Cars We Remember 1970 Chevy Nova SS

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1970 Nova SS 396/375

Information on this 1970 Chevy Nova SS 396/375 is being sought so anyone who remembers this car in competition in the New York/Pennsylvania area back in 1970 can let me know. I will forward the information to Todd Werts, who is trying to track down its history. (Photo supplied). (Click for Larger Image.)

Hello Greg, during an internet search for Drag Racing in NE PA, I found your name and email from articles you authored on numerous Pennsylvania to Massachusetts websites.

I am helping a friend and fellow car collector find information on one of his cars.  His car was delivered to Krise Motor Company in Canton, PA, on 1/21/70.  It is a Black 1970 Turbo Hydramatic L78 (396/375 horse) Nova.  I’ve attached a picture of the car as it sits today after restoration.

It was originally advertised by a guy in Cheektowaga NY, [near Buffalo] on Ebay. He had bought the car from a local family and he told me the original owner had died and the Nova was in storage for awhile. It was definitely raced back in the day.

The car had been in some kind of front end collision at some point as the fenders were replaced and some of the front trim. However, there are still GM stickers on some of the parts. The back part looks mostly original.

Chevy Nova SS 396-ad-lg
This 1970 Chevrolet advertisement featured the Nova SS, which was available as either a small block V8 or big block V8. The L78 option was the ultimate, putting out 375 horses. (Ad complements of General Motors). (Click for Larger Image.)

When my friend bought it, it had aftermarket dual exhaust with manifolds, Holley 750 double pumper, Mallory dual point distributor and Accel coil. It also has an aftermarket air cleaner and push in valve cover breathers. The transmission has a small race style converter, and there are Lakewood traction bars, air shocks, 4.10 gears installed with spacer on the original carrier, aluminum rear end cover, am/fm cassette w/rear speakers, Sun Tachometer, SW oil/water gauges and a remote trans cooler.

There are lots of hotrod stickers in the trunk, one of them is from Weller’s Speed Equipment in Tonawanda, NY. I did find the Fisher build-sheet in the back seat (springs) which matches the trim tag and build date.

I’m hoping you or some of your colleagues or readers in the area might remember the car from back in the day? That engine in such a light car would have made it a screamer!  The car was found several years ago in Buffalo, NY, but the owner doesn’t have any history prior to that outside the selling dealer thanks to the new NCRS data service.

Any assistance you or your readers might be able to provide in documenting the history of this car would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for your time, Todd E. Werts, Washington DC area.

A: Todd, I’ll ask my readers from that specific time and geographical area as someone might remember this Nova SS. With this said, back in 1968-1970, then there were many, many Novas and Camaros roaming the dragstrips with big-block and small block engines.

Chevy Nova Sleeper
Chevy Nova Sleeper. (Click for Larger Image.)

Your friend’s car looks good, and that L78 big-block option (396/375) is most important to its value. The L78 featured a solid lifter high lift cam, excellent breathing high-performance closed chamber cylinder heads, an aluminum manifold and an 800-cfm Holley from the factory. The carb on it now is not original if it’s a Holley 750.

The majority of 396-375s that raced back then usually experienced major engine issues at some point due to the weekly hammering drag racing demanded. Many Novas then received “less tame” engines and were put back on the street. However, the value of your friend’s Nova is secure knowing it was an original L78 Nova. Overall, this is one GREAT barn find and you have the build sheet to prove it.

In ending, a bit of trivia as Tonawanda, NY is the site where all those hot Corvette 2014 LT1 engines are built—to this day, along with many of the powerful Chevy engines since 1963.

(Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now, and other Gatehouse Media publications. He welcomes reader input at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email at

Editor’s Note:

I was ten-years-old when I fell in love with the Chevy Nova. It was the day my dad drove home a brand-new 1964 black Chevy Nova convertible.  Summers on Cape Cod were never the same, later I would steal the keys and drive around the back dirt roads on our property.

I got my first car when I was 14 or 15, it was my grandpa’s 1964 blue Chevy Impala, a few years old but in great shape.  I learned to be a mechanic on it and eventually worked at an Oldsmobile dealership. I had to wait for a few months before I could drive it on the street, back then you got a learner’s permit at 15 and a half.

I graduated High School in 1972 and in my senior year, as the song goes, I saved my pennies and saved my dimes and in the fall of 1972 I went to the local GM dealership to order my own brand-new Nova. The 1973’s just came out and I wanted to spec out my own options and have GM build it for me as opposed to buying it off the showroom floor.

The salesman at the first dealership took one look at the nerdy 17-year-old at his desk, laughed and threw me out. He told me to come back with my mom or dad.

At the next dealership the salesman took my order and after a few weeks of gazing at the brochure and dreaming it finally arrived.

The salesman was real cool and actually broke the rules and called me when it was still on the truck before they prepped it. We watched them take it off the carrier, all the mechanics wanted to work on it and drive it around.

My Chevy was a 1973 Nova SS blue, with white racing stripes on the side. I ordered all the options I could, 350 engine, four speed manual transmission, heavy duty everything, special instrumentation, bucket seats, the works.

I Kept it mostly stock except for a fancy air cleaner and high performance carburetor. The wheels had these chrome inserts that kept falling off due to driving over the horrible Boston streets, so I got a set of Cragar SS rims, those were big back in the day.

The dual exhaust had that deep-throated rumbling sound I loved.

That baby flew, it cruised at about 80, no sweat.  My father borrowed it one day and got stopped doing 95 mph on the highway by a very surprised State Trooper.  God I loved that car!

– Jon Shubow GateHouse Media Best Ride Blog Staff


Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla