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Rare Find: 1970 Chevrolet Nova SS 396 4-Speed

With the introduction of the third-generation Nova, Chevrolet switched the SS package from what was essentially a trim option to a performance package. With the change came higher-performance engine options. While most cars received the tried-and-true SBC 350, a small handful received the big block 396 V8. This example is not only one of those SS 396 cars but was also optioned with an M21 4-speed. It’s a restoration project, but it should prove to be worthwhile. You can find it here on eBay in Loon Lake, Washington.

The seller claims that just 138 of these 1970 Nova SS 396s were built. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer on how many were built in the same spec as this one, but chances are there weren’t all that many. That is, if it’s a genuine 396-equipped car, but the seller claims that the engine is numbers-matching.

This is a total restoration project, and the seller admits to it. They are having health issues and aren’t in a position to restore it now. While it looks like it just needs to be painted and put back together, there are some soft spots in the floors that will need to be patched. We’ve seen Novas restored, and it needed more than just some patches, so it’s definitely doable. Putting it back together could be challenging, but parts and diagrams are readily available.

It would be nice to have more photos of this car, especially given what it is, but this is one you will want to inspect in person. That way, you can verify the numbers and check for more corrosion. It sure would be a fun machine all put back together! That’s a lot of engine for this little car.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Burke

    The seller does not mention a build sheet or Protecto Plate. So, what are the numbers matching ??

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Nick P

      VIN stamp on the engine and transmission perhaps? Thats normally the definition of numbers matching.

      Like 7
  2. Avatar photo Will Fox

    Someone else’s unfinished problems. No thank you…..

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo Robert Parks

      I love all of you naysayers but these cars are well worth restoring and putting back on the road if I didn’t already have one I would buy it in a heartbeat they are one of the most potent muscle cars out there

      Like 10
      • Avatar photo Fitz Member

        Potent? Maybe, but don’t even think about approaching a corner at speed…

        Like 1
      • Avatar photo Henry Davis Member

        Fitz, the aim of these cars wasn’t to go around corners, except for getting onto the return road at the end of the drag strip. If you wanted to go around corners you bought one of those weird British, German or Italian cars…or maybe a ‘Vette!

        Like 2
    • Avatar photo 19sixty5 Member

      If you know the car well, buying someone’s project can be a super deal. In many cases the heavy lifting has been done, they come with piles of parts, originals, reproductions, spares, etc. Again, the emphasis is that you know the vehicles well, inside and out, and seeing it in person is imperative.

      Like 5
  3. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Don’t need this mess. Got a land fill 11 miles down the road I can go to if I want something similar to this scene.

    Like 7
  4. Avatar photo bone

    138 1970 Nova SS 396s were built ; currently 4,500 are on the road today

    Like 19
    • Avatar photo Steve R

      The sellers numbers are off. According to Novarecourse.org there were 5,567 396 Nova SS’s built, not 138. Most of the ones you see today were built by the owner, even in the early-80’s when muscle cars were still plentiful they were a rare sight. As for this car, without a close up picture of the engine stamping and other features specific to an SS 396 Nova I’d take a hard pass. I’d also want to see the quality of whatever restoration work has already been done.

      Steve R

      Like 5
      • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

        I think Mr. Bone was joking, making fun of the fact that the number of “numbers matching” examples seems to grow over time, due to engine transplants into lesser versions to create “clones”. The fact that not everyone is honest in disclosing a clone’s status is a source of consternation in this hobby.

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo Steve R

        Robert, I figured he was joking. I also figured he didn’t realize how many big block SS’s were produced, neither did I until I looked it up.

        The default position on any “muscle car” from this era is that it’s a clone unless the VIN is specific to that model, it has matching numbers and/or factory documentation.

        Steve R

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo FordGuy1972 Member

        My ’70 Nova SS wasn’t matching numbers, the L78 396 it had was a transplant from a ’69 Chevelle. It was fast, hair-raising as far as handling was concerned, but it was a beautiful car. I miss it, wish I never parted with it.

