Car of the Week: 1967 Chevy II Nova SS

Larry Young has been driving this 1967 Nova SS for nearly 50 years
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Car of the Week 2020
67 Nova SS Steve Nova Lrgfile

Larry Young of Ventura, Calif., probably shouldn’t be a Nova man, but for 50 years, there’s always been a Chevy II Nova titled in his name.

“My dad’s work car was a Chevy II and he hated it,” Young said. Despite his dad’s negative experience with an example of Chevy’s famous compact, one of Young’s earliest cars was a 1965 Chevy II Nova.

“I had a 1965 Nova Special which was a little blue car with more chrome trim on it than any other ’65 I had seen. It had a 283 and I loved that car,” he said. “Novas in the ’60s and early ’70s, and Novas in general, were considered an economy car and an old folks’ car. The ’65 I had belonged to a mortician and his wife.”

Just 10,069 Nova SS models with six-cylinder (1856 cars) and V-8 power (8213 cars) were built in 1967. That was almost 10 percent of 1967 Chevy II production, which totaled only 106,430 cars.

Just 10,069 Nova SS models with six-cylinder (1856 cars) and V-8 power (8213 cars) were built in 1967. That was almost 10 percent of 1967 Chevy II production, which totaled only 106,430 cars.

Young quickly built a fondness for that ’65, probably because he found it to be anything but an old fogie’s car.

“With that two-speed and 283, I could outrun real Z/28s and my top end would exceed theirs. The faster that car went, the closer to the ground it got...it would just hug the ground.”

When Young went to his local Chevy dealership in Grass Valley, Calif., in search of a new transmission mount for that ’65 Nova, he laid eyes on his next and last Nova: the 1967 Super Sport featured here.

“I drove down to Meier Chevrolet and there was a 1967 Nova SS on the corner of their lot on an elevated ramp, angled upwards so the car appeared to be climbing, and I came home with it. My dad was furious,” he said.

Young saw very few Nova Super Sports and said the car was an uncommon sight in his corner of California, which made it further stand out. With about 53,000 miles on the odometer, its fine condition also helped the 5-year-old used car stand apart.

“All of the chrome was covered with cigarette smoke residue, which preserved it,” he said. “The interior was in great condition. There was a lot of sand in it, in the carpet. I have wondered off and on if it had gotten submerged — it’s a mystery.”

Everything but the Nova’s clock worked, and he said after he and his dad rebuilt it 10 times, it still didn’t work. To this day, the clock still doesn’t tic-toc.

Included with the Nova SS was its Protecto-Plate showing the original owners’ names, so Young called them to learn the car’s history.

The 275-hp 327-cid V-8 has been rebuilt once in its 190,000 miles. Young bought the aluminum Corvette valve covers at a Chevy dealership years ago since the original steel valve covers leaked oil.

The 275-hp 327-cid V-8 has been rebuilt once in its 190,000 miles. Young bought the aluminum Corvette valve covers at a Chevy dealership years ago since the original steel valve covers leaked oil.

He found out the car had been bought new at Carrell Chevrolet in San Fernando, Calif., by the Machado family.

“They had retired from Pacoima in Southern California and they moved to Nevada City and they traded this Nova in on a Chevy Vega,” Young said. “When I called the Machados, Mrs. Machado answered the phone and she was furious that her husband had sold that car. She called him an ‘absolute idiot.’”

Regardless of Mrs. Machado’s judgment of her husband, Young was certainly wise to hang onto this 1967 Nova SS for nearly 50 years. Today, it’s a rare and highly desirable example from Chevrolet’s romp through the muscle car era.

Building another compact

Even though Chevrolet intended the Chevy II Nova to be an economical compact car, it’s now remembered as a muscle car. In truth, most Chevy II Novas were economy cars and relatively few were built by Chevrolet with a performance twist.

When the Chevy II made its debut for the 1962 model year, it was aimed at combatting Ford’s little Falcon. While the unconventional rear-engined, air-cooled Corvair that hit the market in 1960 was an admirable foe to the Volkswagen Beetle, the Ford Falcon that also hit the streets for 1960 was more readily accepted by Americans. It turns out American car buyers were ready for a little car as long as the engine was in front and it required coolant. In 1960, the first model year for the Falcon and the Corvair, Falcon handily outsold the Corvair, 435,676 to 250,007. Chevrolet immediately went to the drawing board to create a more conventional compact to get a bigger bite of the growing compact car market. In doing so, it created the Chevy II Nova.

The 1967 Nova SS featured Strato-buckets and a console, along with a three-spoke steering wheel.

The 1967 Nova SS featured Strato-buckets and a console, along with a three-spoke steering wheel.

In less than just two years, the Chevy II Nova went from drawing board to production. Apparently the Nova name was preferred until shortly before production and in the end, it was christened “Chevy II” to continue Chevrolet’s line of “C” names. (After all, Ford was sticking with “F” names and, well, “marketing see, marketing do.”) The Nova name was used, but it was reserved for the dressiest Chevy II 400 models, not the base Chevy II 100 or midline Chevy II 300. Power was initially a four- or six-cylinder in the Chevy II 100 and Chevy II 300 series, but the Chevy II 400 Nova was available only with six-cylinder motivation.

The first generation of Nova would last through the 1965 model year. Styling of these cars was clean, crisp and simple with only a forward-leaning grille borrowed from the full-size Chevys. The clean flanks had a horizontal peak below the beltline much like on the forthcoming 1963 Sting Ray Corvette, and the bottom of the side body panels featured a flare stamped into them. In keeping with the economy car theme and construction, single headlamps were used. Chevy II followed the Corvair with unitized construction with the Chevy II’s front suspension being a stub bolted to the body shell. Like the Falcon, a full line of body styles was offered for the Chevy II from convertible to coupe to sedan to station wagon.

