1969 Chevrolet Nova SS 396
It looked unassuming. It looked innocent even. Almost like an old station wagon carrying the kids around with ma' and pa'. But the 1969 Chevy Nova 396 was no station wagon, and that 396 didn't stand for the number of cup holders it held inside.
That 396 stood for a big-block 396 cu in (6.5 l) V8 engine rated at 350 Horsepower, or 375 if you knew how to special order.
That 396 stood for fast-ratio power steering, close-ratio 4 speed transmission, a four-barrel carburetor, and dual exhausts.
That 396 stood for 100% pure awesomeness, and we love that 396 to this day.
Chevy had quite a history with the Nova, that is, before it was even called the Nova.
Many people don't know that the Nova was based on the original Chevy II model from 1962. The Chevy II was tweaked and re-tweaked for 7 years before customers finally lost interest.
Perhaps this is because of the very bizarre way Chevy chose to advertise the original Chevy II SS, with the SS known for having two of the oddest commercials of the year in an age known for experimental advertising.
Sales unexpectedly plummeted in 1968 for the Chevy II, and executives agreed it was time to do something different.
Ford, Pontiac, Plymouth and Dodge were selling their specialized muscle cars like hotcakes in the late 60's, the Cobra and Mustang, GTO, Barracuda and Challenger respectively.
Chevy finally caught on and decided to add a little "umph" to the Chevy II, first by dropping the name entirely, and then packing in a gas guzzling engine that was a treasure among the growing sport of hoodlum street racing.
There certainly was no gas shortage at this time, with gas prices at a whopping 35 cents a gallon, people were looking for big and people were looking for fast.
*Hint* If you didn't know, the SS on the Chevy Nova SS stands for super sport. (dude, seriously?)
The Chevy Nova SS 396 wasn't just a monster truck though, it amazes car buffs to this day for the fact that it was one of the smallest muscle cars ever built in America. At just 3400-pound's this baby was a street racers dream.
With a wheel base of 111.0, 415 @ 3600 torque, 375 horsepower, and a 0-60 in less than 6 seconds, it wasn't hard to tell who has going to be buying this car.
As far as collector's status is concerned, rarity of this model depends on what specifics you are looking for.
A total of 5,262 Nova Super Sports were built with the 375 bhp 396 design, while another 1,947 were built with the quieter 350 bhp 396 engine. The entire SS production for 69' totaled 17,654 units.
If you are a collector, the real gem to be found is in the Yenko Nova 427, which remains one of the rarest muscles cars on earth today.
If you are not familiar with Don Yenko, he was an early pioneer in the field of car modification, and owned a family run dealership from 1934 to 1982. He is best known for modifying the Camaro, Chevelle, and Vega as well, all of which are collector's items in their own right.
Though the SS 396 already had a lot of heat, the legendary Don Yenko was not impressed. Instead, Yenko would order Super Sport Nova's equipped with the 396 V8 and 375 bhp, and then proceed to rip it out and install a Chevy 427 engine with 425 bhp at his dealership.
After extensive modifications to the suspension, rear axle, and transmission, as well as some creative stripes, emblems, and interior designs, the resulting car would come to be known as the "Chevy Supernova", or the "Yenko Deuce".
A total of 37 Chevy Nova SS 427's were built in 1969, with estimates putting the number of surviving models at less than 10 today.
As for the original build however, it still has a small but important part in early American muscle car history.
It was never known for its smooth handling, its gas mileage, or its spacious design. And the families that Chevy convinced into buying the SS package were often disappointed. Apparently they did not notice before they bought the car that the two rear doors were missing, or that the trunk was barely big enough to fit a bag of groceries.
The Nova went through a number of changes in the years that followed, with the LAPD taking a turn buying a few hundred of them in the mid 1980's, to the model turning into an oft joked about hatchback that disappeared before it hit the 90's.
There is an old legend about the Nova not selling in Mexico because its name literally means, "it doesn't go" (no va?) in Spanish. While we're a little skeptical about that one, what we are sure about is that we won't see the likes of a 396 or 427 Nova ever again.
And we think if Mexico had seen how epic this monster was back in 1969, that it probably would have cleared up any doubts as to whether or not this car could really "va".
Si va indeed, si va indeed.