Car Feature: This 1971 Nova Has Big Cubes, Big Compression, A Big Cam, A Classic Looks That We Love

Car Feature: This 1971 Nova Has Big Cubes, Big Compression, A Big Cam, A Classic Looks That We Love

(Words and photos by Doug Gregory) – Tommy Keeton of West Liberty, KY owns this Autumn Gold ’71 Nova SS.  We met Tommy for the first time at the 2014 Boonesborough Boogie Nationals held last weekend at Ft. Boonesborough State Park in central Kentucky.  The car was originally sold in Paintsville, KY with a 307ci and a Turbo 350 transmission.  It came with the Super Sport option package and was covered in a popular blue hue.  

Somewhere along  the way there  was an accident and the Nova sat idle afterwards  until 2009 when Tommy came to the rescue.  The floors were good, but the doghouse needed replacing as did the quarter panels and a portion of the trunk floorOnce Tommy completed the necessary straightening he laid down a fresh coat of blue paint with silver SS stripes.  Yeah, we said blue.  What happened….?  Tommy said that it looked great inside, but once he rolled it out in the sunlight the color was all wrong.  Unsatisfied, he rolled it back in and started all over.  There’d been another Nova in the family years ago that was Autumn Gold and Tommy’s mom had asked him to paint this car that color.  In tribute to his mom Tommy sprayed the modest shade and an authentic-looking set of black SS stripes to give it some contrast.

 Under the nicely-wrapped exterior is a serious street bruiser.  The timeless Cragar S/S wheels are bolted up to disc brakes on both ends.  Rear multi-leafs keep the differential in place with a set of slapper bars ensuring the 3.31-geared 12-bolt doesn’t experience too much axle wrap.  Up front there’s tubular control arms and Wilwood calipers.  Under the cowl hood sits a 505ci big-block that has plenty of goodies to make it roar.  An Eagle crank and connecting rods push and pull 12.5:1 SRP pistons while an Elgin .740 lift cam actuates the 2.30” intake and 1.88” exhaust valves in the ProComp heads reportedly ported out to about 345cc.  Spent gasses are exhaled through Hooker Super Comp 2- 1/8th primary headers then reach the atmosphere via a Pypes 3-inch mandrel-bent system.  Tommy says it’s the best-fitting exhaust he’s ever had and was also the easiest to install. 

There’s a set of electric cutouts he’s added to allow a few more horses to run free on demand.   Currently its running a temporary fuel system consisting of a 110gph mechanical pump and a 950cfm Proform carbMSD ignition goodies light off the mixture with admittedly a lot less advance to allow for safe pump gas cruising.  Prior to the head-porting and current cam the engine made 745hp at the crank.  One can only guess what it may be making now.  Transmitting all this power is a 6-button clutch fronting a Super T-10 transmission with a Hurst shifter making the selections.  The 1st gear has been upgraded to a 3.xx ratio so the car launches hard even with the more highway-friendly gearing.  Tommy says he is a ‘Pontiac guy’, but this Nova doesn’t seem to suggest that and he also told us his brother has a Nova as well.  I think there is some denial going on that the X-body fills his horsepower craving and this car is certainly a prime example of it!


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12 thoughts on “Car Feature: This 1971 Nova Has Big Cubes, Big Compression, A Big Cam, A Classic Looks That We Love

    1. The Librarian

      A very nice job. But I do grow tired of the cowl hoods being slapped on every other classic car. I think a ss hood with ram air beneath or maybe a L88 would better suit such a pretty day 2 ride.

      1. doug gregory

        I understand the whole cowl scoop thing too, but it looks at home on this car. The L88 hood is something I’ve seen on just about everything and it doesn’t really fly on ‘everything’. It does work on Novas, but isn’t everyone’s cup-o-tea. The intake and stuff preclude running a flat hood on this one. The car is subtle (unless the cutouts are open) and is nearly just like it would have been built years ago. I’m glad it doesn’t have the back end all jacked up and N50s sticking out past the fender (though I don’t necessarily dislike that look).

        1. The Librarian

          I know what you mean. Though I do have fond memories cruising in a stinkbugged roadrunner.

          And I do feel bad nitpicking on such a fine ride.

  1. Chris Wilson

    I know people complain about Cragar s/s wheels being overdone but DAMN they just look so good on a 60’s or 70’s street machine.

  2. Lee

    IMO – it would have looked better with the 1967 427 Corvette style hood scoop instead of that big ugly one.

    1. The Librarian

      I believe that was the scoop I was thinking of.

      Didn’t Yenko or Motion or someone use them on novas?

      1. jerry z

        Baldwin-Motion did the Vette hood called the ‘Stinger” hood.

        It would look great on the Nova!

    1. doug gregory

      Well, if you consider it came with a 307 in ’71 and a 427 wasn’t available from ’70-up then using a ’69 emblem to denote a big-block might be the only way to go short of custom badges.

  3. Tommy Keeton

    Hey yes it does have 1969 fenders on it I put them on because I liked the emblem style and the cowl hood is always been my choice. Everyone like different stuff it’s just my style. I want to thank Doug Gregory for such a great job great pictures. Really made it stand out. Thanks again Doug and it was a pleasure meeting you and your family hope to see you guys next year

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