Like many Chevrolets of the era, the ’68 through ’72 Nova was available in everything ranging from pure grocery-getter, all the way up to a fire-breathing, boulevard-bruising, big-block powerhouse. Dan Rensch’s 1972 Nova didn’t start out as the latter, since the 396 big-block was discontinued after 1970. His car was originally of the grocery-getting variety, starting life with the legendary 250 cubic-inch straight six engine, backed by another legend, the Powerglide transmission.
“I bought the car in the summer of 2007,” Dan tells us. It was dug out of an Oregon barn, and Dan had simple dreams of dropping in a mild 350 small-block, and using it as a cruiser. However, a friend had a turbo-enhanced car, and being around that car spelled an end to the mild 350 build. “I started putting together a 5.3-liter LS engine with a small 8847 T4 turbo, and added a 10-point cage and suspension updates,” Dan says.
That combination didn’t last long, with Dan soon swapping the 5.3-liter for a 6.0-liter with a Garrett 94mm Forced Inductions single turbo. “I went 8.28 at 168 mph with that setup,” he says. Dan won a bunch of local races around his Columbus, Ohio, hometown, and then to close out 2014, he won the NMCA World Finals’ LSX True Street class.
Still, Dan wanted more, so during the 2014/2015 winter, he put together a 388 cubic-inch LS combination with a Lil John Motorsports camshaft, and build consultation from Brian Tooley. The transmission was a Turner Racing Transmission’s Turbo 400 with a 2.10 first-gear set. Even weighing in at a beefy 3,700 pounds, the car ran a 1/4-mile time of 8.00 seconds at 180 mph, won more local races, set a Street Car Takeover record, and again, finished out the year with a NMCA LSX True Street class win.
You’ve probably notice a trend by now, and yes, once again, Dan wanted more power. To that end, the car was just revamped by Martin Motorsports, bringing the chassis up to 25.3 specs, and it is now legal for 6.50 seconds in the 1/4-mile. We all have a dream, and Dan’s is to have an Outlaw Drag Radial car. However, most ODR cars are basically a Pro Mod car, and in Dan’s mind, that’s not how it should be.
For Dan, his Outlaw Drag Radial dream entails the appearance and functionality of a street car. “The car is getting steel bumpers, so it will be all steel, except for the hood. The interior is going to be complete. It will have a complete charging system, full water block, and all lights — and, it will be street-driven,” Dan says. He estimates the weight of the car to be around 3,500 pounds. The end goal is to run a 6.99 1/4-mile time while still running leaf springs, and being 100-percent streetable.
To get to 6.99 seconds, Dan has stepped up to a Proline-built 560 cubic-inch aluminum engine, paired with twin Precision Gen2 Pro Mod 88mm turbochargers. Bolted to that is another Turner Racing Transmission-built Turbo 400 with a 1.86 first-gear set, fitted with a Transmission Specialties converter. Under the Nova’s steel front end is a TRZ Motorsports front suspension, while the Calvert Racing catalog was thrown at the car’s leaf spring arrangement.
“In the end, my goal was always to be different and have classic American muscle, not like every other drag radial racer with a Mustang. I wanted to do this on leaf springs, be 100-percent street-capable with 3,000 horsepower, and go 6’s,” Dan says. “It will be a very big challenge, but it’s my goal.”