Article By Rick Jensen. Photography by Ryan Randels (RockySDS).
Turbo cars are kind of like superheroes. They’re mild mannered, quiet and basically invisible to the public. But with a little prodding, they spin up fast and then the competition gets their shit wrecked.
Growing up in Colorado, Matt Frost wasn’t a superhero. But thanks to his dad introducing him to fast cars at an early age, Matt started down the road to owning his current ride, a street-driven, 6-second-capable twin-turbo ’67 Nova.
Matt’s father was big into hot rods and muscle cars, and as the wrenches turned on a Model A coupe project, young Matt developed the same enthusiasm for classic American cars as his pops and brothers.
Other kids celebrated their sweet 16 by driving to the mall; Matt jumped headfirst into the clandestine world of street racing. In Longmont, Colo., that meant hitting Woodland Road and 10th Street. "We’d cruise main street then hit a spot on 10th that they called Muscle Car Alley,” Matt says. "It was a bunch of cool older guys with fast American muscle, and at night this spot was packed on both sides of the street. After the meet, everybody would head out to the county road to go street racing, and us kids wanted to build cars that were fast enough to beat those guys.”
Over the course of the next five years, Matt moved out to Platteville, Colo., and continued to play street outlaw in a quick Camaro. When he finally decided to try the racetrack at age 21, Frost hit Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., as well as Douglas Motorsports Park in Wyoming. Bracket racing wasn’t really his thing, but he started competing in the Rocky Mountain heads-up classes. The hook was set and he jumped into Limited Street with his stock-suspension, blown, 1971 Camaro. When it got too slow to compete, he set his sights on a faster target—the PSCA’s 10.5 Outlaw class. He did a high-dollar, ground-up build of a wicked chop-top 1932 Ford Coupe streeter that ended up making crazy power (look for it on Revvolution.com soon). However, it was too light to compete in the Street Car Super Nationals 10.5 Outlaw class, and when he put it in the next higher class, the ‘32 got smoked by cars a full two seconds faster. "That lit a major fire under my ass. So I decided to build a car capable of low 7s—even high 6s.”
He started hitting Drag Week, and soon fell in love with Novas—especially Larry Larson’s sick ’66: a five-time Drag Week winner. So Matt fired up RacingJunk.com, and in late 2012 he came across a ’67 Nova race car with a juiced small-block Chevy, with ‘glass doors and body panels. The previous owner had built a killer 6.0-certified chassis with front and rear square tubing and center round tubing. The powder coated, properly finished chassis would be a great jumping off point, and even though he wasn’t crazy about the paint, Frost went all in and ponied up the dough.
When the Nova arrived from Maryland, Matt jumped right in and got to work. The body was fitted with all stock steel pieces, including doors, rear panels and a one-piece front clip. Frost simply bolted up the fiberglass rear bumper, but he fabricated a custom ‘glass front bumper by turning it upside down, cutting it into sections and reshaping it to align with the fenders. He even built fender extensions that helped the bumper fit well, and it gave it an aggressive "wedge” look. Finishing the aggressive exterior were lightweight Lexan side and rear windows, a ‘glass rear deck lid with an aluminum wing and a fiberglass hood with a massive 6-inch cowl. That hood wears quick-release fittings, which are a really nice touch. "Most guys run the Dzus fasteners, but if the car catches fire, by the time help gets to it, the car is burnt to the ground,” Frost says, freaking us out and making us check our rides for fire extinguishers. "Instead of using the Dzus fasteners on the hood and deck, I went with two quick release bolts that fix the hood to the fenders, and a couple receiver locks that slide into place. The bolts provide much easier and quicker hood removal and are also extremely clean looking.” As he wasn’t crazy about the paint, next the Nova headed over to Matt’s own In and Out Customs and Collision for some bodywork and a date with the paint booth.
The car’s wild paint job came from Matt wanting to get the kids interested in it, and the Hulk is one of Matt’s boy’s favorite characters. It’s made up of Irish Green and black, with a silver base coat and a transparent purple stripe that shows airbrushed skulls in the right light. The secondary orange stripe is a Harley color, Tequila Sunrise. Of course Matt’s son totally digs it—he says that when it gets dark out, the Hulk comes out!
The previous owner also gave Matt a good head start with the interior. The Nova came with a full roll cage, Kirkey Racing Fabrication aluminum race seats, a quick-release steering wheel and all necessary controls. To that, Matt added 5-point harness belts with quick release buckles, a Racepak Data System and a switch box and air compressor system—more on that later.
Now, let’s get this next bit outta the way: if you haven’t figured it out, Frost has a huge speed hard-on. Thankfully, not literally, or I’d have to fact check his junk for this story. No, more figuratively, which you’ll understand after hearing this engine story. This dude had a badass small-block V-8 precision machined and built for big boost. He then strapped two turbos to it and started ripping on it on the dyno—then started a new build when it only made ludicrous power... not effin’ nutso power. "Yeah, I decided after a few dyno pulls that it wasn’t going to make the horses I wanted, so I tore it out and started all over,” the otherwise sane Mr. Frost said. Enter the big block: Matt and his team immersed themselves in twin-turbo, big block Chevy research, and contacted noted twin turbo big Chevy expert Joe Barry, who aided him in the build.
