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1962 Chevrolet Nova - Drag Week Hero

Shane McClelland’s '62 Chevrolet Nova

By , Photography by Robert McGaffin

If you know Car Craft, you know Blake Hughes. The cars he builds are clean without being a Concours snore and fast without all the compromise. His fabrication work says manufactured, but his style and inventiveness say DIY. Car guys know how hard this is to pull off. Blake does it all the time.

This Nova built for Shane McClelland is no exception. It makes more than 1,000 hp and has been seen doing shocking, arrow-straight wheelstands for as long as the owner cares to hold the pedal to the floor. Shane went to Blake with a simple request: "Please build me a street/strip car that runs 8.50s in the quarter-mile, has A/C, and a working interior without all the crazy tubes so I can put kids in the back seat." Oh, and it needs to be able to drive to California from the Midwest and be ready by July so Shane can meet with some street-machine guys that were in Car Craft ("Fast Guys," Oct. '13) and also compete in Hot Rod's Drag Week.

It was February.

The Nova was a lot of firsts for Shane. First time he owned a car like this, first time on the bumper, first time to try to fabricate his own rollcage in his garage. During the months of February through April, Shane did a lot of the work himself, including the chassis work and cage.

Three more months at 417 Motorsports, and the car was ready for cruise night at Gus's Drive In in southeastern Wisconsin, where the 8-second cars are encouraged to drive in. With the cruise night plan in the taillights, Shane and Blake ran a series of shakedown runs with the stock 6.0L and a pair of 62mm turbos. They were focused on getting the 60-foot times down and had the car in the 1.30s before it became clear that the engine was losing oil pressure on the hard launches because of the stock oil pan. When they pulled the pan, they found some bearing wear.

This close to the third goal of hunting on Drag Week, Blake decided to donate his lightly modified 6.0L motor from another project to stay on schedule. With the new engine, the car showed up at Drag Week, where it ran consistent 8.70–8.80 at 159 mph over the course of the event in 100-degree heat. On Day 4 in Memphis, the Nova executed the now-famous wheelstand, where the car was up on the bumper out to the 330-cone. It was a work of art. Back in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the last day, the car went 8.63, won Third in class and 12th overall. Not bad for a six-month build.

This car hits the no-prep events in OKC and others in the area while waiting for a 388-inch Dart Block LS Next engine that is waiting to be finished. The turbos are 64mm, up from 62mm. The new engine has tricks like a hidden air/water intercooler in the Holley High Ram base with a custom sheetmetal lid with twin throttle-bodies fed by one turbo each. Look for this car on Drag Week 2014!

Tech Notes

Who: Shane McClelland

What: '62 Chevrolet Nova

Why: The master behind this piece is Blake Hughes, but Shane is no slouch with a welder. After his old Nova "disappeared during a divorce," Blake was hired to find an original-paint replacement with Hoover Dam power. Crusty as the field-find was, Shane stated on a Friday, "I will be driving this car Sunday." Even though it hadn't run in years, it ran that Sunday. He drove it for a while, then it was stripped for floorpans and a new firewall, chassis, and a chromoly cage.

Engine: The first engine was hurt, so a mild 6.0L with L92 GM truck heads was the replacement. Using the aforementioned 62mm turbos, the engine makes in the neighborhood of 1,100 hp to get a 3,500-pound Nova to go 160 mph. A bigger engine is on the way. Like he needs it.

Ignition: A Holley Dominator EFI system controls it all. From the dual drive-by-wire throttle-bodies to the data logging that informed the guys they had zero oil pressure for 60 feet. It also fires the coils, controls the three-stage limiter, and shifts the transmission.

Transmission: The four-speed is a Rossler 4L80-E automatic with a 3,800-rpm converter, transbrake, and a TCI Pro Outlaw shifter.

Rear end: There is some cash in the 9-inch Strange aluminum Pro Mod Third member and spool. The gear ratio is 4.30:1.

Suspension: In the rear is a Smith Racecraft Split Monoleaf with Assassin Bars. The shocks are from Afco. The front is an Anthony Jones Racing (AJE) subframe with tubular control arms and Toyota MR2 strut cartridges on adjustable coilovers.

Cool: That is a handmade sheetmetal upper on a Holley lower manifold with twin drive-by-wire throttle-bodies. Cold air is fed from air filters hidden in the fenders, through 4-inch pipes that were welded into the front fender, smoothed, and painted. This and the underside of the car were the only things that received new paint. The rest of the paint is original.

Brakes: To stop, the Nova uses Wilwood drag brakes with vented street rotors and Dynalite calipers.

Rollers: The wheels are Weld Magnums measuring 15x10 inches with a 3.5-inch backspacing in the Detroit Speed minitubs and 15x3.5-inch fronts. Amazingly, the car is on M/T 275 Drag Radials.

Drag racing: Shane rolls into the staging beam using the foot brake that activates the 3,200-rpm limiter. When the competitor rolls in, Shane bumps into the stage beam, holds the trans-brake button that activates the 4,000-rpm second-stage limiter, lets off the foot brake, and launches on green (yellow, actually). The high limit is 7,500 rpm.

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