Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

This matching-numbers, two-owner Nova has been garaged since new, is completely rust-free and has just 17,460 original miles. It even has its original vinyl roof. It recently underwent a nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration.

It is powered by its balanced, blueprinted and reassembled 396/350-hp big block V8 engine and 4-speed manual transmission. It is equipped with all the options available when new, and its all-original interior features factory bucket seats, console and gauge package with factory tachometer in the dash.

This stellar Nova comes fully documented with the original title from 1978, original owner’s manual, replacement Protect-O-Plate and a copy of the GM transfer to the second owner.


SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1969 Chevrolet Nova SS 396
Years Produced:1969
Number Produced:1,947 (SS 396/350)
Original List Price:$2,524 (base Nova 2-door coupe)
SCM Valuation:$35,500
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Base of driver’s side windshield
Engine Number Location:Stamped on pad on front right side of block
Club Info:National Nostalgic Nova Club
Alternatives:1967–70 Ford Fairlane/Torino Cobra, 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340, 1970 AMC Rebel Machine
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 369, sold for $58,300, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach, FL, auction on April 13, 2018. It was offered without reserve.

Small cars for a big market

By the early 1960s, Detroit executives were looking to broaden the appeal of their newly introduced compact cars. Hoping to take the cars beyond their original basic transportation intent, automakers eyed the growing youth market. Thus, the sporty Corvair Monza was countered by the bucket seat-equipped Falcon Futura.

Fearing the rear-engine Corvair wouldn’t be mainstream enough in the broader market, 1962 saw the introduction of the conventional Chevy II. The following year, the sporty SS option package was added to enhance its youth appeal.

While the SS added style with bucket seats and visual upgrades, its sportiness was limited since it was only available with a straight six. To make matters worse, Ford soon debuted the V8-equipped Falcon Sprint. So in 1964, Chevrolet made their 283-ci V8 available in the Chevy II. The following year, with Detroit in an all-out performance war, 250- and 300-hp versions of the 327-ci V8 joined the options list, offering a capable little brother to the midsize Chevelle SS.

Facing the success of the Mustang and with the Camaro not arriving for another year, GM drafted the newly redesigned 1966 Nova SS to become Chevy’s small performance car. Equipped with the 350-hp L79 version of the 327, the Nova was capable of a 15-second quarter mile.

Birth of the big-block compact

The all-new 1968 Nova had a long hood and short rear deck, giving it a muscular stance in common with the rest of the Chevy line.

The big performance news was the platform allowed for the installation of the 396-ci big block (something the Chevelle had offered since 1965). Available in either 350- or 375-hp variants, it provided more-than-adequate performance given the Nova’s 3,200-pound weight. It’s said that Chevy didn’t mention the 396’s availability in salesmen’s order books, but regardless, 901 big-block Novas were produced in ’68, with the 350-hp version being outsold nearly three to one by the solid-lifter 375-hp engine.

In 1969, sales of the $280 SS package nearly tripled to 17,564. The package featured a blacked-out grille, simulated hood vents, fender louvers, interior upgrades and the all-important engine and SS badges. In addition to the standard 350-ci 300-hp V8, functional SS upgrades included front disc brakes, 3-speed transmission and a heavy-duty suspension.

Big-block buyers again overwhelmingly favored the 375-hp mill over the 350-hp unit to the tune of 5,262 versus 1,947. The Nova’s 500-pound weight savings over the Chevelle were highlighted by magazine tests of the day, with a 396/350 Nova doing a quarter mile a quarter of a second faster than a similarly equipped Chevelle (15.15 versus 15.4 seconds). As might be expected, the 396/375 put both to shame with runs in the high 13s to mid-14s. If you wanted still more performance, you had to go the COPO route, where Don Yenko would talk Chevy into dropping a 427 between the frame rails.

Clean example, top money

This example certainly lived up to its low-miles, two-owner, recently restored history. From the well-applied Dover White paint, oh-so-period vinyl top and correct Redline tires, it likely looks better than anything you would have found at a Chevy dealer in ’69.

The engine bay is pristine, and consignor-provided photos show a spotless underside. No information was provided about how many miles the car has been road tested since restoration.

The subject car is well optioned, but the lack of bright window trim suggests it didn’t come equipped with the usually seen Custom Exterior Group. However, it makes up for that with the bucket-seat Custom Interior Group and the Special Instrumentation Group, which added a tach in the dash and gauges in a Camaro-like console. Likewise, the optional Rally Wheels look fresh, and a matching full-size spare tire is in the immaculate trunk.

At $58,300, this car was slightly well sold. While the 396/350 isn’t specifically mentioned in the ACC Pocket Price Guide, the 396/375 is and has a median value of $35,500. Other price guides place the best examples in the $35k to $50k range.

ACC analyst-rated comps are rare in the Premium Auction Database; however, a 1970 396/375 sold for $64,900 at Mecum’s 2016 Portland sale (ACC# 6803705). A similarly powered 1970 number 2 condition example sold for $37,800 at Mecum Kansas City in 2014 (ACC# 243692) after bringing $47,520 (and just out of restoration) at the 2006 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale event (ACC# 40347).

Of course, ultimately what a buyer pays for a car comes down to intangible “gut feelings” regarding the quality and documentation/authenticity of a car. The latter point is especially important in high-performance Chevys of this era, where the VIN number just tells you the body style and whether it was equipped with a V8 or six.

Sleeper on the street, if not the block

With its subtle graphics, the SS 396 was a fantastic “sleeper” — an innocent-looking vehicle ready to humble drivers of more impressive cars at stoplights. While the 350-hp 396 has always lived in the shadow of its slightly meaner 375-hp stablemate and Yenko cousins, the big-block Novas remain sought-after by Bowtie fans looking to relive the glory days of American muscle — and they’ll pay up for the best examples.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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