Adding power is addicting. Once you get a taste for it, you end up craving more, and it's hard to stop the madness until the wallet runs dry or you're too scared to drive the thing. Thankfully though, we aren't at either of those crossroads...yet. When we get the opportunity to add loads of "go" for not much green, and when it comes in a small, conveniently sized package that's completely bolt-on, well, now you're talking. There isn't anything better than adding nearly 80 hp in a matter of hours and having the know-how to do it yourself.
Briefly, our project '72 Nova began its life as a limp six-cylinder backed by a two-speed automatic. When we got our hands on it, we immediately swapped out the old powerplant in favor of a low-mileage iron-headed, hydraulic flat-tappet small-block with a Turbo 350 transmission. While the small-block swap was a great upgrade and made a world of difference in the power department-even barking second gear shifts-we wanted more.
With the small-block in, we figured what better way to show the simplicity of adding more power than with the tried and true method of going blown? In our case, it was the best method to making more power on the cheap with the least amount of downtime. Essentially, the build consisted of an elaborate manifold swap and only took us a full day's work from start to finish.
As always, we show you the inside on how it was done and what you might expect when adding boost to your project car. We spent the day at the Vaca Performance & Dyno facility in Downey, California, where the Vaca team helped to complete the build and threw the Nova on the rollers for before-and-after dyno numbers.
What We Did
Added a Weiand 142-blower to our '72 Nova
Our once six-bangin' Nova is now a fire-breathing blown small-block.
To get things going, we strapped...
To get things going, we strapped down the hoodless Nova for our baseline numbers. Prior to the supercharger, our small-block included iron heads, a hydraulic flat tappet camshaft, a Victor Jr. manifold, an MSD Pro-Billet distributor, and a Holley 650 HP carburetor with a 1-inch HVH spacer. What was our combo worth? Peaking at 5,000 rpm, our bone-stock mill was good for 234 hp to the wheels.
We began the swap by diving...
We began the swap by diving into the engine bay to move everything from the top and the front of the motor out of the way. This would give us enough room to install our new blower and belt system. From there, we marked our distributor at zero, removed the fuel lines, and took out the radiator.
We then removed the distributor...
We then removed the distributor and the manifold, and to our surprise we discovered a completely polished lifter valley, screened drain-backs, and larger 3/8-tapered pushrods with machined lifter bores. We also learned that the heads had been massaged a bit too, which was and added bonus.
We needed a nice clean surface...
We needed a nice clean surface to lay down the Weiand manifold, so Miguel Varguez from Vaca Performance began the tedious process of removing the old head gaskets and scraping the old silicone from the top of the block.
After applying silicone and...
After applying silicone and setting our Fel-Pro 1256 head gaskets, we dropped the new manifold onto the motor. We even reused the intake bolts and snugged it down with a 3/8-inch, 12-point socket.
This particular lower manifold...
This particular lower manifold came with an EGR housing. In our case, we don't have to deal with smog shops, so we plugged it with silicone and an EGR block-off plate.