My Cousin's Nova (the final stupid story)

CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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My cousin was one of those kids that should not have been a car guy. But he was. Between the two of us, there was at least 180 degrees of separation. I was a Ford guy and he loved his chevy.

He was my original mentor, two years older than me, the difference in our age caused me to be a little jealous. He was first to get a license, first to drive, first to have a job so that he could earn some money, and the first to take the money he made and ……………buy a car.

But time started to even things out. I got my my first job, was saving every dime I made, got my license, and finally, my first car. A 1965 Mustang GTA

I started to learn about cars from then on in earnest. The hard way. I made a ton of stupid mistakes, but took something away from each lesson learned, and stored them in the “toolbox” in my head.

My cousin had bought a brand new car by this time. He was working full time and decided to take on a car payment He bought a 73 Vega GT. Apparently, he hadn’t learned anything since he started to drive.

Two years later, I had moved to Iowa to live. I had traded in the 65 on my dream car and arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa with a 1969 Mach 1.

My cousin had also decided to trade as well. After enduring two years of ridicule, he traded his Vega GT for a brand new, 1975 Nova w/ a smog certified, 350 2 bbl, and came sporting a 3 speed on the column.
( Vroom!, Vroom!) It also came equipped w/ a 2.43 rear end ratio. It was single-handedly the slowest Nova Chevrolet ever built. I think if you pushed it off a cliff, it would fall faster than it could actually muster up under its’ own power going down the road.

After getting killed by my Mach 1 in just about every possible speed contest he could dream up, I.E. standing start, 30 mph roll, 50 mph roll, top speed, he quickly came to terms with the fact that his car was a turd, and he needed to change some things if he was gonna beat me.

My cousin wasn’t the brightest of bulbs. He was constantly asking for my advice. Despite the two year age seniority, he was woefully lacking in the intellect department. In his case, “age related” wisdom was an option he chose to delete from about the 10th grade on.
Now that he was on a mission to beat me, he stopped asking for my advice, and went about with his double secret plans to build his Mustang killing street machine all on his own.

He managed to upgrade the 3 on the tree to a super T 10 4 speed. He chose…….wisely. Unfortunately, for everything he did right, he did two things that made it wrong. To shift his new 4 speed, he decided on a Hurst super shifter that had an external, straight shift linkage that required he cut a huge, honkin’ hole in the transmission tunnel that required a massive shifter boot to cover. Pop-riveted a Corvette L-88 hood scoop onto the yellow hood of his car, got himself a set of Gabriel "Hi-Jacker" air shocks, that he promptly inflated to raise the rear end high enough to clear the N50x15’s M/T’s he had sticking out about 3” on each side, mounted on his brand new Keystone Classics. The car was hideous.

In his defense, it was 1976, and that kind of crap was running all over Council Bluffs back in the day.

His engine plan became obvious to me, when he “unveils” the monster that was to be my undoing. A bunch of heavily used pieces that when assembled, would make up a three hundred and two cubic inch, SBC.

He always had it bad for the 69 Z-28’s of the day that came w/ a 302 as their power plant, and now by god, he had one!.

He decided to trade the LT-1 4 bolt 350 he had originally bought, as a replacement for the smog junker powering his car for some guys worn out 302 race junk. ( one step forward,…..two steps back) He saw the domes on the 12.5:1 “pop up” pistons that came with the engine,
and it was a done deal.

It took several months to acquire the parts he was mustering to build his “Z/28 “ Nova. My car had an automatic, and after driving it, he decided that maybe he’d get an automatic instead. The fact that he couldn’t shift the car, despite it having a “super shifter” was also a motivator in making that decision. It was just another of his lesser intelligent choices, considering the weight of his car, the size of his new power plant, the “Bonneville Salt Flats” rear end ratio, the megalift flat tappet cam w/ about 260 degrees of actual duration, and the 2500 stall converter that came with the transmission he chose to go with it.

He wanted it to sound like it was serious business. ( too bad it wasn’t gonna run that way)

When it came time to assemble this “assortment”, and now that I knew what he was installing, he enlisted my help to put it in and get it running. He had assembled the engine himself, and only needed me to help him w/ the distributor installation, timing and tuning. ( “The stuff he couldn’t do” he said).

Once in, we fired it up. Open headers was the custom for firing cars that had to run immediately for 20-25 minutes at a deafening 2000-2500 rpm to break-in his mega cam.
(I don't know why it was the custom, but we all did it, just so we could hear it idle after the cam break-in I 'spose.)

After starting, it becomes also immediately apparent that he has no oil pressure. None. Zero. It gets shut off.
We start w/ the first, obvious things to rule out. Gauge? He gets his brothers gauge, and replaces his, still no pressure. He unscrews the oil filter to see if oil has made it there, to see if the pump is working. Yes, the oil filter is full. But,…….the engine ran for about 15 seconds, what if the filter is plugged or something?

(This is coming from my cousins’ thought processing, when it comes to figuring out his problems, I take the Ford 5th: “I don’t know nothing bout no stupid Chevy junk”)

He decides to rule out the oil pumps’ ability to “pump” by removing the oil filter and holding a 1 qt. coffee can where the oil filter was and see how long it would take after starting it to fill it. He would have me start the engine, and would let me know when to shut it off after the can is full. That was the plan.

It needs to be said that my cousin was typical for the day. Long, kind of oily shoulder length hair, 5’6 at about 135. Fairly muscular upper body, dumb as a post.

He gets under the car and tells me “that since the headers are open, I won’t be able to hear him when it comes time to shut it off, so he’ll give my leg a little kick when he wants me to turn the car off”

I start the engine.

