So you're out prowling the streets with your shiny new Camaro with the supercharger you just installed last weekend, ready to show some punk what's what. At a stoplight you notice this sedate little grandma car, a refrigerator-white early Nova, pull up alongside. The mild rumble suggests that it has a V-8 swap, but your mirrors show tiny rear tires and the guy driving it has gray hair. Then the old guy points at the light and smiles. "You've gotta be kidding me!" runs through your brain and you figure here's your chance to send the guy home, crying to his grandkids. But that's not how it works out—you're the one crying in your cold beverage 20 minutes later. That's because the car that just smoked you has a 502 with spray underhood, and those little rear tires are actually Mickey Thompson ET Street Drag Radials.
This car actually has an interesting story. A guy named Jim Henn originally built it in the late 1990s or early 2000s, and he entered and was chosen for the first Hot Rod magazine Pump Gas Drags in 2004. Its sleeper cover was forever blown, but only if you happened to see it in that issue. Henn worked for Toyota Racing Development (TRD) in the Los Angeles area at the time, the factory's performance and racing wing. He flirted with the idea of building one of Toyota's brand-new NASCAR Cup engines and putting it in the magazine, and Hot Rod was going to cover it, but before he could, Jim was killed in an off-road dirt bike crash in 2005, and the car went to a friend's house where it sat ignored for three years. Eventually the friend needed money for his business so he listed it for sale, where Dan Geis saw it.
"I looked at it six days later and made him an offer," Dan says, "but we didn't agree on a price. I went home and didn't sleep all night, and the next day my brother talked me into buying it anyway so we went up that night and got it."
Dan didn't know the car's history until he owned it. He's met a bunch of Henn's friends out at shows and the track, who recognize the car and come chat him up. They recognize it because Dan hasn't done a single thing, visually, save for adding a few gauges, to change it from the way Henn built it. He said, "I didn't touch anything 'cause everything was working. Jim was all about getting the most out of the least amount of money, and when you look at the car you don't see money in it, but it creates a pretty good elapse time. I still refer to it as the Jim Henn Nova."
That e.t. is in the 9s; Dan ran it in a few PSCA races and has run the NMCA West series for the past two years. At the 2013 Bakersfield race, this little sleeper ripped off a 9.89 at 134 mph to win the Open Comp class, while also winning the 10-second class in True Street, which requires a 30-ish-mile drive and three back-to-back passes with no changes to the car.
Dan does indeed drive the car on the street, a lot, going to shows, cruises, and local dragstrips for test and tune nights. Does this look like a 9-second car to you? It is.
Plain white paint and 15-inch rally wheels with caps help Dan's Nova appear stock, but astute viewers will notice the South Side Machine traction bars and 3-inch exhaust tip barely poking out the back. But you have to get low to notice those.
Henn built the car with a big-block but a lifter went flat and caused some other issues while Dan had it, so he swapped out the short-block for a ZZ502 from Chevrolet Performance. The cam is from a ZZ572 crate motor, and the heads are the same un-ported, rectangular-port Edelbrocks that it had before. The induction consists of an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake and a Holley 850 that Henn previously modified.
Other than the rollcage, an MSD box under the dash, and a few gauges, the interior is stock. Henn removed the back seat for some reason (no, the car's not mini-tubbed) and Dan said if he found a stock red rear seat he'd install it—it's just not a high priority right now. The shifter is a B&M Mega Shifter controlling a JW TH400 transmission with a JW Ultra Bell, a standard forward shift valvebody, and a 3,800-stall converter. There is no transbrake. An Innovate air/fuel controller monitors and logs the richness of the combination on a pass—on the 9.89 pass in was right at 12.2:1.
The nitrous system uses a single-stage NOS Big Shot plate jetted for a 300hp hit. Dan uses a NOS progressive controller to begin ramping in the spray a few tenths into the run.
The same thing goes in the rear. The tires are 235-60-15 drag radials from Mickey Thompson.
The trunk houses twin 15-pound nitrous bottles for convenience, and a battery in a Moroso box. One thing not legal but pointed out in tech in 2013 was the lack of a battery cutoff switch, which NHRA rules require for any car with a trunk-mounted battery.
At the NMCA West race in Bakersfield, California, Dan's little white Nova ran in both Tremec True Street and Burns Stainless Open Comp, and it won the Open Comp class, as you can see by the timeslips. It leaves with a 1.51 60-foot (1.49 shown on the middle slip), runs 6.30 at 111 in the eighth, and crosses the final stripe in 9.892 at 134.81 mph. Not too shabby. It also won the 10-second bracket in True Street, which rewards the win to the car that has a three-run average most closely to 9.00, 10.00, 11.00, and so on up to 15.00.