A Fun 1966 Nova with 1,250 HP On Tap

Car guys come in many shapes and sizes. There are those who like to restore their car to better than new condition, others who like personalize their rides to suit their personal taste and others who like to go bat s**t crazy. Brian from Pennsylvania falls into the latter category with his 1966 Chevrolet Nova.


1966 Nova 5Brian really loves 1960 muscle cars, especially when they say Chrevrolet on the trunk lid.   His favorite are the early Novas. In fact, he already has a few examples sitting in his garage at home.

1966 Nova 1

In 2009, he got an itch to add a hard-core Nova could drive on the streets. He had been to more than a few custom car shows in his time and there was one particular ’66 that would show up every now and then. The car was so-over-the top that it left a lasting impression on him. He called his friend Lonny, the proprietors of East Coast Muscle Cars to see if they about the fabled Nova. Not only did they know about, they knew the owner as well.

1966 Nova 3

Once in contact with the owners, Brian set about negotiating to buy the car. When a price was agreed upon, he headed up to Maryland to look at the car.

1966 Nova 4

The Nova in question had left the factory just like any other Nova at the time. Sometime in the 1980s, it underwent a massive transformation into a Pro Mod race car. It was rebuilt on a 2×3-inch box-tube chassis and had a very aggressive stance. With a massive BDS blower through the hood, the car saw track duty until the mid 1990s whereupon it was converted into a street/show car.

1966 Nova 7

By the time Bryan reached Maryland, what he was looking at did not match the memory he had of the car. It was completely dissembled and in boxes. However, the condition before him did not bother Bryan in the slightest as he put in an offer on the spot. With the skeleton and parts of the Nova on his trailer, he headed back to Pennsylvania.

1966 Nova 6

Back home, Bryan knew exactly what he wanted, the hard-core look without so much of the race car. He and his team started going through their prize and the first order of business was the body. Prepping the body, Bryan opted for black while Lonny wanted to add some graphics. With a compromise reached, the bodywork commenced.

1966 Nova 9


With the bodywork completed, the next order of business was the engine. After a review of what came with the car, the decision was made to start over. They went about putting together a streetable big-block to support the massive BDS blower. Ending up with 540 cubic inches, the engine has a forged crankshaft and pistons with a compression ratio of 8.0:1. A pair of Dart cylinder heads housing Cam Motion camshaft sits atop the block.

1966 Nova 14

Wanting to keep the blower from the Nova’s racing days, he had it refreshed to run at 25 psi, fed by a pair of Holley 1,050-cfm carburetors. Exhaust gases are sent out a set of custom 2 3/8-inch headers, connected to 4-inch pipes.

1966 Nova 13

Behind the engine resides a Lenco four-speed gearbox connected to a McLeod RXT clutch and pressure plate. Power is driven to the rear wheels through a Strange driveshaft attached to a thinned Dana 60 housing 4.10 gears. The end result is 1,250 horsepower and 1,035 pound feet of torque at 4,800 rpms.   As you can imagine, this is more than enough power to get into trouble if not exercised with restraint.

1966 Nova 8

With the engine and body done, next up was the suspension system. Up front, there are Strange struts, adjustable shocks, and a 6-inch drop spindle. Stopping power to the front wheels come in the form of Strange disc brakes and calipers. Capping the front are a set of 15×3.5 American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels wrapped in Moroso tires.

1966 Nova 11

The rear of the car is pretty much running the same formula and connected to massive 15×14 Weld racing wheels wrapped with Mick Thompson ET-Street tires sized 33×18.5.x15.

With only the interior remaining, Brian opted to cover the racing interior in black UltraLeather. To keep on top of the engine, Bryan installed a new instrument cluster and with the addition of some carpet and leather wrapped racing seats, the project was complete.

From start to end, the entire project took two years to complete. Bryan loves the result and says he needs a passenger to watch over the right side of the roadway as he drives. Even with the completed ’66 Nova that first attracted him, it continues to have an impact on Bryan. He is building two similar Novas for his wife and son.

Categories: Gear Grinding

Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.