It also needs to be said that the oil pump in the standard automotive engine is capable of moving massive amounts of oil through the engine if it wasn’t for all of the restrictions, galleys, bypasses and passageways it has to travel through to get to the top of the engine. Even a stock pump moves a bunch of oil. Now imagine how much oil it could pump if there were no restrictions?

My cousin had a high volume pump.

It took about 2 seconds, and my cousins’ legs were thrashing like he was in full grand mall seizure. I shut off the engine to find a significant puddle of oil coming out from under the car faster than my cousin. He slides out, completely covered in straight 30.

Long, kind of oily hair now, clinging to his face,………. dripping.

Pissed off and fit to be tied, he is screaming at me for not shutting the thing off soon enough. “What, you mean before the 2 seconds it was running? It takes my brain at least a second to tell my hand to turn the key back to off” I replied.
Apparently the can had filled up so fast that it blew it out of my cousin’s hand after second one, spilling the entire quart on him, then to the ground. Second two pumped another full quart straight to the ground. I imagine another ½ qt. made it out of the motor by the time it had stopped.

As my cousin is standing there, in the middle of his newly made toxic oil spill, the mere sight of him makes me bust out with laughter. It takes about 15 minutes before I can stop enough to actually help him clean up the mess. His mom won’t let him in the house, and he has to strip in the garage and goes through about a million paper towels wiping the oil off of himself and his hair before she will.

The next day he pulls the engine to determine what he did wrong. After spending a week talking w/ his Chevy guy friends, he is clueless, and sets about reassembling the engine, starting with the ritual washing of the block. He puts the garden hose onto the oil filter boss and “pressurizes” the galley w/ water. I’m sitting in a lawn chair watching all of this, when after he puts the hose on the oil filter boss three streams of water go shooting out of the front of the block right above the cam.

I walk over to him, point to the three geysers he has streaming from the front of his engine, and say “I’m no Chevy engine expert, but I’ll bet that ain’t right” and return to my chair.

After installing the three oil galley plugs and reassembling the engine, and after getting it running and broken in, my cousin set about “tearing up the streets’ with his 15 second street terror. Turns out that the combination of small motor, big cam, small converter, heavy car, and no gear actually slowed his car down.

But then everybody reading this knew it would.

It sounded like “it was serious business” though.

I still killed him in every speed contest he could dream up.
 
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wht93gtEd

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Nov 11, 2004
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A great story; actually kept me interested in the whole thing.
At first I was preparing a "cliff notes or gtfo" reply; but I gave it a shot.

That sounds like a lot of stuff me and my friends did too...well, except buying chevy's!

Although, there were certainly plenty of bone stock alphabet cammed 5.0s running around our town acting like tough guys. Ahhh, those were the days.
 

CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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Granted, it looks long. But if you'll time how long it takes to read it. (and equate that that is how long it would take to tell it) I could tell you that story in one-two minutes.
 

CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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Haha, what a tard. Did nobody ever tell him there's no replacement for displacement?
I told you, not the sharpest tool in the shed.

He did take my advice, and ended up running a pretty respectable cast internal 396 BBC after that.

That is, of course after he had to remove the newly rebuilt heads due to the 16 bent valves because he thought that the "dots" on the cam and crank gear were supposed to be at the top (12:00) position when putting on the chain.
 

NIKwoaC

中國製造
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let me know if ya want to take a ride in my buddies 94.
Hell yes I do!

I told you, not the sharpest tool in the shed.

He did take my advice, and ended up running a pretty respectable cast internal 396 BBC after that.

That is, of course after he had to remove the newly rebuilt heads due to the 16 bent valves because he thought that the "dots" on the cam and crank gear were supposed to be at the top (12:00) position when putting on the chain.
Haha, damn, somebody needed to confiscate his tools!
 

Boss 351

Here sthhhhhhhheeeve take a picthh of my man flowe
Jul 13, 2003
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Nice story Mike as always!

Sort of reminds me of my cousin.

Electric fan over stock = +30hp
Removed smog pump = +15hp
Equal length shorties = +25hp
Explorer intake = +40hp
MSD distributer = +15hp
Ecam = +30hp
Cold air intake = +15hp

Total = 170hp over stock! That's why his almost 400 crank HP stang runs mid to high 14's lol
 

90stang5speed

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Jan 19, 2009
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another cool story Mike. Thanks for taking the time to write them up. I still want to read more about that red turbo monster. I've read the stuff you posted but there has to be some cool track stories about that one or something.
 

CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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another cool story Mike. Thanks for taking the time to write them up. I still want to read more about that red turbo monster. I've read the stuff you posted but there has to be some cool track stories about that one or something.
Believe it or not there is absolutely nothing to tell.

I built it in a year, cause I wanted to play w/ the big boys. I figure I spent about 40 grand on it. when it ran, it ran 5- teens. It was like jumping out of a plane, scary as hell.
But when it was all over and done, I was like "Lets do that again!"

AND it hurt itself, bad. All while trying to figure out why. We could never crank up the boost past 25 psi when trying to get it to an OH, w/o some catastrophic head related failure. The last three times out, head gaskets gave up on me, and each time, I'd plasma cut a channel over or under the copper head gasket.

I sold it within 6 months of it's debut. It was my "lesson learned."
I was playing with something I knew too little about, and the education was costing me too much to keep going to school.

That, and the fact that I had to wear a -20 fire suit in ALABAMA in the summer was all the fun I could stand.
 

'13_ImpactBlue_GT

Angry Little Elf
I told you, not the sharpest tool in the shed.

He did take my advice, and ended up running a pretty respectable cast internal 396 BBC after that.

That is, of course after he had to remove the newly rebuilt heads due to the 16 bent valves because he thought that the "dots" on the cam and crank gear were supposed to be at the top (12:00) position when putting on the chain.
By '75 the Nova was neutered so badly with the emissions **** its a wonder they survived:nonono:
 
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