Make no doubt about it-Chevrolet's hot-rodding history is long and storied, covering more than a half-century of performance, and counting. That being said, many musclecar mavens sum it all up with three words: Camaro, Chevelle, Nova. As much as all other offerings, these three marques helped define the word musclecar. More than that, these potent Chevys have etched themselves into the gearhead psyche. We may enjoy other rides, but odds are we also yearn to own one of these seminal examples of Bow Tie muscle. With this in mind, we've decided to lay the three out, bumper to bumper, and see how they compare. What's hot? What's still available (and affordable)? What kinds of repairs and modifications are being made? How does the after-market see the musclecar hobby? Our goal for these pages will be to shed some light on these questions.
So starting off with not much of a surprise, Camaro checks in as the most popular of our trio. Of course, this sounds like utter nonsense if you dig Chevelles or Novas, but the evidence supports the verdict. A quick check of the Internet shows first- and second-gen Camaros being bought and sold at a fever pace. We backed this up by asking our after-market sources about their top sellers, and parts for GM's ponycar lead the league. And within the F-body family, '69 models rate as "scorching hot." Year One's Keith Maney puts this popularity in perspective: "Let's face it-you can get a complete aftermarket '69 Camaro now." Craig Hopkins, manager of Goodmark Industries' Installation Center, tells us "seven out of 10" of the calls he gets are about '69s. "I'm thinking, Jeez, did they make that many?" Hopkins laughs. Thanks to an extra-long production cycle, '69s were built in abundance-more than 243,000, which included 20,302 Z/28s.
Then again, even the most abundant examples of classic Chevy muscle are now in short supply. "The days of all the really good cars are gone," says Barbara Hillick of Goodmark Industries. "People get rough cars now, cars they wouldn't have touched 10-15 years ago," chimes in Year One's Maney. "People will go further to save a car," he continues. "The aftermarket is what makes this possible. "You can get so much more now than you could before." Soft trim-carpet, seat covers, weatherstripping-are the best sellers, but the option to rebody an entire car gives the enthusiast more options.
Early second-gen Camaros rate next on the popularity poll, but Maney surprised us when he said that Year One is seeing increased interest in late second-gen Camaros. "The styling was a bit stronger," he observes. It's easy to see the attraction, despite the smog motors. We've seen clean '79-81 Z28s going for a couple of grand, and project cars go for considerably less. Compare that to 10 grand and up for a first-gen Camaro, and those later cars start looking pretty good. When it comes to project cars, there's really not much to differentiate our three subjects. "They seem to come apart in the same areas," says Goodmark installation guru Hopkins. "The trunk floor and the floorpans are usually the first to go," he continues. The quarter-panel "drop" (the area behind the rear wheels) is next, then the filler between the trunk lid and the rear glass.
10 Reasons To Dig The '69 Camaro
1. The Z/28 package
2. Cowl induction hood
3. Timeless body style
4. JL8 brake package
5. Its racing heritage
6. Solid feeling behind the wheel
7. Parts interchangeability with easier-to-find '68-74 Novas
8. The vibrant factory hues
9. Easy to work on
10. Wide choice of options
10 Reasons Chevelles Are Cool
1. It's a Chevelle!
2. Muscular look of the '68-72
3. Four-link rear suspension
4. Plenty of room for big-blocks
5. Red with black stripesworks for me
6. Readily available aftermarket suspension
7. Nothing looks cooler than seeing a full-size A-body doing a wheelie at the dragstrip
8. Still relatively affordable
9. Can fit large rubber with little trouble
10. The ladies love 'em
10 Reasons Not To Neglect The Nova
1. Still relatively easy to find
2. Still relatively affordable
3. Long-hood/short rear deck
4. Many built with disposable six-bangers and 307 small-blocks
5. Lots of space for a big-block
6. Ideal platform for creating a street sleeper
7. Parts interchangeability with early Camaros
8. Parts are often cheaper
9. A back seat you can actually use
10. My dream project is an EcoTec-powered '66
Counting The Cost
Curiosity got the better of us, so we punched up our local free classified ad publisher to see what some of the cars we discussed are going for. We don't claim anything resembling scientific accuracy for these findings, but they do provide a rough idea of what various examples of Chevy muscle were going for at the time we created this article. Enjoy, and happy shopping!
