1971 Chevy Nova Track Problems - Shop Talk

Making A Comeback
It's been a case of nightmares and fairy tales, but truth be told, we've been having a tough time this year on the 275 drag radials. Several years ago we teamed up with Artis Houston and dropped in our 598ci big-block into his ultra-clean '71 Nova. While it proved to be a serious learning curve, we eventually succeeded with a record-setting pass and a win at the '07 PSCA finals.

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Fast forward to today and it's been a rough year. During last year's off-season, we had a new 598ci bullet built by Jason Pettis of Pettis Performance in Hesperia, California-we have the complete engine build coming in the next few issues, so I can't give away the exact details just yet. However, I'll say that we're probably right up there as having one of the best horsepower mills with a conventional 24-degree cylinder head in the country! Yes, that's a strong statement, but we have the dyno and performance numbers to prove it.

Before I get too ahead of myself, our initial trip to the track with the new engine was impressive with consistent bottom 8-second runs. So far so good, but somewhere along the way, a few changes here and there completely altered everything and we were back to square one and starting from scratch all over again.

Through the remainder of the season, our performance started to improve and we were eventually creeping up on the tune-unfortunately, a stuck throttle at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California, resulted in hitting the wall at well over 100 mph.

Thankfully, Artis walked away unscathed. Understandably upset, but he was safe and that's all that mattered. Of course we all thought the season was over, but we couldn't have been more wrong about that. The elusive 7-second pass with the new combo was right around the corner and we could all taste it.

The good news is that with a lot of support from family and friends, the '71 Nova was revived in a five short weeks, looking better than ever and even making it to the '09 Street Car Super Nationals in Las Vegas.

Props go to Luis Ceballos from Symbolic Collision Repair, Rick Snavely for welding in the new subframe, and Darin Boelman from Circuitz Custom Wiring. Last but not least, we can't thank our crew chief, Mike Saiki, enough. As the owner of Motivational Engineering in Carson, California, he literally closed his shop for two weeks and worked nonstop to get the Nova back together in full competition form.

All said and done, we finished this year by making it to the semifinals in a 15-car field, ran a string of 7s, and improved our prior 7.903 at 176 mph best with a 7.82 at 182.58 mph. You better believe a few eyes opened up that weekend, including mine. And for those of you wondering how to do something similar, all I can say is that it takes a crew of dedicated people to make it happen. And I mean everyone, including those who can make it to the race to be an extra hand to shuttling various components to get the car together. Along with those I've already mention, thanks also go to Dario Yancy, Brian Peterson, John Urgo, Rocco Acerrio, Joel Orme, and Mark Washington-2010 should be a good year and I'm already pumped for it.

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