LSA-powered 1966 Chev Nova

Jason Mant’s 780hp, LSA-powered Chevy Nova is a nine-second tribute to his late wife

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

Most of us have a particular make or model of car that stopped us in our tracks during our formative years that we have lusted after ever since. For Brisbane bloke Jason Mant, that car was the second-generation Chevy Nova. He needed one in his life but never thought he’d be able to make it happen. But then, when he least expected it, the perfect example came along and he pounced on it.

First published in the November 2022 issue of Street Machine

“When I saw this red Nova for sale, I knew it was the one for me, and with the support of my now late wife Bronwyn, off to Victoria I went,” Jason explains. “After flying to Melbourne to view the car, I purchased it in January 2015 from Chris McDonald of McDonald Brothers Racing.”

The Nova was finished in Holden Sting Red paint and clean as a whistle, but it was more mild than wild, powered by a stock 350ci small-block mated to a Turbo 700 transmission. Jason got bulk enjoyment from the Nova in that guise, cruising the wheels off it for a couple of years, before having to park it up while he cared for his wife when she fell ill. Sadly, Bronwyn passed away in 2016, and Jason was left looking for a distraction. “I decided that I should continue with our dream as a tribute to her, and the build began in 2018,” he says.

Jason reasoned that he should start by figuring out what size tyre he could slide under the back of the Nova without hacking it up too much, and work his way forward from there. Thus, the first port of call was Monty’s Competition Engineering to have the rear end attended to. In went a custom-built nine-inch diff with 35-spline Strange axles and a Truetrac centre, slung in relocated leaf springs with Gazzard Brothers traction bars and AFCO dampers.

When the time came to configure a new engine and trans for the Nova, Jason looked to well-known South East Queensland LS gurus, Hi-Torque Performance. “I called Kent at HTP and he was so helpful and keen to take on the build,” he says.

Jason wanted some serious shove under the bonnet, so clearly the tired old mouse motor had to go. And what better starting point is there for a modern pro street Nova build than GM’s venerable LSA? The factory-supercharged 6.2-litre bent-eight is good for around 580hp out of the box, and you’ve only got to look sideways at them and they’ll make significantly more than that. The team at HTP knows a thing or two about fettling an LSA, so they promptly sourced one and got to work.

The factory crankshaft was retained, but JE slugs and Compstar rods bolster the rotating assembly to withstand the higher-than-factory boost levels planned. Breathing is aided by an HTP S/C1-grind camshaft, paired with a set of CNC-ported cylinder heads equipped with oversized Ferrea valves. The factory 1.9-litre LSA blower was also ported and pulleyed to deliver 14psi of boost.

Staged Bosch 044 fuel pumps deliver either pump fuel or E85 to the thirsty LSA, with the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU scaling the tune to suit based on data from the flex-fuel sensor. The result is a very handy peak power number of 780hp at the tyres.

Backing the engine is a significantly toughened Turbo 400 with a Dominator 3000rpm converter, sending grunt rearwards to the aforementioned nine-inch third member.

Brilliantly, the car was in such great condition that there really wasn’t much to do on an aesthetic level. The body and Sting Red duco were both immaculate, but it comes as no surprise that slamming a car over Weld V-Series bigs ’n’ littles does wonders to improve its street presence.

The cabin is largely as-purchased too: factory seats neatly trimmed in red vinyl, with a Forever Sharp billet twirler. The B&M Pro Ratchet Magnum Grip shifter and Haltech iC-7 digital dash, however, were added to improve the user experience along with the new powertrain.

To date, the Nova has managed a best pass of 9.90@142mph, all while overpowering the 275/50R15 ET Streets and struggling for grip. Some set-up changes will likely see that ET drop, but it might mean upgrading the safety equipment, given Jason was invited to leave by track officials after his last trip down the strip. “I’d never drag-raced before, so I was stoked to get that nine, even with a pedal,” he says. “I might end up putting a half-’cage in it; that way I can mount some harnesses, put it down the track again and try and grab that mid-nine.”

Otherwise though, the car is now finished, and Jason has a new partner, who is a big supporter of both the Nova and Jason’s automotive exploits in general. “Kerry has been amazingly supportive through the whole process,” he says. “The car scares the shit out of her, but she loves it!”

And with the Nova build having run its course, Jason’s keen to move on to the next project. “I’ve got a little HB Torana that’s parked over to the side at the moment,” he reveals. “I’ve always loved the shape and would eventually like to put a Barra or something in it – or maybe do something really different and convert it to electric!”


Paint: Sting Red
Brand: GM 6.2L LSA
Induction: Ported LSA supercharger
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Heads: CNC ported, Ferrea valves, dual springs
Camshaft: HTP S/C1 grind
Conrods: Compstar
Pistons: JE forged
Crank: GM
Oil pump: Moroso high-volume
Fuel system: Staged Bosch 044 pumps
Cooling: Custom PWR radiator and fans
Exhaust: 17/8in headers, twin 3in exhaust
Gearbox: TH400
Converter: Dominator 3000rpm
Diff: 9in, Truetrac centre, 35-spline axles
Front: TCI front end, tubular A-arms, Ridetech coil-overs
Rear: Relocated leaf springs, AFCO shocks
Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers (f & r)
Rims: Weld Racing V-Series; 17×4.5 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson ET Front 26×6.00 R17 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street
275/50R15 (r)

Kent and Dallas Dalton and all the team at Hi-Torque Performance for basically building the car; Steve Ryan at Hi-Torque for building the engine; Monty Brown at Monty’s Competition Engineering for all the rear end fab work; Les and Scotty at Fat Pipes for the exhaust; Ben Vlekken at Elite Automatics for the killer Turbo 400; Ross at Suspension Dynamics; Joe Cubito and Troy Swift at The Bump Shop for their continuous great work on the paint-and-panel side of things; my partner Kerry for always being there and supporting me.