Craig's '73 Nova History

I've owned this Nova since November 7, 1990. That was my 17th birthday. It started life as a 307 powered, 115hp weakling, but it didn't stay in that form for very long. I started hopping up the 307 almost as soon as I got it home and to this day I haven't stopped improving my Nova. The 307 was eventually built up to about 225 hp with headers, Q-jet and 1.6 rockers. The stock induction and exhaust really had it choked up.

It's not a real SS. I blacked out the grille and replaced the bowtie on the grille with an SS emblem. I also have SS fender emblems and an SS trunk emblem which I'll be adding next time the car gets painted. The existing paint has been on the car since 1990.

The old (pre-'98) motor:
The stock 307 was replaced with a 350, which went with a Turbo 350 tranny, 3.70:1 positraction rearend, and produced a best quarter-mile E.T. of 13.61 @ 101.23 (8.7 in the eighth). I then made some changes (Performer RPM cam, etc.) and dropped to an 8.34 @ 82 eighth-mile and an 1.81 sec. 60' time which would be a very low 13 or maybe a high 12 in the quarter.

This is what the 350 looked like:


The old 383:
I finished building a 383 for my Nova in late 1998. I learned a lot building that engine...from a racing and a street perspective. It pushed my Nova to a best ET of 11.976@111.67 in April of 2000 and I drove it all over the place. It consisted of Dart II heads, Reed custom ground hydraulic cam, Victor Jr. 1 3/4" headers, etc and made about 475-500 hp. Going 11s in a street car had been a goal of mine for a while. But for some strange reason, I sold the Dart heads and Reed custom cam promptly after reaching my goal. Then I started shooting for 10.90s in a streetable package.

Here's the 1998 motor build-up:

And the finished product...

Hmmmm, was it a 200 hp stocker or a 475+ hp stroker motor? Here's a timeslip from April 22, 2000, so judge for yourself (that's me on the right).


By the way, that was an all-steel 3,600 pound car.

I backed that up with a 11.989@111.67 on a pass against a very fast looking and sounding race only Mustang. Too bad he could only muster a 12.27! The Nova ran a best of 111.94 mph with the old 383.

The stock 307:
While building my next 383, I put the orignal stock 307 back in the Nova and it performed rather well, even with mismatched components such as 4.56 gears, 4800 stall converter, single plane intake and 3" exhaust. It went 14.35@93 mph at the 2nd Annual Nova Listserv Gathering in June of 2000. Not bad for a low compression 307 with stock heads and cam.

The new 383:

I finished building a second 383 for my Nova in April 2001. It took over a year to gather all the necessary parts, but it was worth the wait. The somewhat stock look under the hood is gone now, but I don't think that I would have been fooling anyone by painting those aluminum Brodix heads. That mountain of an intake manifold would have been hard to disguise too, so I just left them as is. As a matter of fact, the intake was so tall that the hood wouldn't close, even with the air cleaner and its stud removed. So I had to buy a cowl induction hood. I didn't want to do it, but I didn't have much choice.

The first runs down the track with that 383 were in the 11.90s and with continued tuning, a few part changes and lots of learning, it went a best of 6.63@105 and 10.40@129 on the motor. I toyed with nitrous at the end of the 2004 season and went 6.48@106 with gears and a converter that were not well suited to the nitrous at all. In fact, it was blowing through the converter so badly that it was turning 9000 rpm through the traps! But it survived and the bearings looked great when inspected a couple months later.

UPDATE--5/17/04
The winter brought about a few chassis changes to the Death Nova. I fianlly got around to welding in the subframe connectors, replaced the leaf springs with new CalTrac split mono-leaf springs from Calvert Racing, Koni SPA-1 front drag shocks, Rancho 9000x rear shocks, some more weight was taken out of the car and I cut another coil off the front springs.

The spring started off pretty good with a new personal best ET of 10.40@129. The lower stance really showed up in the trap speed! But things went down hill quickly from there.

First, I took half the teeth off the ring gear, which gave me the opportunity to gear the car for the 1/8th mile racing I've been doing lately. So 5.13s and 30 spline Moser axles went in the 10-bolt, which was topped off with a LPW aluminum girdle rear cover.

On the first night out with the new gears, while tuning it up for the first Ohio Valley Outlaw Street race, I spun the car while going into 3rd gear and put it in the wall. I really thought the car was going to be junked, but once I got a good look at it, I realized it wasn't hurt too bad. A month later, its back together and ready to race. Its still got some signs of damage on the quarter panel, but I can live with that for a little while.

I also had the converter tweaked by my new sponsor, Bradco Engineering of Louisville, KY. If you need an awesome converter, drop me a line and I'll get you in touch with Brad. Hopefully the 60' times will come around (I've decided the 1.38 60' from last fall was a fluke of the timing system) and I can compete pretty well with all the nitrous cars that I race against.

UPDATE--5/24/04
The Death Nova is offically back in action. Took it to Ohio Valley Dragway this past Saturday night to compete in their Entry Street class. The car was a little off from its previous ETs and only went 6.86@101, but I think I found the problem hiding in the throttle cable. It wasn't getting wide open throttle. Hopefully that'll mean a better outing for me next time. I had a lot of fun even though I lost first round and qualified 7th. I was the only car running without nitrous, but at least I wasn't the slowest guy in the show. I was expecting 6.50s, which would have bumped me up a couple notches on the qualifying ladder and given me a much better first round match-up. So I'm hopeful for what future races will hold for me. Best of all, the car went straight and nothing broke!

UPDATE--3/6/05
The '04 race season was one of ups and downs. The collision with the wall was definitely a low point, but I was able to recover quickly and not miss any Ohio Valley Outlaw Street races. The car slowed some from its best motor pass of 6.63@106 in the 1/8th mile during the heat of the summer. Part of that I think was from getting the gears too deep and the converter a little loose. Slowing into the 6.80s was not the hot ticket for going rounds in Entry Street (renamed Outlaw 8.5 for '05), so I decided to play with some nitrous after talking to JE about the light weight Winston Cup pistons. Originally they had said not to use any nitrous with them, but that seemed really conservative, so I called back and got the OK to try a 150-175 hp shot. With a conservative 125 shot, it went 6.48, which let me qualify much better and go some rounds. I finished the year 7th in points, out of about 25 cars, so not too bad for my first full year of competitive heads-up racing. Running for points was pretty cool and hanging out at the track with friends can't be beat. I've got to give thanks to Darren Smith and John Heard for the help with the nitrous, Ken Nickel for hooking me up with some parts and nitrous advice, Brad Ector of Bradco for the converter sponsorship, to Patrick Higginbotham and Chris Allen for being my pit crew. Of course nothing is possible without God and it sure helps having a supportive wife that loves cars and racing!

You can read about my 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 racing seasons here:
Craig's '99 Review
Craig's '00 Review
Craig's '01 Review
Craig's '02 Review
Craig's '03 Review

These are somewhat old, but here are some more shots of my ride...

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Copyright 2009 Bruce Johnson and Craig Watson