Yenko Wannabe: 1971 Chevrolet Nova 396 4-Speed

Clone or tribute versions of potent 1969-72 Chevy Nova’s have become common sights these days. The usual practice is to find a good non-SS Nova, drop an SS-equivalent motor into it, and rebadge it as such. And they can often sell for similar money as the genuine article. The seller’s 1971 Nova looks nicely restored, having gone the route of a 396 transplant (which was not available in a ’71 Nova) and adding Yenko/SC graphics. It’s being offered by a classic car dealer in Denison, Texas (north of Dallas). The car is available here on craigslist for $25,500 (it’s also being offered through other online channels as well). Thanks, MattR, for bringing this beauty to our attention.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issues with clones or tributes as long as they are acknowledged as such. They increase the size of the pool of cars that would otherwise not be available 40-50 years after the fact. The Chevy Nova become a popular subject for tributes because of what the SS350 or SS396 represented when new. They were simple, good looking, light, and fast cars that could be had new for not a lot of money. Chevy sold quite a few of these until the muscle car industry took a hit from insurance companies and emissions controls.

The Yenko/SC Nova is one of those lesser-seen tribute cars. It started with a retired race car driver and muscle car specialist Don Yenko who refitted a series of third-generation Nova’s (also Chevelles and Camaros, too) for top performance. These specially-reworked cars had a stronger body frame and suspension to carry a modified 427 cubic inch V-8. Only 37 of these “Yenko Supercars” (Yenko/SC) are said to have been produced, with even fewer surviving today.

This 1971 Nova is one of the nicest I’ve seen in a while. The body looks to be very solid and the black paint (likely a respray) shines up nicely. The white Yenko/SC stripes add a nice touch to the car, which the seller fully acknowledges is not the genuine article. Because the seller is a dealer and has experience as such, the photos are better than we usually see. Several underbody shots are provided that show us it’s as clean as what’s up top.

The seller says the interior is “very presentable,” but I would say that’s an understatement. The car appears to have come with the upgraded interior package when new, which was much nicer than the basic Nova fare. The car has seen its share of use, with an odometer reading of nearly 96,000 miles, so not all the components on the car likely have that much use.

The Nova doesn’t carry any SS badging and – if it did – the largest engine you could get in the car in 1971 was a 350, so the 396 is not original, but it has been rebuilt and the engine compartment presents well. As you would expect, the motor is paired with a 4-speed manual transmission and 12-bolt rear-end. I’m not an expert at reading VINs, so perhaps one of our readers can postulate on what this car originally was. The seller says it runs and drives very well and even provides a short video to help seal the deal.

As far as tribute cars go, this one isn’t priced through the roof. If you’ve ever wanted a sweet 1969-72 era Nova with a 396/4-speed and one that gives a salute to one of muscle car’s icons, you could probably do far worse than this one.

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  1. Weasel

    Where’s the red heater hoses? Wait, where’s ANY heater hoses?

    Like 10
    • Steve R

      That’s not the only problem. The transmission looks like a Saginaw, see picture 23 and it has no fan shroud or fuel filter. There appear to have been more than a few corners cut on this car. This car looks to have been pieced together for a quick sale, it’s a right shiny object that will look good on first impressions. However, there are enough signs that point towards something else, buyer beware.

      Steve R

      Like 6
  2. TimM

    No heater hoses, no A/C for a dark car in Texas, no vacuum boost on the master cylinder!! This car is all go!! But it’s not all go in the cold weather or in the south in the summertime!! Great looking build though!!!

    Like 6
    • JoeNYWF64

      Plus I believe those are 4 wheel manual drum brakes. lol
      I’m guessin factory headrests will slide into the seat.
      Tach would be helpful.
      Fuel filter inside the carb? Maybe not.
      I’m surprised that there are not more cloned hi po 1st gen camaro YENKOs, if the latter bring a lot more money.

      Like 1
  3. JW454

    Single leaf spring in the rear? The torque from that big block will wrap the rearend on the first hard launch.
    Looking at the steering column, rear spring, and dash it appears to me this car was a 6 cly or 307 with a column shifted powerglide from the factory. Just a guess.

    Like 5
    • jim

      Yep. This car came from the factory as a 6 cylinder car. The second and 3rd digit (13) means it was a 6 cylinder.
      You can tell on these novas if it was a 4,6,8 cylinder by the vin and that’s about all.
      The single leaf spring, weak brakes etc make since since it was a 6 cylinder originally.

      Like 4
  4. bobk

    My boss (at the time – early 70’s) gave me his Nova SS 396 to do a parts run out to his ranch. Early spring, rainy day. That thing tried to swap ends every time I even thought of putting my foot into the throttle. Scary fun.

    Like 7
  5. Troy s

    Nice car to show, maybe putt around in and all the time thinking of that story Don Yenko said about the 427 Nova….too much, just too much engine for the cheapy Nova. Only car he really never wanted to sell to just anyone. 0-60 in about 4 seconds, high to mid elevens in the quarter mile… only real mod was a set of headers. The numbers don’t begin to tell about the drama of getting there…..back to reality when you remember this only has a 396, which is hairy enough! She’s a looker alright!

    Like 2
  6. Tom Nemec Member

    In agreement with most of the aforementioned comments but for what the car DOES offer….there is A LOT of good going on for $25K providing the paint and body, undercarriage, interior. I like it. Yes, some “make it right” items needed but again, Paint and body would be $25K. Interior 10K plus..on and on….could be a fun driver around town and the cruise nights. Yenko look without spending the Yenko $$$$$$$

    Like 1
    • Tom Nemec Member

      BARN FINDS….what happened to the countdown where we could go back in and fix our typos etc before our commentary locked in?

      Like 2
  7. Stephen Miklos

    Nice looking Nova but that oil pan sure looks beat up a bit. If the engine was done over…wouldn’t the oil pan be nice and clean and dent free? This looks like a quick flip. 🤔🐻🇺🇸

    Like 3
  8. Randy

    If it were a true clone, it would have a 427 in it. There are no heater hoses probably because big blocks had different heater cores in them than small blocks.

    Like 1
  9. Tort Member

    Nice car but if it isn’t a true Yenko why pretend. Built it to compete with a true Yenko but leave the Yenko badging off.

    Like 1
  10. Comet

    Looks good, but me thinks it had a tough life by the looks of that front sub frame cross-member.

    Like 2
  11. Bennie C Davis Jr Member

    After looking over the pictures of this Nova the seller needs to knock off about 10k on the price. No heater, A/C, same steering column from the original transmission, I could go on and on. It’s not worth the 25k that the seller is asking for it. Their’s better looking cars out there for that price.

    Like 3
  12. Bmac777 Member

    I’ve seen and done bypassed heater cores, but I can’t find the hose that runs from the water pump to the back of the engine. How does this thing cool?

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