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Not Your Mother’s Chevy! 1970 Chevrolet Nova 396

When the Chevrolet Nova debuted it was marketed as a secondary car or a primary car for smaller families. By the time 1970 rolled around, however, the Nova could be outfitted with just about everything a buyer could want, including a massive V8 and a 4-speed transmission. Take, for example, this 1970 Nova found here on eBay with an unmet reserve and a current bid of $13,100. The owner ordered this specific car with a straight-6 and power-glide transmission.

Under the hood, however, this econo-coupe tells a different story. Power disc brakes, power steering, a period-correct and neatly-dressed 396 big-block, and a Muncie 4-speed transmission make for a car that ought to do more than “get the groceries.” I have to say, although not the original drivetrain, the correct air cleaner, old-school Delco battery, and clean hose routing make for a very convincing resto-mod.

Interior wise, the car maintains mostly stock-looking appearance. The owner added a column-mounted tach, manual shifter (that looks period correct), and a triple gauge pod to keep a tab on the engine’s vitals. I appreciate the fact that he kept the big bench seat and coordinated blue/green seat belts. A stock steering wheel finishes a very solid interior.

I must say, while I tend to err on the side of cheap and undesirable American cars along with everything foreign, a clean Nova like this with three pedals and a big-block make for a car I could see myself taking to work during the summer. The original paint combined with dog-dish hubcaps and black rims makes for an extremely unsuspecting classic.


  1. Mike B

    Finally a dog dish wearing car that’s an actual sleeper (apart from the 396 badging). But that’s not a stock Nova steering wheel for ’70. Chevy put their cheap 2 spoke on almost everything in that era.

    Like 17
    • Mikes hot rod shop

      Comfort grip steering wheel was an option from 1969-1972. Other vehicles as well. Reproductions available, which I think this one may be.

      Like 6
    • Sanity Factor

      That cheep 2 spoke is on my 73 caprice so shush….

      Like 6
      • Nova Scotian

        Agree…That steering wheel looks a tad too big, and not what you’d find in a ho-hum Nova. But WOW! Everything else is awesome!

        Like 4
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Same steering wheel, but with a different center cap, were on 1970 Corvettes.

      Like 1
  2. Eric G

    I will take it!

    Like 9
  3. Ted Turner

    Having owned a ‘71 Nova 4 door, and a 1st Gen Chevy II, I am amazed at the following these cars have. The mono plate single leaf rear spring and the absolutely chintzy interiors made these extremely uncomfortable cars that were not particularly well made. Corvairs (of which I currently have a ‘65 4 dr hardtop) were better cars on the lower end of the scale, while Chevelles were clearly better cars on the upper end. Novas and Chevy IIs were essentially GM Ford Falcons, and I think they are extremely overpriced in today’s market.

    Like 14
    • Steve R

      The 68-72 Nova were basically long wheel base first generation Camaro/Firebirds. The shared the same front subframe and used the same width rear ends. You would be right if these comments were directed at the 62-67 Nova, but not the one featured here.

      I have a 1970 Nova, 6 cylinder with mono leaf rear end. It does just fine in everyday driving, it’s quiet and smooth. I wouldn’t want to push it too hard in any corners, but that goes for any 60’s mid-size American car with stock suspension.

      When it comes to price, the market speaks with its wallet. If a car is deemed undesirable it won’t bring much money.

      Steve R

      Like 24
      • Art M.

        You are correct, the 67-69 Camaros were rear steer. 70 Camaros changed to font steer. Nova did not change to front steer until their redesign in 1975.

        Like 3
  4. Jett

    I love the sleeper look (dog dishes and a bench seat), and the patina that says “The car’s nothing special, but I’ll race you if you want”.

    Like 16
    • Art M.

      You are correct, the 67-69 Camaros were rear steer. 70 Camaros changed to font steer. Nova did not change to front steer until their redesign in 1975.

      Like 1
  5. Troy s

    That is one nice find there, a 396 Nova with those kind of wheels and lack of flash, no way am I taking it lightly. The sleeper image is too obvious. Looks like the fuel gauge is in familiar territory.

    Like 12
    • Craig

      I was going to add that car would pass everything but a gas station LOL

      Like 2
  6. Dave Suton

    I love this sleeper look too. I also like cheap American & euro for their uniqueness…. plus, it’s all I can afford. Wouldn’t be caught dead in Asian brands (new or old) though.

