25 February 2005

Collectible Classic: 1963-67 Chevrolet Nova SS

When it became clear that the radically-engineered Chevrolet Corvair wasn't going to catch the top-selling compact, Ford's Falcon, Chevrolet quickly brought out the Chevy II, a conventional front-engined series that mirrored Ford's approach. The dowdy Chevy II line soon was sexed up with a bucket-seat version, the Nova SS. It was both a tacit response to the Falcon Futura and a 7/8-scale homage to its powerful sibling, the Impala SS. Today, the first-generation Nova SS offers contemporary dimensions in an honest configuration that underscores its roots in a simpler time.

The 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova Super Sport, actually an option package, was distinguished by unique badging, an aluminized rear deck "cove," and special wheel covers. Offered as both a two-door hardtop and a convertible, the Nova SS found a substantial market despite the fact that theonly available engine was a 120-horsepower in-line six. The following year, the Nova SS convertible was dropped, but powertrain options soon grew to include a 283-cubic-inch V-8, a four-speed manual, and, later, a 327-cubic-inch V-8. Concurrent with a styling update in 1966, the L79 performance package--good for 350 horsepower and a 15-second quarter mile--made Chevy's compact a car to be reckoned with on the drag strip.

The Nova SS of this era makes an excellent, thoroughly reliable, yet sporty back-to-basics statement. With plentiful parts resources and useful size, it offers a measure of distinction, albeit in a honest, no-frills, heartland kind of way, as a rolling tribute to the values of a bygone era.

VITAL INFO.

What To Pay: $8000-$20,000. Expect a 30 percent premium for a '63-only convertible. The very rare L79-equipped '66s can command as much as a 50 percent bump.

Production Figures: 93,163 of which only 200 were true L70s.

Watch Out For: Squirrelly handling in big-engined cars, sagging doors, bogus L79s.

READ MORE: Nova SS, by Steve Statham, Motorbooks International, 128 pages, $21.95; Chevy II, Nova & SS Muscle Portfolio 1962-1974, by R.M. Clarke, Motorbooks International, 140 pages, $19.95; Nova, Chevy II & Monte Carlo Parts Locating Guide, by Adam and David Gimbel, Jalopy Joe Publishing, 102 pages, $21.95.

CLUBS: National Nostalgic Nova, P.O. Box 2344, York, Pennslyvania 17405 (717-252-4192; www.nnnova.com)

SPARES: Chevy 2 Only, P.O. Box 985, Mount Washington, Kentucky 40047 (502-239-8487; www.chevy2only.com); J&W Nova Parts, 8253 Mt. Cross Road, Danville, Virginia 24540 (804-685-4310; www.novaparts.com).

MEET THE AUTHOR

Author of this review, Bob Merlis, is an automotive journalist whose writing has been published in both general interest and enthusiast periodicals. He is a frequent contributor to Automobile Magazine, (www.automobilemag.com).His feature length writing for Automobile earned him the coveted International Automotive Media Award for his piece on the demise of the Plymouth make. He is currently a continuing contributor to Details Magazine and has seen his pieces published in Car and Driver, Los Angeles Magazine and LA Style where, for four years, he served as Car Culture editor. He is a consultant to the Petersen Automotive Museum in the area of exhibit development. He is a member of the Motor Press Guild, Society of Automotive Historians, Studebaker Drivers Club, Avanti Owners Association International, Alfa Romeo Owners Club and International King Midget Car Club.

Outside the field of automotive journalism and literature, Merlis continues his endeavors in the music industry where he is best known for his nearly thirty year tenure at Warner Bros. Records where he was Senior Vice President, Director Worldwide Corporate Communications. Merlis is now running M.f.h., his west coast-based public relations/marketing consultancy.

 

Merlis is a native of Brooklyn and earned a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University. He has been a resident of Los Angeles for over 25 years and is the father of three sons, Alexander, Benjamin and Timothy.

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