A compact car produced from 1962 through 1979, and 1985 through 1988 in five generations, the Chevrolet division of General Motors produced the Chevy II Series/Nova. From 1962 until 1968 the Nova was the top model in the Chevy II lineup. From 1969 through 1979 the Chevy II nameplate was deleted in favor of the 'Nova' lineup. The 1980 Chevrolet Citation replaced the X-bodied platform Nova. In 1985 the Nova nameplate came back on the scene until 1988 as a NUMMI manufactured, subcompact based on the Toyota Sprinter.
Clare MacKichan, Chevrolet designer created the Chevy II/Nova as a 'basic-type car' with not enough time for experimentation or tinkering with various ideas. MacKichan considered the design of the Nova to be the 'quickest program' ever done any time, with designers working night and day on the vehicle. The deadline for the Nova was just 18 months after the designers received approval, making the Chevy II one of the 'fastest new-car development programs in GM history'. The 1962 Chevy II rode on a 110-inch wheelbase and the first production Chevy II came off the Willow Run, Michigan assembly line in August 1961. Its debut coincided just in time with its September 29th introduction. Never intended to be radical in design or concept, the 1962 Chevy II was merely a basic, contemporary car, described by Chevy GM Ed Cole as offering 'maximum functionalism with thrift.'
The name Chevy II was chosen by the Chevrolet organization at a later date, though among the finalists was the name Nova, which lost out because it didn't begin with a 'C'. The Nova name was selected as the name for the top-of-the-line series. The Nova badge would eventually replace the Chevy II, but not until 1969. The Falcon was used as the inspiration for the Chevy II. The 1962 model range included wagons, sedans and a two-door convertible and hardtop, just like the Falcon. The coupe utility; the Ford Falcon Ranchero, was the only body style not offered by the Chevy II lineup, perhaps to avoid competing with the Chevy El Camino.
Because of the rush job in designing the Chevy II Nova, many critics had issues with the construction. The three greatest criticisms were the high fuel consumption of 18.3 mph overall average, poor quality control and shabby paint jobs. GM had hoped that the 1960 Corvair would be their 'all new compact car' but unfortunately was quickly outsold by the 1960 Ford Falcon by 185,669 units in 1960. Since GM was the largest auto manufacturer worldwide it couldn't afford to have two Chevrolet compacts that competed against each other in showrooms. A smaller bore, reduced displacement inline six was easily and quickly developed from the new planned big six with two cylinders lopped off for a new inline four that was intended just for the Chevy II. The car introduced was the Chevy II.
The Chevy II was completely conventional, though it was designed at a disadvantage because of its extremely long inline six originally intended for full sized cars. By 1964 the Chevy II/Nova could be purchased with the small-block 283 cubic Chevrolet V8 to compete with the Falcon V8 introduced the year previously. From 1964 an SS option could be ordered, at the same time as the introduction of the V8, though SS's could be had with sixes as well. From 1963 on a convertible was also introduced, that especially in SS V8 form was incredibly rare from 1964 through 1967. All Chevy II engines used Overhead valves. The Nova became a popular choice of drag racers thanks to the combination of readily available V8 power and its lightweight nature. In 1966 the Chevy II was updated slightly and given a look similar to the bigger Malibu and Chevelle models.
The Chevy II and Nova were quite boxy in appearance, but neutral enough to appeal to most buyers with its no-nonsense, back-to-basics design. The Chevy II was advertised as 'luxury and low price' with three trim levels' basic 100, mid-range 300, and the classier Nova 400, topped by a Sport coupe and convertible.
Powering the Chevy II was a 90 horsepower, 153-cubic-inch Super-Thrift four-cylinder engine, or a 120-horsepower, 194-cubic-inch six. Since 1928 this was the Chevrolet's first four-cylinder powerplant. Two-speed Powerglide was also available instead of a column-shift three-speed gearbox. Some dealerships began to install V8 engines, some with 360 hp that delivered a 0-60mph dash in 5.2 seconds. No other GM models used the integral body/frame construction with a separate front sub-frame. For the first year sales of the Chevy II peaked at 406,500 models, with 23,741 of these being convertibles, the sport Nova 400. The 1962 models were priced between $2,033 and $2,399.
