From the young to the young at heart, drag racing truly knows no age boundaries. At 78, Californian Jerry Kolby exemplifies this well, as he’s embarked on his most ambitious drag racing venture to date with a freshly made-over 1966 Chevy Nova SS. With the car he’s been racing in various forms since the early 1990s as the basis, Kolby tabbed Kansas City chassis builder Larry Larson at Larson Race Cars to construct a Top Sportsman-style, no-holds-barred racing machine capable of clicking off runs in the low six-second zone at well in excess of 200 mph.
“I’ve had the car since the 90s. It’s had about 10 different motors, from a 350 and a 421 stroker small-block, to a 468 big-block and a 632, to this. Before I took it to Larry, it was a square-tube chassis car,” Kolby explains.
Kolby delivered the car to Larson in February of 2016, noting he “had been talking to Larry for a while” before finally pulling the trigger. “I’ve been retired for a while, and I decided if I was ever going to do something like this, I had better do it now while I still can. “I’ve got a landline and rabbit ears for television so that I can afford to race … I’m not a big-buck guy, but I decided this was what I wanted to do, so you pick your priorities and you skimp where you can so you have the money to do what you want to do. This stuff is not free.”
Larson converted the car to a Pro Modified-esque double frame-rail configuration in a front-to-rear overhaul that left virtually no stone unturned but the roof, quarter panels, dash, and door frame. Larson made liberal use of carbon fiber throughout the construction to produce as light a final product as possible, and Kolby, intent on a factory-like appearance, had the bumpers chrome-plated to look original.
The Steve Schmidt Competition Engines-built mill is centered around an aluminum Brodix block with Profiler 12-degree cylinder heads, sporting a COMP camshaft, fueled by an Aeromotive mechanical fuel pump and cooled by a Meziere water pump. Boosted by a pair of 94mm Precision turbochargers, the engine burns alcohol and is fed by 16 injectors controlled by a FuelTech FT600 ECU. The powerplant is backed by a Rossler three-speed Turbo 400 with a ProTorque converter, with a PST carbon fiver driveshaft leading back to a Mark Williams 9.5-inch modular rearend. The car sports Sander wheels up front and Weld’s in the rear wrapped in Hoosier slicks.
Larson went to considerable lengths to produce just the end-result Kolby was after; the one-piece carbon fiber nose (with stock dimensions) has the factory headlights and grille fitted, all of the original chrome window trim was polished and reused, and the interior retains its original color scheme, among other odds and ends, making for a very stock-appearing look inside and out.
“I enjoy the car … I really appreciate something that’s built nice,” says Kolby. “I built a couple of them myself, and they were nice, but they’re nothing like what Larry put together. He knows his stuff, and I’ve crawled over every inch of this car and he didn’t cut any corners or give me anything but his best.”
A legal Top Sportsman car, Kolby suggested he’s aiming primarily for eighth-mile competition in Big Tire and grudge-style events on the West coast, like those conducted by Team Boddie and the West Coast Hot Rod Association.
Following completion, Larson shook the Nova down at Heartland Park Topeka last spring, where it went 6.64 at 218 mph on just its third hit, at 26-pounds of boost the stripe. Since returning to California with the car in tow, Kolby has made several laps in the car at Redding and Sacramento while learning the new-school electronic fuel injection, with the remote tuning assistance of Larson. Kolby, who has competed in Modified Production and various other classes during his racing career, says he and Larson chose to boost-limit it to 45-pounds to sustain some reliability of the engine, but feels it has the capability to run down into the 6.20s, or perhaps even quicker.
“The fact of the matter is we really don’t know what it will run. These things are a handful, because you’ve got so much power you can over-power the track at any time … so getting it down the track is harder than some people might think. I’ve been doing some doodling around out here on tracks that aren’t as well-prepped as as an NHRA national event track and it’s been skating around and spinning the tires at the top of each gear, so I’m just hanging on for dear life,” he says.
Kolby continues, “My main thing right now is trying to learn the car and learn the computer. Things happen fast in a car like this, and I don’t want to stuff it in the wall if I can help it, so I’m just getting my feet wet in it. It’s all a learning process.”
Kolby renewed his license in the car last year with a 7.42 at 191 mph.