You always hear the biggest noise about cars that are showstoppers. Giant crowds gather around these eye-popping spectacles. They've usually got all-out paintjobs and enough bling to make any hard-core gangsta rapper enraged with envy. Leather seats molded perfectly around every curve and perfect seams to match every custom piece of automotive jewelry. It's an inviting siren song that beckons us to sit in the lap of luxury, kick back, and float comfortably in a rocket ship of high octane. Show queens have the good looks and all the requisite brand names to back up the pretty exterior, but what about obtainable performance? Whatever happened to the modest and muted statement that says, "underestimate me and you'll be sorry?"
To some guys, it's all about combining old-school classic looks and the need to have a universally fast car, whether it's green light to green light, or rolling through the twisties at the autocross or road course. This type of guy likes an unpretentious, no-nonsense car that does it all and doesn't require the high maintenance of a supergloss undercarriage. In noncar terms, you woo the prom queen, but when you get married, you quickly learn that she spends more time doing her hair and nails than spending time with you.
Meet Nate Shaw and his immaculate '71 Nova. This stay-at-home dad and owner of One Guy's Garage in Farmington, Minnesota, chose to bypass all the glitz and glamour and build a discreet street assassin that begs to be flogged mercilessly. A car like this just didn't fall in Nate's lap. It all started many years ago when he was 14. Nate's stepmother's '70 four-door Nova wasn't running, and his dad told him that if he could get it running, he could have it as his first car. "My first mechanical job was swapping a cam out of my stepmom's Nova, which had a 307. That car started my obsession with Novas," Nate says.
He later purchased a '70 Nova SS, but that turned out to be more scrap yard material than an actual car: "The previous owner had filled a lot of crash damage with plastic filler." Nate ended up stripping the car of all valuable parts like the interior and 12-bolt rear. He boasts that the 12-bolt from that junker is still in his current car. Speaking of which: "I bought this '71 two-door as a $400 beater that had seen every gravel road that Iowa has to offer. It was rough and cheap, but it was all I could afford as a high schooler," Nate says.
The Sunpro and VDO gauges are the only real hints as to what this car can do. The Garmin G
Pressing the fast-forward button, we find Nate in 2001 with the same beaten-up Iowa Nova. He had installed a 450hp 383, a four-speed, and 4.56 gears. Nate was tired of driving a car that had so many trade-offs; it was no fun on the highway and had limited uses. Nate formulated a plan to use his job at a local GMC dealer to score some parts and make his car into a driveable street machine. With some cajoling, he was able to acquire a 6.0L LS motor from a Yukon Denali, but as with many projects, it was all downhill from there.
The sheetmetal was the first victim of Nate's whizzy-wheel scalpel. He replaced every sheetmetal piece he could get his hands on including full floorpans, doorskins, rocker panels, full quarters, and outer wheelhousings. The firewall was smoothed and Nate used DSE's mini-tub kit to allow for extra inches in the rear tire department. Sourcing out the paint, Nate turned to Mike Bighley of Bighley Autobody in North St. Paul. Bighley helped keep the sleeper look with DuPont basecoat-clearcoat Dark Highland Green Metallic.
One hint as to what this car hides inside can be seen in the wheels. Vintage Wheel Works V48 series hoops are wrapped in sticky Nitto 555 rubber, sized 235/45R17 and 315/35R17. Brakes are an ingenious adaptation of old and new. Nate was able to fabricate his own caliper brackets to mate the disc brakes from a fourth-gen Camaro onto his old drum-style spindles. He was also able to do the same type of setup at the rear, but with late-model S-10 disc brakes.
The 370ci LS out of a '01 Denali is controlled by an Acceleronics VersaFueler injector dri
"Thanks to Pro-Touring.com, I found myself looking at more suspension mods," Nate says. Under the unassuming skin of this Nova, he has installed some serious handling components. The old 12-bolt now sports 3.42 gears and Calvert Racing split monoleaf springs. Up front, a Savitske Classic and Custom Stage 2 frontend kit keeps the front planted during hard turns. Stance is helped out by a set of Hotchkis 2-inch drop springs that have been cut to provide an even larger drop. Competition Engineering subframe connectors, Hotchkis 1.25-inch antisway bars coupled with Race Car Dynamics shocks make short work of body roll.
Propelling the Nova is that previously mentioned Yukon Denali LS engine. The motor now chugs corn-based E85, which should make the fellas over at the Sierra Club happy. Nate tore down the engine and sent it off to TPIS of Chaska to complete the machine work. He then picked up the line-honed and balanced parts and went to work building his 370ci LS motor. The recycled GM crankshaft was tied to Scat forged connecting rods and Manley forged, dished pistons. The compression ratio was left at a conservative 9.0:1 to better handle the turbo boost pressure. The camshaft is from a '02 LS6 Corvette engine and the heads come from the original Denali 6.0L motor. Those stock heads get help from COMP Cams 918 Beehive springs and chromoly pushrods.