The Nova option for the Chevy II was offered in a convertible body style in 1962 and 1963, and a two-door hardtop from 1962 through 1965. The hardtop was dropped once the 1964 models were first introduced but eventually brought back to the lineup later in the model year. The body style was marketed as the Sport coupe like all Chevy two-door hardtops.
Also introduced this year was the Chevy II Nova Super Sport, under RPO Z03. The SS sported special emblems, wheel covers, instrument package, side moldings, bucket seats, and floor shifter, available only on the 400 series sport coupe and convertible. It was visually distinguished by wide rocker panels and a bright aluminum deck lid cove. This package retailed around $161.40, todays equivalent $1,243.31. The Nova option couldn't officially have V8 engine and the standard SS engine was the six-cylinder engine. Small-block V8 engine swaps were commonplace. The Super Sport was promoted as the 'Chevrolet Chevy II Nova Super Sport' but the name 'Nova' wasn't used anywhere on the body. 'Chevy II SS' was displayed on the front and rear emblems and Chevy II was still the name of the car, but the Nova SS option package replaced all Chevy II badging with Nova SS badging.
The following year the new Chevelle was introduced which impacted Chevy II sales. The Chevy II received its first factory V8 option, 195 hp 283 cubic inch (4 6 1), along with a 230 cubic inch (3 8 1) straight six. The second generation Stovebolt was replaced with the six-cylinder, third generation engine. The Slant Six engine had been developed earlier by rival Chrysler in their Plymouth Valiant. The hardtop coupe was absent in the lineup in the fall, which resulted in a loss of sales. The Sports Coupe was reintroduced later in the model year where it remained until 1967.
For 1965 the Chevy II and Nova were tweaked to include a cleaner front-end design with a fresh full-width grille and new integrated headlight bezels. New this year was a new roofline and parking lights relocated to the deep-section bumper. The rear cove, taillight and backup lights were restyled. The 1965 Chevy II was introduced in entry-level 100 form or the more exclusive Nova 400, each in three body styles.
The Nova Super Sport came only as a Sport Coupe with production peaking at just 9,100 cars. Standard on the Super Sports was a new brushed-chrome console with floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission or Powerglide automatic. Standard was a column-mounted three-speed manual. The Super Sport featured bucket seats with textured vinyl trim and a dashboard with various gauges like ammeter, oil pressure and temperature. Customers could choose from six power choices of the six-cylinder or V8 engines and the four-cylinder available only in the 100.
1965 was the year that the Chevy II was best remembered as a muscle car. When powered by a 327 cu in (5.4 l) V8 with available 300 hp (220 kW) the Nova SS performance was almost on the same level as the GTO, 4-4-2, and 271 bhp Mustang 289s in straight-line acceleration. Halfway through 1965 Chevy introduced a more robust 283 with dual exhausts and 220 horsepower. The biggest competition for the Nova SS was the Chevelle Malibu SS. Out of 122,800 Chevy IIs built for 1965, only 9,100 of these were Super Sports. The Chevy II was the only model in GM's lineup to suffer a sales decline in 1965
The second generation of the Chevy II Nova was introduced in 1966. Riding on a 110-inch wheelbase, the second generation measured around 183 inches long in sedan or coupe version and 187.4 inches in station wagon form. Measuring 71.3 inches wide, the sedan was 55.1 inches high, the coupe was 52.8 inches high and the wagon 55.7 inches high. For 1966 the Chevy IIs sported an extensive sharp-edged restyle heavily based on the Super Nova concept. Proportions were much more squared off though dimensions and features changed barely at all. Special features this year included a bold grille and semi-fastback roofline. Reminiscent of larger 1966 Chevrolets, the Chevy II Nova featured 'humped' fenders in an angular rear end, though it had vertical taillights and single headlights. The Chevy II 100 and Chevy II Nova 400 models started the lineup once again.
