Gasser-Style Built 1966 Chevy Nova

By Scotty Lachenauer   –   Photography by the Author

005 top down view 1966 chevy nova

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Nicknames are a common way of acknowledging a person’s individuality. Many of these are derived from our given names, as a shortened or modified substitute, and usually designed to catch an ear, adding color to a somewhat typically bland or phonetically arduous nameplate.

Sometimes, however, nicknames are given to a person due to circumstances or characteristic traits that seem to revolve around that individual. These qualities can be both good, and sometimes, well, not-so good. David Ralph of Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, knows all too well this typical rite of youth: the handing out of a characteristically all-encompassing nickname based on the trials and tribulations of his everyday life. “When I was a kid, I got myself into a lot of what I would call stupid trouble. Nothing too serious, but the kids started calling me David Doom because of the typical outcomes of my mischief,” David confesses. “Years later when the Marvel movies and the Fantastic Four appeared on screen with the character Dr. Eric Von Doom, they started calling me David Von Doom. I kinda liked it and it just stuck.”

 

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002 green and white drag raised front end and large rear tires 1966 chevy nova

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A lot of that disruption that David found himself entangled in was later centered around the vehicles he commanded. “I’ve owned over 300 cars in my life, as many as nine at a time,” David mentions. “Of course, there were definitely some heavy hitters in my stash. My ’70 Boss 429 would cause a stir wherever I got on it. I would tear up the pavement with it on command.”

As he matured, David settled into everyday life and the daily grind, but the love of muscle cars and hot rods never left him. Back in the day I owned some hairy rides, the latest was a ’23 Ford RPU. I armed it with a nasty 383ci stroker powerplant, which made the lightweight fiberglass ride a powerful pickup,” David says. “I drove the snot out of that thing and enjoyed every minute of owning it.”

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007 underside view gasser 1966 chevy nova

After driving the RPU for so long, he wanted something else to cruise—something with a roof. He decided on a Chevy with big power that could be driven rain or shine; a Nova was his first choice.

David’s current ride came to him through a web-based marketplace. “I saw an ad for a ’66 Nova for sale or trade,” David says. “I contacted the owner and asked if he would be interested in doing a straight-up trade for my pickup. He wasn’t too far away from me, so we decided to check out each other’s rides. At first sight I thought the Nova was just OK, but when he fired up that supercharged 355, it blew me away! After that, we made the deal.”006 custom rear end 1966 chevy nova

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Why a Nova? “When I was a kid, my sister’s boyfriend (now brother-in-law) had a ’66 Nova. It was jacked up in the back, had a tunnel ram with a pair of Holley 390s. It also had ‘Novacaine’ painted on the quarter-panels,” David reminisces. “That car cemented my love for the compact Chevy.”

Once David got the Nova back to his garage, he put on a set of Radir Tri-Ribb wheels sourced from good friend and gasser guru Rich Conklin. He worked alongside Rich building hot rods at his shop in Montville, New Jersey. He took one look at the Nova and said, “You’re kidding me, right?” Conklin knew David wanted to bring the nose up and give it a complete gasser makeover. With plenty of work ahead to get this Chevy where David wanted it, the twosome got down to brass tacks.

011 chrome plated engine with dual air filters red spark plug wires and tubular exhaust headers nestled in a 1966 chevy nova

The first thing David did was realign the front engine cradle to get the Big Al’s Toy Box–built blown small-block back in the correct position. From there, floorpans needed to be fabricated as the previous owner just riveted in some sheetmetal in the rear seat area. David fabricated new pans and Conklin welded them in. Being an old racer, the rear framerails had twisted over time and one was 1 inch shorter than the other. With the ’rails handled, Conklin, familiar with automotive geometry, then recalculated the position of the rearend and got it squared away.

009 rear drag tires 1966 chevy nova

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David went on to make new spring eye mounts and the boys even rebuilt the frame connectors to keep this ride even-steven. Next, the guys worked on putting in the straight axle up front. “I sourced a heavy-duty gasser axle from Speedway Motors and we installed it along with some ’49-54 Chevy spindles and period-correct Twisty shocks,” David says. “Out back, we added Monroe air shocks and a set of Jeep Cherokee leaf springs with the Chevy 10-bolt to get the rear suspension roughed in.”

023 drag slicks on 1966 chevy nova

David wanted big tires under the quarters but did not want to cut or radius the rear sheetmetal. So, he and Conklin decided on a 10.0-15 Radir Pie Crust tire out back. To make the tires fit, they brought the body up and flipped the rear axle to make it a spring-over axle instead of spring under. That offered some additional height. David fabbed some axle perches and Rich welded them up along with the shock mount bolts.

