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Chevy II Nova Gasser: Week to Wicked Day Two Recap


It’s day two of our Week to Wicked build. Today’s we’re doing all the plumbing of the brakes, the fuel system, the trans cooler, but we’re most excited about the 496 big block Chevy backed up by the Powerglide transmission and driveshaft. We’re here with special guest Steve Magnate: who was with Hot Rod Magazine for years and did a lot of building and writing about altered wheelbase cars, gassers, the history of door slammer drag racing. According to Steve, the Chevy Nova is one of the best platforms that you can use for a gasser. We’re honored Steve could join our build, but we do have a car to build, so let’s get busy!

The guys first layout the JAZ fuel cell and plan out where everything should go. Being more of a drag car, especially being a gasser, you want to get it as close to the rear axle as possible, so on top of it. To make room for the battery, they decide to place it on the passenger side to counter-weight the driver.

Meanwhile, Zach is getting ready to bench bleed the master cylinder. We’re working with the Speedway Motors universal master cylinder. We’re using Wilwood synthetic brake fluid to try and get all the air out, so when we bleed the brakes we have a head start.

Steve brakes down if a gasser is an A/FX funny car. The gasser came first in the late 1950’s as a result of NHRA designating a class for gasoline-powered vehicles versus nitromethane powered fuel cars. These gassers tended to be closer to street driven cars because they were more expensive and more doable. As a result, the more extreme versions of the gassers were vehicles that still had headlights and grilles and post-war bodies, but were jacked up in the air for more weight transfer. Some of the gassers were also built with engine set back or engine height increases. A lot of guys would take those effects and put them on the street and by the early 1970’s you found these guys building what we call street freaks and that would sort of be the gasser look. One of the things great about the gasser movement was the NHRA mandated these cars generally had to still be street-legal or at least have plates and headlights and brake lights so as a result, many of the gassers even the most radical ones still look like street cars. This made them more identifiable and connectable to the average enthusiast waiting in the stands who built his own replicas and drive it on the street.

While Steve is sharing his wealth of knowledge, Christian and Jason work on the fuel system. The only thing that we added was a return line to the tank which we used a union with a couple nylon gaskets. Jason explains our fuel system set up. We start with our supply which goes into our A1,000 pump into our regulator, this pump will put out easily over a hundred pounds we only need to run six pounds we have the gauge up front that way we can adjust the regulator for the proper fuel pressure, then down into a filter, out of the car with a union and then we’ll run a supply line up the frame to the carburetors.

Steve takes a closer look at motor mounts. You can't assume the motor mounts right to left are the same. In our specific case, they are the same, there’s no offset to these and they’re pretty much the same right to left. One thing to look at in many situations with a V8 is the driver's side is stronger than the passenger side because many engines when they torque they tend to pull on the left front side of the car, the driver’s side, so that can create a need for a stronger motor mount on the driver’s side.

Jeff is getting ready to put the torque converter in our TCI transmission. We’ve already added some fluid to the converter to lubricate the Torrington bearings and to make sure everything is a wet start up. Uncap the torque converter, input shaft and stator shaft. Take some of the fluid from inside the converter, it should be about half full so it doesn't run out, and lubricate the bearing surface and seal surface with the transmission fluid so they’re also lubricated at startup and will also help get that into the transmission housing. When you install the converter you’re generally going to hear three clunks: the first is the input shaft, second is the stator going into the stator ring in the converter, and finally the tangs engaging with the pump. We’ve got about an inch clearance between the face of the transmission mating surface and the pads on the converter.

Before installing the engine, we take a break in the action to see how the engine came together at Speedway Motors Racing Engines. Johnny Hunkins of Car Craft Magazine and Zach Woods, engine builder at Speedway Motors, work together to put the engine together. We're starting with a Mark IV 454. We're using SCAT cast steel crank, Icon pistons, Flo-teck cylinder heads 320cc, Weiand intake manifold, with a couple of Holley carbs sitting on top. We end the engine build with a dyno run before we send it to the tech center. For full details on the engine build, read our Chevy II Nova Gasser: 496 Big Block Engine Build article.

The guys finish the day with the moment we've all been waiting for, dropping in the 496 big block. This thing is going to rock and we can't wait to have some fun! Check back tomorrow to see our progress.

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