The base Chevy II 100 series models only offered the 90 hp (67 kW) 153 cu in (2.51 L) inline-four engine. Buyers could opt for a 194 cu in (3.18 L) inline-six engine, which was standard in the SS, a 230 cu in (3.8 L) inline-six, inline-six, 195 hp (145 kW) or 220 hp (160 kW) 283 cu in (4.64 L) V8, a 275 hp (205 kW) 327 cu in (5.36 L) V8 and the top of the line engine, a new Turbo-Fire 327 cu in (5.36 L) V8 engine delivering 350 hp. This powerful engine was first seen in the Chevelle, and with the close-ratio four-speed manual transmission it turned the normally tame Nova into a proper muscle car.
In 1967 the Chevy II underwent a slight restyle that included a crosshatch pattern on all Nova's that filled the deck lid trim panel. Still called the Chevy II Nova, the Nova had taken over the bottom-run Chevy II 100 in sales. Though there wasn't much in fancy trim or brightwork, 1967 models had a variety of safety equipment improvements. These included a government-mandated energy-absorbing steering column and safety steering wheels. Other updates included soft interior parts like sun visors, armrests, recessed instrument panel knobs and front shoulder belt anchors.
Though plenty of compact-car shoppers were interested in the 1967 Chevy II and its deluxe Nova rendition, but the Camaro, introduced in 67 was Nova's biggest competitor. The 1967 Nova SS was only available in hardtop coupe form and featured a new black-accented anodized aluminum grille. Once again the SS wheel covers were inherited, this time from the '65-66 Impala SS. 'Nova SS' emblems replaced the '66 'Chevy II SS' badges.
Powering the Nova versions was the 194 cu in (3.18 L) in-line six engine and an optional 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-six. Additional powertrain options included a 195 hp 283 cu in (4.64 L) V8 and for an additional $93, a 275 hp 327 cu in (5.36 L) V8 engine. While other models had a column-mounted gearshift, Nova SS coupes had a console-mounted shift lever with their Powerglide automatic transmission four-speed manual. Sales in 1967 dropped nearly a 1/3 from the previous year down to 106,500 units, including 12,900 station wagons. Around 10,100 of these were Nova SS Chevrolets, with 8,200 of these powered by V8 engines. Six-cylinder engines in the Chevy II 100 and regular Nova series sold better than V8s.
The third generation of the Chevy II Nova was introduced in 1968 riding on a 111.0-inch wheelbase. With a length of 189.4 inches and a width of 72.4 inches the 1968 models were completely designed with an extensively restyle on its longer wheelbase. The Chevy compact chassis was now just one inch shorter than the midsize Chevelle coupe. For 1967 the hardtop sport coupe and station wagon were discontinued. The deletion of the station wagon was an industry trend that left AMC the only American maker of compact station wagons until 1976 when Chrysler rejoined the market.
A large obvious change this year was the front subframe assembly a separate subframe housing the powertrain and front suspension replaced the earlier style. Though this was a unique design for the Nova, a year earlier the Camaro was the first to incorporate such a design. The redesigned Nova was pushed a year ahead to 1968 rather than 1967. Advertisements this year alleged 15 powertrain choices for coupes, and 12 for sedans. Optional this year was power brakes and steering, rear shoulder belts and head restraints and Four-Season or Comfort-Car air conditioning. Several Novas were built with the 194 ci (3.1 L), which was the same motor than had been used in previous generations of the Chevy II.
