The day 20-year-old Dillon LaDuke was born, his 1978 Chevy Nova Coupe was eligible for antique plates. When he and his Nova first met, he was only 13 years old, but it was certainly love at first sight. When his parents first saw the car, they were not as smitten as young Dillon, but he already had a clear vision in his mind of what the car would become.
Over the next few years, Dillon honed that vision into a real-life version of what he envisioned when he first set eyes on the car. He had a lot of help from friends and family, and growing up in a car-crazy family gave him the skillset, support, and determination to see the project to completion. Dillon credits the finished product to help from his father, his uncle Don, cousin Tracy, and mentor, Tom Tignanelli.
Not only was he surrounded by some very talented friends and family, but they were also very eager to get started on the project with Dillon. Work began, with Dillon taking part in every aspect of the build. He played a major role in replacing all the rusted sheet metal and decades-old paint. He also learned to prime, sand, and prep the body for the finishing layers of color and shine, which were then applied by his cousin, Tracy.
During the early stages of bodywork, Dillon and company substituted a set of ’69 Camaro tail lights, added a custom rear spoiler and front splitter, and cut and chopped both front and rear bumpers. There is also a new exit point for that sweet-sounding exhaust just aft of the rear wheel wells.
When it came time to build some power, Tom Tignanelli guided Dillon in fortifying a ZZ502 engine with an Edelbrock Pro Flow 4 fuel injection system, backed by a TKO 600 transmission. Dividing up the torque is a Dutchman 9-inch rearend that is suspended by a Speedtech suspension and capped by a set of Wilwood brakes.
Inside, Dillon stuck with the sinister shade, save for some red accents added to the custom console and Cipher racing seats, which break up the interior nicely. There is also a powder-coated roll cage considerately sharing space with the aforementioned modifications.
The Road To The Battle Of The Builders
Dillon has been enjoying the car since its completion and has gained a flow of support from folks who felt that his car was a solid contender in the Battle of the Builders competition at this year’s SEMA show. The road to this year’s Battle of the Builders has been paved with the help of many enthusiasts, family members, and local club members.
He was invited to take part in this year’s competition, so Dillon loaded up the 1978 Nova, now known as “RADICAL” in honor of his grandfather, who passed away before the project was completed. Dillon’s talent was obvious to all, and out of the hundreds of cars who applied for the special event, he and his Nova made it into the Top 40 contestants.
Dillon’s Nova has also gained admiration from the judges at this year’s Detroit Autorama, as well as the Goodguys event in Columbus, Ohio. While winning trophies and pleasing a judge’s eye was never the purpose of Dillon’s 1978 Nova, it does validate that the vision he had for his Chevy way back in his early teen-age years was a good one.