454 Super Sleeper! 1968 Chevrolet Nova

Originally conceived as a mild-mannered “compact” car for economy-minded folk, the Chevy Nova came of age during the golden era of muscle, and the 1968 redesign afforded room for Chevy’s Mark IV big block engine. This 1968 Chevrolet Nova in Staten Island, New York is not an original factory big block car, but it emulates special-order COPO cars like a small-number that received dealer-upgraded 427 cid (7.0L) V8s intended specifically for drag-racing. Thanks to mecum.com for details. This one packs a later 454 cid Mark IV and a four-speed manual to boot. It seeks a new owner here on eBay where over a dozen bids have raised the top offer above $12,000 without meeting the reserve.

The basic black paint, steel wheels with “dog dish” hub caps, and vinyl bench seat enhance the low-budget street-fighter look. A Kleenex box or “Cat Diesel Power” cap on the package tray would complete the effect. Three-inch racing belts and a prominently-mounted aftermarket tachometer suggest a storm brewing under the hood. I had belts like this in my ’66 Coronet, and I always wondered about wearing them, and a full-face helmet, during a traffic stop. Calmly flip up the visor and ask “I’m sorry; is there a problem officer?”

The stamped-steel valve covers in Chevy Orange add a welcome dash of color, but the only shiny bit visible, that chrome air cleaner housing, was no-doubt purchased for air-flow and not as mechanical jewelry. The cheap ones only come in one color. Motor details evaded the listing, so potential buyers must assume the 454 is nothing special. However, any Nova with this power train will put a smile on your face, and black marks on the pavement, at will.

I know at least one person (and have heard of others) who bent their unibody Nova front sub-frames with a high-powered engine, so hopefully the engineering is sorted and does *not* include solid motor mounts. The structure is similar to the Camaro and Firebird, and upgrade options are plentiful. Being a clone, it can be thoroughly enjoyed by the new owner. I sure would. What’s it worth to you?

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Comments

  1. PaulG

    It’s got the “Look”
    Having grown up around these, graduated HS in ’75, we would never under-estimate any Nova, small of big block.
    Cool cars, and since Chevelle’s and Camaro’s shot through the roof, it only makes sense that these would follow…

    13
  2. Morley Member

    This is GOOD. Nice to see a nice car without the it being in a fire or a lake or having a building fall on it. I think it is a reasonable price and I would love to have it. This was mine in1969– two months old. with a new L72!!!!!!!!

    57
    • Pat L Member

      Cool side pipes my buddy had the same black style on his 1972 Z28.

      9
    • CapNemo CapNemo

      That is excellent. Thank you!

      8
    • Dan

      Period photos are always great. The slot-mags look so good and appropriate! Perhaps it has already been said, but an obvious question from me: what became of this Nova?

      6
    • Desert rat

      I know I’m old but, I just love the way you had your nova set up, side exhaust , l88 hood, and slot mags, perfect !

      5
      • Desert rat

        Correction , after taking a 2nd look a your pic. I misspoke about the hood, looks looks like a short mopar style scoop to me.

  3. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Very nice sleeper-someone put a lot of love, time and money into this bad boy..
    I hope whoever is the lucky buyer appreciates it and respects it for what it is, with it’s strengths/weaknesses for what the machine was built to do.

    4
  4. Dusty Stalz

    Not exactly a sleeper with the SS and 427 badges on it. Took about 1/4 second look at the lead pic to know I wouldn’t want to chose this car off at the light lol. Wicked car tho.

    4
  5. Jeremy

    This car checks all the boxes for me. Black on black, big block, 4 speed, poverty caps on steelies, and the stance is sinister!68-72 Nova is my ‘Someday’ car…

    15
  6. bobhess Member

    Horsepower aside, this has to be one of the best looking cars GM ever put on the road. Now to the horsepower…. I love it!

    11
  7. jerry z

    I had a ’70 SS back in the 90’s. It was an old race car that the previous owner had “blowed” up the engine! Fun car to drive with 355, T350, and 4.10 rear.

