Gen-V Record Holder: A Look At Motion Raceworks’ 7-second Nova

The Gen-V LT is the future of GM V8 performance and perhaps will one day supplant the LS as arguably the most popular engine platform of all time.

However, that day is not today, as the powerplant is still relatively in its infancy. And because it is the most technologically advanced V8 the General has ever produced, it is also its most complex—many are still trying to figure out how to make good power with them. And yet, that hasn’t stopped guys like Motion Raceworks owner Doug Cook from pushing this new engine platform into the 7s for the first time, and in doing so, re-setting the Gen-V LT world record.

We all know that every time a new mill rolls out, it becomes a race to see who can break records with it first. Lately, that’s been the Fireball team with their sixth-gen Camaro—that is, until now. Doug saw what the Fireball guys were doing and figured he could do them one better. With Fireball being the first into the 10s, 9s, and 8s, that only left him a few places to go, one of which being the 7s.

Image via Mike Pryka

As we mentioned earlier, the LT is much more advanced that the LS and with that comes a corresponding amount of complexity. Unlike the LS, there just isn’t that much information out there about it right now—especially when you decide to put it in a 1972 Nova and try to go 7s with it. Doug, however, is no stranger to challenges and set out to not only establish his Nova as the fastest Gen-V LT-powered vehicle of all time, but be the first into the 7s with it as well.

“We really had two goals with the car,” Doug explained. “The first was to use the car for product development and figure out the unknowns of the LT. A lot of people are hesitant to work on them because there isn’t a lot of information out there. The second was to set a new record and push it into the 7s.”

Not only is it the fastest Gen-V LT powered vehicle on the planet, it's also pretty easy on the eyes as well. Images via Mike Pryka.

With the monumental task in front of him, Doug set to work on the car just two days before Drag Week started. Since the Motion Raceworks team already had a lot on their plate with figuring out the Gen V mill, they chose to use a chassis that was pretty well sorted and would be ready to plant the substantial grunt they intended to make with the Gen V engine. For this, they chose a 1972 Nova built by Matt Marron that was basically ready to go.

For the powerplant’s foundation, Doug turned to the guys at Scoggin-Dickey for a sleeved LT4 block that would allow them to squeeze a few more cubes out of the setup—388 to be exact. The sleeved block was then sent to AES Racing for the build. AES stuffed the new block with a set of billet I-beam connecting rods from Carillo and custom, forged slugs from CP Pistons. The factory LT4 crank was used since it is a forged piece straight from the General.

The custom hood stripes denote the Nova’s “LT1” motivation. Image via Mike Pryka.

Martin Smallwood at Smallwood Engineering spec’d the bumpstick for the build, the dimensions of which are classified but most assuredly aggressive. The build is fed by a Holley Hi-Ram LT intake that feeds into a set of Competition Induction Designs (CID) Gen V LT cylinder heads. To keep the intake charge dense, a 5-inch air-to-water intercooler from 417 Motorsports was given the nod and is fed fresh air by a stock LT4 throttle body.

Once the engine was ready, it was sent off to Motion Raceworks to be installed in the Nova. Doug tells us that physically mounting the LT was pretty similar to an LS and went somewhat smoothly—though there were hiccups there as well such as the flywheel and torque converter pairing. The tuning, however, is were things got the most complex.

“There is almost zero information out there about these engine anywhere,” Doug said. “Add to that anytime we talked to someone who might know they just said ‘you guys are crazy’ and it makes it pretty difficult to figure things out. We just ended up doing a lot of it on our own and luckily we had some pretty smart people to lean on.”

To the untrained eye, this might look just like a serious big-block Nova. But there's just a little small-block under that hood. Images via Mike Pryka.

Doug tells us that sorting the oil and fuel systems were also time consuming and required a lot of trial and error. But the biggest hurdle for the team was figuring out how to get the car to make 1,200+ horsepower reliably. Anyone that has spent time with the LT knows that the fuel system is its main limitation. It was clear to Doug that even upgrading the direct-injection system wouldn’t be enough to support the power they were aiming for, so a supplementary port-injection system was added to the car, controlled by a Megasquirt MS3 Pro.

To help with the tuning, Doug turned to a team of electronic specialists that whipped the car into shape. Brad Nagel of Nagele Performance dreamed up the combination of injection systems and figured out how to make them work with each other. He was also responsible for all of the wiring that went into the car. Once the car was wired and ready to run, Andy Cook of Motion Raceworks handle all of the tuning duties for the GM computer that works in tandem with the Megasquirt brain—though the guys from HP Tuners and Tom Vanvugt of Izzy Performance helped the crew to get the car working correctly during Drag Week.

Doug sits behind the wheel of the Nova preparing to make a shake down pass. Images via Mike Pryka.

Scott Clark handled the supplemental fueling transition with the Megasquirt. Ironically, the stock computer was so difficult to work with that it now only handles injection and throttle operation duties, the rest is controlled by the Megasquirt. This includes the ignition coils and allowed the team to develop a functioning two-step for the car.

“A lot of people know how to tune these when they’re on relatively stock Corvettes or Camaros, but when you’re not using a lot of the systems—like body control modules and all that—that it’s used to seeing it freaks out, so that was one of our biggest hurdles,” Doug explained. “Just getting the car to open the throttle blade under full acceleration was a big challenge.”

The turbo kit was fabricated by Doug and uses twin 46mm wastegates and 64mm blow-off valves from Precision Turbo. Stuffing up to 33 pounds of boost down the late-model engine’s throat is a pair of 6766 CEA turbos, also from Precision. While Doug doesn’t know exactly how much power the combination equates to, he estimates it to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,400 horsepower.

The crew got the car together just in time for Drag Week though, as you can see in the video, they were still ironing out some wrinkles in the car well into the event. As we mentioned earlier, with the help of HP Tuners and Tom Vanvugt, the team finally got the car to make full power coming off the line but still struggled to plant it.

Several weeks after Drag Week ended, the team headed out to their home track of Cordova Raceway and finally bested Fireball’s record of 8.83 with a 8.15-second pass at 174.73 mph. But that wasn’t enough for Doug. With the 7s in sight, the crew bumped the car’s boost up to 24 pounds and went for it again. The bump rewarded the team with a 7.73 at 180.21 mph officially making it not only the fastest Gen V LT car of all time, but the first to go 7s as well.

Image via Mike Pryka

It is quite the accomplishment and a testament to the durability of the new LT platform. As more information becomes available on the platform, we expect the adoption rate to continue to climb—especially since the new LT5 has a dual-fuel injection system eliminating a lot of the complexity Doug had to deal with himself.

But Doug and the Motion Raceworks team doesn’t plan on stopping there. A set of 7675 Precision turbos is already in the works, along with some other supporting mods, that Doug thinks could propel the car into the 6s. Should make for a scary but spectacular ride as the Nova already barely puts the front tires back on the ground at the eighth-mile as is.

About the author

Chase Christensen

Chase Christensen hails from Salt Lake City, and grew up around high-performance GM vehicles. He took possession of his very first F-body— an ’86 Trans Am— at the age of 13 and has been wrenching ever since.
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