Chevy Nova History
Introduction: The Chevrolet Nova SS represented Chevrolet’s entry into the compact budget muscle car battle. The Nova SS began life in 1962 as the meek Chevy II but was soon made into a legitimate giant killer in 1964 with the availability of its first V8. It would soon adopt all the engines available in the Camaro including the mighty 375bhp 396 V8. This all added up to the ultimate sleeper, as well as the true reflection of budget performance.
The car pictured above belongs to Willy Humphreys from Stafford, Virginia.
Willy still owns the car that has graced the top of this page since the mid 90s. You can drop Willy a note at [email protected]
1962 Chevrolet Nova
Comments: The Chevrolet Chevy II was introduced in 1962 as a budget vehicle with a more conventional front engine, rear drive layout than the unusual Chevrolet Corvair. The Chevrolet Nova was the more upscale trim of the Chevy II. The first engines were definitely not sporty, a weak 194 I6 with 120 bhp. A 327 V8 engine swap was technically made available in the mid year as a dealer installed option, but the option added another 75% to the car’s price and was not very popular.
Engines: 194 I6 120 bhp.
Performance: 194/120: 0-60 in 13.0 seconds, 1/4 mile in 19.0 seconds @ 70 mph.
1963 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: The performance image was added in 1963 with the addition of the Super Sport package on the Chevrolet Nova. Strictly an appearance package, the SS option added special trim and wheel covers, bucket seats, instrumentation, and a deluxe steering wheel, all for the bargain price of just $161. This was the only year that the SS option was available on the Nova convertible.
Engines: 194 I6 120 bhp.
Performance: 194/120: 0-60 in 15.9 seconds, 1/4 mile in 21.0 seconds @ 67 mpg.
1964 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: 1964 saw the introduction of true performance for the Chevrolet Nova SS with the addition of its first V8 option, the 283 cid V8 with 195 bhp. Riding on just a 110 inch wheelbase, the Nova SS low weight made it a contender on the street.
Engines: 194 I6 120 bhp. 230 I6 140 bhp. 230 I6 155 bhp. 283 V8 195 bhp.
Performance: 283/195: 0-60 in 11.3 seconds, 1/4 mile in 18.0 seconds @ 75 mph.
1965 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: 1965 saw the introduction of the L-74, a 327 cid V8 with 300 bhp (a 250 bhp engine was also available).
Engines: 194 I6 120 bhp. 230 I6 140 bhp. 230 I6 155 bhp. 283 V8 195 bhp. 327 V8 250 bhp. 327 V8 300 bhp.
1966 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: The Chevy Nova SS was restyled for 1966 and finally joined the muscle car ranks with the addition of the L79 option, a 327 V8 with 350 bhp that could propel the light Nova SS to a 15.10 second quarter mile. Unfortunately, this engine would be dropped for 1967.
Engines: 194 I6 120 bhp. 230 I6 140 bhp. 230 I6 155 bhp. 283 V8 195 bhp. 282 V8 220 bhp. 327 V8 275 bhp. 327 V8 350 bhp.
Performance: 327/350: 1/4 mile in 15.10 sec.
1967 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: 1967 saw no major changes except for the addition of optional front disc brakes which came with beautiful slotted wheels. The introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro resulted in the deletion of the mighty L79 in the Chevrolet Nova. However, the L79 still made it into a few Nova SS and they made for startling performers. A low profile exterior and a high power-to-weight ratio made for the ultimate sleeper.
Engines: 194 I6 120 bhp. 250 I6 155 bhp. 230 I6 155 bhp. 283 V8 195 bhp. 282 V8 220 bhp. 327 V8 275 bhp. 327 V8 350 bhp @ 5800 rpm, 360 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
Performance: 327/350: 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. 1/4 mile in 14.9 seconds @ 96.5 mph.
