Organized Street Legal Drag Racing has a profound way of pushing racers thanks to an ever-tightening rulebook and even tougher competitors. It is through those two groups of people that CHP arrived at its latest engine building adventure-a 598ci engine by Pettis Performance. CHP Editor Henry De Los Santos and his longtime racing partner Artis Houston conceived the project as Artis' '71 Nova was falling a step behind in the tough PSCA Wild Street category. This isn't the first collaboration between the two speed freaks; Henry stuffed a different 598 in the Nova back in '06. From there they had refined the nitrous-gulping big-block and the Nova eventually dipped into the 7s with a 7.90 at 176 mph on a set of 275 drag radials.
The rank's competitiveness motivated Henry to go back to the drawing board- along with Pettis Performance and Artis-to develop a 598ci powerplant using what the team had learned with its previous engine and the 540ci bullet before then. On the Outlaw scene, the turbos and superchargers run unrestricted and pretty much dominate many of the popular classes. However, in organized Street Legal drag racing sanctioning bodies-like the NMCA, WCHRA, and PSCA- the power adders are restricted and the tech officials attempt to keep the playing field level between the nitrous, blower, and turbo combinations.
The Wild Street rules offer various weight breaks for nitrous-enhanced big-block engines. While the rules tend to change; at the time, the California-based racers opted to stay with the 598-cid, where the Nova could run at a minimum of 3,325 pounds. If a smaller displacement (up to 550ci) was utilized, the car could have run the scales at 3,175-pounds. Adding a sheetmetal intake, like on this engine, carried an additional 50-pound penalty, and if you ran anything but conventional heads with plus or minus 3 degree valve angle, they would have to add another 50 pounds. Instead, they decided take advantage of the weight break and stick with a conventional set of heads, namely the Edelbrock Victor 24-degree units. Keep in mind that this sounds great in theory; however, it wasn't until recently that they were able to make use of these weight breaks and go from well over 3,400 pounds to 3,330 with the addition of a one-piece front clip and Lexan windows.
Still, don't let the conventional heads and mild cubes (for today's racing standards anyway) fool ya; this engine is capable of serious power. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves; this engine made over 1,100 hp-without the Induction Solutions (Steve Johnson) three-stage nitrous system turned on. It's a lot of power for the faint of heart but a great starting point in the Wild Street game. Since '06, the class record has jumped down to a 7.66 at 184 mph, which was recorded by Chris Groves in his ProCharger-powered Mustang LX coupe. "We also went with the bigger motor to keep up with the blower and turbo combinations," commented Henry and one look at the event results shows the blower and turbo combos are flat-out flying.