1969-70 Chevrolet Nova SS 396

Australian Muscle Car - - Top 25: Classic American Muscle Cars -

It

was once thought that a 283 small-block V8 was a hot en­gine to put into the small Chevrolet, badged the Nova. Orig­i­nally called the Chevy II Nova (and both names were in­ter­change­able), this car was built from 1962. When Chevrolet changed to only call­ing it the Nova and dropped in the SS396 en­gine and go-fast good­ies, it lent new mean­ing to the term mus­cle car. Although all mark­ings are for a 396 big block, the ac­tual ca­pac­ity for the en­gines in 1970 were 402ci. Th­ese en­gines were listed as the LS3 op­tion. The two-door bod­ied cars (Chevy also pro­duced Nova’s as four-doors and wag­ons – the lat­ter only in the early years) were treated with a spe­cial bon­net with sim­u­lated air in­takes and also fronted with a black-ac­cented grille. SS em­blems clearly spelt out th­ese cars were mus­cle ma­chines. Op­tional bucket seats and gauge packages kept driv­ers and pas­sen­gers in tune. Cars were op­tioned ei­ther with a 4-speed man­ual or the 3-speed turbo 350 auto. The man­u­als were the quicker cars, although only a small num­ber of cars were made with man­ual trans­mis­sions in each year.

Fred Gibb Chevrolet and drag racer Dick Har­rell saw the Nova’s race-win­ning prom­ise and turned the car into an NHRA Su­per Stock cult leg­end. Work­ing with Chev en­gi­neer­ing chief Vince Pig­gins, Gibb or­dered 50 COPO No­vas with L78 375hp 396 en­gines and the industrial-strength TH400 au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Out back, beefy 12bolt rears stuffed with 4.10s and Posi-trac­tion en­sured against bro­ken axles.

vHar­rell’s Kansas City-based per­for­mance cen­tre upped the ante fur­ther by swap­ping 427s into a few of the au­to­matic CO­POs – a mod­i­fi­ca­tion that was legal in AHRA com­pe­ti­tion.

vTo­day you can find a num­ber of Chevy Nova’s op­tioned with the 396 (nee 402) en­gine. They are easy to main­tain with large num­bers of the lower-specced cars avail­able as well. Cur­rent pric­ing for high-end restora­tions is be­tween US$22,000 and about US$45,000, but there are cars that can be pur­chased for less.

vNum­ber Pro­duced: Un­der 10,000 pro­duced in 1969 and 1970. Power Out­put: 375bhp (280kW) Top Speed: 203km/h

5.8 sec­onds Quar­ter Mile: 14.2 sec­onds Price New: $2200

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