The art of deception is one of the many tools racers have in their bag of tricks when face to face with hard-nosed competition. Some may call it lying, others call it cheating, but at the end of the day, the victor is the one who crosses the finish line first.
True magicians of deception have you looking at their left hand, while the other hand is making a few hundred horsepower right before your eyes. Not only do they smirk at your cockiness in the pits, but they also laugh as they blow by-leaving you without a ride and without your woman. To call this Yenko magical would be an understatement.
John LaRue's '70 Yenko Nova clone has appeal as a bonafide show-worthy re-creation, with matching 427 emblems and that unmistakable Yenko stripe across the entire length of its profile. We've all seen our share of street/strip cars over the years, and this Nova looked like any other 11.80 hot rod. And that faade was no accident.
"I wanted this car to look like an 11-second bracket car, kinda like if I took a real Yenko in 1970 and threw some slicks on it," said John.
As he pulled up to the starting line at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, on the day of our feature shoot, John wet the tires with a quick blip of the gas, pumped up the line lock and mashed the throttle. I immediately knew this was no ordinary weekend driver. The entire body of the car shook violently to an impressive scream of big-block Chevy horsepower, plenty of compression, and a mountain of cam lift. He pulled to the line, foot-braked to 2,000 rpm, and let the big dog eat. The Yenko left like a rocket ship with the front wheels dangling in the sky. He pulled Second gear while still staring at stars and destroyed the quarter-mile in 8.90 seconds at 151 mph.
Powering the ridiculous string of high 8-second passes that John put on the scoreboard is a 565-cube Chevy that he and his daughter, Alexa, assembled. They used a GM Bow Tie steel block with a 4.60-inch bore and 4.25-inch stroke filled with a Callies billet crankshaft, Oliver rods, and 15:1 JE pistons. The valvetrain is entirely roller with a custom Bullet camshaft at the heart of the operation, measuring .798-inch intake and .823-inch lift on the exhaust.
The cylinder heads are aluminum Dart 355s topped with an Edelbrock Victor Jr. and 1,250-cfm Nickerson Performance Holley up top. To ensure streetability, he used Jet Hot-coated Hooker headers backed by a full 4-inch Flowmaster exhaust system.
The drivetrain consists of a TH400 transmission built by Somerset Trans Shop with a Coan 5,500-rpm stall converter and Mark Williams steel driveshaft with billet yolks. The 12-bolt rear-end, like just about everything else on this car, was assembled by John with 4.10 Richmond pro gears, and custom lightened axles/spool, also by Mark Williams Enterprises.
Completing the rear suspension are QA1 1-inch drop springs, double-adjustable shocks, and custom-made ladder bars. Up front, John installed TRW 1-inch drop tubular A-arms, GM small-block front springs, and QA1 shocks, providing a total drop of 2-inch up front.
When it comes to brakes on a 150-plus-mph car, the lighter, the better, so John used Aerospace 11-inch disc brakes on all four corners with 4-piston calipers to minimize rotation mass, as well as provide enough stopping power to get to cruising speed from well above a buck and a half.
The exterior is coated in a quiet but classy Brandywine Fire Mist, applied by Strictly Corvettes of Trenton, New Jersey. The interior is once again in typical Super Chevy style. Simple and clean with only the essentials: a Grant reproduction steering wheel, black carpet, black seats, Auto Meter liquid-filled gauges, and a Cheetah SCS shifter-all encased by an full 12-point roll cage certified to 8.50.
While at the National Lake George car show in upstate New York, John was a finalist for the grand prize. "They had us drive up the main drag before picking the winner," John recalls. "So, I pulled in front of the judges, set the trans brake, and did a huge wheelstand for about a hundred feet. I knew they were going to give me the award after that, but thought it was also coming with a jail sentence." Luckily, it didn't.
John's Yenko is definitely on the ragged edge for a street car-giant displacement, a camshaft of ungodly proportion, enough compression to rival diesel trucks, but with streetability, and a wheels-up launch on command. At our track day, he put up a best time of 8.799-seconds at 153.23 mph.
Oh yeah-as if you weren't jealous enough, sitting next to the Yenko in his garage is a 32-valve ZR-1 Corvette that John bought new in 1991.