It's rare to find a tribute car that isn't a Camaro, Shelby, or Hemi 'Cuda. However, this 1967 Chevy Nova SS is such a machine. Novas certainly weren't rare or unusual, but what is unusual is that someone chose to create a factory-exact L79/4-speed SS 2-door sedan, which is just about the most perfect street weapon I can imagine. Yes, the factory was building these, but they're as rare as 3-dollar bills, so if you want what is perhaps the most exact duplicate ever created (even the pistons are authentic!), this is your only chance.
The Chevy II, also known as the Nova, was intended to be an economy car. But you know those engineers wouldn't be so crazy as to design a car that couldn't accommodate the famous small-block V8. The proportions are tidy, and this is a small car, even by today's standards, but the look is traditional. In bright red, the two-door sedan body (that means it has a B-pillar) looks surprisingly sporty. The bodywork was done to a good standard, although I think as a sleeper, the intent was to duplicate a factory effort, so that means factory-appropriate gaps and panel fits. If you want perfect, you're going to pay for it, and one look will tell everyone that you've spent a big pile of money on your “sleeper.” Not smart. Instead, this one looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor, and as any original L79 buyer can tell you, it's a thrilling thing to be the owner of a car like this.
The correct badges were included, such as the crossed flags and '327' emblems on the front fenders and the Chevy II badge on the quarters. Chrome is outstanding, and with all due respect, probably is worlds better than OEM. Simple vertical tail lights are a Nova trademark, along with the hooded headlights that seem to extend just slightly in their own little pods at the front of the fenders. New glass, bright stainless, and fresh lenses give this Nova a factory-fresh look.
Cars like this are all about the hardware, and this one gets it exactly right. The engine uses a correct CE-coded L79 block that was actually an over-the-counter item from the dealer. Date-coded 1967 heads match the intake and carburetor, and even the internals such as the pistons and solid lifter camshaft are OEM equipment. All together, it makes 350 Corvette-worthy horsepower, which transformed the flyweight Nova into a street brawler of epic proportions. You'll also note that the detailing under the hood is completely show-worthy, with bright Chevy Orange paint on the block and heads, chrome valve covers and air cleaner, and accurate decals proudly advertising this car's important statistics. Even the alternator is a correct L79 piece with the larger-diameter pulley designed to protect it from the high-RPM nature of the potent small block. And as a car designed to do only one thing, there is no performance-sapping power steering, only power brakes which you'll appreciate after you get a taste of this car's capabilities.
The chassis is equally well finished, with squeaky-clean floors, bright plating on the hardware, and an off-road chambered exhaust system that sounds amazing. The only transmission you wanted with your L79 was a Muncie M21 4-speed manual, which made the most of the small block's power curve. Out back, there's a 12-bolt rear axle, suggesting that this car was built for abuse. Front disc brakes and a fat sway bar make this one more than a simply straight-line demon, and out back a set of mono-leaf springs smooth out the ride. And there's just nothing better on a car like this than standard steel wheels with poverty hubcaps. In this case, they're 14-inchers wearing reproduction 7.75-14 Firestone Deluxe Champion redlines.
Inside, there's no arguing this Nova's intent. Devoid of anything that will add weight, it's a street racer's dream. It's also brilliantly restored, with crisp details and fine workmanship throughout. Original materials and stitching were used on the seats, the carpet is the correct weave, and the door panels match the paint almost perfectly. Center consoles add weight, so they passed on installing one, but the 4-speed still uses a Hurst shifter with white cue ball knob atop the Muncie. The gauges appear original, and there really isn't much to look at beyond the speedometer and fuel gauge—this is a car with a mission. Heck, there's not even a radio! The sole concession to luxury is the woodgrained steering wheel which is nicely restored and shows a lovely, soft glow that belies the car's economy origins. In back, the trunk is nicely finished with a correct mat, matching spare tire, and complete jack assembly.
There's no question that the L79 Nova was a weapon. Few cars of the time could match its combination of light weight, big power, and reasonable cost, but their low-key appearance probably hurt sales of the L79 as much as anything else. Still, this one stands as an icon which has to be one of the greatest street cars built during the muscle car era. In fact, Patrick Bedard of Car and Driver magazine reminisced about the L79 Nova in his 1990 ranking of the all-time best street racers: "The 350-bhp 327 in approximately Corvette tune, dropped into a Chevy II, didn't have the jukebox magic of a 409 or a 427. Still, that combination made for one the sneakiest muscle cars ever built... You might not notice a Chevy II in traffic until he got half a car-length on you. Even in a boss machine, you might have to run 80 or 90 MPH to get it back. That's how fast those Chevy IIs were." There's not much I can add to that. Call today!
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