"I built the car on a super tight budget with cheap parts that I came across. With the help of a lot of friends, I came up with a nice, fast Nova...," says Eddie Corcino. To us, this car is more important than it might seem. It's an honest representation of most readers' rides, and while they may fantasize about a billet this or a magnesium that, the truth is usually a lot heavier.
Say you're like Corcino, mid-30s with a good job, a couple of kids, and an understanding wife. You aren't going to take anything away from them for the sake of your hot rodding hobby. The idea is to do the best you can with the resources at your disposal and to maintain a just and conscionable budget. So you learn the fine points of scrounging, wheedling, wheeling/dealing, and the time-honored art of bartering. You do things methodically, tastefully, and build the most advantageous motor combination that your anorexic wallet will allow.
But best of all, you have a cadre of friends willing to leave knuckle skin and spend the rest of the night thrashing under the car if need be. Eddie Corcino's cosa nostra includes Chico Caraballo, Eric Corcino, Al Corcino, Kevin McCullough, and Rob LaRocco, and all hail from Lorain, Ohio, and environs. And let's be clear from the get go, this Nova would not have been possible for anything remotely close to 10 grand were it not for the company and strong hands of close friends and family. It took them three years to put Eddie's '71 Nova on the straight and narrow path.
Corcino: "I found an ad in a local paper for a '72 Nova in Cleveland. I gave $400 and brought most of the car home in the bed of my truck. It was beyond restoration, but I wanted a Nova so bad that I bought it anyway. I spent hours working on it but with no money, it didn't get anywhere. I decided to keep what was good and parted out the rest of the car.
"Two years later, I found another Nova, a '71 this time. It was much better than the '72. It was a great southern car that hadn't seen more than two northeastern Ohio winters. My buddy, Chico, and I spent countless nights hammering and straightening the sheetmetal." Eddie and Chico looked to the right side of the car with a new front fender and rear quarter-panel. They gave it a new taillight panel and covered the engine compartment with a Glasstek 4.5-inch cowl hood. Chico's own Paint & Body (Elyria, Ohio) applied the '71 GM Burnt Orange paint.
Then came the fun part-getting all the goodies together for a budget engine that would kick booty on nuts alone. No jones for juice. No positive manifold pressure. All engine, dudes and dudettes. Truly, Eddie is a man after our own hearts. His brother-in-law kicked things off with a complete stock 396 motor por nada. Corcino forked over $450 for a steel 454 crankshaft, a spare 396 block, and custom Ross pistons made to accommodate a 396 with a 4.00-inch stroke, thus setting the stage for a 434ci bullet. Eddie shuffled the parts to Chuck Jackson at Rick's Speed Shop (Amherst, Ohio) for the necessary machine work (bored 0.060-inch, decked block, align honed, and balanced the rotating assembly) then hurried them home.
Why build a two-bolt main bearing 396 when there's so much else available? It all came down to moolah, folks. "Because they are cheap," says Eddie. He sunk the Ross 13.0:1 pistons in bores with Total Seal ring packs and hooked them to Eagle I-beam connecting rods, then he buttoned up the bottom end with a Melling oil pump and a Moroso six-quart pan. In went the Crane roller camshaft (0.708-inch lift on both valves with 262/272 degrees duration at 0.050) and the Crane D-Roller timing chain. Eddie's imposed budget also meant that he'd have to abide an all-iron engine. "Aluminum heads are nice, but I can't afford them, so my stock open chamber oval ports will have to do." He fiddled with the castings before assembling them, porting, polishing, and blending the bowls for the 2.19/1.88 intake and exhaust valves. The valve gear is an eclectic mix of Brodix G-1000 valvesprings, titanium retainers, Crane stud girdle, COMP Cams 10-degree retainers and lash caps, stock-length Manley pushrods, stock guide plates, and ARP rocker arm studs. ARP fasteners are used throughout.
With the long-block poised, Eddie port-matched the Edelbrock 454-O intake manifold and sandwiched an HVH Super Sucker 1-inch spacer between it and the Holley 830-cfm race carb. To isolate the incoming air, he crafted an air pan from angled aluminum strips and some stock he got at Home Depot, put on a 4-inch K&N filter and sunk a substack through it to the carb's airhorn. He sumped the fuel tank, hooked up a 140-gph Holley black pump, and called it a night. In keeping with the Nova's destiny, engine accessories have been reduced to just an alternator, and the system is maintained by March V-belt pulleys.
The Nova's exhaust system is just as minimal as the rest of the car. Nothing but the essentials here: Hooker Super Comp headers with 2-inch primary pipes and 3.5-inch collectors plumbed to nasty Flowmaster muffs and turndowns that have been rotated 90 degrees so the exhaust exits to the side rather than pulsing straight down.
Big-blocks in Novas are not famous for their cool-running characteristics, so Eddie addressed the shortcomings with a Weiand water pump and a honkin' Summit aluminum core, abetted by a big thermostatically controlled Perma-Cool push-through fan. He made the mounting brackets from sheet-stock that he formed with his contractor brother's metal break. Uncharacteristically, Eddie sprung for an MSD Ignition package (6AL box, coil, distributor, start/retard and RPM switch). The iron motor tested pretty well, too. Dynamometer results were 496 lb-ft at 6,700 rpm, and 598 hp at 6,700 rpm. At the heart of it, this 3,390-pound car runs 10.90s at 123 mph.
As big-torque processors go, it's difficult to beat the Turbo-Hydro 400 for capacity and longevity. Though it was a freebie, Corcino was obliged to sink about $1,500 in a performance rebuild by Rick Cole, Sr. (Amherst, Ohio), including the 9-inch BTE 3,500 stall converter, Hurst Promatic shifter, and the B&M pan and fluid cooler. Grunt goes down the line in a (3-inch diameter x 0.083-inch wall) driveshaft from Henderson Driveline & Axles.