photos by: Dominic Domato
J.Z. Heyde Creates a Modern-Day Pro-Street Nova with its Own Flavor
The concept of turning a full-tilt drag car into something that can still be streetable and [relatively] road-legal is nothing new. Dubbed as “Pro-Street” back in the late 60s-early ’70s, the result has been met with mixed results over the course of time. However, Pro-Street has evolved at an incredible rate over the last several years, so much so in fact, that it’s to the point that something that was built maybe ten years ago just looks outdated and irrelevant in 2017.
In addition, most of the Pro-Street cars built back in the trend’s heyday sounded impressive and looked incredible, however weren’t terribly useful on the street. Usually built more for show than actual racing, there were plenty of these examples that weren’t particularly good at anything; rough idle on the street and underwhelming performance at the dragstrip.
These days, things have changed a bit; 1,000 horsepower street cars are becoming more and more commonplace and having a car that can do more than one thing is now the norm. And so it seems, there isn’t much point to building a big-block powered, blown muscle car that is completely useless, anymore, thanks to modern technology and ingenuity.
Enter Jamin Z. Heyde, also known as J.Z. to his friends. A natural-born mechanical genius, J.Z. is the type of guy who either makes his own tools, or buys them and rebuilds them to work better for his needs — seriously, he’s even manufactured his own tool boxes from scratch because they didn’t suit his needs.
After owning a ’70 LeMans, a couple of late-model Camaros and first-gen Novas, he’s diving all into this particular third Nova of his. He’s so O.C.D. (from our point of view) that he’s managed to build, and rebuild, his ’63 Nova multiple times — and at great cost, admiringly, until it was right.
No big-block, no massive throwback blower sticking out of the hood, and no breaking down on the side of the road to pick up a pint of milk. Oh, and it actually runs as well as it should at the track — which couldn’t be said for some of its forebears.
Under the hood, is what impresses us the most. Built entirely by Tony Schroeder and the crew at Automotive Engine Specialties (AES), the 21st-century LSX of J.Z.’s Nova displaces 416 cubic-inches. Starting with an iron block as the foundation, the bottom end is equipped with a forged Eagle crankshaft and connecting rods, and a set of Diamond pistons that help provide a 9.5:1 compression ratio.
Moving towards the top end, we get to a set of ported GM L92 aluminum heads equipped with 1.7 ratio Yella Terra rocker arms and Manley 2.170 intake and 1.600 exhaust valves. A boost-friendly Smallwood camshaft spec’d at a 244/250 duration, a .675 lift and a 115 LSA provides the right amount of lift (and lope) that J.Z. was looking for.
Sitting on top of the stroker LSX is an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, fuel rails and an Accufab 4150 throttle body, with a Melling oil pump keeping the engine lubricated. Clearly not content with a naturally-aspirated mill, it’s fed by a cogged F1A ProCharger centrifugal blower — packing 15-psi. of boost and paired with an air-to-air intercooler. A 40T head unit pulley is matched to a 77T crank pulley.
With big cubes and a decent amount of boost, comes the need for a sufficient fuel system — and stock, off-the-shelf components won’t do. Instead, J.Z.’s Nova is equipped with a Holley EFI system, that tells a Magnafuel ProTuner 750-4303 pump and return-style regulator to send 43-psi. of fuel pressure to the 120-lb injectors. Stock coils, NGK plugs, custom Firecore wires and a Holley ignition box provide the spark.
The spent exhaust is sent through Stainless Works/Church Boys LS-swap headers, fed through 3-inch stainless tubing and a Borla XR-1 muffler, dumping just before the rear axle. A modern Pro-Street car can’t fill the shoes of its predecessors, unless it has the soundtrack, from what we’ve seen (and heard), this Nova certainly does!
Mr. Heyde shifts gears through a ProFormance Transmissions TH400, equipped with a trans brake and reverse manual valvebody. Helping the Nova launch, is a Circle D 3400-stall torque converter, attached to a TCI flexplate. Each gear is selected through a B&M ProRatchet shifter, with a Derale cooler keeping the temps in check. A 4-inch aluminum Driveshaft Shop driveshaft connects the TH400 to the rearend, that’s kept in place by a Beriso Motorsports driveshaft loop. A GearVendors overdrive that is controlled by the earlier-mentioned Holley EFI, is also in place.
Sitting out back, is a Strange 9-inch rearend with a custom fabricated back brace and an Eaton Detroit Locker differential, Strange 35-spline axles and a 3.73 gear set. Preventing any kind of wheel hop is a set of Strange shocks and Smith Racecraft split-mono leaf springs. In addition, is a Team Z anti-roll bar and custom Beriso Motorsports Panhard bar. Smith Racecraft assassin bars are caught in the mix as well.
Complimenting the rear suspension, the front has received plenty of attention as well. In place is a Heidts-designed Mustang II-style entire front clip hidden beneath the Chevy II bodywork; composing of upper and lower A-arms, springs, 2-inch drop spindles and sway bar. The Heidts front clip is also equipped with QA1 coil-over shocks for adjustability.
Helping the Nova hook on the pavement are a set of Weld Racing Vitesse rollers measuring in at 15×10 inches out back, and 17×4.5-inches in the front. Hoosier 26×7.50 Pro Street Radials are mounted on front, naturally, with Mickey Thompson 275/60/15 ET Radials in the rear. Now obviously, the stock brakes wouldn’t cut it on a car of this caliber, so Wilwood 6-piston calipers in the front and 4-piston calipers in the rear bring this monster to a halt in a hurry!
Moving to inside of the cockpit, and we find a 10-point roll cage that protects the occupants in the event of a roll over, as well add some much needed rigidity to the uni-body chassis. Adding additional life-protection, is a fire extinguisher and 5-point harnesses that keep the occupants firmly planted in their bolstered, black racing seats.
For a cleaner look, the dashboard has been smoothed out and filled in. Gone are the factory gauges and in went a full-color Holley 7-inch touch screen dash, that tells J.Z. all of the engine vitals; including speed, revs, air/fuel ratio, boost and just about everything he could possibly want to know.
Extending the dark color scheme from the inside to the exterior, the body has been sprayed with House of Kolor Glamour Fake/Galaxy Grey. The only major modification made to the set metal is a VFN fiberglass hood. Additional touches include tinted windows and chrome touches spread sparingly thought the body.
The result is one dynamite-looking X-body that is perfectly crafted and runs very quickly on the street; that can also pull double-duty as a family hauler to take his kids to school — which he’s done. A quick wrap on the throttle left one the younger Heydes with such an amount of shock and amusement, that we can’t even publish what he said here.
That being said, the results are impressive; clicking off an 11.0 at at 127 mph, with a conservative tune and some traction issues that weren’t completely worked out until after last season. There’s certainly faster times in it, as the Nova has laid down 800 hp to the rear wheels, with a 950-lb-ft of torque to back it up.
While what lays in store for J.Z.’s Nova is yet to be determined, we’re willing to bet that we’ll be hearing much more from J.Z. and his modern-day Pro-Street machine in the coming years.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of Timeless Muscle Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.