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."
After three months of work, Stacey says it was ready for the first coat of paint, but he'd still not decided on a color. After several trips to the paint store and considering his wife, Jackie's opinion, they agreed on orange with silver stripes. But not just any orange. This is a special custom blend the owner came up with. It's got lots of pearl in it and he laid it down himself. A polished billet grille from Classic Industries and four-inch, pin-on cowl hood from Harwood make the Nova stand out even more. Billet Specialties Street Lite rims (15x3.5 and 15x10) surrounded by Mickey Thompson skinnies and drag radials (15x4.5 and 28x12) complete a stunning look. Back-spacing on the rims is 5.5 for the rear and 1.75 for the front, in case you were wondering.
Stacey and Donny Hunt assembled the 0.030-over 400 small-block. The rotating assembly is all from Eagle. A set of AFR 210 aluminum race heads sit on top and a custom-ground Comp cam with 292 duration and 0.583 lift works the valves. Induction comes from a Professional Products Hurricane intake and Holley 850 cfm carb. Fuel is provided by an Aeromotive A1000 pump. For that always-needed extra horsepower, a Wilson Manifolds Pro Flo nitrous system can provide up to 225 extra stallions. Cooling is courtesy of a Moroso water pump and two-row aluminum Jegs radiator. Schoenfeld 1-7/8-inch headers exhale into a 3-inch Jegs exhaust system with Flowmaster 40-series Delta Flow mufflers.
Nelson Temple Racing Transmissions assembled the Turbo 400 with a TCI reverse valve body and TCI torque converter. Gear changes are executed with a B&M shifter. While the car came with a 9-inch, it was rebuilt by the owner and Ryan Taggart. Stacey and Donny Hunt installed the Detroit Speed minitubs and Smith front clip.Inside, an S-10 front bench seat, recovered by Stacey and Donny in black vinyl, was installed with custom brackets made so it would sit as low as possible. Auto Meter Ultra Lite Phantom gauges keep the driver aware of the engine's vitals and it was Stacey himself who fabricated the custom roll cage.
Stacey wanted to thank Donny because he helped him build the entire car. Rob Costllo was responsible for the final wet-sand, cut and buff on that spectacular paint job. And Ken Clark let him to the paint, bodywork and front and rear suspension installation at his shop. "In my business, my goal is to make what you can't see as nice as what you can see, and I guess that flows over to cars," Stacey relates. While we didn't pull this thing apart, we can tell you from getting up close and personal with it that it is every bit as stunning up close as it appeared when we saw it on the track.