        Like 3
    • Avatar photo ET

      lol

      Like 0
  5. Avatar photo Henry Davis Member

    I feel for the guy selling this car! I always wanted one, even ordered one in 1970, but couldn’t get insurance. Found a 74 SS hatchback a few years ago and decided to build my dream car. Have all the pieces for 396/375 installation for a SS with PS/PDB/AC. It’s been at the paint shop for a year now, hope to get it back in a couple of months. It’s a race to see if I can put it together before I get too feeble to do so, or croak!

    Like 6
  6. Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

    These disassembled projects are always difficult to take on, because the parts have a habit of disappearing over time, largely because the person who disassembled the car forgets where they put everything, LOL! You can spend an inordinate amount of time and money searching for and acquiring the missing pieces. With that being said, there won’t be any surprises regarding the condition of the body, as there’s no way to hide it with the body fully disassembled.

    The good news is that you can send the body and driveline out for repairs and painting while you inventory the parts collection, so you can obtain any of the missing parts. Once the body comes back from paint, assembly should proceed relatively rapidly, if you have the stamina. Of course, you could proceed at a slower pace, to meet your own personal comfort level.

    Like 2
  7. Avatar photo Henry Davis Member

    For any of you that are considering taking a shot at this project…parts are amazingly available…on a par with first gen Mustangs! I just got the latest Chevy II/Nova catalog from Classic Industries in the mail, it’s 611 pages long!

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      True, but how much will you have to buy from that voluminous tome to get this puppy back on the road again? Will that financial investment be modest or moronic? Time will tell.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Henry Davis Member

        If past projects for me are any indication, a lot more than can ever be recouped when sold. I’ve got a 65 mustang, bought for $14,000, invested $25K or so…and it’s probably worth $30K tops. Gave $10K for the Nova, have spent $30K plus so far, with $12K paint job and a few thousand more for odds and ends still to go. It’ll be really nice, but probably worth $35-40K when done. Stude Hawk will be even worse, might have $30K in it when it’s done, might be worth $20K. But I don’t do it to resell, I do it for the joy of the process and the satisfaction of completing. I don’t often sell anything except to make space for the next project. But I’m pushing 80 yrs old…how much longer can I do this?

        Like 5
      • Avatar photo Henry Davis Member

        Looked at the pictures pretty closely, and it looks to me like what’s done so far is pretty good. All the sheetmetal looks to be there, don’t see any rust but pictures don’t show any interior pieces except dash pad, so that could be expensive. Back glass is getting hard to find, but the stuff to fix it up is available, just depends on how much money you can throw at it.

        Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Jeff Member

    Can’t believe all the negative comments!! GLWTS! Sorry for your health issues.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      I prefer the term “realistic” to “negative”. Negative implies disapproval, and I don’t disapprove, far from it. I just think that before someone takes on a half-finished project, they should have a very clear understanding of exactly what they are getting themselves into before they jump into the water with both feet, metaphorically speaking. I’d hate to see this car passed from owner to owner unfinished, because each owner found out in turn that they had gotten themselves in over their head, so to speak.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Henry Davis Member

        EVERYTHING takes longer and more money than expected! And there’s always somebody to tell you how you did it wrong or they could do it better.

        Like 3
  9. Avatar photo kellen silverthorn

    Important is which 396 spec engine it originally had, and which spec it has now.

    Typically, Chev made three spec levels of its non-Corvette Big Blocks in the 1960s. The one to have is the most powerful, the 375 hp rated L78…….

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Larry D*

      I agree that this is the key point. L35, L34, or L78? I’d also agree with many others here in regards to raising someone else’s baby. If it’s not an L78 (and “numbers matching”), the numbers would never make sense.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Nick P

        For 1970, only the L34 and L78 were available. Most likely this is the L34. If it were an L78, I’m sure the seller would’ve said so.

        Like 1

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