A ’69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

When Frank first bought it, the Hurst shifter, massive tachometer, and Autometer-style gauges were all that differentiated the interior of this clean-but-simplistic Nova. The motor was nothing out of the ordinary - just a basic 396 BBC, a 4-speed M21, and a standard 9” rear. Nevertheless, it was a pretty potent package for him back in 1997, and it started a lengthy build process that would take nearly two decades to finish. Frank might insist it’s still in progress. While the original package proved impressive, the M21 couldn’t handle the power with a set of slicks on the rear, and when the transmission grenaded, Frank opted for a Turbo 400 with a trans-brake for a little extra getaway on the drag strip. It was shaping up to be a very interesting build, with bits of speed setting the scene for a serious pro touring car. Click to Begin

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

When Frank first bought it, the Hurst shifter, massive tachometer, and Autometer-style gauges were all that differentiated the interior of this clean-but-simplistic Nova. The motor was nothing out of the ordinary - just a basic 396 BBC, a 4-speed M21, and a standard 9” rear. Nevertheless, it was a pretty potent package for him back in 1997, and it started a lengthy build process that would take nearly two decades to finish. Frank might insist it’s still in progress.

While the original package proved impressive, the M21 couldn’t handle the power with a set of slicks on the rear, and when the transmission grenaded, Frank opted for a Turbo 400 with a trans-brake for a little extra getaway on the drag strip. It was shaping up to be a very interesting build, with bits of speed setting the scene for a serious pro touring car. Click to Begin

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

Next came a fuel system, and a 468 BBC with a flat tappet cam, a NOS Cheater kit, a set of classic Draglites, and a 4” cowl hood. With more speed came the required safety upgrades, and Frank then had to get an 8-point cage. Charging safely down the strip, the Nova went [email protected] on 10x28” slicks. The somewhat pedestrian exterior was transformed into something a little more intriguing, and the performance was enough to keep Frank content with until 2006, when he began playing with a few new modifications. Frank missed having an overdrive, and installed a Keisler TKO 600 transmission. Cutting through the floor wasn’t a massive pain for Frank, who was quite gifted and resilient; happy to put a transmission in himself during a very cold, New York winter in an unheated garage.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

The Draglites worked well, but Frank wanted something a little less commonplace, and sold the wheels for a set of 17” Torque Thrust knockoffs, and that was enough to keep him going for the next few years.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

It was in 2009 that the build resumed, when Frank threw on a set of CPP Big Brakes front and rear. Those bigger stoppers would come in handy, since he found a budget Procharger kit on eBay that winter for a measly grand. The blow-off valve and carb bonnet were an additional $175, and the Quick Fuel 750 Blow-Thru carburetor was picked up for peanuts. To keep everything in order, Frank used an MSD Boost Retard to control the timing, and a methanol injection kit since he wasn’t using an intercooler at the time. On 6 pounds of boost, the engine chucked out a slick-melting 560 horsepower at the rear wheels.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

At that time, he pulled the factory dash bezel and replaced the gauge housings for something with a little more pizazz. With a line of simple switches running alongside the tach, the cockpit looks purposeful and clean without appearing gaudy.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

It was around this point that Frank decided he wasn’t going to keep the car a straight-line demon, as he’d tried autocross and whetted his appetite for cornering. After reading How to Make Your Muscle Car Handle by Mark Savitske, he ordered a SC&C Stage II for the front and a Chassisworks G-Link for the rear. The former item included adjustable upper and lowers, as well as Varishock single adjustable shocks and Global West springs. With the right alignment, the 3,600-pound Nova could handle like a much lighter car, but that’s easier said than done. Though he was confident in his abilities, the process took Frank for a loop and he wisely had the guys at Savitke Classic and Custom do the installation. Smart man.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

After extending the exhaust all the way to the rear bumper and sorting out a few issues with the brake booster, Frank’s Nova didn’t see any major modification until a couple years later, when he decided on running a Chevy LQ motor with aluminum heads. Not only would this package weigh about 200 pounds less than the BBC, but it would sit further back in the engine bay. With a new Aeromotive 20-gallon tank and an A1000 pump, the engine would be able to handle the sloshing that comes with autocrossing and road racing.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

The LQ4 came from a Chevy 2500 Express, and only set Frank back $900. However, the motor had seen better days and lacked an ECU. No matter - he sent it off to be rebuilt by SK Speed, with Eagle Forged H-Beam rods, Manley forged pistons (.030 over), a Melling oil pump, GMPP LS3 heads with Manley valves, Lunati dual springs, Manley push-rods, stock LS rocker arms, a Comp Cams Centrifugal Blower cam, McLeod billet steel flywheel, and an LS3 Corvette oil pan. Before the Long Island winter blew cold, he cleaned out the engine bay, gave it a coat of Rustoleum, found a Mishimoto intercooler, and dropped in the LQ. With the blower bracketed on and a set of Kooks 1 ⅞” heads in place, it looked custom, purposeful, and still strangely at-home. Some might even assume it was factory if not for the giant supercharger sitting off to the side, stealing the spotlight.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

With the added power on tap, Frank would have to do a mini-tub job on the rear if he expected to have much traction. After taping off the fuel cell and marking where the factor tubs ended, he pulled out the Dremel and got to work. Frank fitted the DSE tub after trimming the trunk floor back 2 ½” from the original location. Rest assured, he was not content with the fitment for a while, and his garage would know the sweet sound of Frank roaring profanity.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

With added space, he threw on a set of C6 Z06 replicas at all four corners. The rear wells, now painted with textured truck bed paint, would accommodate the 325-section tires, so hopefully every time he depressed the throttle, that expensive rubber wouldn’t immediately transform into a plume of blue-grey smoke. There’s been enough bread invested into the build. Since the car was intended to be a real g-generating machine, Frank broke with convention somewhat and found an airdam and gurney flap setup. The aero setup might not please the purists, but it does keep the behemoth planted.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

Finding the source of the startup issues with the LQ troubled Frank for a while, and after a few unsuccessful attempts, called the helpful people at Holley. No luck. Before he threw in the towel, he took a shot in the dark and changed out the new cam position sensor for the old, dusty piece with 120,000 miles on it. Of course that’s what allowed it to turn over instantly. With a quick, conservative tune, the LQ chucked out a stunning 594 horsepower at the rear wheels, and 662 lb/ft torque!

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

With a fairly basic motor setup, it’s a testament to the incredible amount of power this monster motor can produce on a reasonable budget. Pushing nearly 700 horsepower at the flywheel, boasting a gorgeous, classy exterior and enough tire and suspension to make it corner with precision that belies its size, it’s got all one would need for the street, strip, autocross track, or showroom. Through all the Nova’s iterations, Frank has chosen parts wisely and put them together well, kept his focus, and shown what can be achieved with elbow grease, a clever head, and patience.

A '69 Nova with Blown LQ Power

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About Tommy Parry 102 Articles
Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, Tommy worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school and tried his hand on the race track on his twentieth birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, he began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a trackday instructor and automotive writer since 2012 and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
  • SS322

    I’m not a Chevy fan but that is a nice build.

  • William P. Tiedje

    Sure is a nice build, being a Mopar guy that’s saying a lot … Very Nice …

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