Video and Feature Story: Larry Larson’s 6-Second Drag Week Nova Cruising the Vegas Strip

Video and Feature Story: Larry Larson’s 6-Second Drag Week Nova Cruising the Vegas Strip

Last week we brought you video of Larry Larson’s incredible, Hot Rod Drag Week winning 1966 Nova running its first ever 6-second pass at the The Strip in Las Vegas, which is amazing for a 3,500-pound car that is really street driven. Now, to prove the street statement, we’ve got video of Larry cruising the “other” strip in Vegas. We were there to shoot photos and video as Larry hit Fremont St. and Las Vegas Blvd on his way south to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, all just an hour after running 6.934 at 211.59 on Saturday during the PSCA Street Car Super Nationals. Special thanks to Mike Galiimi who helped us out by shooting  photos while we shot video. You’ll find several of Mike’s photos in the gallery, as well as in the story below.
Watch the video below, and keep scrolling to read our feature story about the car and the cruise.

Click here to see the video of Larry running 6.93 at 211. That video includes in-car footage and some amazing shots from under the front bumper.

Click here to see the BangShift photo gallery of Larry’s weekend in Vegas with lots of details on the Nova.




We’ve had the pleasure of knowing chassis builder Larry Larson of Larson Race Cars since meeting him on Hot Rod Magazine’s first Drag Week in 2005 where, in Milan, Michigan, Larry surprised us all by doing donuts in the rain soaked pits in his Lenco-equipped, blown-big-block Nova. The car was pink back then. Later that day, after the track had dried, Larry ran an 8.30 in it. We’ve been on multiple Drag Weeks with him since then, and we were there for his historic 7.25-second and 204 mph passes at Muncie Dragway at the 2009 event in September.

After Drag Week, Larry started talking about running his first 6-second pass, and we spent weeks hoping that Larry would skip the Shakedown in Englishtown in favor of the PSCA Super Street Car Nationals in Las Vegas so we could be a part of his historic attempt. When we got the call from Larry saying he had borrowed an enclosed trailer, loaded the Nova, had wife Sherry in tow, and was heading for Nevada, we were ecstatic. We loaded up the gear on Friday, hit the road and were in Vegas on Friday evening. We couldn’t wait. We also couldn’t have been prepared for the weekend we were about to have.

This story isn’t about Larry Larson’s low 7-second passes on Drag Week, or his historic 204 mph pass that earned him the very first spot in the Hot Rod Drag Week 200 MPH Club. This story is about a man who’s passion for his street car has taken him on an incredible journey that ultimately brought him to Las Vegas on the weekend of November 19th-22nd 2009. It’s about sharing a dream. It’s about living those 6.93 historic seconds. It’s about being the first. It’s about the hundreds of people who came to look at the car and talk to Larry. It’s about a man with two goals in mind.

Goal #1, to have the first reliable street car and Drag Week competitor to run a 6-second quarter mile pass. He did that three times in three days in Vegas, running 6.99, 6.96, and ultimately 6.93 at 211 mph. Goal #2, cruise the Nova on Las Vegas Blvd on Saturday night right after running a 6-second pass.

We were lucky enough to ride in the car with Larry down I-15 in Vegas on the way to his hotel, where he picked up his wife Sherry for our cruise in and around Fremont Street and then down Las Vegas Blvd, and can tell you this car is great to ride in. We then lead the way for hours of driving around town while shooting video and photos. Does it make some noise? Sure, but it’s not even close to horrible. We’ve been in louder 5.0 Mustangs. Does it pull like a freight train even on pump gas? YES YES YES. Does Larry drive it like a million dollar show car? Nope. He drives it like my well worn ’66 Bel Air Wagon. He knows the car, it knows him, and it’s obvious. They fit like an old pair of jeans. A really quick, and fast, pair of old jeans.

There’s also a good story about how Larry and the Nova got to know each other so well, and how this amazing ride manages to do it all. Larry bought the car in 1988 as a clean back-half car that was a roller. It had ladder bars, leaf springs with sliders, and a cage. In typical project car fashion, the Nova underwent many engine and trans combos and chassis setups, until one day Larry went nuts and cut the floors out of it completely. It was time for a tube chassis. Every bit of the floor and firewall is now carbon fiber, but the only body panel that isn’t steel is the hood. Even the bumpers are real steel. And, those are the original, mint GM quarters as installed in 1966. None of the steel helps in the weight department, as this “little” Nova weighs 3,500 pounds. In that trim, it participated in the first two Drag Week events, blasting low 8s with a blown big-block in 2005 and 2006. The car was a real driver back then, famous for being seen regularly on the streets around Oak Grove, Missouri. The car’s fuel cell has a small compartment for race gas and a 15-gallon compartment for pump gas. It’s that dedicated to street driving.

