Mike Lieber prefers to talk about how to go fast today. He's got a white beard and could be accused of achieving veteran status. But that doesn't mean he's slowing down. If pressed, he'll admit that he raced those big-block Fords back in the early '60s, but he'd really rather talk about this big-block Nova. Running 10.70s at 126 mph, the Nova relies on the classic combination of Rat motor grunt and a modest shot of nitrous.
Mike puts the Nova on the street occasionally and he's a regular at Huntington Beach's Don
Just about everyone who's ever built a street car has a story to tell. But how does a hard-core Ford racer who was in the thick of the NHRA Stock and Super Stock wars throughout most of the '60s find himself behind the wheel of a Bow Tie machine? If the order of the Blue Oval was a bit more consecrated, this might be grounds for excommunication. "Everybody's got a Mustang today. I wanted something different."
The Nova was one of those honest little-old-lady cars. His buddy found a 19,000-mile bench-seat Nova sporting a basic inline-six that had spent its life in pampered tranquility. With original yellow paint and an interior that still wafted that '70s smell, Mike had to have it. But instead of cash, Mike swung a deal and parlayed 15 firearms including a couple of good Remingtons, shotguns, and handguns to a new home.
Mike immediately stripped the six and Powerglide for a big-block and TH350 trans. With a 12-bolt, the package was good for 12s, but that was just the starting point. Next came a bigger cam and a single-plane intake, and that pushed the 3,150-pound Nova into the high 11s. This was about eight years ago and Mike asked good friend Art Carr at California Performance Transmissions to build him an automatic overdrive transmission. Art plugged in a built TH200-4R with its conservative 2.74:1 First gear and 0.68:1 overdrive. With dozens of passes on the trans, it has performed flawless 11.50s from day one.
The Air Inlet Systems Ram Air Box dominates the visuals, but underneath all that tubing is
Mike was having fun and running as quick with his street car as he used to run with his old Super Stocker. NHRA frowns on class cars running nitrous, but there's no rule against it on the street. "Originally I was gonna run a centrifugal supercharger that cost around $4,000, but I could use nitrous for $400. It didn't take long to figure out what to do." In classic fashion, the nitrous system is a pieced-together puzzle consisting of a Zex perimeter-injection-style plate with NOS solenoids along with a couple of DynoTune pieces thrown in, including the electric servo that opens the nitrous bottle. There's a 180hp tune currently plugged in, and Mike has it wired with an MSD window switch that engages the nitrous at 3,500 rpm and then shuts it off at 6,200 rpm just before the rev limiter kicks in at 6,300.
With his newfound power, the Nova has now run a 10.70 at 126 mph and buddy Art Carr is thinking of adding in a 9-inch converter to improve the hit off the line. That's gonna mean more effort on the traction side since it spins a bit off the line now. That's plenty stout for an overdrive automatic that many enthusiasts scoff at for being weak. For now, Mike just likes to plant his right foot and enjoy how easy it is to be reborn.
The interior is grandma fresh, since the odo has ticked barely over 19,000 times. As you c
It would take a small story to outline this electronics package, but the shorthand version
The rear suspension is monoleaf simple with Cal-Tracs bars and a 12-bolt making everything
What: '70 Chevrolet Nova
Owner: Mike Lieber
That's a ProForm 950-cfm throttle-body with matching metering blocks that sits on top of b
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.
The Nova is completely streetable with the 4.30:1 gears and 10-inch 3,000-stall converter
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.
This is a great shot of Mike running Hubert Platt's old Cobra Jet Mustang in SS/GA. His 42
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.