1966 Nova: Race-Engineered Daily Driver
David “Dang” Marin Built His Daily Driver With a Wide Array of Surplus Race Parts
David “Dang” Marin is an unsung hero behind the Le Mans–conquering, championship-winning Corvette Racing program. He’s one of the team’s superstar race mechanics who keep the C7.R Corvettes at the front of the pack with meticulous preparation and lightning-fast pit stops. Skills honed in the most demanding environment, a circle of friends with equally mad skills, and access to a wide array of “obsolete” racing parts from cars designed and fabricated at Pratt & Miller Engineering, all proved invaluable when Marin decided to build a wickedly cool daily driver out of this 1966 Nova.
“A few things drove all of the choices I made with this car,” Marin explains. “I want to participate in the HOT ROD Power Tour®, so it was built to drive, to be super-reliable, and to be easy to fix roadside if a problem does arise. In about an hour, using a jack and simple handtools, I can have the nose off the car and the entire front chassis clip off. The way we built it, I can do killer burnouts, comfortably run down the highway at high speed, get through corners quickly, and most important by far, do road trips with my sister.” Marin’s sister is disabled, he’s her caretaker, and she gets immense joy from cruising around in this Nova.
When Marin bought the car more than a year ago, it was a worn-out shell, complete with vintage ladder bars, a massive hoodscoop, and other remnants of its early drag-racing days. His initial plan was to replace some scabby sheetmetal, get an engine and drivetrain into the car, and go cruising. For some expert help with the sheetmetal, he turned to pal Bryan Barker, a master fabricator at Pratt & Miller. Barker took one look at the car and suggested addressing all of its functional deficiencies before tackling the bodywork and paint, and Marin agreed.
For motivation, Marin wanted to install a ferocious,
old-school big-block, but then someone he works with suggested he take a look at an LS3 that was sitting unloved on a shelf in the restoration department at Pratt & Miller. It was believed to have come originally in a Camaro SS that got transformed into an IMSA GTD–class road racer, though nobody remembered for sure. It looked a little rough on the outside, so Marin was able to buy it for an excellent price and was delighted to discover it was definitely a new car take-out once he opened it up.
One important aspect of the engine Marin was not so delighted with was its OEM sound. “LS motors sound too refined for me, and I really wanted it to sound like the car looks, so I asked Kevin Pranger for some help,” he recalls. “I was hoping he could come up with a cam that would make an LS3 sound more like a vintage big-block.” Pranger is the lead engine genius at Katech, one of the country’s foremost engine-development and build facilities, and he happened to have exactly what Marin wanted. It was a lightly used, custom grind Katech had utilized for development work. “All Kevin told me was it’s going to sound awesome at idle, pull like a mean mother from 3,500 rpm up, and it’s as big as you can go without valve-relief pockets in the pistons. It was too aggressive for the consumer engine package Katech was putting together, and it found a home with me, much like my dog rescues!” The cam in question features a 0.621-inch intake and 0.624-inch exhaust lift, 235/251 duration at 0.050, and a lobe-separation angle of 113 degrees. Comp Cams rockers and dual valvesprings complete the package.
To feed the LS3, Marin installed a K&N inlet and filter sourced from the GT4.R Camaro racer and put together a custom fuel system using a 21-gallon Aeromotive Stealth tank fitted with a high-flow 340 Stealth in-tank pump. Camaro GT4.R-spec fuel lines produced by Brown & Miller Racing Solutions link
the tank to Holley fuel rails via an Aeromotive regulator, and a Bosch filter setup borrowed from a Corvette C7.R keeps the flow scrupulously clean. A Chevrolet Performance 525 engine-controller kit manages fuel and other crucial engine parameters.
Waste gases are channeled out of the engine via ceramic-coated TCI long-tube headers. A 3-inch X-pipe from Pratt & Miller’s C6RS Corvette test car, 3-inch pipes, and glass-pack mufflers complete the dual-exhaust system. That same C6RS test car also donated its twin SPAL Automotive electric fan setup, which works with a DeWitts aluminum radiator to keep engine temperature in check.
Marin was able to buy an orphaned Tremec
TR 6060 six-speed gearbox that came out of a new Cadillac CTS-V. The Caddy had been transformed into a Pirelli World Challenge racer with a race-only transmission. Joe Dunn at D&D Transmission reworked the original CTS-V gearbox to accept a slip-yoke and a Magnum shifter. He also changed Sixth gear to a 0.50:1 overdrive. An integral pump and transmission cooler in the car’s DeWitts radiator keep the Tremec’s gear-oil temperature under control. The transmission cooler lines started life as high-pressure air-conditioning lines in a C6.R Corvette race car. A McLeod RST clutch assembly and McLeod aluminum flywheel inside the CTS-V bellhousing firmly link the Tremec to the LS3.
To get the power to the ground, Marin installed a Chevy 12-bolt rear axle from DTS. It uses an Eaton limited-slip, Moser 35-spline billet axles with 5X5 5/8-inch NASCAR wheel studs, and an aluminum preload cover. A 3-inch aluminum DTS driveshaft marries the rearend and gearbox. The differential is fitted with a 4.56 ring-and-pinion set, which gives great off-the-line acceleration and fantastic high-speed cruising performance, thanks to that 0.50 overdrive Sixth gear. At 85 mph in Sixth, the engine is turning only 2,400 rpm.