Sales of the 1968 Chevy Nova dropped by about 50 percent. The Chevy II portion of the compacts name was dropped by Chevrolet, and was now simply known as the Chevrolet Nova. Between 1968 and 1970 the 153 cu in (2.51 L) four-cylinder engine was available, then dropped due to lack of interest and to make room for the Vega. The base 307 cu in (5.03 L) V8 replaced the 283 cu in (4.64 L) V8 offered in previous years and the 250 cu in (4.1 L) six-cylinder engine were far more popular. Halfway through the year a semi-automatic transmission based on the Powerglide called the Torque-Drive (RPO MB1) was introduced as a low-cost option for clutch-less motoring. This option cost around $100 less than the Powerglide. The four and six-cylinder engines were the only ones compatible with the Torque-Drive transmission. The more popular three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic was only available with the largest V8 engines while the two-speed Powerglide was the only fully automatic transmission available with most engines.
The Nova Super Sport became a performance package in 1968 rather than just a trim option. The Nova SS was one of the smallest muscle cars ever fielded by Detroit. It was now powered by a 295 hp 350 cu in (5.7 1) V8 engine along with a heavy-duty suspension and other performance hardware, with a pricetag of $312. Two versions of the big-block 396 cu in (6.5 1) V8 rated at 350 hp and 375 hp were optional engines that were priced at $348. Both engines came with the choice of transmissions that included the M-21 close-ratio four-speed manual, heavy-duty M-22 'Rock Crusher' four-speed manual, or the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission. 17,564 SS coupes were produced in 1968. The SS badge was featured on the Nova until 1972. The 1968 Nova SS featured optional front disc brakes.
The Chevy II nameplate was officially retired in 1969, which left just the Nova nameplate. 'Nova by Chevrolet' replaced 'Chevy II by Chevrolet' trunk lid badge, and the bowtie emblem replaced the 'Chevy II' badge above the grille, and the '69 model was promoted under the Nova model name in Chevy sales literature. The Nova now featured locking steering columns like other 1969 GM cars. Below the Nova script were simulated air extractor/vents, which were relocated to the front fender behind the wheel well rather than the rear quarter panel.
Powering the SS option was the 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 with four-barrel carburetor revised with a 5 hp (4 kW) increase to 300 hp, while a two-barrel carbureted version of the 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 rated at 255 hp was a new option on non-SS models. The Nova SS continued to be priced at $312. Non-SS Nova's with six-cylinder and V8 engines received a new Turbo-Hydramatic 350 three-speed automatic, though the older two-speed Powerglide that was available on the smaller-engine Novas. The 1969 SS models were the first Nova SS models to receive standard front disc brakes.
Not much changing from 1969, the 1970 Nova was basically a carryover. Changes this year included side marker and taillight lenses that were wider and positioned slightly differently. This would be the final year for the SS396. Every other engine was a carryover this year including the rarely ordered four-cylinder that was in its final year.
Following two years of transitional nameplates, the car simply became the Chevrolet Nova this year. A total of 254,242 Chevy Novas were sold in 1970, with 19,558 of them being the SS 350 or SS 396 version. 177 (COPO) Central Office Production Order Novas were ordered, with 175 converted by Yenko Chevrolet. The other two were distributed in Canada, and the Nova was used in Trans-Am racing this year.
In 1971 the Nova was very similar from the previous year. The 350 cu in (5.7 L) in the SS model replaced the 396 cu in (6.49 L) engine. Also new this year was the Rally Nova, which was a trim level that only lasted two years. This special kit came with black or white strips that ran the length of the car and around the rear, Rally wheels, a Rally Nova sticker on the driver's side of the hood, multi-leaf rear springs, and a 'sport' body colored drivers side mirror completely adjustable from the inside. Unfortunately the Vega stole Nova sales this year, but it wouldn't be long before the compact Nova would gain back its popularity.
The standard Nova engine was now the 250 cu in (4.1 L) six-cylinder engine since the 153 cu in (2.51 L) four-cylinder and 230 cu in (3.8 L) six-cylinder engines were discontinued. Carried over from 1970 were the 307 cu in (5.03 L) and 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 engines, and all of the engines featured lowered compression ratios that enabled the use of regular unleaded gas thanks to GM's corporate mandate that took effect in 1971.
