Courtesy of Mecum Auctions
  • Custom build completed in 2015
  • Balanced and blueprinted 355-ci engine with Comp Cam
  • Weiand Team G intake manifold, Holley carburetor with Big Shot NOS system
  • MSD distributor with Digital-7 programmable ignition
  • Doug’s ceramic-coated headers
  • 3½-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers
  • Aerospace fuel pump and three regulators with 10-gallon aluminum fuel cell
  • Turbo Action 350 transmission with transbrake and Cheetah SCR manual shift
  • 3,500 stall converter
  • Ford nine-inch rear end 4.11 Richmond gears
  • Mark Williams axles, spool and driveshaft
  • Aerospace four-piston disc brakes
  • Wilwood master cylinder, Hurst line lock
  • Mono-leaf rear suspension, CalTracs traction bars
  • Harwood fiberglass cowl hood
  • Eight-point roll cage with swing-outs
  • Kirkey seats and Simpson harnesses
  • Auto Meter gauges and Pro Comp tachometer
  • Cragar 306 Alumastar wheels
  • Griffin aluminum radiator

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Chevrolet Nova Pro Street
Years Produced:1966, 2015
Number Produced:47,000 (All 1966 Chevy II “100” series cars)
Original List Price:$2,090
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $44,300; high sale, $126,500
Tune Up Cost:$400 (estimated)
Chassis Number Location:Plate in driver’s door jamb
Club Info:NHRA
Alternatives:Any drag-prepped lightweight muscle car, including Ford Mustang, Ford Falcon, Chevrolet Nova, Chevrolet Chevelle, Plymouth Barracuda, etc.
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot S83, sold for $19,250, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Houston sale in Houston, TX, on April 16, 2016.

Drag racing has a way of getting under your skin. It makes you spend stacks of money to chase tenths of seconds. It’s a never-ending source of new barriers to break through, faster cars and drivers to beat, and broken parts and bruised egos to fix on long garage-lit nights. Consider it an automotive addiction — the full-blown monkey-on-your-back type. I know because I’ve got it.

As such, once you get started as a drag racer, it’s hard to silence that monkey and stop hunting speed. The drive to compete and win is how cars like this Nova get built.

The look and the hook

Now, let’s make a distinction right off the bat: “Drag cars” aren’t all created equal. There are cars built to look fast and there are cars built to go fast. The difference between them can be subtle, but it’s substantial.

Show up to the drags with huge 15-inch wide rubber, polished blower parts and a $15,000 paint job from the show scene and you’ll get a lot of looks. But while that stuff can make big power and big smoke, that’s only part of what it takes to race and win. In the real world, drag cars are very carefully set up by their owners to function predictably in high-intensity situations, and to generate wins by running hard consistently. Doing that is a lot tougher than you might think.

Most of the showy Pro-Street-style cars you’ll run into at any local car show aren’t drag cars in the strictest sense. They might look like monsters built for straight-line fun with crazy paint, big tires and even bigger engines, but that doesn’t mean they can run the same elapsed time (or ET) twice in a row — and for anything other than your standard Saturday night grudge match, that’s key.

Do it again

Consistency, both from the car and the driver, is the name of the game in drag racing. Every tenth of a second in ET translates to a car length of distance — and a win or loss — at the far end of the quarter mile.

Points racing — the kind of racing where you can win money and trophies — requires a dial-in, where you predict the ET your car will run before the pass, written in big numbers on your windshield. Make some test passes, pick a number, and go. Run closer to your dial-in than your opponent does to his without going faster and you’ve won the round.

Running on an index is much the same — say you’re on a 10.5 index, which means that 10.5 seconds is the set dial-in for every car in that class. You’ll need to run 10.501 seconds every time, because when your challenger lines up in the other lane and runs a 10.502 (or a 10.499) in his GT500, you advance to the next round and he goes home.

Cars built to do that are more about substance than style, with functional, adjustable components throughout, used to compensate for changes in barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, surface temperature, and more — the kinds of things that can either slow down or speed up a car in the tenth- and hundredth-of-a-second world.

There’s a cool factor that comes with that substance, too, and that gives legit drag cars like our subject Nova a purposeful style all their own.

Sum of its parts

So what makes this a legit drag machine? Start with the car itself. The builder chose a base-level Chevy II. Novas are light and there’s a good aftermarket supply of parts that fit them, so they’re the perfect basis for speed.

Externally there’s nothing special here aside from a down-low stance and a big Harwood cowl hood under basic white paint. However, those Cragar Alumastar wheels are lightweight units, and the visible CalTracs traction bars show that whoever built this thing knew how to make those wide-as-possible slicks bite the ground hard without spinning.

The catalog calls out the engine as a 355-ci small-block Chevy, but it doesn’t say what’s inside. However, those nitrous solenoids suggest we’re dealing with forged internals here.

From there, the parts list goes on and on. Of note are the three fuel-pressure regulators, one feeding each fuel bowl of the Holley and one feeding the nitrous system. A good fuel system like the one pictured — one that can supply a healthy dose of gas to a screaming engine while simultaneously fighting the physics of a hard car launch — can run several thousand dollars alone once all the lines, fittings, regulators, tank, pump and filters are added in.

There’s also an MSD Digital-7 ignition system mounted under the dash — that’s the kind of unit that can run individual timing curves for each cylinder, a unique curve for launching the car, and has step retard built in for safely retarding timing for nitrous oxide use. Buying one of those new, with distributor, will cost you well over $1,000. And that doesn’t even mention the Griffin aluminum radiator, the transbrake-equipped TH350 transmission, the nine-inch Ford with Mark Williams parts, ceramic-coated Doug’s headers, the custom cage, and more. The money here adds up fast.

Good deal on the real deal

What got my attention wasn’t all that stuff, but rather the one little cooling fan mounted in the side of the engine compartment. There’s really only one good reason for that fan, and that’s to try to eliminate power-robbing heat soak from the engine compartment.

The only reason you’d need to do that? To run dead-consistent times regardless of how many runs you’d made that hour, or how hot the ambient temperature is. To me, that’s the detail that cements this as a serious drag car, built to do it over and over again, probably with most of the bugs already worked out. No street poseur hiding under expensive parts here.

So was it a good deal at $19,250? Yes and no. The market outlook on something like this isn’t great — this is no stock market sweetheart, so it’s hard to see it going up in value much from here. But you couldn’t build it for less, and that’s the most important thing to a racer more concerned with buying a tool than a showpiece.

Racing is expensive, and the money spent here was just the first stack of cash the new owner laid out on this car. But in the world of wheels-up launches, tenth-of-a-second glory, and flickering garage lights over you and an open Harwood hood, it was money well spent.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

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