From Street Car to Championships, Mike Silva's Ultra Street Nova

April 21, 2017 / by Bradley Iger

Mike Silva's Nova started out as a street car and now is a multi-time champion. We take a look inside his 2017 engine combination. 

Whether it’s at the Street Car Super Nationals, NMCA World Finals, or a Super Chevy Show, Mike Silva’s ’64 Nova is a force to be reckoned with. Last year, Mike took home the championship in the NMCA’s West Coast Ultra Street class in dominant fashion with four straight event wins after qualifying for the final round on top with a 5.408 pass in the 1/8th mile and shutting down finalist Kevin Watson with a 5.43 at 128.36 mph versus Watson’s 5.57 at 124.78 mph. In competition settings where the margin between a win a loss can often be counted in hundredths of a second, consistency absolutely key.

Competing with a Chevy II wasn’t originally part of Silva’s master plan. After passing on a rough ’68 Camaro a friend offered up the Nova and, all factors considered, it was the better option for him. In the years since, the Chevy II has gone from a 12-seocnd daily driver to a purpose-built, championship-winning drag car.

But motorsport success for the Madera, California machinist didn’t happen overnight. “I’ve had the car for over twenty years,” he explained. “Initially I wasn’t even looking for a Nova – I wanted a ’68 Camaro. I ended up finding one but a friend of mine offered up the Nova around the same time. It proved to be the better option because I knew the history of the car, the price was better, and the Nova transfers the weight really well.”

“It used to be my daily driver, a mid-12 second car,” Silva added. “Eventually we got into the 10s and I started competing in the West Coast Hot Rod Association D-Gas 10.60 Index class, and in 2008 we took home the championship. After that we decided we wanted to step it up and do some heads up racing.”

Craig Gerfen and his team at Race Engine Systems started with a Dart 406ci small block and worked their way up from there. “He goes to the track with me – he’s the crew chief,” Silva says of Gerfen’s involvement in his racing efforts. Air Flow Research provides the 245cc cylinder heads used on Silva’s 406-cube small block.

Under the hood of Silva’s Chevy II lurks a 406 cubic inch small block Chevy built by Craig Gerfen and his team at Race Engine Systems. The Santa Maria, CA based company specializes in the design and assembly of custom racing engines, along with cylinder head R&D, porting, flow bench testing, camshaft spec & design, engine dyno-tuning and track-side support.

Spec-wise, the Dart small block boasts 13.5:1 compression, Bill Miller Engineering aluminum connecting rods, Air Flow Research 245cc cylinder heads, a custom solid roller camshaft (Mike’s keeping those specs on the down-low), and is topped with an Edelbrock Super Victor series intake manifold and a Pro Systems 1000 cfm carburetor.

Silva noted that his last set of JE pistons tolerated five years of racing without a hitch. With this new build, he says they’re using a very similar set but with an updated ring package for more compression. Hooked up to those JE pistons is a set of Biller Miller Engineering forged aluminum connecting rods. Since 1990, two dozen Nitro Funny Car champions have taken their victories using BME rods in their setup.

In terms of pistons, Silva just started using a new JE set this season with a revised ring package. “The last set from JE lasted us through five years of racing,” he told us, “These new pistons are very similar to the set they replaced, they just provide a bit more compression.”

As for the future, Silva says he’s pretty happy with the current strategy. “It’s a great bunch of guys in the Ultra Street class and the NMCA treat us really well,” he explained. “We had a really successful year of racing and we’re looking forward to another strong showing in the upcoming season.”

Things are already off to a good start for Silva, as he took home the win at his first 2017 NMCA Ultra Street event in Fontana in April, running a personal best of 5.39 at 130.39 mph. So what’s next? “5.20s,” he told us. “The car has it in it – it’s already running 2 mph faster than last year.”

The Dart small-block is topped with an Edelbrock Super Victor intake and a Pro Systems 1000 cfm carb. For nitrous, class rules specify a plate system with a -4AN line. Silva says they’ve upped the compression for 2017. With tweaks to the piston ring package and some cylinder head work, the car is already 2 mph faster than it was last year.



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Written by Bradley Iger

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