1971 Chevrolet Nova Nitrous and Drag Radials - Wild One!
Big Inches, A Splash Of Nitrous & 275 Radials And We're Good For Bottom 8s In The Quarter-Mile
From the June, 2008 issue of Chevy High Performance
By Henry De Los Santos
Photography by Damon Rivetti, Henry De Los Santos
What We Did...
What We Did
Built the biggest, baddest big-block ever, with dyno and track numbers
It's isn't cheap and it's not for everyone, but now you know what it takes to power through the quarter-mile in a doorslammer on a set of drag radial sneakers.
We've Been Talking About Building This Monster-Inch Big-Block For Nearly Two Years, And It's Finally Happened. It's Just Taken A bit longer than we anticipated. (Some of the receipts date back to the end of '05.) Hey, it's bound to happen, especially when you take into consideration our lofty goals. Truth of the matter is this is a no-holds-barred, upper-echelon 598ci mill built for one purpose: to knock down bottom-8-second e.t.'s in the quarter-mile utilizing a stock suspension chassis and weighing well over 3,400 pounds. Oh, then there's the matter of accomplishing that on a little set of 275 Mickey Thompson ET Street Drag Radials.
So we had the motor, but what about a car? Our '91 Camaro Z28-Project Radial Flyer-is currently having an all-new front suspension built at Chris Alston's Chassisworks in Sacramento, California. From there it'll be transported to Bill Hickok of Hickok Racecars in California City, California, where he'll complete the build with all Chassisworks components. Until we can debut our new ride, we enlisted one '71 Nova belonging to Compton, California's Artis Houston. Considering he was the '05 Radial champ in the Pacific Street Car Association Wild Street class, we were getting a proven chassis and the experience needed to run on such a little tire.
Without a doubt, this is the most extreme engine to ever grace the pages of Chevy High Performance. At this level, this isn't a powerplant for everyone, but if you've ever been remotely curious as to how those volatile e.t.'s are produced by your local track heroes or sportsman doorslammer class cars, wonder no more. We're about to give you a real-world look at what it takes to perform at this level. If this is a route you're looking into pursuing, then you'll be happy to know that our entire combination can be had with readily available off-the-shelf components. Matter of fact, if you've already forged ahead through the images and noticed the CFE sheetmetal manifold, we'll admit it was originally custom-built to order; however, it seems our R&D over the past year has proven its worth and CFE now carries a part number for anyone who wants to run a similar piece.
Unless you have extensive engine-building experience, this isn't something you're going to want to tackle yourself. We were fortunate enough to have been associated in the beginning with Lonnie Patrick and John Fields of C&O Automotive in Hawthorne, California, both seasoned racers and builders who know the stakes at hand to earn a win. These guys are a class act and really got us going in the direction we needed to shoot for.
When it comes to high-powered...
When it comes to high-powered nitrous applications, aluminum rods are the only way to go. They're stronger and lighter than steel, yet much more forgiving to the initial hits with their elastic nature, which also acts as a shock absorber. For our 598, we chose GRP's 5300 series Pro Mod rod with a 6.695-inch center-to-center length, 2.325-inch journal diameter, and 0.990 wristpin diameter, and they came complete with 71/416-inch ARP bolts.
What started as custom prototype...
What started as custom prototype manifold for us by CFE Racing has now evolved into an off-the-shelf part, PN BMF-MN-10001. The shorter runners help produce less torque at the bottom end, making it an excellent choice for anyone competing on small tires, yet it still produces tremendous upper-rpm horsepower on the big end. Expect to spend $2,600 for a duplicate and that includes the dual 4500 flange up top with the nitrous bungs. It's becoming a popular choice among the nitrous outlaw 10.5 guys and other tire-limited classes, but it's important to note that it's not recommended for any motors smaller than 572ci. The burst panel is a Wilson Manifold piece we later purchased and installed as a precaution for a potential nitrous backfire-it happened once, and let's say it's well worth the investment; it saved us a lot of time, money, and serious aggravation.
You've seen crank triggers...
You've seen crank triggers before, but do you know they're vital for ignition timing accuracy and stability? The 8-inch aluminum wheel houses four magnets that trigger the ignition as the engine rotates and passes the stationary nonmagnetic pick-up. This eliminates any false readings and ensures your timing is where you want it, which was especially crucial in our case whenever the nitrous was engaged. Two degrees can be the difference between a good run or a burnt piston.
