This Stock-Appearing 1968 Nova Runs Low 11s on Bias-Plys
By Richard Prince – Photography by the Author
It was Freddy Rodriguez’s destiny to own this stunning 1968 Nova. The New York–based mechanic first spotted the car parked on the street in 1995 and left a card on it with his phone number explaining that he’d like to buy it. He got no response. Never one to give up, he kept leaving cards on it–for five years! Despite his tenacity, however, he never heard from the owner. Then one day, the car disappeared from its usual parking spot so Freddy thought for sure he’d never see it again. But he was wrong!
“My friend bought a house,” he recalls, “and asked me to help set up his garage. I went over there and was shocked to find the same Nova I’d been chasing in his garage. That was in 2000. The car was still extremely original, with only 25,000 miles on the clock, and I was finally able to buy it!”
While thinking about what to do with his new acquisition, Freddy happened to come across SuperCar Races, a series dedicated to organizing and promoting drag racing for muscle cars manufactured from 1957-1979. All entrants compete in one of three categories: Factory Appearing, Factory Stock, and Pure Stock. The rules for the different classes vary, but the philosophy underlying all of them is the same: The cars competing should look almost identical to how they would have when new. As such, they race with period OEM engine blocks, heads, manifolds, transmissions, rearends, and suspension. It also means they race on the same type and size tire they were originally equipped with, which in most cases means bias-ply rubber.
Competitors are permitted to make internal engine modifications, add specified safety equipment, and make other relatively modest alternations that are hidden from view.
Freddy loved the idea of racing an old-school muscle car with some subtle upgrades and decided to build his Nova to compete in the SuperCar Races. Though it left the factory with an inline-six, the rules permit him to set the car up in any configuration originally available from the factory. As such, he opted to build it into the baddest Nova Chevy offered in 1968: an L78 SS396.
Freddy enlisted Gene Pearson at Performance Concepts to build up his car’s 396 with a period-correct block and heads but with improved internals, including 13.0:1 forged pistons and a 0.700-inch lift cam. In keeping with the rules, all externals are stock, including GM cast-iron exhaust manifolds, Winters aluminum intake, and Delco mechanical fuel pump. Also consistent with the rules, and with Freddy’s personal taste, the entire engine bay is detailed to the highest degree.
As with the engine, the car’s drivetrain and chassis are largely stock. Power goes through a Turbo 350 automatic and GM 12-bolt rear with 3.73:1 gears. Stock-style springs front and rear get the power down without any help from traction bars—which are prohibited.
The car’s interior is stock and very original, in keeping with its low mileage and overall excellent condition. The only modifications are added instrumentation, including a column-mounted AutoMeter tach and Sunpro oil pressure, temperature, and voltmeters.
In order to get the outside looking as good as the engine bay and interior, Freddy had Roman A. Diakiwski at LIC Star Auto Repair do a bumper-to-bumper restoration. After massaging the body to perfection, he sprayed it Butternut Yellow.
In keeping with his original plan, Freddy has campaigned his car regularly, clicking off a best quarter-mile run of 11.14 seconds at 122 mph thus far. And that’s on G70-14 Polyglas tires!
Freddy has also enjoyed driving his beautiful Nova on the street, doubling its mileage to just a little over 50,000. “I love this car,” he tells us, “and could not have built it and campaigned it without the support of my wife, family, and friends, including Wayne Nelson, who helped with the tuning!”
Owner: Wilfredo Rodriquez, New York
Vehicle: 1968 Nova
Type: 1968 L78 V-8
Displacement: 512 ci
Compression Ratio: 13:1
Bore: 4.382 inches
Stroke: 4.250 inches
Cylinder Heads: GM 3919840 cast-iron rectangular port
Rotating Assembly: Forged steel crankshaft and rods, forged aluminum pistons
Valvetrain: Yella Terra, solid roller lifters, 381-8150 pushrods
Camshaft: UltraDyne Racing Cams, intake: 0.731-inch lift, 200 degrees duration; exhaust: 0.731-inch lift, 200 degrees duration
Induction: Chevrolet Winters aluminum square port casting #3933163, Holley 780-cfm carburetor custom-made by Pro Systems, K&N air filter
Ignition: GM PN 1111499 cast-iron distributor, NGK spark plugs, BKR6E plug wires, MSD 6AL
Exhaust: Stock GM cast-iron exhaust manifolds extrude honed to improve flow, MagnaFlow 2.5-inch mufflers
Ancillaries: Stock GM alternator, Tilton Super Starter, Moroso aluminum water pump, stock GM Harrison radiator, stock engine cooling fan
Output (at crank): 605 hp at 6,200 rpm, 725 lb-ft at 6,200 rpm
Transmission: ATI Turbo 350 automatic transmission, SFI-approved flexplate
Rear Axle: GM 12-bolt, Strange 33-spline axles
Front Suspension: Stock control arms, Moroso springs, QA1 single-adjustable shocks
Rear Suspension: Summit Racing rear leaf springs
Brakes: GM Delco master cylinder, stock GM front brakes, stock GM rear brakes with aluminum drums
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: 1969 Nova 14×7 XT
Tires: Goodyear Polyglas G70-14
Upholstery: Stock GM
Seats: Stock GM
Steering: Stock GM
Shifter: Stock GM
Dash: Stock GM
Instrumentation: Stock gauges, AutoMeter gauge for water temperature and oil pressure, Shift-Lite
Bodywork: Roman A. Diakiwski at Star Service in Long Island City, New York
Paint By: Roman A. Diakiwski at Star Service
Paint: Butternut Yellow
Hood: Stock ZL2
Grille: Stock GM
Bumpers: Stock GM from AMD