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1969 Chevy Nova - Sleeping Sniper

Tim Dolan's 11-Second '69 Buick Skylark

By , Photography by

In keeping with the Nova's sniper qualities, looking inside the interior will reveal what appears to be a stone-stock cockpit with a stock column shifter. But hiding in plain sight in the dash is a simple tach conversion not far from the overdrive button and indicator light that Doug has hidden in the ashtray. You can also find at least one obvious performance clue underneath the car. Yes, some may spot the subframe connectors, but only the most dedicated suspension artist will notice the additional main leaf spring used in lieu of traction bars.

While the lame green color worked in the early days, Doug did relent and eventually lay down a generic refrigerator white. Rally wheels and more substantial rubber is used for most travel days, but for our photos, Doug opted for his geriatric whitewall, skinny-rubber package that top off the grandpa image. As yet, he's not been back to the track to document the e.t. improvement, and we can surmise that traction will be a seriously limiting factor. Doug also quickly discovered that the original '80s swap meet converter is now out of its league, which led to the recent installation of a California Performance Transmissions 10-inch, 2,800-stall converter. The final modifications have been to add a Proform main body to the 750 carburetor. In keeping with tradition, none of these changes can be easily discerned from a casual glance.

In the grand scheme of things, nothing much has changed in this Nova other than a bigger engine and an overdrive. While a couple of decades have managed to sneak by, the car and its owner have fared well in the battle to make the clock move more slowly in more ways than one.

Tech Notes

Who: Doug Eisberg What: '69 Chevrolet Nova Where: Escondido, California, which now sports a fun nitro cacklefest on the same streets where city fathers used to discourage cruisers

Engine: Doug started with a cast-off 454 four-bolt main block fully machined by Total Performance in Santee, California, to which he added a 4.25-inch stroke Scat crank, 4340 steel 6.385-inch I-beam rods, and SRP 10.2:1 forged pistons fitted with Total Seal rings and Clevite bearings. The Schnei-der mechanical roller cam specs out at 235/240 degrees of duration at 0.050 inch, Crower roller tappet lifters with 0.607/0.612-inch specs using Harland Sharp 1.7:1 roller rockers. The heads are a pair of Dart 275cc oval-port aluminum heads with 2.250/1.88-inch valves, 119cc chambers, and 0.300-inch raised exhaust ports.

Induction: The Edelbrock Performer RPM manifold has been carefully massaged to make it look like a factory casting and includes a fake upper attachment bolt just to secure the illusion, along with the chrome air cleaner and resto 396 decal. Since the photo was taken, Doug has replaced the 830-cfm Holley with a 0-4779-6 750 mechanical-secondary Holley with a Proform main body.

Exhaust: After much bashing of tubes and test-fitting, the Hooker 2.00-inch primary headers now fit the raised exhaust port heads. Doug also extended the 3.50-inch collectors with 3.00-inch pipes back to the Flow-master Delta-Flow 50 mufflers and added a fabricated cross-pipe. The 21/2-inch tailpipes are also flanged for easy removal.

Transmission: This is the same Darrell Young-modified Turbo 400 that has always been in the car but now is sporting the addition of a Gear Vendors overdrive. The latest revision is a California Performance Transmission 9.5-inch,2,800-rpm converter.

Rearend: A '68 Camaro long ago donated its 12-bolt along with a set of 3.55:1 gears and a limited slip.

Suspension/Brakes: Up front is a set of KYB shocks damping a set of stock big-block springs to keep the Rat off the bumpstops. Moroso makes the subframe connectors, but what's even sneakier is the extra leaf spring that keeps the suspension away from wheelhop. The front discs are from a '71 Pontiac, while rear drums are all that are necessary to maintain the illusion.

Wheels /Tires: Those grandpa wheels are 14-inchers that just scream Geritol and yet still clear the disc brakes. The tires are 215/75R14 whitewalls on all four corners. For a more aggressive stance, Doug can swap over to a set of 15 x 7-inch Rallys on all four corners with 245/60R15 tires. With either package, Doug says, "I can even rotate my tires."

Crew: The help list includes probably most of Doug's friends from over the years, including Eric Rosendahl and especially Eric Schmiege, who has wrenched on this car for 25 years.

How to Play the Sniper Game

"Once I spot the car, I typically drive up to them in my best posture with hands at 10 and 2, because that visual image of the resto-geek sucks them in every time. Most of these folks have already seen the car earlier in the evening at the cruise, so they already think they have me beat. Once they give me a quick throttle rev, I know they are game. As soon as the moment is right and we take off, I then shift the car with the Gear Vendors unit as a six-speed to keep it in the optimum powerband. If I hit First gear (high) to the Second gear (low) correctly, that's usually all it takes. The car gets rubber in the first four gears with little trouble. A stoplight or two later, I always get the same question, 'What's in that thing?' I always say, 'It's just a stock Nova.'"

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