Every time we caught a glimpse of Cole Sammartino’s Chevy Nova, our eyes became fixed on it. Normally, a white car might not do that, but Sammartino added black graphics, a great wheel-and-tire package and just the right stance, all of which was very attractive to the eyes. And one look in its immaculate engine bay sealed its place in our Top 5.
The Savannah, Georgia, resident gave the 1973 model Nova a front-end makeover to the more desirable 1968-’72 era look during the father/son restoration project. He’s owned the Nova since 2004 and began racing it in 2011 with a 421 cubic inch, Gen I small-block Chevy for power. In 2014, Sammartino LS swapped the Nova, and installed a 6.0-liter-based, 366 cubic-inch LS powerplant with Trick Flow Specialties cylinder heads and built by Raz Performance.
Boosting the modern mill is a pair of VS Racing 70/75 turbochargers that feed the compressed air into a Texas Speed Titan intake manifold that features a Tick Performance air-to-water intercooler. TKM Performance created the base tune for the FuelTech FT550 ECU, which calculates how much E85 to burn along with the compressed atmosphere. The engine combination produces around 1,450 horsepower that is handled by a Powerglide transmission built by Viteo Racing transmissions and fitted with a 1.58 gear set. The two-speed works with a Circle D Speciaties torque converter to send power to a 12-bolt rearend that is suspended by leaf springs and managed Calvert Racing suspension components.
Sammartino’s Chevy Nova has charged to a best 1/8-mile time of 4.92 at 146 mph and a best 1/4-mile run of 7.78 at 170 mph. He’s competed in all three Sick Weeks — the previous two alongside his wife Brittney in her turbocharged Silverado — and at the 2024 event, he debuted his Nova in the Rowdy Radial class and was getting the car dialed in on its new 26×8.5 Mickey Thompson Pro radials. Sammartino clocked a 5.11 on day one and put in a 4.90 tune for day two, but it only ran a 5.11. Concerned about coolant pressure, Sammartino pulled 5 psi of boost out of the tune for all subsequent runs and collected a 5.186, a 5.232, and a 5.15 to give him a five-day average of 5.15 and fifth-place in the class. Sammartino’s wife also debuted her Fox-Body Mustang in the DYO class this year and placed third with a 10.39 average.
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