The Nova sat way too low up front, so they decided to make up some 3-inch riser blocks out of billet aluminum to level the car. The 6-foot-6-inch homemade ladder bars were added next. David built them out of 1-inch square stock and Conklin did the honor of tying them all together.

016 Interior of a 1966 Chevy Nova with a white steering wheel and fuzzy green dice 1966 chevy nova

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With wiring next on the to-do list, David ordered a complete Hot Rod harness from Speedway Motors. Conklin’s son, Brian, stepped in to help with the process. While this was happening, David started working on the body performing all the necessary metalwork in preparation for paint.

022 Super Sport emblem 1966 chevy nova

Conklin laid down six coats of ’68 C10 Riviera White to the Nova’s flanks. David joined in and masked the panels so Conklin could start the lace work. He started by misting the car with Jungle Fever Green, finishing off the edges with Synergy Green and pearl paint to accent the lace design then six coats of clear. Once dry, David unmasked the car and proceeded with the wet-sanding process prior to Glenn Yuengling’s myriad of lettering and pinstriping on the ride.

015 chrome weiand blower 1966 chevy nova

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Circling back to the engine, the small-block was put together with stellar components, including a forged Callies crank, Carrillo forged H-beam rods and Mahle dished 8:1 compression forged pistons. Victor Jr. heads top the cylinders, and that Weiand 6-71 Supercharger pushes out a healthy 10 pounds of boost. A set of Patriot headers send spent fuel to a stainless exhaust David built, then topped it all off with a pair of NASCAR-style mufflers.

020 Custom gear shift lever with a green translucent knob 1966 chevy nova

Von Doom named the Nova “The Grinch” because it fought him all the way through the build process. So, how does the car drive and feel? David puts it this way: “The suspension is stiff but road-friendly. The M21 shifts like butter, the manual steering is stiff but precise, and the powerplant is super responsive with the two four-barrel setup. It’s exactly what I expected. It’s brutal but compliant. It’s a great in-your-face driving experience!”

021 Dual carburetors with red filters on 1966 chevy nova

I want to thank all involved with the build,” David announces. “That includes Rich and Rita Conklin for all their help and support, Brian Conklin, Matt Ziegler and Steve Cannizzo for help with the wiring, Mike Attanasio at Glascar for the glass, and Glenn Yuengling for his amazing artistry. But I mostly want to thank my wonderful wife for her faith and confidence in me to build a car starting with just one bolt.”

008 driver side custom drag 1966 chevy nova

Tech Check:

Owner: David “Von Doom” Ralph, Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania
Vehicle: ’66 Chevy Nova

Engine
Type: Chevrolet small-block
Block: Cast-iron
Displacement: 355 ci
Compression Ratio: 8.0:1
Bore: 4.030
Stroke: 3.480
Cylinder Heads: Victor Jr. 64 cc
Rotating Assembly: Callies forged crank, Carrillo H-beam rods, Mahle dished hypereutectic pistons
Valvetrain: Manley valves, hydraulic lifters
Camshaft: Lunati hydraulic
Induction: Weiand 6-71 Supercharger
Ignition: MSD Blaster 2 coil, PerTronix Stand Alone distributor
Exhaust: Patriot headers, 3-inch exhaust, Walker mufflers
Output: 650 hp

Drivetrain
Transmission: M21 four speed
Rear Axle: GM 10-bolt with 3.73 gears

Chassis
Front Suspension: Speedway “Zero Drop” straight axle, Chevy ’49-54 spindles, ’70s GM Twisty shocks, aluminum block risers
Rear Suspension: ’95 Jeep Cherokee leaf springs, Monroe air shocks, owner-built 6-foot-6-inch ladder bars
Brakes: GM intermediate calipers with 9-inch rotor front, GM stock drums rear

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Radir Tri-Ribb 15×6 front, 15×10 rear
Tires: Firestone Deluxe Champion 6.40-15 front, Radir Pie Crust Dragster slicks 10.0×15

Interior
Upholstery: By owner
Material: Vinyl
Seats: ’69 Chevy El Camino
Steering: Moon steering wheel
Shifter: Hurst
Dash: Original
Gauges: Autogage tach, Bosch three-gauge pod
Audio: Nada
HVAC: Stock

Exterior
Bodywork: Owner
Paint By: Rich Conklin
Paint: ’68 GM Riviera White
Hood: Stock, cut to fit the supercharger
Grille: Stock
Bumpers: Stock
Extras: Moon Gas Tank (radiator overflow)

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Gasser-Style Built 1966 Chevy Nova.acp february 2024

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