When a car gets an editor's attention from 50 feet in the air, you know it's impressive. That was the case at this year's Memphis Super Chevy Show. I'd decided to take in some of the racing from atop the tower suites at Memphis International Raceway. It's a great view not afforded to regular attendees and can make for an unusual vantage point from which to take photos.
That's where I was when this effervescent orange Nova pulled out from staging lanes and into the burnout box for the first round of the Super Chevy True Street Challenge. The pearlescent paint with contrasting metallic silver stripes and blacked-out windows put it on my radar, but that was just for starters. Driver/owner Stacey Warren did a short burnout to get the Mickey Thompson drag radials clean and hot. It sounded healthy, even from my bird's-eye perch. When he launched and clicked off a 10.04 and followed it with a 9.97 at 133, I had a feeling I had a feature car on my hands.
Stacey looked to have the 10-second class sewn up, but he chewed up and threw the fan belt on his last pass, knocking him from contention It wasn't long before I was searching the car out in the pits. It can get a little dicey when you want to feature a drag car. From the top of the tower, the Nova looked spectacular. What would it be like when I got up close for further scrutiny? Torn interior with one seat? Body rot and rust bubbles under a colorful $200 paintjob? Dents on the side I didn't get to see? I've had this happen to me more than a few times.
This wasn't one of them. As I got up close and personal with the Deuce, I was amazed to find a street/strip machine so nice that that had it been on the show side of the event, it could have been in contention for a Best in Class trophy. Interior? Perfect condition with lots of custom touches. The paint was even hotter than it looked from the top of the tower suites, with meticulous bodywork. Engine compartment? Detailed to the nines with a 408-inch small-block making lots and lots of power. Even the trunk area was righteous, earning him an Editor's Choice Top 10 Drag Car award.
Ironically, the owner bought this Nova because his friends were giving him a hard time about his '68 Camaro being too nice to race. They thought he should use the Camaro for shows get another car to beat up on. Novas had caught his eye, so Stacey started looking for one to make his beater when he found this example. The previous owner had stripped out the interior, the first step in it becoming a racecar. It also came with a 9-inch with 4.11 gears, Caltrac bars and split monoleaf springs, and a 700-R4 trans. It was perfect for what Stacey intended.
It was after taking it to a Cruisin' The Coast show in Mississippi in 2011 that work on the X-body began in earnest. "I decided to give the Nova with a basic paint job and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, there was nothing left to take apart," says Stacey, a who owns a building company that specializes in doing repair work to homes damaged by fire, water, natural disasters, etc. "I had stripped it all the way down, including the wiring. I even made a roll-around frame to mount the body on so that I could take the front subframe and rearend out to keep from getting overspray on it while painting."
It was at this point he discovered the front subframe was bent. He found a Smith Racecraft tubular front clip on racingjunk.com, installed it, then got going on the bodywork. He discovered damage to the left rear quarter around the taillight area so he grafted on a quarter from a different Nova, then filled in the side marker lights. He traded his doors for a ventless set from a '73 model, installed them, then smoothed the firewall and "spent countless hours blocking and sanding."