Chevrolet’s Nova was once an inexpensive mode of transportation, and could be had for a song. For that reason, it seems everyone and their brother had one in high school. Either that, or their grandma had one for grocery shopping, and Sunday go-to meetings. Many times that’s how they ended up at the high school, since the cars were so often handed down. Unfortunately, the days of the inexpensive Nova are long gone. Grandma figured out the car’s worth money, so she’s not handing it down, and to even get a decent Nova, your wallet’s going to be $10,000 lighter. Thankfully for Craig Watson, he made sure to get this 1973 Nova before prices entered the stratosphere.
Craig has owned the Nova since his high school days, when it was powered by a 307 small-block. When he bought it, the car had 31,000 miles on it. “It’s had several engines and been through continuous upgrades since 1990,” Craig tells us.
Currently, the Nova boasts a 437 cubic-inch small-block, using a handful of non-traditional components. The block is an Olds Rocket item that Craig tells us became Dart’s Iron Eagle raised-cam engine block. “GM marketed it as an Oldsmobile block for some reason,” Craig reiterates. The rest of the combination consists of a Howard’s crankshaft, Oliver I-beam connecting rods, Diamond pistons, BES-massaged Pro Action 12-degree heads, a Mopar 420 intake, a Bullet Racing camshaft, and a Quick Fuel Technology 1050-cfm carburetor. The intake is a NASCAR-spec item that Craig says is a good match for the Pro Action heads, and it makes power. The Pro Action intake is no longer available, and the intake conversion did require custom spacers made by Chris Uratchko from Uratchko Racing Engines.
The Nova’s nitrous system is an Induction Solutions’ Sledgehammer cross plate with a Carnivore Performance Nitrousaurus-X bottle management unit. Fire is lit using an MSD 7AL or 7531 box, depending on the rules, with a crank trigger. Craig uses an AEM data logger with the company’s new X-series oxygen sensors. “They’ve revealed tune-up details I was missing with my old setup since they react so much quicker,” Craig says.
Behind the small-block is a Bradco Engineering Turbo 400 and torque converter, and out back is a 9-inch with Strange Engineering 35-spline axles, spool, and brakes. A Moser aluminum center section houses 4.56 gears.
One of the inherent problems with any Nova is the lack of any meaningful space for a sizable rear tire. To remedy that, Craig’s Nova features Detroit Speed mini-tubs, along with Speedway Sliders, and Calvert Racing springs and Cal-Trac bars. Menscer shocks are positioned both up front and out back, and depending on the event, Craig runs either Mickey Thompson 275 radials or Hoosier 235 radials. Up front are TRZ Motorsports tubular control arms, with Moroso front springs. To keep Craig safe, Bivins Race Cars of Owensboro, Kentucky, added a 12-point cage to the Nova.
Now you can see why Craig was the 2008 Outlaw 8.5 champion at I40 Dragway, 2012 Outlaw 8.5 runner-up at US60 Dragway, and he just won the first OSCA race of the year in Nostalgia True Street with a 5.27 at 130 mph.