With his slightly insane ducks in a row, Frost approached AMS Machining in Fort Collins, Colo., for the machining and assembly. A Dart Big M block provided a solid foundation, and AMS installed a high-end rotating assembly consisting of a Winberg crank, GRP rods and Diamond pistons. Actually, it was a wee bit more complicated than that: 632s usually have the pan rails and cam moved due to rod interference problems in the stock location. However, Matt told AMS he wanted to use the stock pan rail and cam locations and asked them to, you know, figure it out. To AMS’ credit, after a ton of machining they accomplished that goal.
Joe Barry lent his expertise to two critical engine aspects using the right cam and heads. He provided a set of his proven, 18-degree Big Chief heads, which wear huge stainless intake and Inconel exhaust valves, and Jesel shaft-mount rocker arms. Barry also had a resource for custom-grind twin turbo cams, so a very hush-hush camshaft that provides huge power potential got poked in. High-end NASCAR-spec keyway lifters and a Jesel belt-drive timing set rounds out the internal goodies.
After AMS finished the balanced and blueprinted 9:1 long block, Frost brought it home to marry the engine to the car. He custom fabricated the motor mounts, dropped in the bullet and found that the front-drive MSD distributor wouldn’t fit with the standard intake manifold. So he machined spacers to bump out the distributor and water pump to clear the Pro-Filer intake.
Next the fuel rails were bolted up wearing two sets of Billet Atomizer fuel injectors, one set pumping 160 lb/hr and another a gonzo 225 lb/hr. Feeding them is a fire hose of a fuel system; an Aeromotive electric pump pushes pump gas from the fuel cell in the rear, and a Waterman Racing Components mechanical pump pushes race gas from a small cell in the front. The systems are integrated and use check valves so Matt can turn either pump on at any time to run either race or pump fuel whenever he wants.
There’s a Moroso oil pan and a high-volume oil pump, and Jones Racing provided the belts and alternator. Matt deemed the radiator too small to cool this beast, so a "big-ass radiator” works with a Meziere mechanical water pump and dual Spal fans to keep this big boosted mill cool.
Speaking of boost, Matt then mounted twin 88-mm Precision Turbo Pro Mod ball bearing turbos. The 304 stainless headers and hot side piping were fabbed to work with 65 mm wastegates and Tial blowoff valves. Frosting up Frost’s forced air is a custom Larson Race Cars air-to-water intercooler. Matt’s team fabricated the intercooler mounts and tied in the turbo-to-intercooler and the intercooler-to-intake connections with aluminum piping. Once expelled, the fumes pass through a massive 5-inch, stainless pipe that transitions to an oval SpinTech side exit exhaust.
"The exhaust system was just so big, it was a pain to fit and route everything,” Matt laments. "Then we had to use crushed lava rock heat wrap, good for 1,500 degrees, to keep the heat from burning the chassis and burning us when we’re working on the car between runs!”
Okay, so this build sounds pretty sick—and it’s gonna need a beefy drivetrain to live behind that kind of power. So the twin turbo mill is mated to a M&M Transmissions Turbo Glide wearing an M&M torque converter. A Mark Williams Enterprises driveshaft passes the power to a Strange third member, using 3.89 Richmond gears and housed in a FAB9 housing. Strange 40-spline axles and 15x15 Weld AlumaStar 1.0 wheels wearing 33x2250x15 Hoosier Quick Time Pros have the unenviable task of putting all that power down. Up front, 17x6 Weld V Series wheels wear 26x17 Mickey Thompson skinnies.
A twin-turbo big-block shooting for ultra-low ETs needs reliable wiring and a high-end engine management system. To that end, Frost started from scratch and re-wired the car, then hooked up a Leash Pro Street Wiring Board to control lights, blinkers and other standard electrical accessories. Regarding engine management, a high-tech Big Stuff 3 ECU and an MSD 7AL ignition control box were chosen to control the complex forced-induction mill. A Racepak logger handles the data recording.
"All of the tuning was done in-house,” Frost says. "I felt like we needed to learn how to do it on our own, so Brent [Cottington] and I learned how to go easy on the timing, be safe with the fuel, set the boost pretty low and just slowly creep up on the boost and air/fuel ratio adjustments based on data from the previous pass.
"So many people are scared to actually tune a car like this, but when you have all this information at your fingertips, it makes it easy. Just don’t make huge changes at once!” Priceless tuning tips, considering the dough he has locked up in this build.
When the tune got smoothed out, the dyno couldn’t hold the power—but the flow calculations were biiigggg. It was ready for primetime, so Matt hit the track for a shakedown run.
