Original 350/4-Speed: 1974 Chevrolet Nova

By 1974, Chevrolet offered Nova buyers a single V8 engine option. While the energy crisis saw some buyers turning their attention to smaller and more efficient vehicles, the Nova continued to sell in impressive numbers. This 1974 Nova features its original small-block V8, and its first owner sought to maximize its performance by coupling that motor to a 4-speed manual transmission. It is a tidy survivor needing a new home. You will find it listed for sale here on Craigslist in Venice, Florida. The seller’s price is $18,500, but they will consider reasonable offers. I must thank Barn Finder Pat L. for spotting this classic for us.

The Third Generation Nova broke cover for the 1968 model year, with 1974 marking the final year of production. It remained a sharp-looking car and managed to carry the mandated larger 5mph bumpers better than many models from the era. Our feature car wears Medium Dark Green paint, which the seller claims is original. The paint isn’t perfect, but it is very acceptable for a survivor-grade vehicle. It retains a consistent shine, and turning up at a Cars & Coffee behind the wheel of this gem shouldn’t cause its new owner any shame. The panels are straight, and while it isn’t 100% rust-free, the small spot just behind one rear wheel arch appears to be the extent of its problems. There are no glaring issues with the trim or chrome, and the tinted glass is excellent. The 14″ factory wheels are free from stains, while the trim rings and center caps are flawless.

When assessing this Nova’s interior, my first port of call was to check the wheel and dash pad for cracks. With neither exhibiting any problems, the buyer has only one potential significant flaw to consider. The seats wear their original green plaid upholstery, and the backrest on the driver’s side of the front seat shows some wear and deterioration. If the buyer wishes to save a few pennies, the lack of rips and tears means they could disguise the problem with a slipcover. However, the overall condition of the interior would probably motivate me to spend $280 on a new front cover in the correct color and pattern. The back seat looks excellent, as does the floor mat. The original owner didn’t load the interior with optional extras, and it appears the factory radio may have made way for an aftermarket stereo.

With soaring fuel prices, buyers in 1974 began turning their backs on V8s. Chevrolet saw the writing on the wall, limiting the Nova’s V8 offering to the venerable 350ci small-block. Lifting the hood reveals this classic’s 350, while the original owner also equipped the car with a 4-speed manual transmission, power steering, and power brakes. With 185hp at the driver’s disposal, this Chevy should cover the ¼ mile in 16.5 seconds. That figure remains short of those produced during the badge’s glory days, but for a car of that era capable of seating five people in comfort, it stacked up well against the opposition. The seller indicates this is a numbers-matching car, although the aftermarket headers hint that it may offer some performance improvements. They provide no clear information on how the Nova runs or drives, but the tidy presentation and lack of visible fluid leaks is encouraging.

While buyers were beginning to turn their backs on less efficient cars by 1974, that didn’t prevent the Chevrolet Nova from selling in respectable numbers. With 390,537 Novas finding homes in that model year, it took the Third Generation model out in a blaze of glory. This vehicle is a tidy survivor that offered above-average performance in an era when tightening emission regulations were making themselves felt. Its needs are minor, and none are urgent. It is a classic that its new owner could enjoy immediately, addressing its shortcomings as time and circumstances allow. If a practical vehicle from the 1970s has been on your radar, is this one you might consider?


  1. Moparman Member

    A really nice, PLAIN 4 spd Nova! It has the optional chrome trim around the windows and the body side moldings, just like I’d have wanted. Personally, I’d add a carpet set, repair the seat cover and cruise! I’d also think about perhaps “tucking” the bumpers closer to the body for a better look. I think this one’s a good buy! GLWTS!! :-)

    Like 10
  2. Shawn

    A nice clean example that hopefully finds a good home. As Moparman mentioned, you could do a few upgrades to the interior like carpet and seat covers and be golden. Next level would be small gauges for temp, oil, and battery plus a redo of the aftermarket radio. Sorry, but those external speakers on the rear shelf are awful!

    I’m on the fence over the 5mph bumpers. They would look better tucked, but so many 73/74 Novas have been butchered and made to look like the 68-72, that seeing a factory 73/74 is somewhat of a treat.

    Like 7
  3. TerryJ

    “With 185hp at the driver’s disposal, this Chevy should cover the ¼ mile in 16.5 seconds”. Hmmmm.. aluminum intake, big air cleaner hiding a Holley or Edelbrock carb, tube headers at least. Then the chrome timing cover says he’s been in there so a cam swap would have been tempting. :-) Terry J

    Like 4
    • Brad460 Member

      I’m sure the chrome bits add at least 50 hp.

      Like 1
  4. DON

    I wouldn’t “tuck” the bumpers anymore than I’d cut the fins off a 57 Bel Air . This is what the car came with, and this one is a nice example . So many Novas have been butchered , its refreshing to see one so clean . I’m one of the few that like the 73-74 Novas better than their predecessors .

    Like 9
  5. Claud

    In my youngin days i owned one , an ugly brown color that had been applied over the original white
    I changed the dash , the engine , the seats and still hated it
    Time flies and i look at this ugly green with ugly green interior , flat boarded ugly seat and unlike many i still hate it !
    I remember and cherrish good memories but this is not one !

    Like 1

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