John Potucek is a man of devotion. His 1973 Nova is really a declaration of his dedication to the sport, and is a great example of a hot rod that we should all look to for inspiration. The Nova is powered by a turbocharged 5.3 LS engine and, without giving away too much, is capable of running single digits in the quarter mile. Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve come across Potucek and his choice warhorse. What we already know is that he has spent much of his life drag racing. But what may not be known is that this actually isn’t his first Nova.
You Never Forget Your First
“My first car was a ‘74 Nova my Dad helped me buy when I was 14 or 15. We put a cage in that, rebuilt the trans, and did some mild engine work, so I was driving/drag racing that by 16. I had that car all through high school while working part time at a local speed shop in Red Hill, PA. I was probably about 19 or 20 when I sold the car. That was a mistake. I always talked about how much I missed that car. A coworker of my dad happened to have the ‘73 Nova in a storage trailer. He wanted $500 with a non-running 6-cylinder and holes in the floor, missing the interior and bumpers. My girlfriend (now wife) knew how much I missed the Nova and bought the ‘73 for me,” said Potucek.
Once he got the car home, John swapped out the 6-cylinder for a 427 that he had laying around. Eventually he would move up to the aluminum 5.3 that dwells under the hood today, but he had a 6.0 LS that lived within between those two engines.
A Few Changes
Last we saw this particular Nova, Potucek was able to produce 610 horsepower to the rear wheels. He let us know that he would be moving into 2018 on a quest to bump that number all the way up to 800 wheel horsepower. And, as promised, he did take the Nova into his workshop where he would crack into it like a mad scientist.
“Since the first write-up of my car there have been some changes: New cam, new torque converter custom spec’d for my turbocharged setup. New rear suspension. New shocks, split-mono leaf springs. I no longer run shackles. I replaced them with leaf spring sliders to allow a quicker-reacting, free-moving suspension. Relocated the springs inward to make room for a 10” Wheel and a 325 tire. I sent my turbo in with a cast 75mm wheel and had it upgraded to a Billet 80mm wheel. After the cam and turbo upgrade, I made 730whp running out of fuel up top (this was last year). I’ll be adding a second boost-referenced fuel pump and pushing this setup a little further,” he said.
Seeing the Big Picture
In the first write up, it was mentioned that he was going to make enhancements to the engine, but he left out his intentions to modify the suspension. For any racer worth their salt, it’s no secret that it’s not all engine. The whole package needs to be properly tuned in order to separate your run-of-the-mill weekend warrior build from an all-out performer.
“My old suspension was so stiff it wasn’t allowing everything to work and hook the way it needed to. Despite that issue, I was still running single digits…This was with a 60 ft time equivalent to a 16 second car because I was just spinning the tires the first 100 feet or so. This was also on low boost (about a 600whp setting). I never turned it up because I couldn’t get the lower level to hook. Some preliminary testing has verified this new setup will hook (probably on a wet pile of leaves!),” he added.
Since the last you time we’ve seen this beauty Potucek added the following ingredients to his already wicked formula:
- Custom Ground COMP camshaft
- Bigger turbo
- 9.5 PTC torque converter
- Viking double adjustable shocks on all four corners
- Calvert’s split mono-leafs with CalTracs
- Sliders from Speedway Motors
Drag racing is a competitive sport, but that doesn’t mean everyone is the enemy. With a life-long passion and being surrounded by loved ones, who not only support his need for speed but take involvement alongside him (his wife even rode in the front seat of the Nova in her wedding dress), Potucek is definitely someone who newcomers could look up to in this sport. Not everyone is going to come onto the scene well-equipped. So for those just getting started, we asked what it takes to get to the point that Potucek has.
“Time. It takes time. Everything on my car, I do myself. Built the trans, built the rear, built the engine, wiring harness, turbo kit. Built the roll cage with my dad. We started with a pile of metal totaling over 100 ft in length. Bent, notched, and TIG welded it ourselves. Obviously money is involved too, but I say time because over time you can save for the big purchases,” said Potucek.
The Real Deal
This build is a prime example of what real hot rodding is all about. He and his father built the first car together. His wife, Erica, purchased the current Nova for him. And his kids, Johnny and Eleanor, are involved with his love for the sport. Sure, you can turn on the television and see some of the most ridiculous builds whipped up by millionaires with big shops and a massive team. Not that they aren’t cool, but they lack the kind of grit and tradition that goes into a car like the Potucek Nova.
He’s the real deal. And with his track record, we already know he will only take this build further. What’s more exciting is that Potucek’s children will likely carry the torch and keep this sport going for the next generation. Will they also run a black Nova like their dad? What’s next for this dad and his Nova? We can’t wait to find out.