    5
  8. Dan

    A resident of the town I grew up in had a 1970 (if I remember correctly) Nova SS. I’m pretty sure it had a big-block in front of its 4-speed, and someone put slot-mags on it at some point. During my first try at getting a college education, I enquired about possibly purchasing the car, only to be told “he’s gonna restore it someday.” Over the course of 20 or so years, the only progress I ever saw in that regard was jacking up the rear and removing the rear wheels. It was out of that driveway around 2010. I can only hope it eventually got restored.

    Now that I’m done rambling, the featured Nova lools pretty good! With this body style, though, I would prefer bucket seats to a bench.

    3
  9. Troy s

    Cool Nova, not a sleeper at all, we all know about these and ‘ya ain’t foolin’ any of us.
    There were no COPO 427 Nova’s, even Don Yenko worried about selling probably 30 of those 427 Nova’s. Just too much engine for all but the experienced driver/racer. Oh, but the capabilities were incredible if the Nova was set up right. Like it, big time.

    6
    • JOHN

      Nickey Chevrolet, Motion Performance, Berger Chevrolet all offered dealer installed 427 Nova’s, and Camaro’s. Fred Gibb was another dealer There may be a few other dealers that also made the swap. There seems to be no big deal putting a 427 in a Camaro under a COPO, but not the Nova? They are almost the same car, chassis/suspension wise. The Nova is actually a little longer wheelbase.
      Interesting comparison between this and the “granny ” Nova. All we know about this car is it is a 454. Could be a smog truck motor, we don’t know. The Granny car is an L78 car, this car all we know is it is a 454. But as they say, “No replacement for displacement”…

      • Troy s

        Yeah, John, cool dealer built street machines but the Camaro gets most all the attention it seems though. I like the dealer worked 427 Chevelles of these types myself but that’s just me. First car magazine I actually remember reading was an old Hi Performance Cars, circa 1970, on the cover was a tie dye paint job looking new Camaro..a Baldwin/Motion 454 Camaro with dual quads,…what an absolute animal of a car! I was probably nine years old. Learned about the other dealer hot rod Chevy’s later on.
        Comparing the two Nova’s, I’d say it would come down to who could get the rear tires planted and working in favor of all that big block torque, L78 396 in a Nova is hardly a slouch at all and very capable IF…
        Either way I can’t really lose, so much better discussing performance,.the very heart of cars like this as opposed to how much money ones worth.

  10. 408 interceptor

    I find the claim of possibly bending the front subframe totally unwarranted. The Nova subframe was very similar to it’s Camaro and firebird cousins and was the strongest part of the car. These frames held the drivetrain and front suspension and we’re fabricated from heavy gauge welded steel. In my opinion the subframe was going to be the last thing to fail or bend on any first or second generation f body.

    7
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      It seems to me as though the actual issue faced has been misinterpreted a bit. Because the trend was to unibody construction, cars of this era were given fairly strong partial frames to hold the engine and front suspension. They rarely failed, but the locations of attachment to the unibody could be pulled apart by torque, so the concern was body twist/tear.

      Along came the aptly named “Subframe Connector” systems, which effectively added components which behaved like a full frame and added a lot of rigidity to the entire structure.

      13
      • Camaro guy

        Your absolutely right put any sticky tires on the back and you would need at least the connectors better still would be a 6 or 8 point cage to tie everything together of course then you lose any amount of stealth 😁

        8
      • Ray Chartrand

        Yes even with a 350/300 & a little rust in the floor pans, I couldn’t keep a windshield from cracking from body flex

        3
    • Dave

      It’s not rocket science, only common sense. What was the largest engine that came from the factory in a Nova? It was designed for that and nothing more. What I always saw fail around here revolved around the rear axle, rear leaf springs, and the spring attachment points.

      3
    • David Kirschnick Member

      Well if that be the case the Camaro s and birds ( along with an occasional nova ) that got bigger motors than stock and went to track once awhile and later the doors wouldn’t open or close and/hit the fenders all were in accidents . ?
      Doubt it ! Lots of the novas dog walked after

      4
    • Eric B.