    Like 8
  7. Hide Behind

    What good was all that torque to rear wheels when you could not put it to ground.
    Nova was GM competitor to the inexpensive Japanese quality built, and man were these cheap.
    Putting big blocks in a tin can does not guarantee performance even in a 1/4 mile, but if a guy can find steerable big block models easy to flip.
    The Chevells, early Malibus as well we’re cheap but no where’s near as cheap as Nova.
    The mono sprung cars could be suspension weight shift and torque tuned as to launch ability.
    Early wrinklewall drag tires made subframe connectors a must, or you could twist body into damn near 3 tires on ground at once ride.
    Absurd price today being asked, sure wish I could find a barn with one inside.
    Pull it out, advertise absurd price, little haggle room, and gone.

    Like 4
    • Gus

      When new these 396 Novi.’s were not that cheap. They were very decent for the money and ran strong. Mine had an automatic on the column and I put on headers (of course) and 4:88’s.

      Like 2
    • mag195455

      WOW Hide Behind! Quite the expert??

  8. jdjonesdr

    My kind of car. Friday night thumper.

    Like 6
  9. Pat

    Survivor? Most of the drivetrain didn’t. But, it definitely is a sleeper.

    Like 4
  10. Dean

    Seller indicates a “buy it now” price, but I don’t see one listed. Reserve not met, however. I did have a ’70 Chevelle with a 307. Junk engine I ended up having rebuilt. IRRC, car didn’t have 100K when the rings gave out. I like this one, but it’s kinda like a cup of coffee brewing..doesn’t quite deliver as much as it promises to. As stated, a much beefier suspension is in order

    Like 3
    • Jim Kirkland

      I had a college professor back in the
      70s (Radio-TV-Film) who said he
      was employed at Chevrolet in the
      early 60s and was appalled at the lack of quality-control on the small-
      blocks they built.

  11. Rob M.

    That’s just like my first car! (Minus the 396 and 4 speed of course!) Same color, same bland interior, same original drive train. Would love to have this one.

    Like 1
  12. Howard A Member

    Well, tis’ no sleeper with that “396” badge on the fender. Anybody that knows these cars knows, it’s wickedly fast. Even unpredictable, at times. It was a very light car. Make sure you have plenty of straightaway before mashing this throttle.

    Like 10
  13. bobk

    Just after high school. Owner of the farm & ranch supply store where I worked owned a factory-built Nova 396 but with an automatic. He allowed me to drive it to his home (5 miles out of town) one day to pick something up. Scared the bejeezus out of me. Admittedly, the roads were a bit slick from melting snow, but that thing wanted to swap ends every time my foot got near the accelerator. Exciting, but I never wanted to drive it again.

    Like 4
  14. LAB3

    A good friend had a 69 Nova with a 427 Vette engine when we where in high school, it was flat out insanity on wheels! Although I’m not big on the color combo on this car it would still be a heck of a lot of fun, bring along a change of underwear just in case.

    Like 6
    • Miguel

      Since the car is not original, colors can change.

      Like 2
  15. jb cool mo

    I would have preferred the original engine and transmission

    Like 6
  16. RayZ

    Everyone’s keeps saying it’s a sleeper, do they not notice the cowl induction hood?

    Like 9
  17. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Wow. This would without a doubt leave a lot of the small body MOPAR and Ford pilots at the start line scratching their heads with a “what just happened” look in their eyes

    Like 5
  18. Joe Howell

    I for one am sick of seeing “Dog dish” hubcaps on everything thing with some muscle. Nobody ran them back then, they were discarded as soon as you got the car home. No hubcaps was the look if you didn’t have mag wheels or chrome reverse. Born in 1951 I lived and breathed cars and first subscribed to “Hot Rod” when I was 12.
    This is a cool car, Novas of this body style have always been a favorite. The 396 will liven up quite a bit. Put a set a mags on it, remove the 396 emblems and replace with 307. Now you have a sleeper, everyone sees some dorky looking 307 trying to look bad by the addition of nice wheels. You want the $100 saddle on a $10 horse look.

    Like 13
    • Howard A Member

      That’s true, they didn’t call them “dog dish” hubcaps for nothing. Fact is, we’d take them off, drive around, and 2 blocks from home, replace them. The old man never knew,,,

      Like 5
    • Oscarphone

      Back in the day I ran steel with dog dishes on the back, lighter Cragers on the front. So did a lot of other guys.

