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1971 Chevy Nova - Back In Black

Troy Lacrone's 8-Second Small-Block Nova

Photography by

Troy LaCrone is on a simple quest. At first, it was just to get into the 8s. That was the focus of his small-block '71 Camaro we featured back in the Jan. '06 issue ("Countdown to 8s"). As with most similar pursuits, the car knocked on the door with a 9.19/146-mph effort and an impressive 1.308 60-foot time on the rear wheels. Still, Troy knew this Camaro was going to come up short without some major changes. So when his friend Tom Oermann's full-tilt 10.5-inch race car came on the market, it was easier to switch cars than to continue to duel with his blue demon. His new acquisition was supposed to be a race car, but Troy still wanted to run the beast on the street.

Now, Novas with ten-five tires are as plentiful as Pamela Anderson's suitors, but what makes this Nova nasty is what's hidden under the hood. The Nova's previous owner had gone way out on the small-block limb to build a high-rpm shrieker. The nastiness all revolves around a set of heavily massaged 14-degree aluminum Pro Action heads bolted to a 406ci Dart Iron Eagle block with a large-by-huge solid roller cam and a drilled-pill NOS nitrous system that helps push this small-block well over the 1,000hp mark. Did we mention the 15:1 compression ratio? Yeow. All this has contributed to the car's best e.t. of an eighth-mile 5.51 at 130-mph effort. Use your pen to underline that 130-mph trap speed in the eighth-that is some serious mph. Before he could improve upon any of those numbers, the black beast pulled up lame.

Yet Troy still insists on driving this car on the street. In fact, while we were there, he drove it for our photos just to prove it was streetable. He says it will run all day in traffic with the water-temp gauge at 180 degrees, although he does have to run race gas to feed the extreme squeeze factory that's happening in the cylinders. Troy also likes to have his machine look good, and when the Nova took up residence in his garage, the first modifications were not aimed at a better tune-up. They fell to turning a race car into something he would be proud to take to the local cruise spots.

The Nova had been previously enhanced with new quarter-panels and a Harwood hood, so Troy embarked on painting and detailing under the hood, undercarriage, and trunk. Then he attacked the interior. Tim McAmis Race Cars had performed all the chassis and 'cage work necessary for an 8-second ride, so Troy focused his efforts on restoring the interior with a pile of parts from Year One. Anyone who has ever tried to make a fast car look good or a handsome car fast knows how difficult it is to assimilate the two. Troy appears to have achieved both.

In his previous effort, Troy used slapper bars and appeared to be poised on the verge of success. This time around, the Nova offers all the more socially acceptable efforts that include ladder bars that can take the abuse of a 3,200-pound black mastodon planting a pair of 29.5x10.5-inch Mickey Thompson's firmly to the starting line. The only problem with high-strung beasts like this is that durability can be measured in seconds rather than in thousands of miles. On its first trip to the track under Troy's hand, the live-by-the-sword nitrous system lifted what Troy believed to be a ring land, giving the motor seven-cylinder status. What's interesting for those who have never had the pleasure of high-compression lessons is that during our short photography jaunt, it was hard to tell this monster was not hitting on all cylinders, but Troy was quick to point out that a recent leak-down test had confirmed the worst and it would be necessary for a complete rehash of the rotating assembly.

Back in our first story on Troy's Camaro, we asked him if he would keep going after achieving his 8-second goal. His answer was succinct and very revealing: "I hope not," he said. It appears the quest has yet to be met.

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