Super Chevy Cover Car, This 1,500hp Nova Has Seen It All.

Jim Campisano Aug 1, 2008
Sucp_0808_01_z Supercharged_1969_chevy_nova Front_view 2/17

I've always wanted a 7-second street car, but I'm not saying I have one until it goes down the track." So said the owner of this '69 Nova, Denny Durbin, whose name has been on the pink slip of this particular car for 30 years.

It's the first car he ever owned, and Denny bought it when he was just 15. Suffice to say, he's been modifying it ever since. It's the car he took to his high school proms, and it's seen a number of different transformations. He's made a lot of memories in the car, both in the front seat and the back.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. At the Super Chevy Show in Virginia, Tech Editor Dan Ryder and Associate Editor Mike Ficacci were on specific assignment from the powers that be to find the hot rod for the cover of this issue. They were instructed to find a show-worthy supercharged big-block '68-72 Nova that not only turns heads, but makes them spin around. And if it could scream down the quarter-mile in 8 seconds or less, so much the better. (The boss knows exactly what he wants.)

Sucp_0808_02_z Supercharged_1969_chevy_nova Gear 3/17

Well, that shouldn't be too difficult ... yeah, right! Next assignment-go find D. B. Cooper. These men went to the show with their orders (and their fingers crossed) and drove not 60 feet into Virginia Motorsports Park before eyeballing this dream machine. Long story short, after frantically phoning in their discovery, they set up a shoot two days later, and with a little Super Chevy magic, on the cover sits this eye-catching, supercharged monster with at least 1,500 horsepower.

Since purchasing it in 1977, Denny has filled her with aftermarket goodies, taken it all apart, and started over again. When he got it, it was every high school hot rodder's dream, circa 1977: "It was all original, but it was a 350 car, and it had a 396 and an automatic," Denny recalled. "It had Cragars on it and air shocks and was jacked up in the back. It was the hottest car in school."

But that was many turns of a wrench ago. The current build, which he did in his two-car attached garage (including paint!), took five solid years. We asked Denny about his goal for this build and loved his answer: "I want this street car to run 7s. If it doesn't, I'll make more power," he said.

Sucp_0808_04_z Supercharged_1969_chevy_nova Suspension 4/17

While we craved a supercharged Nova for the cover, we never expected to find one with a PSI screw-type blower off an Alcohol Funny Car. There were a number of issues associated with setting up the unit for gasoline, including clearancing the rotors and opening up the bottom of the case for more airflow. And since no one had ever set up that injection system for street use, the whole thing had to be fabricated. According to the owner, there are close to 50 pieces that were custom-made by Tom Reed of Reed's Welding. Denny had to experiment there as well. He runs 45-psi FAST injectors into the lower manifold and 95s up top. Running everything is a FAST computer tuned by Bill Anderson.

Sitting under the monster huffer is a Roche Racing Engines 540ci big-block. Brian Roche used Dart Big M 410cc aluminum cylinder heads, 7.5:1 Arias pistons, a Comp Cams roller camshaft measuring 0.750/.750-inch lift and 280 degrees duration, a Sonny Bryant custom crankshaft, and a BDS Competition intake manifold.

Sucp_0808_09_z Supercharged_1969_chevy_nova Trunk 8/17

The Performance Systems Inc. supercharger is 67 percent overdrive, creating a whopping 18 psi of boost. This definitely requires race fuel. The engine was tuned on a chassis dyno capable of 1,200 horsepower, but the shop owner was afraid the monster Rat would break the dynamometer and wouldn't let Denny mash the throttle. Denny estimates there is some 1,500 horsepower at the wheels.

Backing all that horsepower is a Turbo 400 three-speed transmission built by Vince Fourcade, and an ATI 3,500-rpm stall converter. Down the line is a four-inch steel driveshaft bolting up to a Chevrolet 12-bolt rearend with 4.10 Richmond pro gears. Who says the GM 12-bolt can't hold up in a car like this?

Support all the way around is courtesy of Weld Magnum Drag wheels (15x4 front; 15x15 back) wrapped in Mickey Thompson skins (26x7.5 front; 33x18.5 back), with 12-inch Wilwood rotors tucked up inside. This hot rod is just inches from the ground and supplied with Chris Alston's Chassisworks A-arms and Afco shocks and springs holding up the front end and a four-link suspension out back, also fitted with Chris Alston's Chassisworks goodies. Denny is proud to say that just about every part that went into this car, including the full tube chassis and suspension, is of his own making with help from friends, including Kayo Clark (sheetmetal) and Steve Bell from Bell's Trim and Design (interior).

Sucp_0808_11_z Supercharged_1969_chevy_nova Rims 9/17

More than the ginormous supercharger, what first attracted our editors to the car was it exterior. House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl paint covers this Nova and makes its stand out from the rest. Even through the thick Virginia clouds, they were instantly drawn to the aura this car seemed to emit. Denny painted it himself in his garage and should be proud of his work. After spraying the Tangelo Pearl, he applied countless stages of clearcoat with gold pearl within, making the shine simply breathtaking.

The interior is as to be expected for a car that will run over 170 mph in the quarter-mile, filled with black Kirkey racing seats, black carpets by Bell's, and Auto Meter gauges. The shifter is a Hurst Quarter Stick II, and the steering wheel is courtesy of Lecarra.

All in all, we cannot wait to see this car on the track. All that's keeping it from a bunch of full 1320 passes are the finishing touches on the computer tune and Denny installing a wheelie bar. He's hoping to have it on track by the time you read this. Stay tuned to for updates, photos, and videos of this amazing machine's trip down the quarter-mile.



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