Here we have a 1977 Chevy Nova that has not been on the road since 1987. I am going to use this car to show you what you need to look out for when you are out there buying your first project car so that you don’t end up with a car like this.
Let’s begin with the backstory on this 1977 Chevy Nova and why I even have this car. I was outside working in the yard and I got a text message from my dad saying that there was a 1977 Chevy Nova coming up for sale and that it hasn’t been on the road since 1987. He sent a few pictures of it and it looked like a complete car to me. The one picture showed it sitting in some kind of structure, possibly a large shed, so I immediately began thinking that it could be solid underneath. So I decided to buy the car for $1200, sight unseen. I gambled and I lost, but we are going to get some good content from it. Side note, I later learned there was a hole in the roof of the structure so the car was not protected from the elements and the structure had dirt floors.
The first thing you need to remember is that you should never buy a car without looking at it. I did that for this 1977 Chevy Nova and my 1971 Chevy Camaro, which was an eBay purchase. In both cases the cars were worse than I expected.
All right, so let’s take a walk around this 1977 Chevy Nova and point out the areas that you need to look at so that you aren’t surprised when you get your first project car home and tear into it. The first thing most people do when they see the car for the first time is they walk around the car and look at the exterior. So let’s do that.
We’ll begin at the front of the 1977 Nova by checking the panel gaps looking for evidence of wreckage or panel replacement. The front end looks pretty good. We’ll look under the hood later.
Moving on to the driver side fender, we take a look at the lower sections of the fender. Often the lower section near the door will rot out because debris builds up behind it and traps moisture. This fender has some rust forming, but it feels pretty solid. Also take a look at the inner fender and the area of the subframe that you can see. Here we can see that the subframe has a lot of rust. We can also see that the body mounts need replaced.
Now take a look at the corner of the cowl/dash through the windshield. You’re looking for evidence of rust and we can see here that we have some rust showing. Expect to have to do some repair in this area. Looking around the window trim we can see some rust bubbles. It’s likely the channels will need repair work.
Also take a look down into the cowl vent area. You’re looking for debris build up which can cause the inner cowl panel to rust through allowing water to run into the car. We’ll take a look at the inner cowl panel once we get inside.
As we move to the driver side door we can see something looks off with the door gaps. You can see here that the gap at the top is very wide and the rest of the gap is tight. Now these cars didn’t have perfect gaps, but this is pretty bad. There’s definitely something going on here. We can also see that the bottom of the door is in bad shape. The driver side door does not open on this car so I can’t determine how bad the door is so I’ll assume the worst based on the condition of the exterior.
Moving down to the outer rocker panel, you can see on this Nova that the outer rocker panel is rusted beyond repair. As bad as this outer rocker panel is, it’s likely that areas of the inner rocker will need repairs. Looking at the underside of the rocker panel, we can see that someone has put some kind of undercoating on it, likely to pass inspection.
The driver side quarter panel looks okay at first glance. But as we look near the bottom of the quarter panel we can see rust forming. This is a common area of rust on these older cars. You’ll want to take a good look at the outer wheelhouse. We can feel here that this wheelhouse is rusted pretty bad and that someone has tried to repair it. Run your fingers around the wheel arch. Often you’ll find a few pounds of bondo in here, but in this case we can see the outer wheelhouse is rusted pretty bad, and the quarter panel isn’t as bad. That’s a good sign that the quarter panel was replaced and the necessary repairs were not made to the wheel house.
Moving on the rear of the car, we can see that the deck lid is rust issues. There is some rust showing near the window trim.
Inside the trunk, we can see many issues here. There are holes, patches, signs that animals lived in here, and also we can see clearly that the quarter panels were replaced. The window trim is loose and we can see holes under it. One should expect to find holes around the entire window. This hole next to the passenger wheel house is not a good sign. It looks like the shock came up through here.
The passenger side quarter has the same issues as the driver side quarter. The same goes for the outer wheel house. We can see here that someone welded plate steel to the frame rail to make a mount for the shock.
Moving on to the passenger side door we see the same gap issues as the driver side door. Opening the door up, we can see that the rust has made its way into the door shell. This door isn’t worth saving. Looking at the B pillar we can see that the quarter panel repair was a quick job. It was installed by overlapping the old quarter panel. This is why the gaps are so bad. We can also see rust in the B pillar. The passenger side outer rocker panel appears to be in better shape than the driver side rocker panel, but will likely need to be replaced.
Again, looking at the cowl panel through the glass, we can see that there is rust forming in the corner.
Moving on to the passenger side fender we can see that it is about the same condition as the driver side fender. It seems decent.
Under the hood, the first thing I notice is that the battery tray is gone. That’s a good sign that the inner fender and radiator support will be gone also and they are with this car. The driver side inner fender might be savable, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The heater box appears to have some rust issues as well.
Moving under the car, we can see that the frame rails are rusted very badly. The torque boxes are pretty much gone. The driver side frame rail is pretty much gone where it meets the torque box. The passenger side frame rail isn’t as bad as the driver side, but likely not far behind.
We can see multiple areas in the floor pan where it has rusted through.
We can see the trunk pan has rust issues as well.
The tail panel has rust where the panels come together. It looks like it can be saved.
Moving to the inside of the Nova, the first thing I notice is the smell and it smells so bad. Immediately we can see the piles of acorns so we know that animals have been living in here. The glove box has a nest in it and it’s likely that the heater box does as well. Often you will not be able to see the condition of the floor pans from inside the car because of the carpet.
So let’s break down the parts we need to purchase in order to restore this Nova.
- Outer rocker panels both sides $220
- Door shells both sides $400 used (Not Available)
- Quarter panel skins both sides $240
- Outer wheelhouses both sides $180 (Not Available)
- Full trunk pan $400 (Not Available, Using 71 to 72)
- Trunk pan drop offs $120 (Not Available)
- Full floor pan with braces $400 (Not Available, Using 68 to 74)
- Frame rails $500 (Not Available, using 68-74)
- Under Seat Torque boxes $140 (Not available, using 68-74)
- Radiator support $300 (Not Available, used pricing)
- Inner fenders both sides $400 (Not available, used pricing)
- Battery Tray $30
- Exhaust $200
- Heater Box $75
- Headliner $175
- Front Seat Covers $353
- Rear Seat Cover $190
- Carpet $180
- Fuel tank $200
- Fuel Lines $67
- Brake Line Front $61
- Brake LIne Front to Rear $61
- Brake Line Rear $28
- Body Mount bushings $70
That comes to $5,165 just in parts and I can guarantee that’s not everything. Notice that a lot of the sheet metal is not available for this car. The fourth generation Nova is not a popular car. You need to consider this because this makes this 1977 Nova a much more difficult restoration for the weekend warrior out there. You now have to source used parts or fabricate your own. Used parts will cost more than reproduction parts because people know they are hard to come by. For example, I’m seeing prices of $300 to $500 for a used radiator support for this 1977 Nova. Reproduction pieces for the older years are less than $200.
So really this car is not worth saving because the car is only worth about $7,500 dollars in good condition. But this is RestoCar so we are going to save this Nova, but only after we finish the 1971 Camaro.
We are going to do a few more video posts on this 1977 Nova before I push it to the back of the shop. We’re going to clean the car inside and out because it stinks so bad and I can’t take it anymore. Then we are going to ID the engine and see if we can get it running. If you’d like to see those videos, go over to our YouTube channel and subscribe. Don’t forget to click that notification bell so that you get alerts when we post new videos.