Chassis number: 114270W362886
- 396-ci 375-hp engine
- Matching numbers
- Wide-ratio Muncie 4-speed
- 3.31 12-bolt Posi rear end
- All dated components in restoration
- Nova Nationals award winner
|Vehicle:||1970 Chevrolet Nova SS 396|
|Number Produced:||3,765 (1970 L78)|
|Original List Price:||$2,335–$2,533|
|SCM Valuation:||$39,600 to $43,200 (as equipped)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$200|
|Chassis Number Location:||Top of the dash, left side, visible through windshield|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad on passenger side of engine forward of cylinder head|
|Alternatives:||1970–71 Plymouth Duster 340 2-dr sedan, 1970 Mercury Cougar, 1970 Buick GS hard top|
This car, Lot W193, sold for $43,460, including buyer’s premium, at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL, on January 25, 2012.
The Chevy II was introduced in 1962 as a no-frills choice for buyers in the market for cheap transportation. Unlike the Chevrolet Corvair, which had a number of revolutionary features, the mission of the Chevy II was just to be simple — which meant it was inexpensive, coming in at just over $2,000 in its most basic form. The Chevy II soon supplanted the Corvair in sales, and it became wildly successful, selling over 326,000 units in its fi rst year of production (for all body styles).
The car came in two fl avors from 1962 through 1968. One could opt for the Chevy II model in the most basic trim, or buyers could step up to the Nova trim level, which offered more creature comforts and a sportier look. The Nova Super Sport was added to the line in 1963 to rave reviews as an affordable sport model.
Throw some power at it
By 1970, the Chevy II model had been dropped in favor of the Nova moniker, and the body was now in its third generation. The performance crowd — meaning street racers and drag teams — had already identifi ed the Nova platform as an affordable, easy-to-modify, lightweight street car that performed quite well in the quarter mile. Chevrolet took notice, and in 1969, it offered the fl yweight Nova Super Sport with a spunky 396-ci, big-block mill in two fl avors: the L34, with 350 horsepower, and the top-of-the-line L78, which made 375 horsepower.
The big-blocks were both special-order items, with the 300-hp small-block noted as the top published engine spec. Most dealers ordered their Novas with the standard 350/300-hp engine. As such, very few Novas came equipped with the heavy-breathing 396.
Out of about 307,000 Novas built (the exact production number is believed to be 307,280) only a handful — just under 6.5% — were sold in SS confi guration for all the SS models combined, which includes the smallblock 350 as well as the two big-block 396s. This puts us with a working number of 19,558 total Super Sports sold in 1970, most of which were standard 350/300-hp cars. The total amount of 396s built is believed to be 5,567, with 1,802 L34s and 3,765 L78s — but those numbers vary slightly from source to source.
I’d rather have a Camaro or Chevelle
Although Novas got plenty of respect from budgetminded performance buyers — those who knew their true potential — most of the younger guys who dreamed of a Camaro or Chevelle in their garage didn’t even look at the Nova line.
Instead, the Nova was viewed as Grandma’s car or Mom and Dad’s four-door sedan. Car guys saw it as a plain-Jane grocery-getter with a six-banger under the hood. In SS trim, the car looked a bit more stylish, but it still lacked the sizzle of a Camaro or Chevelle, even if it was a competent street fi ghter with that available 375-hp 396.
In 1970, Chevrolet sold about 37,244 Camaros with the 350 and 396 powerplants (the 307 was the standard V8) and sold 62,373 Chevelle SS models for a total of 99,616, which illustrates my point. If a guy could afford a Camaro or Chevelle, the Nova was simply ignored in the showroom.
For years, the third-generation Nova has lagged on the sidelines when it comes to market values. The same popularity contest that played out in 1970 still plays out today: If a guy can pony up for a Corvette, Camaro or Chevelle, he’ll probably still do just that.
This car was reported to be a numbers-matching example. This should mean that the original factoryinstalled L78 is still there — not a re-stamp or replacement block. The car also has the formidable, wide-ratio Muncie 4-speed and a Positraction 12-bolt rear end with 3.31 gears — a very nice gear ratio for the street.
According to the seller, this Nova was also the recipient of a coveted Nova Nationals win, which carries some heavyweight traction. This means the car was very correct, with the right parts numbers. For such an award, the car would have to be very well done indeed. So overall, it should be a great package.
Nice car, debatable paint
In terms of condition and equipment, this car had it all. But there was one substantial issue: Our subject car was finished in Code 43, Citrus Green metallic.
When the car crossed the block on live television, one of the fi eld commentators mentioned that he had a sudden yearning for some pea soup and didn’t know why. It’s a sentiment a lot of car guys share over a color like this — period-correct or not, the greens, browns, and burnt oranges of the early 1970s just aren’t popular these days.
Should it have been resprayed in another color? That’s a tough question. Originality is becoming increasingly important in cars like this, so the answer is probably no. But a factory red or black example with the same options would likely be worth more.
If you follow the market like I do, you’ll see a consistent trend when you study the numbers. I call it the vacuum effect. Whenever a particular make and model of car starts to pull more inspiring numbers, the market starts to take notice. In the case of the Nova, the 1966 and 1967 models have started to sell for larger coin, especially the L79s, which are now achieving impressive numbers on the auction block. For example, a 1966 Nova SS L79 327/350 sold for a whopping $96,800 at the Barrett-Jackson sale in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 18, 2010 (ACC# 155021).
Generally speaking, when a sale like that occurs, it will refocus collectors and enthusiasts on the lesser, more affordable models. In this case, these are the third-gen editions — specifically, those built from 1968 to 1972, with the 1969 and 1970 SS 396 models at the top of the pile.
I’m now seeing these big-block Novas trending upward, and they have been for at least a few years. In fact, most price guides now value an L78 Nova at the same level, or higher, than an identical L78 Camaro (even though only 600 L78 Camaros were sold). That’s an impressive statistic given the value placed on rarity in the muscle market.
This car was presented in very fi ne condition. The restoration appeared to be thoughtful, targeted and well-executed.
The ACC Price Guide (which I contributed to for this model) lists a high valuation of $36,000 for a solid 2+ car, with a 10% to 20% bump for a documented 4-speed. Using that math, you can add an additional $3,600 to $7,200 on top of the $36,000, which gives a total suggested value range of $39,600 to $43,200.
Given this car’s condition, national provenance, and the questionable color, I think this result was a fair and equitable sale for both parties, with a bright upside for the new owner. Perhaps even slightly well bought.
I love it when my crystal ball is right