  19. Ted Buerk

    Imagine the mono leaf springs would really work well when you dumped the clutch at about 3500 rpm. LOL. Neat car. I bought a real one new in 1970. 396 (402) 350 hp turbo 400 column shift. Did the reverse of this car and put 307 emblems on it. Lots of quick 60 to 100 freeway races which were a lot of fun.

    Like 4
    • Ted Buerk

      Mine was $3125 out the door. Late March production so came with an in dash tach and a rear sway bar only on 396 Novas produced in March. Only options were body side moulding power steering am radio with rear speaker and posi. Only ratio available was 3:31 with Turbo 400. Swapped on 4:10s but soon went back

      Like 3

    IMO the color is holding the price down.

    Like 1
    • Oscarphone

      It’s patina and the biggest thing going right now.

  21. Rusty "Pocket Sand" Shackleford

    Axle Foley’s ride.

    (Yeah yeah, I know his was a 72.)

    Like 1
  22. jrc

    should have aged engine compartment also

  23. Comet

    I LOVE this car. Nice build, and a trailer hitch to boot.

  24. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Not only does this sport a cowl induction hood, but the builder tried their best to match the original patina with the paint applied on it. This is not “sleeper” enough for me with the emblems, that hood and that steering wheel. Still, I would put it in my driveway if I had some money laying around.

    Like 4
  25. CaCarDude

    These were a nice car back in the day, in ’76 I bought a ’71 Nova SS with the 350 4 speed setup like the one here, had just under 50k on the clock also it had the rubber floor mats (no carpet) just like this car, no PB but did have PS, Ralley wheels and am radio. The color was not my favorite in the light green but at the time and for $1400 purchase price I was very happy with it. A great driver, and tire fryer. Would like to have that little Nova back today!

    Like 3
    • CaCarDude

      Let’s go back to 1976 and this is my ’71 SS, those were some good times! This was just outside Virginia City, NV

      Like 5
  26. Gaspumpchas

    I like it. Plenty of criticism here. the guy worked hard making a sleeper. Toast ’em at the light. I’d be a jailed grey hair in short order….

    Good luck to the new owner. He will have a ball with it!!!

    Like 6
  27. FordGuy1972 Fordguy1972 Member

    I had a ’70 Nova SS with an L78 396, 375 hp, Turbo 400, headers, mid-range cam and a 780 dual-feed double pumper. Painted pure white, 70 series tires in front, 60s in back. Awesome car with gobs of power. Sold it to buy an all original ’57 Chevy 210. What was I thinking?

    Like 3
  28. Tort Member

    Nice, like the dog dish hubcaps and although it may give it away also the hood. Even though the patina may fool some I would paint it. Not complaining, just different tastes.

    Like 1
  29. erikj

    all i got is the 396 badges are too low!!!!! Nice clone though. just being picky.

    Like 1
  30. Oscarphone

    I’m a real sucker for type of of hot rod. Bit of a petina on paint that’s worn but authentic, interior stock as hell (rubber mats with Chevrolet logos, oh yeah) and the feel of a well kept car generally. Only those that know would want to pop the hood when they see the oar on the floor. And then when you pop the hood – boom. Not just nice but perfect. The hitch is the cherry in this sundae. I’m not a big GM guy but this little Nova is unassailably perfect in my mind.

    Like 1
  31. Oliver Rojas

    Thanks for sharing this find. Hard to believe how what was the entry intermediate GM offering is now an expose paying tribute to a bygone era as a piece of simplicity and subdued restraint 48 years later. Some of the intermediates best design cues are illustrated in this example, making it a fine entrant for show and display, if not daily driving. On all accounts in agreement with author 100% on this find. Side note: as a child a friend had a yellow 4 door mid 70s version of one of these. Only now is its value discernible as a requisite of GM pre-computer aided design (CAD).

  32. Chuck Sibio

    hey -didn’t Lou build this car on TV ?

  33. PatrickM

    Friday night, 10:40PM. Bids at $19,100.00. Yes sah, buddy!!

  34. r s

    Long ago – think middle 1970’s – a Chevy dealer near me had a used but mint factory 396 Nova like this. It wasn’t festooned with stripes and such, I don’t even recall if it said it was an SS. But it was a 396 with automatic, bronze with a beige top and interior, looked like a grocery getter. I asked if I could test drive it. “No.” Oh well.

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