I admire those cats who do the most with the least. I admire those who peel the bankroll only at the last moment, as a last resort. I admire those who would rather use their head and hands first, build their own stuff instead of forking over a pile of fun tickets for something that anybody can buy. But sometimes there is no choice and they are bound to work with what they've got and take it as far as they can.
When I asked Editor H where Justin Brayman, the owner of this '71 Nova, lived, he said "He's in Florida, your neighborhood, New Port Richey." "Nah!" I croaked. "What street?" "He's about three blocks from your house," said Henry.
No tellin' what people got in their garages around here. I never heard any late-night throttle wrestling, fussing with open exhaust, no cat-howl burnouts, either. But the Home Owners Association would throw a hand grenade at him immediately. I know. I've had run-ins with the HOA.
Justin's best pal Dave Steffey maintains Steffey Racing Fabrication in Eustis, Florida, and specializes in suspension prep and, yes, making parts that did not exist prior. Steffey crafts things out of flat stock and billet. The fact is that there's a lot of good old hot-rodding ingenuity goin' on here. I'm encouraged. These guys are young. They'll be around for the long haul. This tells me that the sport isn't going to wither, die, and get carried off by a light breeze along with the love bugs. These guys get it. These guys are the ones you'd have to pry hot rod parts from their cold, dead digits.
Going a little further, I've discovered that the drag-race microcosm is alive and doing very well in the relatively Podunk area where Justin and I live. Whatever you need, there's somebody there to help you.
Justin has no club, no affiliation. He just likes to drag race. He's run his nitrous Nova at the Hot Rod Pump Gas Drags two years straight. The subhead says something about his suspension, that while maintaining its stock configuration, it's been plastered with the best parts he could source, plus some others that were virtually unobtanium.
"Just like most street cars, it started out to be an 11-second car. It all began with a 383 and evolved from there. Now it's got a 540. We started racing in a local 11/48-mile stock-suspension class and went a best of 5.63.
"Everyone has his own opinion of what a street car is. Some will say it is anything you can drive on the street. I think anyone can take a tubbed car, gut it all out, and make it fast. It's a lot harder to take a stock-suspension drag-radial car, use pump gas, and go 153 mph or faster," Justin offers proudly.
The deal with the stock suspension thing is to have the whole system integral and working as one. And how do you handle the big-block application correctly? For this, Justin and Dave went to Smith Racecraft (Dallas) for its round-tube frontend assembly, which includes front- and mid-motor plates and rack steering and is purported to be a bolt-on. It also pared 150 ugly ones off the Nova's nose.
There's also the matter of blood lust, so the Nova has been known to rampage public roads "now and then." Though the engine could easily handle a bit more compression, Justin keeps it at a pump-gas-amenable 10:1.
Now, the most important part of the whole project and the absolute key to keeping she who must be obeyed on an even tack: "I need to give special thanks to my wife Eva for being so understanding over the years and to Dave Steffey. Without them I could not have built this car." Dave's pretty much on his own, but hey, Justin, Eva might enjoy a token that's a little more tangible, like a diamond something.
Ray Morton up Spring Hill way machined and built the 540 off a 4.5-inch bore filled with JE 10:1 slugs (also rings and pistons pins). Manley rods hold 'em on the forged steel crankshaft. Comp Cams got the nod for the entire valvetrain assembly, beginning with the timing gear. Specs on the bumpstick are somewhat proprietary (0.714 inch lift on both valves, duration unknown), but they tickle Manley valves in Merlin III aluminum castings that were ported and flowed by H.P.S. Cylinder Heads in Tarpon Springs. At the bottom of it all are a Milodon 6-quart pan and Melling oil pump.
On the top of the heap, Justin insinuated a 1050 Holley Dominator on an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, and the meticulous Dave Steffey plumbed it righteous for the NOS 300-shot. MSD handles the ignition sequence with the timing at 29 degrees total. One feature of the Smith Racecraft frontend assembly is that it accommodates even the largest primary pipes in a respectable, efficient form. The newfound room provided by the Racecraft frontend enabled Lemons Headers to build a gorgeous system with 211/44-inch pipes. Justin merged them with Flowmaster race muffs. ARP fasteners are stationed throughout the assembly.
Torque begins its torrent through the two-speed 'Glide via a Trans Specialties 10-inch converter set with a 3,800 stall speed. Justin makes the single gear change with a B&M Pro Bandit shifter. A PST (Clearwater, Florida) aluminum driveshaft passes torque to a 9-inch housing equipped with 4.30:1 gears and a Strange Engineering spool and axleshafts.
A Smith Racecraft frontend, with custom bars and suspension attachments by Steffey Racing Fabrication (Eustis, Florida), relies on QA1 adjustable shock absorbers, billet steering arms, 2-inch drop spindles, 4130 chrome-moly tubular upper and lower control arms, and aluminum body mounts.
At the back, a stock-width 9-inch housing sits on factory monoleaf springs. Racecraft Max-Trax bars contact the spring eye to keep the tires planted, and QA1 adjustables check hinky axle movement. All of this is held captive by a 12-point rollcage.
This is primarily a place of business, so there's no time for amenities. Justin directs the show from an RCI bucket seat, navigates with a National Parts Depot steering wheel, and flicks the ratchet shifter. He and Dave rewired the car with a Painless harness, hooked some of the leads to an ARC switch panel and others to a flock of Auto Meter monitors. The harness is a five-point arrangement. Don't overlook the pin-neat trunk, either. Two custom mounts strap a pair of baby blues to the floor. Rollcage stringers form the upper attachment point for the ART antiroll bar. Guess who made the fuel cell. Optima Redheads corner cranking power.
Wheels & Brakes
The Nova's clean though somewhat sober body is highlighted by polished 15x311/42 Weld Alumastar forgings carrying 28.x4.5 Mickey Thompson ET Fronts. The drive wheels are a collaboration of 15x8 Weld Holeshot rims and M/T 295/65R15 ET Street Radials. Since braking power can be no greater than the 15-inch rim diameter allows, Wilwood Dynalite Pro Series four-piston calipers on 10.75-inch rotors are the primary friction generators. The rear brakes are stock drum but rebuilt for dragstrip duty. As per sanctioning-body rules, Justin's Nova also packs a big, fat drag 'chute.
Justin's project began with a straight, rot-free body that required little more than minor filling, smoothing, and rubbing for old times' sake to get the shell ready for pigment. Joe Floyd (New Port Richey, Florida) prepped the shell as well as the Harwood fiberglass 4-inch cowl hood for the '99 Mustang Green.
Never been anywhere near an engine dynamometer, but Justin's proved the integrity of the Ray Morton-built bullet time and again with 9.30s at 153. And that's on pump gas, bud.