Retired Chevy II Nova Brought Many Years of Racing Success
Childhood friends Raymond Wood, 61, and Alan Christeson, 58, both owned Chevy II Novas shortly after graduating from high school.
Wood planned on showing his, and hired Chisteson’s collision shop, Al’s Custom Auto Body in Rockford, Iowa, to put a fresh coat of paint on it. Wood then started bringing it to car shows but always returned home empty handed.
That’s when the two friends decided to steer their Novas into a whole new direction: drag racing. They took the high performance engine out of Christeson’s ’64 Nova and put it into Wood’s ’62 body.
For the first few years, the friends drag raced on weekends at events close to home. But the hobby of building more powerful, lighter engines turned into a three-decade-long adventure that neither of the men saw coming.
“We started racing Super Street down in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and one thing led to another, and the next think I know, we’re chasing points all over the country,” says Christeson.
Though Christeson and Wood never planned to co-own the car, drag racing was an expensive hobby and two incomes was better than one.
The goal behind the original restoration of the car was to keep it as Stock, with a white paint job and blue flames on the hood. But the job was never completely finished, and the changes continued for more than 30 years as the car changed racing classes. It has raced in Stock, E.T., Pro E.T., Super Street and Super Gas classes. The car is currently painted red and covered in racing decals.
Driven by Christeson, the Nova finished in the top 10 in multiple categories during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“We finished in the top 10 for 12 to 14 years in a row,” Christeson says.
The fastest recorded quarter mile for their Chevy II was 9.25 seconds at 148 mph in Super Gas.
In 1990, when the duo was leading the country in points in Super Street, the Nova pulled a wheel stand during a race in Cedar Falls and came down hard, completely wrecking the car. With the front end and wheels completely bent and the frame twisted, Wood and Christeson were still determined to race the car at a national event in Topeka, Kan., two weeks later.
Christeson, who did the majority of the work at his own shop, pulled off the front end and tranny, stuck the car on a frame machine to weld and straighten out what he could.
Driving the car for the first time only a day before the race, they pulled off a miraculous first-place finish. The dramatic story made the cover of National Dragster magazine and earned Christeson the title of 1990 TRW Sportsman Driver of the Year.
Because of financial constraints, the car hasn’t been raced in more than five years. Still, Wood and Christeson haven’t changed a thing under the hood. It still has a Pontiac-headed 383ci motor that produces 750 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque.
“If we won the lottery, I’m sure we’d go back to [racing] again,” Wood says.
In the meantime, the owners have made a few small adjustments so they can drive the Nova around town.
“It’s easy to drive. It’s fun to drive. Gas mileage is not very good but you don’t have a car like that for gas mileage,” Christeson says.
The two friends have no plans to sell the car. They currently bring it to car cruises and car shows—and it’s won a handful of awards.
Christeson also said if one of his sons showed interest and commitment to racing the car again, he would be glad to help.