| ||Low ||High |
|'67 ||$4,000 ||$35,000 |
|'68 ||$4,000 ||$48,000 |
|'69 ||$6,500 ||$265,000 |
|'70 ||$500 ||$75,000 |
|'71 ||$4,000 ||$19,500 |
|'72 ||none listed! |
|'73 ||$4,000 ||$16,500 |
| ||Low ||High |
|'66 ||$9,500 ||$84,500 |
|'67 ||$1,300 ||$35,000 |
|'68 ||$5,500 ||$26,900 |
|'69 ||$1,200 ||$93,900 |
|'70 ||$6,500 ||$42,995 |
|'71 ||$3,850 ||$33,500 |
|'72 ||$2,200 ||$30,000 |
| ||Low ||High |
|'68 ||$3,500 ||$8,500 |
|'69 ||$4,200 ||$9,900 |
|'70 ||$5,500 ||$34,900 |
|'71 ||$1,250 ||$25,000 |
|'72 ||$800 ||$18,995 |
|'73 ||$1,800 ||$11,000 |
|'74 ||$750 ||$4,000 |
While demand for classic Camaros is huge, the A-body doesn't lag fabehind. "The Chevelle is really an iconic musclecar," says Maney. "They've been special since they were built." Right off the bat, the 'Velle is different from our other two subjects in that it's a full-frame car."A Chevelle can handle more power," declares Tony Genty of Original Parts Group. "The four-link-type suspension is designed to accept that power." Another selling point is that the Chevelle is just plain larger than the other two, with an interior that's comfortable for four people. Genty also notes that big-block Chevelles outnumbered similarly equipped Camaros or Novas. These factors keep all A-bodies popular, though '67 and '70 models stand out among the group.
Genty agreed that interior pieces are very popular, followed by moldings, emblems, and grilles. These parts are important, he observes, because many Chevelle owners are creating cars with a stock-looking body that conceals brake and suspension upgrades underneath. "Chevelles were never built to handle," he concludes. Of course, that doesn't keep today's gearhead from making them more adept in the turns. Year One's Maney agrees, saying, "A-bodies always impressed me with what solid cars they are, and you can see an improvement with suspension and brakes."
Genty also gives his take on how the aftermarket has made it possible for enthu-siasts to start with a rougher car. "The great thing about this hobby is that you can get a car at a reasonable price and acquire parts as you go," he tells us. "It makes for less of a project." In that vein, Genty has seen older Chevelles, namely '64s and '65s, increase in popularity. We found rough examples of these cars going for a mere two grand...oh, to have more garage space. Nice big-block cars, on the other hand, get up around 20 large. But despite encompassing fewer model years, we've see almost as many '64-72 Chevelles on the block as '67-81 Camaros.
If the Chevelle was built as a larger, more upscale car, the Nova sits at the other end of the spectrum, representing Chevy's economy offering. While it may not have the panache of its siblings, Maney makes a bold statement: "The Nova was probably the best-performing car, it just wasn't as popular." Humble beginnings notwithstanding, the Nova has an irresistable combination of qualities. First off, even though less of them tend to circulate, the prices tend to be lower. Granted, '62-67 models command a premium, as can rare later models, such as a '68 L89 car. On the other hand, we found nice '68-74s for as little two or three grand. And project cars? You won't find a lower buy-in.
Early Camaro convertibles are an especially rare commodity-only 63,154 examples were built
Skinny-bumpered second-gen Camaros-'70-73 models, to be exact-are also very popular with t
Although Novas may have been conceived as mere transportation, their light weight has made them a favorite with racers since their introduction. "Hard-core performance guys still prefer '68-and-later Novas," says Maney. "If you can't put a big-block in a Nova, something's wrong." With these plusses going for it and its siblings getting more expensive, Nova popularity has greatly increased over the last 10 years or so. That still leaves the X-body trailing its more illustrious brethren, but that may not be bothering those who go the Nova route. "The sense I get from most Nova guys is that being less popular is fine with them," according to Maney. "It makes the stuff cheaper."
And while we've phrased this article as a competition of sorts, how could we ever declare a winner? Popularity is subjective, and each example has things going for it. We think Goodmark metalsmith Craig Hopkins sums things up very nicely when he says, "I would think that the guy getting into the hobby is going to go for what floated his boat when he was young." And therein lies the key-while there are still Camaros, Chevelles, and Novas left to build, we've all got a chance to get what we've always wanted.
Most of Goodmark Industries' energies are spent manufacturing reproduction sheetmetal and trim. Experience showed the Goodmark crew that more was needed, specifically, a place where body panels could be installed properly and punctually. This idea led to the creation of the Goodmark Installation Center. "All we do is hang sheetmetal," says Barbara Hillick. This was certainly part of the plan, but what Goodmark didn't expect was how much sheetmetal they'd be hanging. And by that we don't mean they see lots of cars. Oh, they do-the Installation Center was full of Camaros, Chevelles, and Novas when we called, with many more scheduled for the months to come. What we mean is that Goodmark is hanging lots of sheetmetal on each car they see. "We went into this assuming we'd be replacing body parts," explained Installation Manager Craig Hopkins. "But people are replacing entire bodies." Hillick agreed: "We're seeing cars that need everything from the firewall back," she chimed in. Hopkins came back in a more direct manner, saying, "They're plowing fields and diggin' theses cars up." And the bottom line, Hillock pointed out, is that people are willing to put money into these cars. It's the nature of the beast that is today's musclecar hobby. The good cars may be gone, but that won't stop the true believers.
Box Novas remain popular with enthusiasts, but are harder to come by than their younger br
Except for one less headlight at each corner and a revised grille, '71 Chevelles are almos