Part of his pre-race prep involves keeping the charge air hella cool. The Nova’s air-to-water intercooler system uses a massive bilge pump, and Matt fills the reservoir with 4 inches of ice and water to keep the intercooler as cool as possible. That effort results in a cool slurry that’s only good for a single run.
When Frost fires up the big 632 and heads to the burnout box, he uses a host of electrical aids to keep the Nova’s staging and passes drama free. Post-burnout, a Leash "bump box” staging system helps him spool up and trip the first beam. Next, Matt engages the trans brake and stalls up to full boost. When he hits the bump box it releases the trans brake just a bit to allow the car to lurch forward in tiny increments to trip the secondary beam, still holding big boost. On launch, he counts on the stickies and wheelie bars to do their very, very tough jobs as the Nova rockets down the strip.
And when a boost gauge rockets up ultra fast, electronic helpers are never a bad thing. Matt uses a Hyperaktive Boost Management box; it’s an adaptive wastegate control system that runs off of compressed air. With an air tank and compressor mounted on the passenger side and a 6-pound wastegate spring, the Hyperaktive system is a trick little traction management system. It calculates g-forces and can reduce boost when the tires spin, then add it back in when the car hooks.
The compressed air allows faster and better wastegate control during the pass, where Matt currently runs around 13-psi boost. And when the hit is over, his ride employs twin launcher drag chutes that, along with the Strange four-wheel disc brakes, pull the Nova down from ludicrous speed.
At that low boost level, he’s already run a 7.74 at 178 mph, and Matt plans to go full Hulk soon. "It came out of the hole pretty hard, then in second gear kind of laid it down, stuck you in the seat, and pulled hard. We're pretty conservative, still pretty fat on the tune, but it’s pulling pretty good and we’re ready to start adding boost. I expect to be pushing 20 to 25 psi soon,” he says.
At those power levels, this streetable Nova may soon be the strongest one there is. Be sure to check out Matt and his Nova this week during our Drag Week coverage.
Matt Frost would like to thank Joe Barry, Brent Cottington, Brandon Cottington, Zack Diekhage, and "Brad” for their help with the build, June Allison for letting them do the build in her two-car garage, and In And Out Customs and Collision for the killer bodywork and paint.
Build at a Glance
Chevrolet 9:1 632 cu Big-Block V8
Dart Big M Engine Block
Machined, Fully Balanced and Assembled by AMS Machining
Big Chief Heads, 18 degree valve
Stainless Intake Valves
Inconel Exhaust Valves
Jesel Shaft-mount Rocker Arms
Jesel Belt-drive Timing Set
Custom Grind Twin-turbo Cams
Stock Pan Rail and Cam Locations
NASCAR-spec Keyway Lifters
Custom Fabricated Motor Mounts
Front-drive MSD Distributor
Machined Spacers for Distributor and Water Pump
Pro-Filer Intake Manifold
Billet Atomizer Injectors 160s
Billet Atomizer Injectors 225s
Aeromotive Intimidator Fuel Pump
Waterman Racing Components Mechanical Fuel Pump
Jones Racing Pulleys
Meziere Mechanical Water Pump
Moroso Oil Pan
Moroso High-Volume Oil Pump
Large Custom Radiator
Twin Precision Pro Mod 88MM Ball Bearing Turbochargers
Custom Fabricated Turbo Mounts
Larson Race Cars Custom Air-to-Water Intercooler
SpinTech Oval Muffler
Precision 65MM Waste Gates
HyperAktive Boost Controller
Tial Blow Off Valves
2-speed Turbo Glide M&M Transmission
M&M Transmission Torque Converter
Custom Fabricated Tranny Mount
Mark Williams Enterprises Drive Shaft
Strange 3rd member, 389 Richmond Gears, Housing by FAB9
Strange 40-spline Axles
Wheels, Tires and Brakes
Strange Disc Brakes
Front: Weld V-Series 17"x6", 26"x17" Michey Thompson front skinnes
Rear: Weld AlumaStar 1.0 15"x15", 33x2250x15 Hoosier Quick Time Pro Slicks
Big Stuff 3
MSD 7AL Pro Drag Race Ignition Control
Racepak Data Recording
Leash Pro Street Wiring Board
Leash "bump box" Staging System
Bodywork and Paint by In and Out Customs and Collision
Irish Green Paint
Irish Candy Paint
Silver Base Coat with Green Candy Paint
Tequila Sunrise Paint
Custom Airbrush Paint
Stock Steel Panels
Custom Fiberglass Front & Rear Bumpers
Custom Fiberglass Hood with 6" Cowl
Custom Fiberglass Rear Deck with Custom Aluminum Wing
6.0-ET-Certified-Tube-Frame Full Cage
Kirkey Aluminum Race Seats (Driver & Passenger)
Quick Release Wheel
5-pt Harness with Quick Release
Switch Box & Compressor