1966 Nova: Race-En­gi­neered Daily Driver

David “Dang” Marin Built His Daily Driver With a Wide Ar­ray of Sur­plus Race Parts

Hot Rod - - Front Page - Richard Prince

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

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