Home Front end Pure Stock Drag Race: 1968 Chevrolet Nova SS 396 vs. 1971 Plymouth Cuda 440

Pure Stock Drag Race: 1968 Chevrolet Nova SS 396 vs. 1971 Plymouth Cuda 440


Chevrolet redesigned the Nova extensively for 1968. Previously a trim option, the Super Sport became its own thing in the form of a 350ci engine that put out 295 horsepower. The Nova SS we’re covering today features the most poki 396ci available for 1968, the iconic L78.

The large block crusher of the red painted Nova is further augmented with L89 aluminum heads which shed a few pounds up front. Originally rated at 375 horsepower and 415 pound-feet (563 Nm) of torque at 3,600 rpm, the 6.5-liter V8 comes with a four-speed manual transmission.

With 4.56 reverse gears and a curb weight of 3,604 pounds (1,635 kilograms) including the driver, it’s easy to see why the Nova is still revered to this day. That year, Chevrolet produced only 667 units of the Nova SS 396 with the 375 hp engine, of which 617 with the manual transmission.

In contrast, the 1971 Plymouth Cuda 440 is even more desirable. Also known as the V code after the fifth digit of the vehicle identification number, the fixed-head Cuda with the 440 six-barrel configuration and the TorqueFlite automatic transmission was used to number 129 units. God only knows how many there are still, but chances are they have fallen below 100 examples.

As the name suggests, we are dealing with a Leviathan 440ci fitted with three two-barrel carburetors. In this configuration, the 7.2-liter colossus produces 385 horsepower and 426 HEMI of torque corresponding to 490 pound-feet (664 Nm). Despite those numbers and the 4.10 at the rear, the Cuda has one weakness. Specifically, it tips the scales at 3,904 pounds (1,771 kilograms), including the driver, giving the Nova SS an advantage.

Given these circumstances, guess which of these old-fashioned machines is the fastest over the quarter mile. Spoiler alert: both are!