More recently, we partnered up with Mike Saiki from Motivational Engineering in Carson, California ("40 Days in the Hole," July '07) and have been working with him closely when it comes to tuning and chassis adjustments. All said and done, our year has been an array of serious trials and tribulations, but it was also filled with a season-opening win, big wheelies, a best e.t. of 8.35, and a best mph of 171. We still have plenty of racing left this season, and you can bet we'll be updating you both here in print and online at chevyhiperformance.com
It's a fine balancing act with the 275 radials. We usually start with a short, 5-second burnout with the tire pressure at 14 psi. For the launch, we leave out of the gate on the motor alone and having a digi-set timer turn on the nitrous at 1.5 seconds into the run. From there, it takes a full 4 seconds for the progressive controller to ramp in the nitrous to 100 percent. It only seems complicated.
Eliminating torsional crankshaft...
Eliminating torsional crankshaft movements is a standard OEM-style internally balanced 8-inch ATI Super Damper, which features a three-ring steel shell, is completely rebuildable, and meets stringent SFI 18.1 specs for vehicles running as fast as 6.00 in the quarter-mile.
Cooling the mammoth is a stout...
Cooling the mammoth is a stout Meziere Enterprises 300-series water pump that can flow up to 55 gallons per minute and is used on everything from oval-track cars to 2,000-plus horsepower Pro Modified cars. That aside, we like that it's extremely easy to clean, with its polished CNC housing.
Feeding the oil system is...
Feeding the oil system is a Titan Speed Engineering Drag Pro pump. Each unit is constructed out of 7075-T6 billet aluminum and features a unique Gerotor pumping system. It's centered around a high-volume anticavitation design, is smooth to 12,000-plus rpm, and allows for infinite pressure adjustment from 50 to 100 psi (higher if needed with different internal springs). Titan also works exclusively with Jeff Johnston's Billet Fabrication, which offers a complete line of oil pans to accept the oversized pumphousing; however, most wet sump pans can be modified to fit.
Trying to convey how tough a project went in just a few short pages is next to impossible. While the overall results have been spectacular, it's been a long-term project that required an incredible amount of testing, both in engine tuning and setting up the chassis. Add in the fact we competed in two series, it made for little rest at night and especially on the weekends. I have to thank everyone involved in this truly unique experience, especially Artis Houston, who has shown unbelievable dedication to the program. And while I could go on and on-and believe me I can-you'll have to log on to our Web site, chevyhiperformance.com, for my personal blog regarding our '07 season.
Keeping the heads in place,...
Keeping the heads in place, we used all ARP hardware. For head gaskets, we only use SCE Gaskets Titan Self Sealing copper gaskets, which are specifically designed for nitrous and blown applications. We really liked the built-in coolant and oil seals and the fact we didn't have to deal with additional spray or prep time prior to setting the heads into place.
For lifters, we chose Jesel's...
For lifters, we chose Jesel's Tie Bar roller pieces (0.905-inch body diameter, 0.820-inch roller diameter, and 0.450-inch needle length, weighing a paltry 231 g), which utilize an offset pushrod seat to clear the BMF 405 ports. What you can't see is the fully pressurized internal oil circuits. And as complicated as it all may seem, these lifters are simple drop-in-and-forget-about-'em pieces.
The key to our powerplant...
The key to our powerplant is in its foundation: a Dart Big M 10.200 tall-deck block with steel billet main caps. To produce the 598ci, you'll need to bore the cylinders to 4.600 inches, but should you want to go larger, it can be maxed out to 632ci with a 4.625-inch bore and a 4.750-inch-stroke crank.
For the ignition, we used...
For the ignition, we used all MSD components, from the wire set to the Pro Power HVH coil and crank trigger, including a 7531 programmable ignition. The 7531 allowed us to control just about every aspect of timing-including individual cylinder timing-plot our own curves, and stage retards to ramp the timing. Simply bolting it in won't be the quick fix to eliminate traction problems; you need to get out there and test a multitude of parameters to see what works best for your combination.
This is our first experience...
This is our first experience with Jesel's 55mm needle-cam bearings, and man, are they trick. Around $130 a set, they reduce oil windage and oil aeration from the camshaft, allowing them to work with a minimal supply of oil to help reduce friction.
BMF offers complete cylinder...
BMF offers complete cylinder heads for $3,500, or you can do what we did and order up a bare set of heads for $2,700 and outfit them with valvetrain components for your specific needs. Up top we kept the 10-degree titanium retainers, machined locks, and hardened spring cups and added a set of Comp Cams 2.100-inch triple drag-race springs. Since we knew we were going to be in the neighborhood of 8,500 rpm, we wanted to keep the valvetrain mass at a minimum and purchased a set of Del West titanium valves measuring 2.320 inches on the intake and 1.880 inches on the exhaust side.