Following 1971, various GM divisions began to rebadge Novas as their new entry-level car, like the Pontiac Ventura II, Buick Apollo and Oldsmobile Omega. This was thought to boost brand loyalty with respective GM divisions though the company later fused their badge engineering with platform sharing to cut expenditures. On an interesting sidenot, the initials of the four model names (Nova, Omega, Ventura and Apollo) spelled out the acronym NOVA.
In 1972 the Chevy Nova only underwent slight trim updates but it proved to be extremely popular and Nova had its best sales season in quite some time. Total production in 1972 peaked at 349,733 models sold, with 139,769 of these powered by the six-cylinder engine. Returning this year was the Rally Sport option with special suspension and proved to be quite a popular option with a total of 33,319 sold. 12,309 coupes received Super Sport equipment, some of which also received the Rally package. Now assembled alongside the Camaro, Nova production was relocated to Norwood, Ohio. A sunroof option on two-door models was available halfway through the year. Introduced the previous year on Vegas and Camaros, the optional Strato bucket seats available on coupes switched from the earlier low-back design with adjustable headrests to the high back units with built in headrests.
In 1973 Chevrolet introduced a hatchback bodystyle that was based on the 2-door coupe. The Nova's front and rear was restyled following a government mandate requiring vehicles to be fitted with front and rear impact bumpers. Designers also gave Nova a new grille with a loosely patterned crosshatch insert and parking lights inboard of the headlights. This bumper could absorb 5 mph impacts in 1974.
The Nova SS option remained available, but for $123 it was merely a dress-up package that came with a blackout grille and Rally wheels. The SS option could be ordered with any Nova engine and a total of 35,542 SS package were installed, making 1973 the best year for the option. New this year was an updated rear side window shape that took the place of the vent windows on both two and four door models. An updated rear suspension was taken from the second generation Camaro with multi-leaf springs that replaced the mono-leaf springs used on Nova's since the original 1962 model.
By now six-cylinder and V8 engines were quite the standard for American compact vehicles, and the 307 cu in (5.03 L) and 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8s became pretty typical. The two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission was in its last year and the 1973 with it a six-cylinder engine or 307 cu in (5.0 L) V8 were the last few Chevys offered with this transmission. New this year was a fancy Custom series added to the Nova line and a Custom hatchback for $2,701 with a six-cylinder engine. This series was $173 more than the six-cylinder base model two-door hatchback. For an additional $381 the luxurious extra; air conditioning could be added to the car. Standard on every 1973 Nova were side guard door beams and additional sound insulation along with flow-through ventilation systems. Other extras included fold-down rear seats and a sunroof.
In 1974 the Nova received new bow-tie grille emblems, larger parking lights and updated bumpers that added two inches in length and aided in cushioning minor impacts. A lightweight version of the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 350 (THM 250) already offered with the 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 engine, the only V8 offered for 1974, replaced the Powerglide. 1974 was another great sales year for the Nova with total cars sold peaking at 400,000 cars. While V8-engined Novas declined, six-cylindered Novas were on the rise in 1974. Unfortunately this was the beginning of the first energy crisis as Middle Eastern countries restricted their oil exports, but this worked in the Novas favor as the thrifty compact looked good to those in the midst of fuel rationing.
To celebrate the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, the 'Spirit of America' Nova was introduced in 1974. Limited edition Nova coupes were painted white with blue and red accent stripes and featured red and blue interior carpets and fabrics. The Apollo and Omega were introduced at this time, sharing the same body styles from the Nova lineup and included extra options like lighting under the dashboard and inside the glove compartment.
