Church Boys Racing 1967 Chevy Nova

From full-out drag car to autocross star in two months

Patrick Hill Feb 1, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Usually when a car becomes dedicated to the quarter-mile life, it’s a marriage with no end other than straight-line warrior. The specialty modifications required to run fast are usually one way, with cages, back halfs, subframe connectors, and other parts being welded onto a chassis usually mean once a Bow Tie becomes a drag racer, it stays a drag racer. But here at Super Chevy, “usually” tends to stay in the back corner, while “unusually” steals the show.

Chuck Church Sr. first built this ’67 Chevy II in 1988 as son Chuck Jr.’s first car for high school. In 1994 Chuck Jr. back-halved the Nova while retaining the front and rear seating arrangements, then went bracket racing weekly until 2001. About 2004 the X-body had a complete paint makeover, and an all-aluminum 421 small-block bolted between the front framerails. This was too much dicey for the car to run safely, so the first Church Boys Racing rack-and-pinion conversion was developed to solve the problem. After that, the Chevy II was running mid-9s at 140 mph.

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In June of 2012, Chuck grew tired of drag racing, and decided to convert the ’67 back into a street car for our Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire. Problem was the event was just two months out. And using a back-halved Nova that hadn’t seen street duty in some time? No small task, but not herculean either when you work for a company that specializes in early Nova suspension upgrades.

Up front, the car has Church Boys Racing’s (CBR) bolt-on upper control arms together with CBR’s latest bolt-in rack-and-pinion conversion. The rack has a quick ratio with three and a half turns lock-to-lock, and eliminates the factory front steer system, allowing for standard oil pan use with any engine. Available in both manual and power versions, the CBR rack works with standard and drop spindles, stock control arms, and is a bolt-in item, meaning it can be removed at any time without having to grind on the front subframe.

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The arms feature billet cross shafts that add ½-inch of camber while increasing front fender lip clearance, and lower the inner pivot of the arm for an improved camber curve that keeps the tires firmly planted on the pavement as the suspension travels its range of motion. These are combined with CBR’s lower control arms that help improve camber while leaving the car’s original track width unaffected. Cushion is provided by a set of Varishock two-inch drop coilovers.

In the back, CBR’s triangulated four-link suspension is employed, using CBR adjustable shocks and 2-inch drop springs.

On the Autocross
If someone hadn’t told me Church Boys Racing had brought me their old 9-second wheelstander ’67 Nova drag car after spending the better part of the past month transforming it into something that thought a corner was cool, I wouldn’t have believed it. One look underneath, however, revealed huge tubs for the huge slicks that once graced the axle flanges and the bracing required to keep that rear planted. The Church Boys swapped the ladder bar set up for their corner-carving triangulated four-link rear held secure by double-adjustable shocks.

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For the front, parts were strengthened and lightened with tubular arms, double-adjustable coilover VariShocks, and a front bar designed to accommodate a wider wheel and tire combo. Coupling all this goodness with great balls o’ drivetrain, awesome brakes, and those amazing Nitto NT01s, on paper things were looking good for me this day.

Predictably, the Nova got off the Start line very well. Unfortunately, with a much smaller front tire, a 235/40ZR17 versus the rears at 315/30ZR17, at the first corner I encountered the dreaded push that almost always presents itself with this size disparity. Unfortunately too, this is the largest tire able to be fitted inside a stock front fender, but I was able to counter the initial corner-entry understeer by lightly “pre-turning” way before my apex. This slowly loaded the front end a little and once set, I could work the steering with throttle and left-foot braking to get the rear coming around. It was doable, but not very comfortable and with a high potential for push if my timing was off, nowhere near predictable. Driven sanely, you’d never notice any of these issues but then what’s sane about flinging a car around a mess o’ cones in a very spirited manner?

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Through the fast slalom was where the Church Boys Nova really shined as it didn’t have to work or load the front end to death. I found the car to be very nimble and precise through here, and if there was an autocross course where the layout was “Death by Slaloms,” then I’d want this slate-grey roller-skate as my ride. Powered by a Mast Motorsport LS3-bassed 416, the Nova quickly made waste of this section, and I found I could almost stand this car on its nose entering the turnaround at the end. Those Wilwood’s were perfectly balanced, and while I could lock the wheels if I tried hard enough, braking feel was linear and of all the cars tested that day, these brakes were the easiest to modulate.

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