      I recall seeing numerous Novas dog-tracking as they went down the road. Everybody I talked to about always said it flexed from the gain in horsepower over stock.

      1
  11. 68custom

    If your gonna clone a SS ChevyII’s for 68 the one year only fender supersport badges are required but hard to come by. 68’s have lots of one year only parts. Very nice car regardless, wonder what the reserve is?

    2
  12. Llouis200

    I used to live close to Yenko Chevy back in the 70’s.!They had these stacked like cord wood .

    4
  13. Tort Member

    Very nice and like the car but it does look so much like a sleeper everyone that is into cars and might want to take it on from light to light knows it’s a sleeper.

    1
  14. mvlg

    Understated, lean, and to the point. Even though I am a Mopar guy through and through, I adore this Nova. The former owner receives my praise for the excellent job they did capturing the 1970’s sleeper vibe. The singular problem with this car (not due to the owner or builder) is that this 454 will most definitely bake its occupants while they are sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Belt Parkway.

    4
  15. Karl

    I sure like the look of this Nova the poverty caps look perfect the only problem I see is how are you going to hook up those rear tires? Of course I would have to have some better heads a nice roller cam and some very appropriate induction, all very cool and good but only compounding the traction problem! I love the car so much potential just a few somewhat crucial details to work out.

    2
    • Steve R

      These cars have been raced for so long that anyone serious about getting the car to hook up will. They are common sights at the track with similar sized tires and have no problems. It’s just a matter of picking the right components and tire compound.

      Steve R

      1
  16. Jim Z

    Nice.

  17. Michael Nelson

    Wish I had my 69 back. Had 3(not at the same time). Always liked a Nova.Not too big not too small.

    1
  18. Comet

    What 408 interceptor said. I love this car. Bent front sub-frames (discounting rotted out examples) sound like urban legend. The only bent GM sub-frames I’ve encountered came in contact with stationary objects, they were very stout. Did I mention I love this car!

  19. TimM

    Got to love a no frills all out race car!! Drag some peoples a$$

    1
  20. Wayne

    Todd, in regards to a traffic stop with racing belts. I was once stopped by the CHP after being clocked at over the speed limit. ( thank god he clocked me after I had slowed down or I might still be behind bars) He was so eager to catch me that he blew right by me and had to turn around while we waited for him to return. ( I had pulled over just past a crest of a hill) Because of the lack of shoulder space I moved up ( as he was trying to get back onto the pavement ) into a small deserted road so that he ended up parking nose to nose with me. The 5 point harnesses were the only belts in the 5.0 Mustang. So my passenger and I were buckled in. The officer was originally pissed at being embarrassed at the “slide by” and following pavement leaving skid. When he exited the car he looked really hostile. But when he saw the safety harnesses he realized how incompetent/foolish his driving had appeared and the first thing he said as he was laughing at himself was “Wow, nice belts!”. Don’t worry this won’t be too bad. And he wrote me for 10 mph over the limit. He said that he clocked me at 30mph over. ( which was about 45 mph under where I had been after passing a row of 3 cars )
    Never tried the helmet thing but have thought about it a couple of times when driving a convertible sports car.

    5
  21. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Ha! Great story, Wayne. Safety first! Many officers don’t decide about whether you’re getting a ticket, or how bad, until they’ve interacted with you. Just being rational and polite can go a long way. Thanks for the comment!

    1
  22. DayDreamBeliever Member

    At $20K now, and no sign of the reserve limitation. Someone is buying a ton of fun!

    1
  23. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended: Aug 14, 2019 , 8:50AM
    Winning bid:US $21,100.00
    [ 30 bids ]

    1
  24. gearjammer63

    For the purists, it’s not a Nova; it’s a Chevy II. From 1962 to ’68, Nova was an option package on the Chevy II line. After the ’68 model year, they dropped the Chevy II moniker and called the line Nova.
    Likewise the Malibu: it wasn’t a line unto itself until 1978. From 1964 to ’77, Malibu was an option package on the Chevelle line.

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