At almost every car show you go to there is at least one less than visually appealing ride sitting among all the highly polished paint jobs. As you pass that car you might wonder why anyone would bring such a vehicle to a car show. You might not look at it, because it doesn’t have anything to offer. But after making your way to the other side of the show you suddenly hear the distinctive sound of horsepower. Someone has fired up something radical, and you have to check it out. You soon realize the sound of all that earth shaking power is coming from that beater. As the driver pulls out from his parking spot you overhear someone in the crowd say that it runs in the nines. Before you can react the car has left the show.

Mike Morgan is the proud owner of this sleeper ’69 Nova that he picked up for $500 a few years ago. The interior sports heat-retardant covering in place of carpet, two seats from an old Mustang, a dash with enough fault lines in it to make California look rock solid, and the necessary safety equipment to go from 0 to 135 mph in 1,320 feet. Sure it’s rough, but that doesn’t tell you anything about its performance potential.

Mike Morgan contacted Gil Nevarez of NRP/Specialty Dyno in Henderson, Nevada, to build him something wicked that he could still drive on the street on pump gas. They considered a big-block, but Mike wanted his ride to be exceptional so they decided to use the biggest small-block Chevrolet ever built and bore it 0.030-over for 406 ci of displacement. The bottom end sports a 4.155-inch bore, 3.75-inch stroke, and rod-bending 14.5:1-compression pistons. Before you go crying that this engine won’t live on 92-octane, check out the cam specs. The key to Mike’s pump-gas secret is a daylong-duration camshaft that bleeds off so much cylinder pressure the engine won’t detonate unless it’s under extreme load. At the track, a little 108-octane is mixed in the fuel cell and the detonation problems are solved. The cylinder heads chosen for this combination are iron Bow-Tie heads that have been milled, ported, and outfitted with 2.08/1.60-inch intake and exhaust valves. Equipped with an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, 17/8-inch headers, and a 975-cfm Demon carburetor, Mike’s car has run a blistering 10.80 pass at 123 mph on the motor, and a nitrous-assisted 9.98 at 135 mph.

The 406 is mated to a TH400 with a 6,000-stall converter and Hipster trans-brake. Taking the abuse and multiplying the power is a ’69 Camaro 12-bolt with 3.73 gears, a Posi, and a C-clip eliminator kit. The interesting thing about Mike’s combination is that the Nova runs these incredible numbers on 9-inch Mickey Thompson E.T. Street tires. The rear suspension includes Competition Engineering traction bars and solid aluminum bushings, while the front is set up with Moroso drag springs and no sway bar.

If you think this Nova is way too radical for highway use then think again. Mike completed the ’99 Hot Rod Power Tour from California to Tennessee, and two legs of the 2000 Power Tour. The car isn’t finished by any means, either. Mike is content with the car’s potential at the track and is currently working on a new interior. In the meantime he attends as many local car shows as he can, because he knows it’s not just what’s on the outside that counts. Maybe he’ll even paint it someday.