Safety innovations were introduced this year that included a weight sensitive relay within the front seat that prevented the car from being started before the driver's seatbelt was fastened. This feature resulted from a safety mandate from the NHTSA. Eventually Congress repealed the mandate that required this device, citing driver freedom infringement, and allowed owners of 1974-model cars to have the seat belt interlock bypassed. Future Nova models didn't include these devices. Other safety innovations this year was a new 'inertial reel' one-piece lap/shoulder safety belt assembly standard for both front outboard passengers, along with a plastic clip that attached to the headrest and guided the belt across the passengers shoulder.
Don Yenko of Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, PA converted a series of Third generation Novas (along with several Camaros and Chevelles) to better compete with the impressive Ford Mustangs, Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas. The specially redesigned Nova was known as the 'Yenko Supernova' after the retired racecar driver and muscle car specialist. The Supernova had a stronger body frame and suspension system capable of housing the impressive 427cid (7.0L) V8 engine that powered the Yenko Super Cars. Carrying a hefty $4,000.00 pricetag, only 37 of these are known to have been produced, and only 7 are thought to have survived today. The 'Yenko Deuce' was a special high-output Chevy 350cid V8 in his line of Novas, and was the same engine shared with the new Z-28 Camaro and LT1 Corvette. The Yenko Deuce also had very flashy stripes, badges and interior decals along with extensive suspension, transmission and rear axle upgrades.
The fourth generation of the Chevy Nova was introduced in 1975 riding on a 111.0-inch wheelbase with a length of 196.7 inches and a width of 72.2 inches. This was the most drastically updated Chevy car for that model year and advertised as 'Now it's beautiful'. The Nova featured all-new sheet metal along the same lines as 'elegant European sedans.' Chevrolet designers pulled their inspiration from the 1968-1974 Nova design and kept the compact car on the 111-inch wheelbase. The front tread grew an inch and a half, and a larger diameter was found on the front stabilizer bar.
1975 updates included standard front disc brakes and steel-belted radial tires on the Nova. The rear axle and suspension were retained from the previous generation, while the front suspension and subframe assembly were similar to the one used in the second generation GM F-body cars. Fixed side windows (or optional flip-out windows) and vertical vents on the B-pillar were used in Coupes and hatchbacks. Chevy Novas now featured cut-pile carpeting, which was usually reserved to the Custom series. It was much easier to read the larger speedometer now and there were greater glass areas in the windshield. Integral pull bars were redesigned in the front-door armrests.
Powering the base model was the inline Six-cylinder 250 cu in (4.1 L), 105 hp (78 kW), two V8 engines (305 cu in (5.00 L) and 350 cu in (5.7 L)) for '76 only. The engines were mated to a three-speed automatic, 3-speed manual or 4-speed from V8s only.
Pushing the Chevy Nova into the luxury segment of the compact market, the LN; Luxury Nova package was dubbed 'the most luxurious compact in Chevrolet's history.' The LN featured plush wide-back reclining front seats that felt as luxurious as 'soft lounge chairs' and featured equipment like additional sound insulation, an electric clock, map pockets, a day/night mirror and a smoked instrument lens. Swing-out quarter windows were optional for the coupe.
The following year the Nova LN was rebranded Concours to rival the Mercury Monarch, the Ford Granada along with upscale versions of the Plymouth Valiant and the Dodge Dart. The Concours was available in three body styles: coupe, four-door sedan and hatchback coupe, just like the regular versions of the '76 Nova. The most lavish Chevrolet compact at that time, the Concours featured rosewood vinyl decorating the upper door panels, steering wheel and instrument panel. These luxurious models had an upright hood ornament, bright trim moldings, bumper guards, black bumper impact strips and full wheel covers (while the more base Novas came with hubcaps). Triple-unit taillights replaced the dual-unit taillights that were similar to the large Caprice ones. This was the first Chevrolet coupe with a fold-down front center armrest. Compared to the base Nova the V8 Concourse cost an additional $547 more.
