Chuck Jackson is a young dog--only 36--but he's a lucky pup, indeed. The older cats who've helped him with his ideas came on like prophets, offering what they knew from years of experience and know-how. Most of all, these angels never failed to encourage Chuck, never failed to keep his spirits up or to prepare him for the next logical step forward. Chuck got the power from several old hands, Gary Guerrero, Jackie Garcia, Gerald Lee, Rito Rios, Mark Millholin, Reese Baker, and "Gray Boy Fred" Stegger among them.
Now backpedal to 1989. A not-so-cherry daily driver '71 Nova belonging to a friend's wife up and died on her. Naturally, it disappeared into the garage and wasn't seen again for 10 years.
"It had a little rust on the quarters, and a few dings and dents, but all the molding and trim were intact." Opening the door put a whole new light on the zygote hot rod. The original 350 small-block and Turbo 350 transmission were still in it. The front seat was a bundle of rags and the headliner had flopped. It needed new floor pans too, but for $350 it was a deal. "We towed my new project home...where it sat for another three years in my garage." Does this have a familiar ring?
Chuck's street driver was an '83 El Camino prodded by an all-iron, low-compression 355. No matter. The whole deal got greased by a drunk driver while Chuck had it parked in front of his crib. Now he had a new drivetrain for his old Nova. He coddled the combo for about a year. In 2002, he changed jobs and met Gerald, who had a '72 Camaro fitted with a juiced small-block that had made its bones on both street and dragstrip. It got Chuck to thinkin'. The two hit it off famously and Gerald didn't waste a minute sharing some of his old street race secrets. They turned the 15-second driver into a high-12-second exciter with some obvious but inexpensive modifications that included a loftier camshaft, Vortec heads, an Air Gap intake, a 750 Holley, slapper bars, and deeper gears.
Then, as it is wont to do in such situations, the worm turned. Street driving morphed into hard-core dragstrip shenanigans. Gary and Jackie took over. They built a nitrous 406 for Chuck and turned him on to the Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA). Suspension upgrades were part of the deal. Now Chuck had a 10-second squeezer. The worm was venomous. It hooked him deep. Chuck had gone into battle with his small-bore automatic and laid down enough fire to win the PSCA Arizona Nationals ('05) and finish 10th in the 10.60 Index class that season.
In early '06, our intrepid racer began hanging out at Hot Rod Performance in Torrance, California. Proprietor Mark Millholin built him a new combo for the PSCA 10.60 class (on the motor). But the 9s beckoned and Mark responded. Reese at HRP rewired the tub; Chuck stuck the Nova with lighter, more responsive front suspension components and beefed up the 8.5-inch axle. HRP plumbed the motor for juice and added more gear to the differential. Finally, to tie it all together, a local shop installed a sturdy 12-point rollcage that laid the structure integrity out evenly.
With the means now at his disposal, Chuck turned to the appearance of his defiler. He wanted smooth and clean, but certainly not ostentation. Subtle but poignant pigmentation was what his all-business bomber needed."The car was running good but still had that ugly, faded gray paint that was on the car when I bought it. My friend Sammy Bonner gave me a 4-inch cowl hood, but it was gold so it wasn't gonna work. Gray Boy Fred took mercy on me and painted it at his house for little more than my labor." Gray Boy also mocked up some contrasting stripes and put 'em to hood.
Chuck's not gonna get off this horse right quick, either. He's got a jones for that 9-second blip. How do we know? There's the matter of that hidden parachute mount.
The big-displacement small-block is quite in vogue, and Chuck has not overlooked it. His combo is based on a 350 cylinder case that's been poked and stroked (4.155x3.875) to 421 ci. Motor Magic (Big River, California) performed the lathe work, and Automotive Balancing Service (Los Angeles) took the burrs off the rotating assembly. The combo lies with a forged Scat arm fitted with CP pistons, Hell Fire rings, and Scat connecting rods. The short-block's hiney was covered with a Moroso oil pan and corresponding oil pump and pick-up.
In the name of efficiency, the motor presents a stout 14.0:1 compression ratio as ensured by the 76cc combustion chambers in the 23-degree AFR (Stage 1) 220 cylinder heads, which are fitted with 2.05/1.60 stainless steel valves. Flow Technology did the porting work, and Isky supplied the valvesprings. Manley did the pushrods, and Jesel made the rocker-arm assemblies. A Crane solid roller imparts 272/276 degrees of duration (at 0.050) and 0.670/0.641 inch lift on a 110-degree lobe circle.
Breathing apparatus is classic: an Edelbrock intake manifold and a Holley HP 950 carburetor. Since there's a graduated 250-shot of NOS ready to rock, the spark kernel had better be fat, vibrant, and reeking of ozone, hence the MSD ignition and total advance of 34 degrees. Hooker Super Comps measure 17⁄8x31⁄2 inches and exit into those rules-required race mufflers.
A Turbo 400 mainstay was tweaked all the way by Lowell's Transmission (Fontana, California), which upgraded its internals and installed a JW Performance Ultra Bell, a 10-inch Continental converter posing a 4,500 stall. A Driveline driveshaft sends the twist to the original 10-bolt housing that's been refried with a Strange spool and axles and a 4.56:1 gearset.
There's black all over the joint, and in this Nova's sphere the contraptions of comfort and convenience are wholly unnecessary, because all the Nova has to do is go quick and fast on a string. The stock interior has accumulated only what Chuck needs for business: Auto Meter Phantom gauges, Pace Car custom bucket seats, and a GT steering wheel. The rocker switches sprouting from the Painless control panel are for the fuel and water pumps, the engine fan, and the nitrous unit and purge system.
Wheels & Brakes
Drag de rigueur: Mickey Thompson ET Front Runners are 26x4.5 on 3.5-inch M/T wheels up front and M/T 28x10.5 ET Drags on 8-inch Center Line Telstars on the rear. Considering function, the brakes are basic: Wilwood four-piston discs and stock drums provide all the stopping power this Nova needs.
Chuck's 421 has never been on a dynamometer of any sort, so forget about instrumented absolutes for horsepower and torque. Suffice it to say that with the driver, the 3,450-pound race weight has pulled out a 10.42 at 128 mph on the motor.
The Nova has been more or less built on a budget, so its modifications have been calculated and critical. Red's Fabrication (Van Nuys, California) responded by welding in subframe connectors, issuing solid body mounts, installing a 12-point 'cage, and relocating the rear shock position for tire clearance as well as better launch characteristics. They rehung the 10-bolt with Calvert Racing monoleaf springs, Cal-Tracs bars, and QA1 single-adjustable shocks. Chuck kept the original spindles but made frontend movement quicker with the addition of Global West tubular upper and lower control arms, Trick coil springs stuck between them, and tempering the assembly with Lakewood 90/10 shock absorbers.
Some minor bodywork included a couple of new front fenders and a bit of dent squashing, but otherwise Chuck's ride was relatively straight and narrow. Fred Stegger applied the Acura Aqua Green to the body and painted the rally strips on the hood by hand in his Inglewood, California, garage. CHP