Update: We Follow Along As Larry Dixon Builds An LT4-Powered 66 Nova

Update: We Follow Along As Larry Dixon Builds An LT4-Powered ’66 Nova

By Randy Bolig

Back in July, we were very enthusiastic about introducing a latest series of articles that will chronicle Top-Fuel racer Larry Dixon as he pulls his trusty ’66 Nova out of moth balls, and prepares it to do battle at Drag Week. In the introduction article, Larry was kind enough to tell us about how he acquired the Nova in 1988, while working at local speed shop and how it ended up being placed in storage for several years. 

Larry couldn't wait for the big brown truck, so he traveled to the depot in his personal Chevy truck and picked up the new engine himself. We're sure the crating material on the engine didn't last long once the engine was in Larry's possession.

There has been a lot of progress made in Larry’s shop, and that’s a good thing, as Drag week is fast approaching. The really big news involving the car is that the Chevrolet Performance engine has arrived, and fitting it into the little Chevy II is underway. This new LT4 crate engine is the same engine as first found in the 2015 Corvette Z06. Supercharged and fed by direct injection EFI, this is engine is not only powerful (building 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque), but still efficient enough to be used in a daily driver. An install like this is something that is best undertaken with friends, and Larry is fortunate enough to have several in his hometown that are willing to lend a hand.


Out with the old…

As soon as the engine arrived, Larry was like a kid at Christmas, ripping the crate from around this new engine. Seeing the new LT4 crate engine ready for transplant, certainly got everyone’s pulse shifted into a higher gear. Nobody has ever attempted a swap like this before, so the guys started thoroughly measuring and planning their next move.


…as the new gets ready to go in.

It was first noticed the factory headers/manifolds might create an interference issue, but the only way to know for sure was to try and place the engine in the car. Sure enough, some modifications will be required, but we’ll show you guys more about what needed to be done in a complete install article in the near future.


Larry is hoping to get his Nova running 9-second e.t.’s in the ¼-mile, and also be able to take the family for ice cream on the way home from the track, so there truly is a lot at stake here for this engine swap. Cooling an engine like this takes a well thought-out cooling system, so he had the guys from C&R Racing stop by and develop a plan that they feel is going to keep the car from losing its cool, and the folks from Ultimate Headersare mocking up the first-ever set of headers to fit this application. In case you’re wondering, behind the supercharged LT4 is Chevrolet’s 4l85E transmission. This heavy duty transmission can withstand the horsepower delivered by the LT4, and still be street friendly.


Larry was unbelievably grateful that the guys from C&R Racing are close by. This is new territory being traveled, but soon, the aftermarket should have parts available.

Like we said, this engine swap does present some challenges that will be overcome, and the best part is that once it is complete, the aftermarket will have the parts you need to so you can install one of these crate engines into your classic Chevy. Check back often for more updates, and to see how the car ultimately does at Drag Week and driving across the country.

This article and images are courtsey of: Street Muscle Magazine