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1970 Chevrolet Nova Yenko - Reborn Racer

Neck-deep in drag-racing Fords in the '60s, Mike Lieber now turns 10s in a big-block Nova

Photography by , Mike Lieber Collection

Tech Notes

What: '70 Chevrolet Nova

Owner: Mike Lieber

Hometown: Huntington Beach, California, home of the Donut Derelicts hot rod gathering

Short-Block: Your everyday iron 454 block bored 0.060-over with forged pistons and factory rods with 3/8-inch bolts, and a Crane flat-tappet hydraulic cam that used to run in a boat. Mike doesn't have the specs except for the lift at around 0.585 inch.

Heads: Iron oval-port castings with 2.25/1.88-inch Manley stainless steel valves, using Crane Gold Race 1.7:1 roller rockers and a Crane stud girdle. The girdle required Mike to add valve-cover spacers to make it all fit.

Induction: The Edelbrock Victor Jr. 454-O also uses a Wilson four-hole spacer between the Proform 950 carb and the nitrous plate.

Nitrous: Mike pieced together an eclectic mix of NOS solenoids and a 10-pound bottle with a Zex perimeter nitrous plate and DynoTune pieces that includes an electric nitrous-bottle valve opener.

Fuel System: Starting with the 15-gallon JAZ fuel cell in the trunk, there's a pair of electric pumps, one each to feed the engine and the nitrous with separate fuel-pressure gauges to monitor their performance.

Transmission/Converter: An Art Carr's California Performance Transmission TH200-4R overdrive automatic with a 10-inch converter that stalls at around 3,000 rpm controlled by a B&M Pro Stick shifter.

Rearend: A GM 12-bolt with a set of 4.30:1 gears spinning around a Moroso Brute Strength posi and supported by an aluminum T-A Performance rearend cover.

Suspension: Mike has put some effort into the suspension including steel monoleaf rear springs supporting a set of Cal-Tracs bars and damped with Competition Engineering adjustable rear shocks that Mike plans to replace with a set of QA1s to match the front. To reduce weight up front, Mike installed a complete Global West tubular upper and lower control arms as well as a coilover shock conversion with QA1 shocks. There's also a 10-point rollbar in the car along with an Impact safety harness to make those 10-second passes legit.

Brakes: Wilwood four-piston DynaLite calipers and 11-inch solid rotors. On the rear, Mike stuck with trusty drum brakes.

Wheels/tires: Mike went with a set of 15x8 Weld Pro Stars with a 5 1/2-inch backspacing that, with a thin spacer, just clears the 29x11.5-15 Hoosier Quick-Time Pro DOT tires with a little bit of rub on the outside wheelwell. Up front are a pair of 15x5 Pro Stars with Moroso 26-inch-tall front tires.

Ford Times
Mike says he'd rather talk about the current days, but it's fun to hear stories from the guys who were there. Through good fortune and working at several Ford performance dealerships like Ellico and Foulger, Mike raced a string of hot cars that included a '63 427 lightweight Galaxie and his favorite, a '68 428 Cobra Jet Super Stock Mustang that Hubert Platt had raced the year before. "It was a heck of a deal. Ford gave you the car and you got to keep the winnings." All he had to do was wave the Ford flag. Perhaps those were the good old Total Performance days when Dearborn wanted the Blue Oval to dominate. The stories include racing with and against some of the legends of the Stock and Super Stock wars including Dyno Don Nicholson, Les Richey, Hubert Platt, Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, and Gas Ronda. All through this time, a span of close to 40 years, Mike's friend Art Carr did all of his automatic transmissions. Art calls Mike "the kid."

Mike also raced a '50 A/Gas Supercharged Henry J with a 6-71-blown 486ci stroker FE motor. But the most bizarre was a '57 Ferrari road racer once piloted by Phil Hill that Mike and his friends converted into a drag race car with the same blown FE. Later, Mike learned that the car was restored back to its original road-race trim and is now worth upward of six figures.

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