Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

When the Dobbertin Nova was unveiled in 1982, it turned the custom car world on its ear. It has appeared on the cover of 14 magazines and has been featured in over 100 publications around the world. It is, without question, one of the most significant and important custom cars ever built, and to this day remains a benchmark for innovation and excellence among hot rod enthusiasts.

Rick Dobbertin devoted more than 3,000 hours over the course of three years to create this legendary performance vehicle. He started with a ‘65 Chevrolet II, then transformed it with twin Roto-Master turbochargers, a BDS 6-71 supercharger, an eight-port nitrous oxide system, a 454-ci LS7 V8, Holley 750, cfm carbs, twin radiators, B&M Comp Turbo 400, Dana 60 rear end, JFZ rear brakes, full roll cage and Deist Flame Out fire-suppression system.

The driver is kept advised by 17 Auto Meter gauges and two Auto Meter Pro-lites. Polished Center Line “Auto Drag” wheels have the requisite big and little tires that are the hallmark of any Pro-Street custom. And in case the JZF disc brakes with drilled rotors failed to provide sufficient stopping power, Dobbertin mounted twin parachutes out back.

The Nova is in exceptional condition. With the exception of the front wheels, the car is still 100% original to the day it was built.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Chevrolet Nova SS “Dobbertin”
Years Produced:1965, 1982
Number Produced:One
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$50,000–$60,000
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Distributor Caps:$30
Chassis Number Location:Plate attached to driver’s door-hinge pillar
Engine Number Location:Stamped on pad in front of cylinder head, passenger’s side
Club Info:National Street Rod Association (NSRA), Goodguys
Alternatives:Any period-built Pro-Street car with magazine coverage
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 725, sold for $56,100, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas sale, held September 24–26 in Las Vegas, NV. It was offered without reserve.

It’s hard to believe that nearly four decades have passed since the term “Pro-Street” began seeping into the hot rod vernacular. Although a bit passé these days, particularly when considering the current influence of Pro Touring and its emphasis on functional all-around performers, I’m not sure there’s anything quite so badass as a giant set of meats tucked deep up under an old hot rod.

In fact, one of the earliest and most vivid memories of my indoctrination into the world of fuel, fire and smoke is owed to a Pro-Street Chevy II. You see, my dad used to carry me with him to this nutso little car show down in Macon, GA, that could very well be responsible for all the warning signs, gates and automatic locking doors we’ve all come to loathe when visiting low-rent overnighters.

For a long weekend every summer, this nondescript motel was overrun with hot-rodders and bikers who had more interest in cutting loose and getting sideways than stacking trophies and spit-polishing chrome. One year, some guys with Harleys and toothy grins went blasting down the hotel corridors, scaring the hell out of everyone. Another year, an overzealous burnout almost took out half the parking lot. It was fantastic.

Trends and legends

Somewhere along the way, my dad and I were standing over the fender of some bitchin’ little hoodless number while he explained to me the mechanical process in which a roots blower gobbles up air and spits out horsepower. Just then, one of the regulars rolled up in his tunnel-rammed, back-halved ’67 Chevy II.

What happened next will likely stay with me for the rest of my life. With a lazy grin and the push of a button, he set the line-lock and dropped the hammer. Those giant meats started churning and the crowd started hootin’ and hollerin’. Before you could say “whole paycheck,” I was swallowed up by a whiteout in June. In Georgia. I couldn’t see the car in front of me. I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face. That small block was whipping those steamrollers like they were rented mules, and they were screaming for their lives.

When the smoke cleared, two perfect little troughs in the tarmac, each about two feet wide, and two steaming piles of rubber were all that was left of the best burnout I’ve ever seen — before or since.

Considering that the Dobbertin Nova is one of the most influential Pro-Street cars ever built, if not the most influential, it really isn’t much of a stretch to imagine that one of my favorite hot-rodding memories could very well have never happened had Rick Dobbertin been more of a fisherman than a gearhead.

Crazy, but usable

Although Dobbertin’s twin-turboed, supercharged, nitrous-injected big-block is about as over-the-top as it gets, there’s no way you can look at that monstrosity of polish, tubing, braided lines and cogged gears without wishing you had one of your own.

The mere fact that this car survives in pristine, “as-built” condition after 30-plus years tells us quite a lot about its usability, but the thing actually seems to purr like a kitten, so long as you pet it softly, carefully.

For a car that was clearly never intended to be a grocery-getter — more of an all-out assault on practicality — I can’t help but be impressed with the limited video I’ve found of it in action — not that it really matters. If functionality suddenly became a prerequisite for collectibility, I’d probably be out of a job.

A deserving icon

The truly fantastic aspect of this car is that it was, and maybe still is, one of the most iconic hot rods of the magazine era — an era built on gearheads who waited impatiently for that next colorful payoff in the mail, which, when it came, stoked their passions.

Back before the lowest common denominators managed to weasel their way into the mainstream, the idea of celebrity, even for a car, was an idea that held merit. Maybe I’m looking through the distorted lens of nostalgia when I say that editors and builders and readers seemed to trust each other’s opinions a little more back then, but it certainly felt like a time when a cover car would only make the rounds if it truly deserved the attention. And Dobbertin’s Nova got around like no other.

When my dad and I used to motor down to Macon, hot rods and choppers still lived out there on the fringe — relatively unencumbered by the influence of poorly dictated television and manufactured drama. It was a time when word of mouth, glossy pictures and impatience could create excitement in a way that seems a bit more difficult to replicate today. There are certainly some incredible machines currently being built by unbelievably talented craftsmen, but I’m not sure many of us still carry that what-could-possibly-come-next enthusiasm the way we once did. Maybe that’s why I like this car so much — not because of how it compares to modern machines, but how it compared with its peers. The Dobbertin Nova was an over-the-top badass, plain and simple.

Supercharged value

Although $56,000 isn’t cheap, it’s certainly not expensive — particularly for a car that not only influenced a generation, but still looks damn good today. The value of ’60s muscle continues to climb into the ether, so finding a solid Chevy II, even the early models like Dobbertin’s, is going to be pricey.

Having a professional build you a nice, vanilla show cruiser with an LS and a/c will likely run you somewhere between $75k and infinity, depending on how badly you’d like to be the next big thing. Buying a nice, finished car — provenance optional — would probably run you somewhere between $30k and $75k, so Dobbertin’s Nova really isn’t that far out of line for a used, medium- to high-quality build. And while you may find another cool early Nova for a little less scratch, I think we can all agree it won’t be twin-turboed, supercharged, nitrous-injected big-block cool. It just won’t. Well bought, all day.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.

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