1968 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: The Chevrolet Nova SS was redesigned alongside the new Chevrolet Camaro and thus shared many of the mechanicals and powertrains. The Chevrolet Nova SS (the Chevrolet Chevy II name was finally dropped) finally joined the big boys with a standard 350 V8 with 295 bhp and the addition of the mighty Chevrolet 396 V8 big block. Standard in the Nova SS 396 was a 350 bhp while optional was a brutish 375 bhp which could propel the light Nova to a 13.85 second 1/4 mile at 104 mph. The 396 V8 with 375 bhp featured 11:1 compression, a big Holley four-barrel on an aluminum intake, free-breathing heads, and solid lifters. Top speed was estimated at 121 mph. The SS 396 featured a favorable 45% of its weight on the rear axle, a favorable weight balance few muscle cars could match. Despite this, torque and tire slip were constant problems. The SS package added SS badges, black-accented grille and tail, and simulated hood air intakes but was basically still understated. The SS was listed as just an option package from 1968 on, instead of a separate trim level like before.
Production: Nova SS: 5,571 Nova SS w/ 396/350: 234 Nova SS w/ 396/375: 667
Engines: 350 V8 295 bhp. 396 V8 350 bhp @ 5200 rpm, 415 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. 396 V8 375 bhp @ 5600 rpm, 415 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
Performance: 327/325: 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.5 seconds @ 101 mph.
1969 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: There were no major changes for 1969 for the Chevy Nova SS. The standard SS package with the 350 cid V8 cost just an extra $280 above a base Nova coupe and included a special suspension, red stripe F70x14s, and power front disc brakes. To replace the 350 with the L78 396 V8 375 bhp engine cost an extra $500, but even with the $184 close-ratio four speed transmission, $43 limited slip differential, and excellent $84 fast-ratio power steering, the total cost was still under $3,500. In 1969, a total of 5,262 Nova SS were built with the 375 bhp 396 while another 1,947 were built with the 350 bhp 396 engine. Total SS production for totaled 17,654 units.
The biggest news for 1969 was the very limited Yenko Nova 427. Unlike COPO Camaros and Chevelle’s, the Yenko Nova 427 engines were not factory installed. Instead, Yenko ordered Super Sport Novas equipped with the 396 V8 with 375 bhp and promptly dropped in the Chevy 427 with 425 bhp at the dealership. As with the Yenko Camaros and Chevelles, Yenko rated the 427s at a realistic 450 bhp. Yenko Nova 427s were available with either the close-ratio Muncie four speed with Hurst linkage or a Turbo Hydra-matic with Hurst Dual-Gate shifter, mated to a heavy-duty 4.10:1 Posi axle. The Novas had 14×7-inch wheels, as opposed to the 15x7s on the Yenko Camaros and Chevelles but were available with the usual Yenko supplied headers, Atlas mags, and tachometer. On the exterior, they were dressed up with Yenko stripping, 427/Yenko badges, and “sYc” headrests. Built in both 1968 and 1969, they were extremely rare with only 37 built in 1969, well short of the numbers of Yenko Camaros and Chevelles. But with less weight than either — even less than a 427 Corvette — the L72 Yenko Nova was probably the fastest automobile Don Yenko ever offered.
Production: Nova SS: 17,654 Nova SS w/ 396/350: 1,947 Nova SS w/ 396/375: 5,262
Engines: 350 V8 295 bhp. 396 V8 375 bhp @ 5600 rpm, 415 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm. (Yenko) 427 V8 425 bhp @ 5600 rpm, 460 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm.
Performance: 396/375: 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. 1/4 mile in 14.5 seconds @ 101 mph. (Yenko) 427/425: 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. 1/4 mile in 13.2 seconds @ 103 mph.
1970 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: The big change for 1970 was Chevrolet’s decision to slightly modify the venerable 396 engine to meet new emission standards. The result was a slight enlargement of the big block to 402 cid although Chevrolet still referred to the engine as the “396” or the “Turbo Jet 400” to take advantage of its name recognition.
Engines: 350 V8 295 bhp. 402 V8 350 bhp. 402 V8 375 bhp.
1971 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: The 402 V8 was dropped for 1971, leaving the 350 V8 with 270 bhp as the top engine choice as General Motors dropped compression ratios to comply with Federal regulations forcing the use of unleaded fuel. Performance suffered accordingly.
Engines: 350 V8 270 bhp.
1972 Chevrolet Nova SS
Comments: The top performance Nova SS for 1972 was powered by a meager 200 bhp four-barrel 350 V8 as performance continued to decline. Although the Nova SS would live until 1976, true Nova SS performance ended in 1972.
Engines: 350 V8 200 bhp.
Performance: 350/200: 1/4 mile in 15.5 seconds @ 88.4 mph.