"After scouring the LS1Tech.com forums, I decided that I wanted a turbo," Nate says. With that thought, he began making his own custom turbo setup. "I saw lots of fourth-gen Camaro guys making big power for cheap, and I wanted in! Lots of chop saw blades and MIG wire spools later, I had a homebuilt turbo kit on the 6.0L," Nate says. He makes it all sound so easy, doesn't he? Just burn through a bunch of tools and you've got a turbo car that runs 10.70s at 131 mph in the quarter. Simple. The reality is that Nate had to scour the net to find just the right mandrel bends to create the perfect angles to feed the power-hungry Master Power GT45 turbo. This creation of homemade ingenuity adds up to a very potent recipe of 603 hp at 5,800 rpm and 573 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Nate says: "The total cost of the turbo was about $2,000, and when it made the power it did, I knew I made the right choice." Another added custom touch that Nate had to create out of necessity was the crankcase breather and PCV setup. He had to fabricate canisters out of PVC piping and route -6AN braided lines to make it all work nicely.
Coping with all that rotating madness is a GM 4L80E transmission out of the donor '01 Denali. In keeping with the modest theme, Nate made sure that he was able to use the stock column shift that came with the Nova originally. A 3,600-stall comes from a Yank-sourced PY3600 single-disc converter. The trans cooler is hidden well out of sight behind the rearend, and is aided with a cooling fan.
"Late in the build I had a new challenge: kids," Nate says. "My wife and I were thinking about it, and I knew that this car would be a family affair. It had a rollcage, and that could be a problem. So I installed child seat anchors and decided to keep the bench seat to ease getting the new little one in and out of the back seat. Little Cora is 3 months old, and she enjoys riding in the car. It puts her right to sleep. It makes me feel good that my 10-second car doesn't have to be a two-seater Sunday queen."
Building this car has also inspired Nate to do something else. He quit his job at the dealership and is now a stay-at-home dad who works part time on customers' hot rod projects in his home garage. "It's always something I wanted to do, and it's every car guy's dream," Nate says.
A few days after we shot this, Nate took the Nova to the local autocross and killed a few cones. He ended up Third overall in the event, beating out more modern and purpose-built cars. Nate has truly produced a Nova that can do it all: turn, burn, and cruise in traffic. In eight short years of the restoration, Nate went from a $400 beater, to tire-shredding, corner-carving pavement eater, all while saving the planet sipping corn ethanol!
Nate Shaw chose to quit his job at a GM dealership to run a one-man show from his home gar
Nate's '71 Nova sports a stock-looking, but deceivingly simple paint scheme. The color is
|BY THE NUMBERS
|'71 CHEVROLET NOVA
|Nate Shaw, 31 • Farmington, MN
||GM 6.0L LS
||factory block, bored to 4.030 inches
||factory LS1 Camaro oil pan and system
||stock GM crank, Scat forged connecting rods, Manley dished forged pistons
||factory 6.0L LS, COMP Cams 918 Beehive springs, stock rockers, COMP Cams pushrods
||'02 LS6, 204/219 duration at .050 inch, 551-/548-degree duration
||LS2 timing chain; stock lifters and rockers
||GM EFI, Acceleronics VersaFueler injector driver box
||Master Power GT45 turbocharger, Turbosmart 48 sleeper series wastegate, TiAL 50mm blow-off valve, 3.5-inch downpipe
||15-gallon fuel cell, twin Walbro external fuel pumps, -8 AN lines to Edelbrock rails, 95-lb/hr Delphi injectors, Aeromotive fuel regulator with -6 AN lines.
||LS4 exhaust manifolds flipped forward, MagnaFlow 6-inch round muffler, Badlanz electric cutout
||Griffin aluminum radiator, LS1 water pump
||603 hp at 5,800 rpm and 573 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm
||Nate Shaw, machine work by TPIS
||GM 4L80E trans, single-disc 3,600-stall PY3600 by Yank, Shiftworks linkage
||stock GM 12-bolt with 3.42 gears and a posi unit.
||Savitske Classic and Custom Stage 2 Plus UCA, tall Howe upper ball joints, extended tie rods, stock lower arms with poly bushings, Bilstein shocks, Hotchkis 2-inch drop springs ½ coil cut, Hotchkis 1.25-inch sway bar, steering gear from a ’96 Jeep Grand Cherokee
||DSE mini-tub, Calvert split monoleaf springs, Bilstein shocks
||'02 Camaro 12-inch disc-on-drum conversion (front), '02 S-10 discs (rear)
|WHEELS & TIRES
||Vintage Wheel Works V48, 17x8, front; 17x11, rear
||Nitto 555 235/45R17, front; 315/35R17, rear