FEATURED CAR: Life Begins At 44
Car - 1972 Chevrolet Nova - Yenko Tribute
Nickname - Mr. Yenko
Paint - 69 Rally Green
Engine - 496 C.I. GM Big Block
Transmission - Turbo 400 with billet internals
Rear - Trans Specialties Ford 9 inch with 4.86 gears on Moser 35 spline axles
Tires - Mickey Thompson 26x7.5x15 up front & Hoosier 33x22.5x15 Quick Time Pro's in the back
Weight - Still Needs To be Weighed
Best Pass To Date - Never Raced - Just Finished
Years Owned - 31 years
Our Featured Car is an absolutely stunning 1972 Chevrolet Nova Yenko Tribute Car. I had the pleasure of stumbling across this beautiful, Pro-Street Nova while driving a golf cart around the Super Chevy show this past summer at Maplegrove Raceway in Readington, PA. I practically put the golf cart into a "Dukes Of Hazzard" power slide when I happened to notice the Nova out of the corner of my eye.
Once the dust cleared, I drooled over the car and inspected every inch of it before asking a group of gearheads who the owner was. Brian P. of Fishkill, NY answered the call and shook my hand. After a quick introduction, I immediately told him that his Nova was exactly the type of car I was looking to feature in our magazine. The Pro-Street scene is booming in various cities around the country, and I’m determined to help make my city one of them. My wife had to pull me off of the car, as I would have spent hours talking to Brian about his beast of a Nova. We exchanged phone numbers, and I assured him I’d be following up so we could share his story with our readers. This was back in July and due to Brian's schedule and the complete overhaul and makeover of my Pro-Sreet Camaro, I am finally sitting at the keyboard drooling once again over this beauty.
Brian purchased the Nova in 1985 at the ripe old age of 15 for a mere $600. It was a rust bucket roller with no engine or transmission complete with a rotten floor full of holes. Brian began the restoration by stripping the car down and preparing the body for paint. As he started to unpeel the years of paint and rust, he noticed there were welds in the A-Pillars, and the floor was joined in two pieces. He didn't buy just one Nova…he bought two!
Around the same time he was doing forensics on his Nova, Brian's older brother purchased a 1965 Chevrolet Pick Up and gave the anemic 283 small block to him. Brian and his dad worked extremely hard trying to do all of the bodywork and paint by themselves, but their work did not meet the final cut. The quest to find someone to complete what they’d started ended with their dear friend Frank in late 1986. Frank cleaned up the homegrown bodywork and applied a single-stage, red enamel for the family price of $1,200. Brian drove his freshly painted, 283 small block Nova for a short while before it stuck a valve and blew up on him.
In 1987, Brian wasted no time and built a 396 L-78 replica engine. The 396 lasted two years before throwing a rod and breaking the cam into three pieces, which by the way, left him stranded two hours from his home. The Nova sat for two years before Brian purchased a brand new LT-1 crate engine with Bow Tie heads. He drove the Nova with the LT-1 until 1990 when he bought his first new car - a 5.0 liter Ford Mustang.
Brian's friends were hounding him to get the Nova back on the road and in 1996 he gave in and built another 396 L-78 Big Block. This didn’t last very long as he sold the engine in 1997, making the decision to cut up the car and make it exactly what he always wanted. The journey to complete this mission was not an easy one, and it took 19 more years to finally bring it to fruition.
The Nova was brought to a friends shop to have it back halved with the instructions "get to it when you have the time to." That was a statement Brian learned to regret after waiting for three years to get his car back. You would think things were going to finally start moving forward for the Nova, but that same year Brian had an opportunity he could not pass up. He was in the right place at the right time, and the moon was in line with Jupiter when he had the opportunity to purchase an all original 1969 COPO Camaro with 3,900 miles for $7,500. Yes, original COPO for $7,500! The Nova detour does not end here. In 2003 Brian traded the COPO for a 1969 Yenko Camaro. Around the same time he was in the process of restoring his Mom’s 1969 Chevelle but wasn’t able to finish it unitl after both of his parents passed in 2009.
2009 was the year the Nova finally got some more attention. Brian got one of his gearhead buddies to cut out the twin funny car cage and install the cage that currently keeps him safe. He sent it back to the body shop that year as well to have the beautiful 1969 DuPont Rally Green paint bring the Nova to life. This was no ordinary body shop, it was painted by his friend Brian at Speedos whose father, Frank, originally painted the car back in 1987. Brian explained that he feels in his heart that Frank is smiling down on both of them. If you didn't notice, Brian had the rear quarters stretched five inches and lowered the body over the chassis to help give it that menacing stance.
The engine was originally built in 1996 by JB Performance, and Brian has $12k in receipts to show for his 800 horsepower 496 cubic inch big block. To save some money, he was able to trade a 427 and some cash for his new powerplant. The 496 began as a brand new GM crate block fitted with Dart 320 heads and a Weiand Intake. A Callies crank, Eagle rods, and JE pistons make up the rotating assembly, while a Lunati mechanical rolling cam helps the 13.7:1 compression breathe through a set of Hooker Super Comp headers. The 496 is fed through a Holley 1050 Dominator carburetor. The ignition system is all MSD starting with their billet distributor that is controlled by a digital 7al-2.
The heart of Mr. Yenko is connected to a Trans Specialties 9-inch torque converter with a 4500 stall speed. The performance built Turbo 400 transmission is controlled by a Hurst Quarter Stick with a reverse shift pattern. All of this power gets to the massive 33x22.5x15 Hoosiers via a Ford 9-inch rear with a Moser spool and 35 spline axles.
The interior was worked on from 2014 to 2016. If you look closely you will see that the glove box was signed by Ed Hedrick from the Grumpy Jenkins crew. Brian recalls on December 15th, 2016 the glass, vinyl top, and striping was completed. The engine was finally fired up on the last day of February in 2016 after a long 20-year nap.
After 44 long years and 31 years of restoration, Mr. Yenko is finally pounding the pavement and turning heads wherever he goes. Brian tries to drive it as much as possible and visits the occasional car cruise and show, but the high compression engine makes it hard to enjoy. Speaking of shows, this brings us right back to where I first saw the Nova and met Brian. Mr. Yenko went on to win the Top 10 in the 2016 Super Chevy 10th Anniversary Pro-Street Class and took first place in the Best In Class category. He also won the Hemmings Muscle Palooza 23 in the Best Modified class. I am certain this beast will make a very high debut on our Top 10 list next year.
Brian still has some plans for Mr. Yenko but he first needs to have it scaled and aligned on all four corners and complete the install on the two nitrous kits this coming winter. He then plans on making it a bit more streetable by building a 10:1 compression 632 big block that will run on pump gas. I look forward to seeing this amazing car in the future and introducing Mr. Yenko to my pretty 572 cubic inch lady called "Big Red." I think they just may hit it off!
Until next time - keep wrenching,