Home-Built Hero: Cortney Robbins’ 1974 Nova SS

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Not bad for a first car. We have no doubt that Cortney had the coolest car in the school parking lot.

If you grew up in a family that was blessed (or cursed depending on your perspective), with having multiple siblings, you have certainly participated in the tradition of hand me downs. Most of the time, the hand me down consists of worn jeans that were no longer in style, or shoes that almost fit. But one thing was certain, if you were the oldest of the children, you were lucky enough to be the source of the hand me down, not the recipient.

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Cortney with her aunt Les when the car came out of the barn from its hibernation.

In the case of this 1974 Chevy Nova, Cortney Robbins was more than happy to receive this hand me down. The story of the Nova begins way back in the late-‘80s, when her aunt Les received the Nova as her first car. It definitely needed some work, but the factory Super Sport was worth saving. With the help of her dad and her brother, they were able to make the Nova a truly dependable first car. Under the hood is a 327 cubic-inch small-block that was rebuilt by dear old dad before going under the hood.

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The 327ci engine that Bill rebuilt back in the late-’80s is still serving duty in the Nova.

According to Bill, Les’ father, “I have no idea what parts are in the engine anymore, you know how long ago that was?” A deviation from stock that was put into the car was the addition of a Turbo 350 automatic. Originally, the car came from the factory with a four speed transmission behind a 350ci small-block. Since the family purchased the car sans engine and transmission, it was just easier to use the slushbox.

With the 327ci engine and Turbo 350 in the car, Bill handled the needed bodywork, and the car was painted a dark gray. Les drove the Nova until the mid-’90s, and then it was relegated to storage in the family barn where it sat until 2005.

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Not just another pretty face, Cortney was in on every aspect of rebuilding the car.

This was the year that her niece, Cortney turned 14 years old, and Les felt compelled to give the SS to Cortney to be her first car. As you can imagine, the car did need some work, but the time it spent “resting” in the barn was kind.

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Cortney’s “Pap” handed her some sandpaper, and she was more than happy to get dirty.

The body work had held up well, and although the car was a little dusty and covered with remnants of those ignorant pigeons, it was in decent shape. So what happened next, was Cortney, her grandfather – Les’ dad, and Cortney’s dad began working on the car in anticipation of Cortney reaching the legal age to drive.

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The interior features an early Camaro console around the TCI shifter. Cortney hopes to soon be able to reupholster the seats.

The first task was the removal of the engine and transmission. It had been several years since Bill had rebuilt the small-block, so it was thoroughly inspected and found to be in as good of shape as it was when the car was parked.

For that reason, the only changes were to add a new Holley dual-plane intake and vacuum-secondary 650 cfm carburetor, and give it a tune up. When it came to the transmission, an even farther deviation from stock was employed. Again, no four speed was installed, and instead of the tried-and-true Turbo 350 going back into the car, her father acquired a TCI-built 700R4.

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It doesn’t look like the usual hand me down, but now that Cortney is a mom herself, we think the tradition will continue.

Although the body work was still in decent shape, Bill and Cortney sanded the body, fixed a few small rust holes, and since Cortney was not very fond of the dark grey, Bill then covered the car in the original shade of Bright Blue Metallic. The car was finished just in time for Cortney to drive to her Prom, and we’re sure that there was no shortage of young men wanting to drive for her, but that wasn’t happening. As Cortney puts it, “This is my car, ain’t no one else driving it.”

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The car has been on the road since 2005 with nary a mechanical incident, so this has actually turned out to be one very reliable hand me down.

Do you want to read about more Home-Built Heros? All you need to do is click here. If you own a Home-Built Hero, we want to hear about it. Since we’ve started the Home-Built Hero series, we have received more than a few candidates, but we are still in need of more. If you want to see more cars built by you the readers, send us a few pictures of your car showing the engine, interior and exterior, along with all of the pertinent information, and we’ll make you Internet famous. You can send your submissions to [email protected].

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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