Kyle Scheel’s Nova has been in his family as long as he can remember, and several years before that. It’s got a history rich in street miles and drag strip launches, but now it’s taking on a new life gearing up for HOT ROD Drag Week.
“I don’t have a memory without this car being around,” says Kyle Scheel. “It predates me in the family – the car was purchased in 1986, and I was born in 1988.”
Now assisting with sales and technical tasks at Dart Machinery in Troy, Michigan, for the past few years Kyle has spent much of his free time completely going through the family’s ’72 Nova, honing the sinister Chevy for Hot Rod magazine’s Drag Week competition.
As the son of a master mechanic, Kyle’s obsession with performance was forged at an early age. “He worked on classic cars, and he got to work from home, so I got to see this stuff all the time,” he recalls. “I was recruited into helping out on all sorts of cool restorations over the years.” Kyle’s first project of his own was a ’73 Camaro that he drove throughout high school. “I raced that in the NMCA and NSCA as a 13-second street/strip car. It was fun and reasonably fast, but not so much so that it could get me into any real trouble.”
But throughout those years, the Nova continued to be a constant. “NMCA, NSCA, local bracket racing, and things like that – the Nova was always part of the focus, crewing on the car and helping my dad with it. I’ve always been working on that car in one way or another.”
As the oldest of four brothers, Kyle’s father came of age during the height of the muscle car era in the late 1960s. “He badly wanted a Chevy II,” Kyle explains. “But my grandfather basically said, ‘Nope, you’ll kill yourself with that car,’ and put his foot down. So he ended up driving a ’67 Oldsmobile instead. But his youngest brother, who’s fifteen years younger than my dad, needed a car when he came of driving age. My grandpa told my dad to find his brother a car, and he found a Nova for his baby brother – sort of as a roundabout way of getting the car he originally wanted.”
The 307-powered grocery getter was ostensibly stock when the Scheels took possession of it, and Kyle’s uncle daily drove the Chevy for a number of years before the car started to literally fall apart in the mid-1990s. “At that point, the body fell right off of it because of the rust,” Kyle tells us. “One day my uncle was at a stop light in the car with the fenders flapping around and the doors rusting away, and the guy in the next lane rolls down his window and says, ‘Hey – do you need parts for that thing?’ So he follows this guy to an apartment complex with open car ports, and there’s a ’73 Nova that the guy was in the midst of parting out. Right then and there they swapped one fender, I believe both of the doors, and the decklid.”
Not long after, the Nova’s first restoration got underway in earnest. “It turned out pretty darn nice, and it stayed like that for the next ten years or so. But then in 2003 it started getting rusty again.”
By then Kyle’s father had bought his uncle out of the car, and the Nova had become more of a drag car than a street cruiser. “At that point we were actively racing it, following various series,” he adds. In 2010 the car was parked in the garage while the focus was directed on other matters, where it remained for the next few years.
Kyle and his father had discussed setting up the car for Drag Week competition, but unfortunately the elder Scheel passed away in 2015 before the project could be completed. Since then, Kyle has completely rebuilt the Nova in anticipation of running in the event. “Everything other than the greenhouse and the body panels has been replaced,” he says. “All the wiring, safety equipment, power train, suspension components, cooling system, fuel system, brakes – everything is new.”
Under the hood is an iron block, 427-cube Dart SHP LS Next mill, outfitted with a fully counterweighted and micro-polished 4.00-inch-stroke Dart LS billet 4340-steel crank, steel H-beam connecting rods, forged aluminum pistons, a Cam Motion low-lash solid roller camshaft, Dart’s Pro 1 LS3 aluminum cylinder heads, an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, and a Book Racing Enterprises E85 4150 carb. “It makes 760 horsepower at the flywheel at 7200 rpm, and 600 pound-feet of torque at 5900 rpm,” Kyle notes.
Hooked to the LS is a TH400 transmission with a Gear Vendors under-overdrive, which basically gives Kyle six speeds to work with in order to make the Nova both fast out of the hole and easy to live without on the highway. “I can do 65 miles per hour at about 3000 rpm, so it’s pretty manageable.”
While the car could certainly hold its own as a bracket racer, Kyle purposely overbuilt the Nova to make sure it could stand up to the rigors of Drag Week. “This LS was part of that strategy,” he notes. “This stuff has to be able to stand up to driving on the street just as much as it needs to perform at the track.”
He’s been patient about getting this massive project finished, a virtue that has proven its worth time and time again at Drag Week. “A week and a half before Drag Week 2018, I still had to finish the wiring in the car,” Kyle says. “I figured I could work around the clock and get it drivable, but it would have been completely untested – no track time, no setup, or anything like that. There are people who do that sort of thing, but I’m way too cautious with the car for that. Some friends of mine have tried to do that and they all broke – either during testing the night before the event started, or on the first day.”
The extra prep time has given him a chance to sort out issues so he can potentially run in this year’s event. “It’s still in progress, but we’re now on to the smaller stuff. Little by little we’re getting it to perfect. After two years in the making – plus another seven years before that of sitting – I figure what’s another couple of weeks to get it right before we dive right in.”
If you’re interested in more updates on Kyle’s Nova, CLICK HERE for a dedicated Facebook to the car’s progress.