1972 Chevrolet Nova SS 396!?

Found in Salida, California and available here on eBay, is this 1972 Chevrolet Nova SS with a 396 and an opening bid of $7,999, but no bids yet. There is also a BIN option of $9,999.99. While this might seem like a crazy good deal for an SS 396, Nova diehards will note that there was no 396 option for the Nova in 1972. Located further down in the listing is a reference to an SS 350 model, which is what this Nova really is. OK, with all of that out of the way, let’s take a closer look.

The Chevrolet Nova SS was an option offered on the Nova between 1963 and 1976. In the years from 1968 through 1972, it was a true power package with a specific performance-oriented engine whereas in other years it was mostly an appearance option. The 396 CI Mark IV V8 engine, in 350 or 375 HP flavors, was an SS option in ’68, ‘69 and ’70 over and above the standard 350 CI V8 but in ’71 the 350 CI small block remained as the sole SS engine. The same thing in ’72, a single 350 CI V8, good for 200 net HP was the only form of motivation for the Nova SS.

The seller of this Nova claims, “car has a 396 engine.” Well, that’s basically true but it should read has a 396 engine short-block. There are some additional engine parts in the trunk and in the passenger compartment on the floor. Whether or not they are all there, there’s no way to be sure. The listing does state, “project car comes as view all pictures” which I guess is a disclaimer and tells us there is nothing else beyond what you can spy in the images. No idea regarding the soundness of the short block assembly. There is a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission and a twelve bolt differential included too which are both nice upgrades. As with the engine, however, they are not original to this car.


The body is a bit beat-up, lots of dents and creases. A cowl-induction style hood, which is completely incorrect for this model, was added somewhere in its past. There is no discussion regarding rust or corrosion and the images don’t reveal much on that front.

Inside is in fair condition but the seats will need to be recovered. The dash, in particular, has problems. The steering wheel is a nice upgrade though. There is no mention of the floor’s integrity. Some of the missing engine parts have turned up on the floor in the front seat.

I’m trying really hard to sing this Nova’s praises but the lack of information is making it really hard to do. The only additional things that the seller adds is that he’s the second owner, has an extra matching wheel and it’s a life-long California car – none of which I think are terribly relevant except maybe the California part in that it may mean a sound underside and sub-frame. There is an image of the trunk pan included and while covered in surface rust, it doesn’t appear to be perforated. As I mentioned at the outset, there are no bids as of this writing and I’m not surprised. If there were lots of detailed images, information, and the 396 was running, it might be worth every penny of their starting price, but as it sits it’s hard to imagine it’s worth that much. Thoughts?


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  1. JOHN Member

    I do like the looks of the 68-72 Nova SS cars, and this one looks to be pretty rust free compared to most. A bunch of work needless to say. Personally I think the steering wheel is ugly at best. The cowl hood, while I still like them, is overplayed, I’ll take the stock flat SS hood with the fake vents any day. I also like the SS wheels (they weren’t available in 72) Looks like a good candidate for the LS2 I have sitting around…

    Like 9
  2. Jamie

    Not a bad car, price is what it is. They’re getting harder to find so the prices are naturally going to increase as time goes on. Was a column shifted auto as depicted in the photos. Pics supplied of the VIN and cowl tag are useless, maybe on purpose. Anyone can slap on SS mouldings and call it an SS… hell, I did it to my ‘72 because I like the trim that an SS has. I even went as far as to put on SS rocker and quarter mouldings that didn’t exist on a ‘72, AND I put on a 4” cowl hood. GASP!!!!
    Why? Because it’s my car. I built it for me, not anyone else. Pick it apart all you want, but keep it to yourselves.
    This is a project car that someone made it the way they wanted it to be. Probably had boat loads of fun with it too. Now it’s someone else’s turn. I’d scoop it up if I had time/room to do so.

    Like 8
  3. PDXBryan

    Seller doesn’t even bother to hose off the worst grime, let alone take a halfway decent picture yet they did put effort into taking off the 350 emblem and attaching a 396! I bet the ad reads something like “I’m fixin 2 sell my car 4 more munny then it’s worth so don’t even waist my time low bollin. new breaks 2.”

    Like 8
  4. David G

    It started life with a 350 2 barrel engine. Didn’t the SS come standard in ’72 with an L-48 350 (J code)? I didn’t decipher the body tag from the blurry photo provided.

    Like 1
    • Jeff

      David G,

      The terrible image looks like the fifth digit appears to be a “H” which corresponds to a DUD 350 2bbl.

      All 72 “SS” Nova’s have a “K” code fifth digit which corresponds to a L48 350 4 barrel.

      Warning This Nova Is Not A “SS” Period!

      Like 10
      • jerry z

        Jeff is correct, the SS only came with the L48.

        Like 3
  5. whmracer99

    Whenever I see one of these I always think about how many of these we cut up and rolled into balls racing on our local dirt track. I think I can personally account for 3 or 4 including a real life 1970 SS that I ran head-on into a wall at about 60 mph and shortened a couple feet. I see some details missing like the SS center console with gauges and the fact that it was originally a column shift car that makes me wonder if it actually began life as an SS. If it’s solid the pricing isn’t too far out of bounds as the basis of a 396 ci resto-mod but I can’t see it ever going back to a numbers matching SS which is where the big money is.

    Like 1
    • bone

      Yep, we tore up quite a few Nova coupes up in the Enduro races back in the 1980s . One oddball was an Olds Omega 4 door that came with a 350 rocket 4 barrel ! ( got destroyed in a qualifier) Never paid a dime for any of them either -oh, if we only knew !!

      Like 1
  6. JOHN Member

    The column mounted shifter was standard equipment with an automatic. A console was available, after ticking off the bucket seat option. I fondly remember a number of 396 automatic bench seat cars with the 350 emblem replacing the 396, seemed like standard operating procedure back in the day!

    Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      Odd the HORSESHOE auto floor shifter was not available in Nova.

  7. Troy s

    Mechanically, if someone needs a lightweight body to stick a big block chevy in here you go. I can see that. 396, 427, 454, whatever combination of bore and stoke. It’s a former street rat anyways, might as well stay one. The Only thing wrong here is the start up cost,,, Novas really were dirt cheap project cars at on time.

    Like 3
  8. TimM

    When I first saw the post I said wow!! Then reading the post and seeing the block sitting in the car just bummed me out!! I’ve never tried to rebuild a motor in a car!!! I don’t know why people disassemble there motor in the car!!! Then after reading everyone’s comments that it’s not a true SS it just moved to aggravation!!!

    Like 4
    • Mike

      I changed the main bearings in my tow rig in a motel parking lot once. It wasn’t easy, but had to be done. I’m thinking that the short block is setting in there for mock up. I can’t believe anyone would attemp a rebuild with it in the car either. Maybe if it was a farm tractor or a semi tractor, not a car.

      • JOHN Member

        The top half of the motor is in the trunk, I would assume the trunk parts were off the motor sitting in the car. I would like to know the story on the car. It didn’t sell the first time around, it has been re-listed.

  9. Stangalang

    All this about not a true SS…its a freaking PROJECT car. Make it what you want it to be..its a nice PROJECT car…I’m kinda glad it ain’t a true SS because it would probably be rusted in half. It could be a COPO..a Yenko..whatever u want..

    Like 4
  10. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    This is a car that has been hacked and pounded on for a long time. For the price, I’d hold out for something better. As noted by Jeff, it’s not a true SS so what you have is a basic Nova and not worth SS money. Probably have to rebuild the 396 and maybe the Turbo 400, it’s missing trim, dents and creases everywhere, rough interior and maybe some rust to deal with. If I wanted to replace the ’70 Nova SS that I used to have, I wouldn’t want this one. Cars like this, ones that that were poorly modified and beat on, never appealed to me. I’d pass them up and looked for an unmolested, untouched original and go from there. You’d be better off finding an original 6 cylinder granny car and cloning that into an SS than this well-thrashed Nova.

    Like 3
  11. Comet

    Lots of potential as a build it the way you want to car. Odd that a lifetime California car doesn’t have AC. It looks like the trunk floor is rotten. I’m not too sure of the price, but I do love Nova’s.

    Like 1
  12. Bob

    What is up with the right rear wheel to add to all the other things going on

    Like 1
    • bone

      probably the spare because the other wont hold air anymore

  13. Little_Cars

    What’s with all the gray or off white tape along the body? Was someone marking areas that needed work? Errant 2 year old toddler with a roll of masking tape? There is no rhyme or reason to the locations of the markings. I also noticed the 396 above the side marker on the drivers side but not on the passenger side.

  14. Roy Blankenship

    As soon as I see a punched out trunk lock…..

    Like 1
  15. Del

    Parts car. Not an SS and 396 is toast

    • JOHN Member

      A lot more than a parts car… CA car since new translates to very little if any significant rust. Sure, it looks rode hard and put away wet, but I am still of the opinion this is a pretty decent deal, but shipping could be expensive. But to east coast and midwest guys, this car is a very solid builder. Too bad in am in the south east, otherwise I would be looking at a road trip. Like I said earlier, ditch that hideous steering wheel, shifter sell the cowl hood, put a flat SS hood and build the car. Tons of parts available for them. The 396 could possibly be rebuilt, or who knows, it could be a rare 396 out of a 65 Corvette. You never know. I bought a rebuilt 396 engine/400 trans and it turned out the trans was out of a 70 Chevelle LS6 car. Sold it for $600 more than I paid for the engine/trans together. I think this is a good buy, not a steal, but a good buy.

      Like 2
  16. Jon Roderick

    Not an SS. Looking at the crappy pic of the vin tag this car is an H code. An SS would be a k code denoting the L48 350, avail only in the SS model.

    Like 1
  17. John

    Seller couldn’t even bother to scrape/wash off the ‘Not For Sale’ on the windshield.

    Like 1

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