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396/4-Speed Equipped 1971 Chevrolet Nova!

The Chevy Nova would celebrate its 10th year of production in 1971, although it turned out to be an off-year in terms of sales. Perhaps the new Plymouth Duster took some wind out of its sail as that car was designed to compete with the Nova. But that’s speculation on my part. This ’71 Nova started as a basic car with a six-cylinder engine (per the VIN) but has been transformed into a Super Sport with a 396 and 4-speed. Located in Mooresville, Indiana, this nice-looking but not quite complete Nova is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $11,311. But the seller has set a reserve that’s not yet been triggered. Hats off to Barn Finder Larry D for his sleuthing efforts once again!

A few of Chevrolet’s 1960s/1970s automobiles from the muscle car era are popular targets for cloning or devising a tribute. You see this a lot with the Chevelle and Camaro, but also the Nova. Out of 194,878 examples of the Nova being built for 1971, only 7,015 would have been SS models from the factory, a decline from 1970, perhaps because the cars were almost identical. But the Nova SS came with only one engine, the L48 350 V8. If the seller’s car had been an SS 396, it would be 1 of 1 because the 396 was no longer offered in the Nova by 1971.

This car could be described as an unfinished project, but other than hanging some trim pieces, we don’t know what else must be done. The seller bought it off a guy who quit working on it before completion. We’re told it still needs a few items but doesn’t elaborate what he means by that. It features a lot of new parts, but only singles out control arms from that list. It has disc brakes which may have been an addition to help with stopping the heavier car after the motor change.

The Nova looks good although the seller only goes as far as saying the paint is driver quality. The burgundy color may not be its original color, but the black vinyl top helps set it off with the matching vinyl interior. We’re told the quarter panels have been patched and the floorboards solid, which hopefully equates to a rust-free car at this point. The Chevy is said to run well with an estimated 100,000 miles, but there is no indication if the 396 was rebuilt before being installed.

There are two schools of thought on cloning. On the one hand, doing so is increasing the size of the available population of increasingly rare performance cars. Yet others might say it’s wrong to do this because it turns an automobile into something that it wasn’t. I guess if it’s done right, you may have improved the value of the car. In this case of this ’71 Nova, would you say this was a good idea or it should have been left the way it was?


  1. Nate
  2. Enrique

    Nova loosely translated in spanish means “no go”

    Like 5
  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Yikes that’s a lot of power in a tiny bad handling car

    Like 6
    • Steve R

      It shares the same front subframe and rear suspension components as the 67-69 Camaro/Firebirds, but has a longer wheelbase than they do.

      Steve R

      Like 10
  4. Ralph

    Great write ups Russ! To me changing/modifying a car is ok within reason.
    My major concern with builds like this is how well the work is done, especially when it comes to the issue of being safe. Have looked at thousands of cars, the first half assed mod I see tends to make me walk away. It makes one wonder what else the builder/owner cut corners on.
    This is a pretty car, yet have to wonder which and how many corners were cut, or ignored to save a buck.
    By the time a car changes hands several times, it is impossible to truly know who did what to it, and was it done right (safety is my issue). Stuff needs to be done right the first time, not left to the 8th owner to address. YMMV
    Injury and death is a tough way to learn the mistakes of prior owners….

    Like 9
    • A.G.

      How well the work is done is always a question. Bright, shiny paint jobs are always suspicious when hardware which shouldn’t be painted has been painted. This includes hood, trunk and door latch hardware.

      Tnx to Nate for the link to better pictures and more information. I’m guessing this car has been on the market for a while. Each ad shows a different steering wheel and neither is correct for a ’71 Nova SS.

      A new owner should prepare themself as to how to reply when asked about this never-was ’71 Nova SS.

      Like 2
  5. RoughDiamond Member

    Dennis Collins, in an episode of Coffee Walk, made an interesting point. He was buying a super solid ’65 or ’66 Mustang Fastback body originally equipped with a 6 cylinder three-speed manual and said that for restomod purposes, that is the perfect platform. He explained that for the most part you could pretty well figure those cars were not thrashed around like V8s were. I imagine that applied to most any 6 cylinder three-speed models with a V8 big brother.

    Like 9
  6. Vance

    Had a friend in high school that had a beautiful 70-71 Nova, it had a built 396 in it and would really move. On dry pavement it was squirrelly, but being in Michigan you never know when the weather will change. When you had the least amount of rain it was a deathtrap. He ended up wrapping it around a telephone pole. Thank God he was ok, but if he would have had a passenger, well you know, there would have been a funeral. I appreciate Novas, and I am ancient now, but I never rode in one again.

    Like 5
  7. Ron Ron

    I had a 71 Nova back in high school. Is that the correct steering wheel? It’s different than the one I had. Thanks.

    • bone

      no, thats a Camaro and/or Vega wheel

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