Marin wanted this car to be equally at home on a highway, a road course, a dragstrip, or Michigan’s awful, pothole-scarred streets, so the chassis and suspension would need a serious makeover. This is where he really benefitted from Barker’s expertise and fabrication skills. The two modified an older TCI subframe to accept Mustang II–style Viking double-adjustable coilovers. They also modified TCI control arms and fitted drop links originally fabricated for a GT3-spec Cadillac ATS-V.R to work with a 1-inch TCI sway bar. TCI drop spindles carry hubs designed and fabricated by Pratt & Miller for GT-class Pontiacs that raced in Grand Am. As with the Moser axles in the rear, the P&M front hubs were fitted with 5/8-inch NASCAR studs.
For easy cruising, Marin installed a Ford steering rack that’s fed by a Corvette C6.R hydraulic pump.
The system uses a reservoir that came out of the Corvette C7.R that caught fire at the Daytona ROAR test in 2017.
Stopping power comes from a Wilwood brake setup. Six-piston Superlite calipers clamp 13-inch slotted and drilled rotors at all four corners, and high-performance, street-compound Wilwood BP-10 pads provide smooth engagement, a flat torque curve, and relatively low dust levels.
Forgeline ZX3R wheels deliver both the performance and look Marin wanted. The three-piece wheels have 6061 T6 forged centers and spun rim halves. With Chevy truck hats on the rotors, the wheels clear those big Wilwood brakes. The fronts measure 18x10 inches with a 7-inch backspace, and the rears are 18x11.5 inches with a 6-inch backspace. They started life as race wheels for the Pratt & Miller–built Pontiac GXP.Rs, and the particular set on this Nova completed the 24 Hours at Daytona about 10 years ago. Steve and Dave Schardt, owners of Forgeline Motorsports, modified them to properly fit Marin’s car. They wear Continental ExtremeContact DW tires sized at 265/35-18 in the front and 295/35-18 in the rear.
Though Marin initially planned to attack the body first, to date, he still hasn’t done most of what’s needed. Parts of the floor and the transmission tunnel were cut out and replaced with new sections that Barker made to provide adequate clearance for the new drivetrain, and a new 2-inch cowl hood replaced the original, which had been cut up for a giant scoop back in the day. Under the hood, Marin installed carbon-fiber inner fenders fabricated at Pratt & Miller with sample material that otherwise would have gone unused.
In keeping with the build’s overall ambiance, interior work has been primarily limited to improving performance. Low-back, big bolster seats are upholstered in black vinyl, and insulating Boom Mat covers the floor and firewall. The billet steering wheel is from Eddie Motorsports, and a Racepak IQ3 digital dash display tells Marin everything he needs to know. For safety’s sake, the six-point rollcage was made with removable door bars using Corvette Daytona Prototype rear-engine brace mounts as couplers. All electrical functions are controlled with the help of a modified American Autowire harness. For his sister’s sake, Marin installed a Vintage Air A/C system.
Though there’s still plenty he plans to do with his Nova, Marin is having too much fun driving it to do anything big that would take it off the road for an extended stretch. “It’s our cruiser,” he says, “and it brings so much happiness to my sister. I drive it whenever and wherever I can. It’s fast, handles well, stops well, does killer burnouts, and motors down the highway in total comfort. A lot of people went above and beyond to help get it to this point, including Gary Pratt, who loved watching old, obsolete race parts get off the shelves and on the car. I owe a huge thank you to Gary and all of the friends who helped out. The whole project was special because of everyone who got involved, everyone who went to extremes to help me get this car built. I simply can’t thank each and every one of them enough. I love driving the car, and it puts a giant smile on my sister’s face, which is the most important thing of all!”
01] The original trim tag tells us, among other things, that this Danube Blue/blue interior Nova was built the fourth week of December at the Norwood Assembly Plant.02] This LS3 came out of a Camaro SS that was converted to a GT4.R class race car.03] The power-steering fluid reservoir came off the Corvette C7.R that burned at a Daytona test in 2017. 04] An Aeromotive bypass regulator and BMRS lines deliver fuel to the Holley rails.05] The ride height was lowered 4.5 inches in the front and 5.5 inches in the rear.05 03 04 01 02
01] Forgeline ZX3R wheels, which completed the 24 Hours at Daytona on a Pontiac GXP.R, were modified to work on Marin’s Nova.02] One of Pratt & Miller’s composite specialists built the front wheelwells from carbon, working on his own time to help out Marin.03] Much of the plumbing and wiring was sourced from the obsolete parts bins at Pratt & Miller, including this battery cable.04] The Chevrolet Performance 525 engine controller is commonly used for LS engine installations in older cars.05] A 0.50:1 overdrive Sixth gear delivers 85 mph cruising at only 2,400 rpm, making for a great highway cruiser. 01 02 03 04