Tribute cars, clones, copies-call 'em what you will, but the choice of words in reference to a rare Yenko, COPO, or SS Nova is up for debate, though the term "copies" or "clones" might be a bit harsh since it implies the car was solely built to be auctioned off or sold as something it's not.
Doug Watt didn't know a ton about rare '69 Novas before making his purchase, but he did know there were only 37 original SYC Super Novas built. So when his neighbor pulled up in this classic piece dressed in tribute badges and stripes, Watt instantly made his way over to have a closer look.
His neighbor was in the business of buying and selling vintage tin and took notice of Watt's childlike interest in the car. He asked Watt if he wanted to go for a ride. Once nestled inside, Watt was thoroughly impressed with the state of the cockpit's original black interior and that unmistakable vintage musclecar smell. It only took a single heavy hit on the throttle to wrap a smile across his face, so much so that he asked his neighbor what the asking price was for the stellar piece. The owner laid down a price and Watt slammed the proverbial gavel. "Sold!"
Watt has spent the last 20 or so years working on nitro cars, so he wasn't really much into the musclecar thing-as a race car, anyway. But as Watt points out, "This wasn't just any musclecar; this car represents an era of time when you could walk into a dealership, buy a car, slap on a set of slicks, and go win races at the dragstrip."
Once the car was legally in Watt's hands, he added a few personal touches to make the car seem more original and bring the car up to his standards.
Right off the bat, Watt ditched the aftermarket cassette player in favor of a stock-appearing AM radio. The radiator was rebuilt with an extra core since he knew the antique system wouldn't be able to handle cooling the big-block mill, especially for what he had in store for the car.
With little information about the engine's specs, Watt was a bit curious. As luck would have it, he happened to be making the rounds at a local auto swapmeet when he noticed a table set up with a photo album featuring pictures of cars a vendor had laid out to promote his engine-building business. Lo and behold, there it was-Watt's blue Nova in Bob McKean's Vintage Motors photo album. "I couldn't believe it; there was my car," Watt said. "So I told him I now own the car and was searching out information on the engine build. Bob has since been great in giving me all the information I've ever needed on the SS 396 model."
C&J Automotive in Whittier, California, prepped the Holley 3310-3 that sits promptly atop an Edelbrock Performer 2 intake, while a Carter Super Street fuel pump keeps the octane free flowing. The cam consists of a Comp Cams 11-218-4 model with .561 lift and a duration of 282 degrees on the intake and exhaust side.
To keep the traditional look in check, 15-inch American five-spokes wrapped in BFG radial T/As reside on all four corners. For track days, Watt straps on a set of Mickey Thompson Drag Masters. There's just no way the BFGs could tame all that big-block torque.
As it sits now, a Turbo 400 relays power to the Posi-stuffed 12-bolt, but Watt is looking forward to reducing drivetrain drag, so he's in the midst of installing a high-performance 200-R4 built by MPH Crate Transmissions in Santa Ana, California. "This trans uses bearings instead of bushings, so it will run cooler, reduce drag, and be plenty strong," Watt said.
Recently tested on the Source Interlink Mustang chassis dyno, the 427 belted out 276 hp and 307 lb-ft of torque at 5,300 rpm. With a best quarter-mile timeslip of 13.21 @ 105.6 mph, Watt's confident the numbers will improve once the new tranny is in place.
Watt spends much of his free time crewing on Top Fuel and A/Fuel dragsters. "I've seen thousands of cars go down the track," he tells us, "but I've never staged a car until I bought this Nova."
Since purchasing the car, Watt has become a quarter-mile junkie. He makes it a point to hit as many local street-legal drags whenever possible. When he's not at the track, you can find Watt at a number of Southern California weekend cruise spots. Although Watt isn't real big into the car show deal, his Nova has brought in a few awards, including the Mighty Muscle Car trophy at a Goodguys Pomona event a couple of years ago.
Sure, this car isn't an honest to goodness Yenko Deuce, but it is a real Nova, and it pays tribute to a legendary musclecar that any classic car enthusiast can appreciate.