Think early seventies muscle car and your mind jumps to the big-name classics. Non-muscle car fans will chorus Mustang, Firebird Trans Am, Dodge Challenger – and maybe the Plymouth Super bird and Barracuda, the Chevy Chevelle, perhaps even the insane AMC Hornet. But that list is missing one of the all-time muscle monsters. And those readers in the know, will already be thinking of it. In the midst of all those flared loons, Kojak on the TV and Tying a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree, the world hardly noticed when Chevrolet announced a new version of its popular Nova series. But when it growled on to America`s streets, everyone realized the 1973 Chevrolet Nova Super Sport was THE new fire-breathing bad-boy option.
The sport was usually called the SS. It came as standard with a heavyweight 5.7-litre/350cu in V8 engine and heavy-duty sports suspension. But for a few dollars more buyers could specify even more grunt under that curved hood. Two bigger V8s were available: the big-block 6.5-litre/396cu in with 350bhp – or the extra tuned version with a mental 375bhp.That sort of power output would still be exciting in one of today`s sports cars. In the early seventies it was enough to send thousands of mullet haircuts into orbits of desire. Even the standard SS V8 could go from 0 to 60mph in just over seven seconds, making it one of the fastest cars in its class.
The car sold well. Not surprising when other SS specs included a choice of three-speed `turbo-hyrdramatic` auto transmission or a four-speed manual. It`s a sign of the priorities of the age that disc brakes only became standard on the SS from 1969 – and then only at the front. Instead, the hottest Nova`s got the benefit of the `Rally Kit`. This included striking black or white stripes that ran the whole length of the car from fender to fender, including the roof. There were also six-slot Rally wheels, and what was considered ride sophisticated in that era: multi-leaf rear springs.
The Nova particularly makes a good drag conversion or custom car. Power can easily be tweaked even higher and real enthusiasts dress the Nova with some fine wheels and matching rubber. Ultra high performance tires are a cool addition to any car of course – but they can look immense when nailed onto an SS.
They help that handling get even better. High-spec tires will give you the extra traction you need from a standstill – and that`s just what you need if you want to get as many of those 375 horses on to the tarmac as quickly as possible.
Seventies drivers were thrilled by the cool cockpit design that included a state-of-the-art driver`s side mirror that was adjustable, wait for it, from the inside of the car! And later SS models came with the option of sporty bucket seats with built-in headrests and a sunroof, called the `Sky Roof` in Chevrolet promotions.
On the road, most muscle cars left a trail of dust and rubber but couldn`t make it round a corner at much more than a walking pace. The Nova was different. It had a sporty, nimble feel, with responsive steering and that primitive sounding suspension was actually set-up to be rather effective. The SS handled well on both straightaways and curves, meaning it was equally at home on city streets or country roads.
Amazingly, the seventies Nova was also a reliable and durable car. Its body seemed well built and resistant to rust.
Even its engine and mechanical components appear to be designed to last. That`s why many Novas from this era are still on the road today.
The numbers are a testament to the car’s quality and longevity.
Its build quality and seventies styling make it a popular classic second car. Many run an SS as a retro hobby vehicle – but some still use Novas as they were originally intended: to go fast.