Powering the 1976 Nova was a 105-horsepower inline-six, a 165-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V8, or a 150 hp 305 cubic inch V8. GM cars in 1976 first saw the use of the THM200 from the GM T platform to GM X-coupes. Minor tweaks were made to the brakes this year, along with the fuel and exhaust system mountings. New knobs were found on the dashboards. The LA Sheriff Department placed the largest order for compact police cars ever in the US after testing the 1976 Chevrolet Nova. For an additional $187 the Nova SS option could be purchased. It brought with it a black grille with special diamond-mesh pattern, four-spoke steering wheel, Rally wheels and heavy-duty suspension.
For 1977 minor updates were made on the Chevrolet Nova that included a revised dash panel that was now a flatter design and a more modern round gauge cluster instead of the long sweeping speedometer. New colors were introduced this year as well as some minor trim options. The '1977 Nova' brochure detailed only base and Custom versions while a separate brochure was specially printed for the Concours. The Nova SS from 1975 and 1976 was discontinued while the option code for the SS (RPO Z26) continued as the Nova Rally from 1977 through 1979.
Powering the 1977 Chevrolet Nova were three engines, a 110-horsepower 250-cubic-inch inline six, a 145-horsepower 305 cubic-inch two-barrel V8 or a 170-horsepower 350 cubic inch four-barrel V8. Four transmissions were available and included a three-speed (column or floor shift) and four-speed manuals or Turbo Hydra-Matic. Novas could also be equipped the F41 sport suspension or a heavy-duty suspension. A variety of Novas were ordered with either a 305- or 350-cubic-inch V8 engine by police departments after the example set by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. The police department had given the compacts an exhaustive and detailed evaluation.
The luxurious 1977 Nova Concours came with a stylish stand-up hood ornament and a finer-mesh grille. Other sleek updates included wider bright wheel-opening moldings and newly designed wheel covers. The 1977 Nova Concours was advertised 'International in style' and 'American in function,' with a special blend of 'classic style and good sense.' The Concours was a perfect size that wasn't too big or too small with an affordable pricetag.
The Concours was discontinued in 1978 to make room for the newly downsized Malibu. The Nova Custom received much of the Concours' exterior finery except for the stand-up hood ornament. On the interior the upholstery choices included Edinburgh woven sport cloth/vinyl or all-vinyl. The base 1978 Nova kept the same grille used in '76-77 but added a gold-tinted Chevy bowtie emblem at the front edge of the hood. Also available this year was the Nova with Rally equipment with a new front-end layout that included a diamond-pattern grille with horizontal parking lights and black headlight bezels, color-keyed Rally wheels and triple band striping. Inspired by the Caprice and Malibu, all Novas featured a new dual-spoke, soft vinyl-covered steering wheel.
Buyers could opt for a 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, a 145-horsepower 305-cubic-inch V8, or a 170-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V8 in any 1978 Chevy Nova. The Nova was being used by law enforcement in 48 out of 50 states according to the sales brochure. Even with this positive sales boost, sales fell around 10,000 units bringing sales for the year around 288,000, making Nova the only Chevy series to experience a droop in sales for 1978. Base models easily outsold Customs this year and regular coupes and sedans beat the Nova hatchback body style.
In 1978 the GM A-body mid size cars were introduced and shared similar exterior dimensions as the X-body and downsized A-platform. The more roomier and modern
A-bodies were a much more popular choice over their X-body equivalents.
Chevrolet chose to discontinue the rear-wheel-drive Nova in 1979 following a short model year run. The Nova was updated with slightly tweaked front end with square headlights and a new grille. The horizontal-bar grille now carried vertical parking lights. Adding to the sleeker and more modernized look were new front-bumper filler panels and new chromed hood and fender moldings.
The 1979 lineup remained the same with this base-level hatchback, coupe, sedan and the Custom coupe and sedan. The base coupe and sedan continued to be the best sellers as before. The Nova Customs featured a special acoustical package that included full hood insulation, improved headlining and additional luxury features. The Rally Package returned again and wore the same grille as the other 1979 Novas. These Novas were applauded for their solid 'reputation for dependability' and their 17-year success rate that started with the Chevy II. Less than 98,000 examples were produced and production ended on December 22, 1978. The new Chevrolet Citation would take the place of the Nova in the Chevrolet compact lineup.
In the spring of 1984 the Chevrolet Nova nameplate returned for the fifth generation. Riding on a shorter 95.7-inch wheelbase, this newest generation had an overall length of 166.3 inches, had a width of 64.4 inches and a height of 52. 8 inches. The new Nova was now a front-wheel drive subcompact from 1985 through 1988 and was assembled in Fremont, California by NUMMI, a joint venture between GM in the U.S. and Toyota of Japan. This subcompact resurrected a name last found on the compact-class rear-drive 1979 Chevrolet Nova. The Nova was a rebadged and slightly updated Japanese market Toyota Sprinter, a model that was sold in Japan as a badge-engineered version of the Toyota Corolla. The Nova was built on the same AE82 platform as the Corolla, was powered by the same 1.6 L (98 cu in) 4-cylinder engines with 74 horsepower, and was available with 5-speed manual, 3-speed or 4-speed automatic transmission.
In 1985 the Nova was at first only available in four-door sedan body style and in the Midwestern states. It wasn't long before a five-door hatchback Nova joined the sedan. The line was distributed throughout the US and Canada beginning around traditional new-model introduction time in the fall. The four-door sedan was priced at a rather hefty $7,435. The five-door was priced at $7,669 and featured an additional split-folding rear seat. The Nova was several hundred dollars more than corresponding Corollas. Rather than use the long list of optional equipment that typically accompanied cars like the Chevy Chevette, all Nova options were now grouped into seven packages. The Nova could achieve a pricetag of over $10,000 with just one of the more expensive packages.
For 1987 only slight updates were made to the Nova. Standard equipment now included a rear-window defogger, and visual changes now included lighter silver highlights on the vertical grille bars and a change of turn signal lens colors from amber to clean/white front and red rear. New aluminum wheels were found on CL models with red reflex panels carrying the taillights onto the trunk/hatch along with body colored bumpers.
The '87 Nova carried on in two body styles; a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback. The Nova sedan proved to be the most popular by about three to one. The engine options remained the same as before with the 74-horsepower 1.6-liter four designed by Toyota. The engine was joined to either a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic. The Nova was priced just a bit higher than the competing Corolla, but the Nova could be purchased for less because slow sales influenced dealers to discount the price. The Nova did sell almost well as the Corolla. The two cars were very similar despite slight interior and exterior trim differences. The Nova had slightly softer suspension than the Corolla and favored ride over handling.
New to the lineup in 1988 was a sporty model called the Nova Twin-Cam. The name was inspired by a double-overhead-cam version of the Toyota-built 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in other Novas. The basic design of the Nova continued to pull much of its influence from the Corolla and this year the engine was earlier found in the Toyota FX-16, a performance version of the Corolla. Producing 100 hp (82 kW), the Twin-Cam pumped out 36 hp more than its single-cam sibling. Standard on the model was a five-speed manual transmission, like the regular Novas, but the Twin-Cam offered an optional four-speed automatic instead of the three-speed offered on other models. This feisty engine elevated the Twin-Cam into junior sport-sedan territory, but with an additional $2,595 pricetag, a price that included sport suspension, fuel injection, power steering, tachometer, leather-covered steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes and wider tires on aluminum wheels. Only 3,300 Twin-Cam models were built, possibly because of the stiff price. No hatchback versions were offered, and their were no color choices for the Twin-Cam as all models were painted black metallic paint.
Standard equipment for every 1988 Nova was rear shoulder belts, AM/FM stereo radio and rear window defogger. This would be the final model year for the Nova name at Chevrolet. The car would be pushed into its new Geo division beginning in 1989 and receive the new name Prizm. The Geo division was Chevrolet's effort to create an 'import-sounding label' name to entice European buyers. The final 1988 Nova rolled off the assembly line on August 18, 1988. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson