Original 4-Speed: 1974 Chevrolet Nova SS

Nova production hit its high-water mark in model year 1974 with over 390,000 (all models and trim levels) finding homes that year. The Super Sport or “SS” model accounted for over 21,000 of those including this 1974 Chevrolet Nova SS in my home town of Blacksburg, Virginia. Thanks to novaresource.org for some details. An original four-speed car, it now features an upgraded motor delivering power through the ubiquitous TH350 three-speed automatic. The listing here on craigslist.org describes this Nova as a literal barn find, thrust into the sun after 20 years in hibernation. Experts can comment on whether the $4800 asking price aligns with a presumably-true SS four-speed now fitted with an automatic and a stronger (but probably non-original) engine.

The heavy 1974-spec bumpers look like 6×6 posts stuck to the front and rear of the Nova compared to the cleaner earlier bumpers, but such details fade away when it’s your car. This one appears to be well-kept, and the seller reports solid metal in the floors, trunk, quarter-panels, drip rails window channels, all areas where rust is known to attack these vehicles. The Weld-style wheels back up the suggestion that this car was tucked away in the 1990s.

The small brake pedal and (apparently) disconnected clutch pedal support the claim of an original four-speed. First brought to market as a “compact,” the Nova continued as Chevrolet’s smallest V8 car, at least until the following year’s V8 Monza, an even-more-compact 2+2.

Now we see where the money went. The better-than-stock 350 cid (5.7L) V8 features “double hump heads” and a “nice” cam. Reading between the lines, you may assume horsepower of at least 100 more than the 185 (maximum) made by the stock ’74 SS 350. One tip to mention:  inner fender liners are highly recommended when driving in foul weather.  It looks like someone took the time to detail the engine compartment, or at least treat it with some matte-black paint, while the engine was removed. The listing makes no mention of the running condition, but the blurry fan blade in this picture suggests (at least) the engine runs. Running, driving sub-$5000 muscle cars are somewhat infrequent, and this one could be a ton of fun.

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  1. GMoparman

    I am a middle-aged man, and aside from having a limb amputated or becoming disabled, I cannot get why someone would convert a 4 speed to a slushbox.

    • Rocco

      So this being the case for your situation if you owned the car & in your condition can you handle this car or any manual vehicle to its fullest capacity???? Guess what ,this was a drag car!! Autos beat manuals!! On equal terms!! Your point is selfish!

      • z28th1s

        GMoparman was saying ‘unless he had a limb amputated or became disabled’ he wouldn’t change a 4 speed to an automatic. He has neither one of those conditions.

  2. TimM

    When I saw the article saying it was an original 4 speed car I got excited for the 396 big block I got sitting on my engine stand in the shop!! After reading that someone took it out to put a (yuck) automatic in it I lost interest!!! Really????

    • Jim Kirkland

      Maybe installed an automatic to make
      it easier for a family teenager to drive it.
      This usually backfires, as typically the
      teenager will not like any older American
      car. So usually us car nuts end up buying

  3. Troy s

    It’s not that it’s a sleeper, but the guy in the other lane has no clue to what’s really under the hood. Could be anything making all that racket, only the owner knows how much horsepower or what it’s capable of.
    As far as the automatic goes it seems to me a lot of these original 4 speed cars were being converted to high performance autos back in the eighties, especially cars set up for bracket racing. It was just more consistent for winning.

    • Steve R

      Maybe some, but as this car sits there are several issues which would cause it to instantly fail tech inspection.

      Steve R

  4. Timmy

    Bought a 71 SS missing the powertrain for 2200 a few months ago they’re out there

  5. Rocco

    That peddle is the parking brake!! If any car was converted to an auto the smart thing to do is remove the peddle & now linkage that don’t connect to anything!!

  6. 68custom

    Could have also been a three speed?

    • Rocco

      I don’t think so in an SS!! I don’t even think this car ever had a stick!

  7. Del

    No thanks

  8. Rustytech

    That is definitely a stick shift brake pedal. An automatic would be much wider. Nice project either way.

    • Rocco

      No tachometer or even sport gage PKG!!

  9. Karl

    In a fast car it seems if your serious about acceleration you drive an auto. On my car the 0 to 60 is 3 seconds and the 8 speed auto will do it in 2.8 seconds. My car will never see a dragstrip I went with the 7 speed manual!

  10. Chevy Guy

    Sacrilege! Replacing a manual with an automatic! Come on!

  11. PatrickM

    “Deleted By Author” always leaves me to not say anything other than….. I don’t know… Maybe the conversion to automatic was for personal or family reasons.

  12. ctmphrs Member

    Drive a 4-speed in S0 Cal traffic for a few days and you’ll be wishing for an automatic.

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