First-year sales were solid with 326,607 Chevy IIs sold for 1962, besting Corvair by about 20,000 cars that year, but still around 70,000 units shy of 1962 Ford Falcon sales.

In 1963, a Nova Super Sport model joined the Chevy II line, but even Super Sport versions would have to wait until 1964 for a V-8 as Chevy II engines were still limited to four- and six-cylinder. However, during this period, a full-size Impala SS could also be built with a six-cylinder. By 1964, a 283-cid V-8 could finally be factory-installed in a Chevy II.

The lug nut holes in the original wheels have been enlarged from the miles, so Young can no longer run the original wheels, but he’s kept them and the original SS wheel covers.

The lug nut holes in the original wheels have been enlarged from the miles, so Young can no longer run the original wheels, but he’s kept them and the original SS wheel covers.

For 1966, the Chevy II received a full makeover. Its profile and roofline, especially on the Sport Coupe, mimicked the slightly bigger Chevelle. Like other Chevrolets, the 1966 Chevy II was decorated with a front grille treatment that appeared to thrust forward. Single headlamps returned, and new vertical taillamps capped off the back end of the restyled rear fenders. The overall Chevy II look was still clean but more slab-sided than the 1962-’65 models with a new, more simple horizontal character line below the beltline. The 1966 Chevy II was the perfect alternative to a Malibu for Chevy buyers looking for a little less car or to spend a little less money, or both.

Since the Chevy II Nova convertible was dropped for 1965, it’s not surprising that one didn’t reappear with the 1966 redesign. Chevy II buyers with a penchant for sport could still get the Nova Super Sport, however, and the small platform gave the best bang for Chevy’s small-block. The Super Sport package in the Chevy II model line-up was only available on the Nova Sport Coupe and created the best-dressed Chevy II. In 1966, the exterior of the Nova SS featured color-accented wide body sill moldings; front and rear wheel opening moldings with extensions on both lower fenders; door and rear quarter upper body side moldings; an SS grille emblem; “Super Sport” rear fender scripts; a full-width ribbed rear deck panel; and 14-in. Super Sport-only wheel covers. Nova SS interiors featured all-vinyl front bucket seats, a console on Powerglide and four-speed models, and most of the other features found on the Nova models. SS engine choices in 1966 ranged from a six-cylinder to a 283 or one of two 327 V-8s, the top dog being the L79 327 with 350 hp.

The styling of the 1967 Nova was carried over from the 1966 model, as were essentially all the Nova SS goodies. For 1967, Chevy blacked out the Nova SS’s grille and the lower portion of its rocker moldings, and also changed the rear tail panel. The SS wheel covers were new, but the L79 327 with 350 hp ceased being offered almost after day one of 1967 production and just a handful were built. That left the six-cylinder, the 195-hp 283 and the L30 327 with 275 hp, which powers Young’s Nova SS. To him, the 275-hp 327 is more than adequate.

P8290024

A Chevy II that’s number one

“This Nova SS is a performance car,” he said. “It says 275 horsepower, but I am telling you it’s 300-plus. You step on the gas and you go. It’s not a dog car — it’s a blast to drive.”

And drive he does. Young said the Nova SS was his daily driver from 1972 to 1980 and it’s been to every state from Kansas westward. Today, the car has around 190,000 miles and while it hasn’t been completely restored, it’s always received attention when it needed it.

“At 75,000 miles, I had to have the engine overhauled and it was 10.5-to-1 compression,” he said. “The wisdom of the day by the shop was to put it down to 9.5-to-1 compression, because of the unleaded gasoline,” Young said. “Even at the 10.5-to-1 compression, I would have dieseling issues or knock issues when climbing a grade unless I was running the 110 grade. That was in 1977, and that engine is still going.”

In 1984, Young had the car repainted its original Mountain Green Metallic paint using original GM paint. He’s worked to keep the car as original as possible, even sourcing correct (and rare) exhaust manifolds for his air conditioned car when the passenger side exhaust manifold cracked. (Young blames heat from the original smog equipment, which has since been removed and stored.) The original steel valve covers were replaced with aluminum Corvette valve covers sourced from a Chevrolet dealership when the originals wouldn’t stop leaking.

The car does have an aftermarket MSD electronic ignition system since it’s become difficult for Young to adjust points, and to find someone else to properly do it, and he installed aftermarket wheels. Young kept the original wheels and SS wheel covers, but the lug nut holes have become enlarged and the original wheels are now unsafe.

In its nearly 200,000 miles of use, Young has had the original Powerglide transmission rebuilt twice and the front end rebuilt five times. The black interior is largely original and restoration has been limited to new carpet, package shelf, glove box insert and some front seat padding from National Parts Depot. He has a newer exhaust system on the car, which he says sounds pretty close to the original.

“I put a dual exhaust system on it that is aluminized steel with a cross over and that system sounds original,” he says. “It doesn’t gurgle or glug like the other exhaust systems will sometimes sound. If you don’t take it out of first gear, it sounds like a Ferrari!”

Thanks in part to the tune of the exhaust and the hum of the 327, what Young enjoys most about his Nova SS after nearly 50 years is seat time.

“I have only been to one car show in my life and I enjoyed meeting people there, but I didn’t like it. I just like being on the road and the sound of that 327 in my Nova. I tell people it’s orgasmic.”

Although he’s had other interesting cars come and go, including a modern Porsche Carrera S, the Nova SS will always be “the” keeper.

“I kept the car because it was unusual, it performed well and it’s just a great automobile.”

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