In the Stone Age (relatively speaking), feature cars were primarily the fantasies of young dudes; guys who usually had their girlfriends (or more likely a paid model who could squander precious car-building hours on a personal relationship) lounging on a fender or perched perky behind the wheel of a custom sled, flashing a full mouth and straight, white teeth accentuated by a tight sweater and an impossibly pointy brassiere. Gangster whites were the ginchiest, sock hops were the end, chrome plating was really gone, '57 Eldorado hubcaps--with a bullet--were the mandate, and it was ornament instead of substance.

In the late-'60s, the whole enthusiast magazine world changed, due in no small part to the might and profligate maniacal spawn of Detroit product planners. With factory hot rods and musclecars, car coverage got seriously nitty-gritty. Camshaft specs, clearance numbers, and 60-foot times replaced angel hair and Yeti-sized trophies. Car show fops and trailer queens were dorky and distained, shunned for a 180-degree genre of machines--machines with purpose, substance, and ideas for the newly initiated. Drive it and drive it hard. There's nothing like the influx of factory megabucks to permanently alter and direct the thinking of those who sought the truth.

Instead of scalloped paint, sectioned bodies, and frenched headlights, we've been entrenched in pristine, wholesome, original sheetmetal, smoothed, painted, and buffed to perfection. A few mega-buck audio systems notwithstanding, the vibe now is of no-nonsense functionality, and that applies to everything from conservative readers' rides to powerful, well-balanced machines with high-rate handling and Mega Street bloodletters--nearly insane rhinos snorting mountainous grunt.

We'd classify Nick Novak's Nova as the latter animal. Smooth, innocuous, and sedate--so long as it's still in stasis. From 10 feet off, Nick's ride is seductively sedate, and looks as stock as a stove until you flash on that 10-point 'cage. Once awake and on the move, any pretense of civility vanishes in a thunderclap and a cloud of vulcanized rubber that only 700 lb-ft of grunt can materialize. Novas aren't known for rear tire room, so his is mini-tubbed to accommodate Mickey Thompson ET Streets, but they're only 10-wides. Why bother, you muse? You bother when you've got an expert next to you to help define the traction equation.

NHRA Super Stock racer and the driving force behind CalTracs, John Calvert, lent his product and considerable expertise in creating a suspension that makes the Nova come off the mark with a minimum of wheel spin and frighteningly good 60-foot time when the torque should be annihilating the drive tires. Undoubtedly, the programmable MSD box is certainly to Novak's advantage as well.A bulletproof power module (in this case, a pump-gas 496ci Rat enabled by the entire Crower repertoire--dad, Kerry, works there) has proven beyond reproach. In more than 600 passes the motor has had but a single cursory rebuild. The models here are low maintenance and consistent, and consistency is what gets you through the traps before the other guy.

According to Nick, "This car was built as a family toy. We use it to get out and have some fun drag racing and going to car shows. It has done very well winning many shows and races. It surprises most folks running as it does on pump gas on the street, and when we take it to the track we mix the pump octane with 110 race juice. The big motor allows us to run big numbers with a small amount of maintenance. It goes straight, and tire spin is virtually non-existent.

"I remember when the (Dart) heads and intake manifold showed up; my dad and I were like, 'Oh, crap.' We knew this wasn't going to be some cruiser. At that instant, we decided to go with the big-inch motor, CalTracs, and a small tire, and we've been happy ever since." But, cruise they do. The hairy 0.700-inch lift camshaft events are tempered by a friendly centerline and a mild 10.5:1 compression ratio. Idle quality, though a tad raggedy, is a necessary, though entirely welcome, consequence. You don't throttle this thing to a sorority dance. And who wouldn't have a synapse or two snapped open permanently by a 3,500-pound rhino raging through 4.56:1 gears? Isn't it time for dinner?

Nick Novak
Jamul, California
1970 Nova
Type: Chevrolet 454 (496 ci)
Block: Chevrolet cast-iron, 4.310-inch bore, four-bolt main bearing caps
Oiling: Moroso oil pump and pan
Crankshaft: Crower Enduro forged 4340, 4.250-inch stroke, ATI damper
Connecting Rods: Crower Sportsman forged 4340 (6.386 inches), ARP fasteners
Pistons: Ross, 10.5:1 compression ratio, Ross pins, Total Seal rings
Cylinder Heads: Dart CNC oval port, 119cc combustion chambers, 2.25-inch intake valves, 1.88-inch exhaust valves, Crower springs and retainers
Camshaft: Crower hydraulic, 0.735-inch lift, 263 degrees duration at 0.050, roller lifters, Milodon gear drive
Valvetrain: Crower stainless steel rocker arms, 1.7:1, Crower one-piece pushrods, Moroso-fabricated rocker covers
Induction: Edelbrock intake manifold, BLP Products 1180-cfm Holley Dominator, K&N Xtreme air cleaner
Ignition: MSD Digital 7 Programmable, MSD Billet distributor
Exhaust: Hedman headers
Fasteners: ARP
Cooling: Meziere electric water pump, Fluidyne aluminum radiator
Machine Work: Ed Hale Machine (Lakeside, CA)
Engine by: BR Engines (Jamul, CA)
Output: 723hp @ 6,800, 658 lb-ft @ 6,800
Transmission: Oceanside Transmissions TH400, 4,500-stall Oelenzie converter, ATI flexplate, B&M shifter
Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch, Currie axles, Motive Gear 4.56:1, Detroit Locker differential
Frame: 10-point Autopower rollcage (San Diego, CA), subframe connectors, mini-tubs, Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings
Front Suspension: stock type with Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings, Moroso adjustable shock absorbers and coil springs
Rear Suspension: solid axle, Rough Country five-way adjustable shocks, CalTracs single leaf, CalTracs traction bars
Steering: stock GM
Brakes: Disc front, disc rear
Wheels: Centerline Convo Pro 15x4", 15x8"
Tires: M/T Sportsman 26x7.5, ET Street 28x12.5
Body: stripped to metal (Nick Novak/friends at Caliber Collision Center)
Interior: stock-black vinyl upholstery, dashboard, Auto Meter gauges