For 2008, Larry got together with Larson Race Cars customer and engine builder Mike Moran to design an engine package that would work in front of the Lenco in his Nova. This is Mike Moran as in first-5-second-turbocharged-door-slammer Mike Moran. Larry builds Moran’s cars at his chassis shop and also performs crew chief duties. With Moran power and Larson’s chassis experience, you might think this would be an easy deal. And it might have been if it wasn’t for Larry’s insistence that his Nova remain reliable and streetable. After all, Larry still wanted to be able to drive it back and forth to KCIR and to compete in Drag Week.

It was the whole “street car” mentality that gave Moran fits when putting together the Nova’s new twin-turbocharged, 565ci big-block Chevy. Sure, he knew how to make big, reliable, racecar power, but Larry didn’t want anything fancier than necessary, and he wanted to drive it on the street. A lot. In fact, he demanded as many off the shelf parts as possible. The components used to build the 565 are pretty standard fair, and include a Lunati crankshaft swinging Oliver rods and JE pistons. Jesel supplies the lifters and associated valvetrain in the Dart 360 cylinder heads. Larry was quick to point out that the Dart 360’s are CNC ported from Dart and don’t have some exotic porting job. In typical engine builder fashion, Moran hasn’t even told Larry the specs on the camshaft, except to say it’s got around 0.750 lift. What we do know is that it idles at around 800 rpm thanks to the Moran and Larson tuned Big Stuff 3 EFI. Dual 88mm Precision Turbochargers feed a Larson Race Cars built intercooler, provide 36 pounds of boost, and exhale through 4-inch exhaust that goes all the way out under the rear bumper. The back half of the exhaust is aluminum to save weight, and running full exhaust also required changing over to a single wheelie bar for clearance.

The engine has never been on a dyno, but according to the math, it takes 2,300-plus horsepower to get 3,500 pounds of Nova to go 211 mph in the quarter. All that power is sent through an AFT triple-disc clutch, and then into the mother of all double-throw-down, bitchin’ transmissions, a CS2 5-speed Lenco. Yes Lenco. On the street? Yes. While driving the car through Las Vegas after running his 6.93 pass, Larry and I laughed about the amazing misconceptions surrounding Lenco transmissions, and the folks who claim the Nova can’t be driven on the street with one. Larry has had this one for 10 years, and has done normal sprag and clutch maintenance, but is just getting ready to put new bushings in it for the first time. Remember, this Lenco has thousands of street miles on it. Thanks to the ability to control the shift by slowly engaging the levers, Larry’s Nova shifts smooth and easy. There is no harsh neck snapping shifts while cruising down the street, unless you want them.

A Larson Race Cars sheetmetal housing holds a Strange 9” Ultra Case, ring and pinion, and spool. Mark Williams supplied the axles and brakes, and the front struts and rear shocks are all from Santhuff. Racepak keeps tabs on all the data, and Larry even has a switch to make the speedometer work with the driveshaft speed sensor. Oh, and its got a Pioneer CD player and 6x9s in the back. It’s a street car after all.

With the Moran motor, Larry won Drag Week in 2008, when it was pink, and again in 2009 with the new gray-and-silver paint (with a small pink stripe as a nod to the past). But with other guys claiming to have real street cars 6s, and others saying they were going to be the first in the 6s at Drag Week, Larry wanted to be the most legit street car in the 6s and to beat the rest of them to the 6s at Drag Week. As far as we’re concerned, this is the first PROVEN street car in the 6s, not just because it putted up the Vegas Strip, but because all he changed was the tires after driving 1,000 miles on Drag Week, and because he really does drive the car a lot back home. Others have made the claim, but they have not made the drive. They just have the license plates, and that alone does not cut it any more.

But will Larry be the first to run 6s during Drag Week competition? We’ll find that out next September.

Thanks for letting us be a part of your story Larry. We’ll never forget it.

Larry Larson Nova on the Vegas Strip


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3 thoughts on “Video and Feature Story: Larry Larson’s 6-Second Drag Week Nova Cruising the Vegas Strip

  1. robin hostallero

    i’m building a 66 nova too. i like the looks of your door handles. from what kind of car are those handles from.

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