In December of 1959 Chevrolet began creating a vehicle code-named the H-35. The design was to fall between the Chevrolets compact and full-size vehicles. Also known as the Chevy II, the vehicle was to be an economical vehicle with power coming from either a four or six cylinder engine. When the Nova was introduced at the 29th of September in 1961, the vehicle could be purchased with a 153 cubic-inch four-cylinder or 194 cubic-inch six-cylinder engines. Production had begun in August and was offered for the 1962 model year.
In 1963 a Super Sport option, the RPO-Z03, became available on the Chevrolet II Nova 400. The Super Sport package did little to amplify the performance of the vehicle, rather it added to the overall visual appeal with the addition of special trim, bucket seats, updated instrumentation, and a deluxe steering wheel. 1963 was also the only year that a convertible option was offered on the Nova SS.
IN 1964 a 283 cubic-inch small block eight-cylinder engine, option code L32 and L77, was offered. Depending on the configuration, the engine produced between 195 and 220 horsepower. The low weight of the vehicle coupled with the fairly powerful engine began to give the Nova 'muscle-car' status. Going from zero to sixty took 11.3 seconds with the quarter-mile was accomplished in 18 seconds.
In 1965, performance continued to be the focus for the Chevrolet Nova. A 327 cubic-inch V8 engine was now available offering up to 300 horsepower. The 327 cubic-inch V8 producing 250 horsepower was option L30 while the 300 horsepower variant was option L74. 1965 was the only year a Nova could be purchased with the Powerglide transmission matted to a high-performance 327 cubic-inch engine. The turn signals were moved from the grille to the front bumper.
In 1966 the Nova SS was restyled. The big new was the L79 option, a 327 cubic-inch 8-cylinder engine producing an astonishing 350 horsepower. Chrome engine accents, enlarged valves, aluminum intake, four-barrel Holley carburetor, high-compression pistons, and modified camshaft meant the quarter mile time could be accomplished in just 15.1 seconds. With further modifications, the sub-3000 pound vehicle could easily enter into the 13 second range.
Chevrolet decided they had a winning formula of style and performance and little was changed on the 1967 Nova. There were small changes, such as a modified grille and new seat cover patterns, but it was basically the same as the 1966. Front disc brakes could now be ordered from the factory. The big news was the L79 engine was no longer available with the Nova, although a few Nova SS models did manage to be outfitted with the power-plant.
For 1968 the Nova SS was redesigned, drawing many styling and mechanical cues from the Chevrolet Camaro. The Chevrolet Chevy II name was dropped. The standard engine was the 350 cubic-inch V8 producing 295 horsepower. A 396 cubic-inch V8 could be ordered offering between 350 and 375 horsepower depending on the configuration. There were 234 units built with the L34 option, 396 cubic-inch V8 engine producing 350 horsepower. 667 examples of the L78 option, 396 cubic-inch V8 engine producing 375 horsepower. This means that both of these series are highly sought-after by collector car enthusiasts in modern times.
For 1969, the Chevrolet Nova remained unchanged. The base engine was the 350 cubic-inch V8 producing 295 horsepower. The 427 cubic-inch 8-cylinder engine could be ordered offering up to 425 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque. The Yenko Nova 427 engine was not a factory installed option. With horsepower in the 450 range, the Nova was a power-house. The Yenko Nova's were offered with a close-ratio Muncie four-speed gearbox complete with Hurst linkage or a Turbo Hydra-matic with Hurst Dual Gate shifter. The Yenko Nova's were offered in 1968 and 1969. During this time, they were produced in limited numbers with only 37 being created in 1969. These too, are highly sought after by collectors.
Emission standards, safety regulations, and gas shortages were a few of the biggest reasons for the decline of the muscle car era. The manufacturers were forced to comply with stricter standards and regulations that ultimately meant lower horsepower and more safety equipment, often increasing the weight of the vehicle. This was true for the 1970 Nova. The 396 cubic-inch engine was modified to comply with these regulations resulting in a big-block 402. Horsepower was rated at an impressive 375 horsepower. This would become the final year for the big-block engine in the Nova.
In 1971, the Nova was no longer a performance machine. The big block 402 cubic-inch V8 was removed from the line-up for the Nova. The 350 cubic-inch V8 was capable of producing 270 horsepower, an impressive figure but not in comparison to the over-400 horsepower the Nova was producing a few years prior. Sales, just like the horsepower, continued to decline.
The Rally Nova option dubbed the RPO-YF1 was offered in 1971. This featured rally wheels, sport mirrors, special striping, and a blacked-out grille. This package was basically aesthetics, appearing to be a muscle car without the ability to back-it up. The package was popular and 7,700 examples were ordered.
The third generation of the Nova was introduced in 1972. The design was well received and for many a suitable replacement for the legendary nova. The base engine was the 350 cubic-inch V8 engine now producing 200 horsepower.
For 1973 the Nova was updated to comply with government regulations. These updates included larger bumpers and enlarged rear side windows. A three-door hatchback was now available. The Rally Nova was no longer offered.
There were minor aesthetic changes in 1974, mostly addressing increasing regulations. A Spirit of America one-year option was introduced offering red, white, and blue trim, stripes and interior. Nearly 15,000 examples were ordered.
1975 brought both aesthetic and mechanical changes. The brakes, suspension, frame, and body material were modified. A catalytic converter reduced exhaust emissions, unleaded fuel was mandatory for all engines, disc brakes were standard in the front, and steel-belted radial tires were a few of the safety features now found standard on the Nova.
A 305 cubic-inch 8-cylinder replaced the 262 cubic-inch engine in 1976. This was also the final year of the SS offering. A new special package, the Gold Medalist, was now offered on the Nova by Chevrolet to honor the 1976 Olympic Games. This package included gold paint and special emblems.
In 1977, the Nova SS was no longer offered. The last generation of the Nova lasted from 1975 through 1979. During this time sales continued to decline and the Nova was often overshadowed by other popular Chevrolet models.
The Chevrolet Nova was the ultimate sleeper-car. The styling of the SS model often mimicked the base offering. This meant that vehicles that line-up against the Nova at stop-lights never really knew what was under the hood or what was about to transpire. With over 400 horsepower, performance enhancements, quick shifters, stiff suspension, and a lightweight vehicle, the Nova was a muscle-car that maximized it potential and often proved to be the fastest off the line. Throughout the lifespan, the Nova went from a compact, economical car to a performance machine to a government compliant daily driver. Offered in various trim including dealer-offered packages, and aftermarket tuner options, the Nova was a versatile machine that was easily customizable.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
Advertised as 'not to small, not too big, not too expensive', the Chevy Nova was produced for over two decades and earned its way proudly into the American driver's heart and was a personal favorite for law enforcement officers in 48 states at one time. Debuting in 1961 as a 1962 model, the popular Nova was launched as the top model in the Chevy II lineup through 1968. A compact car, the Nova gave buyers a variety in size, nestled in between the compact Corvair and the full size Chevrolet. After 1968 the Chevy II name was dropped leaving the name Nova for 1969 until 1979. The Chevy Citation replaced the Nova during the spring of 1979 for a short season.
Produced in five generations and built on the X-body platform, the Nova was designed by Clare MacKichan. With the codename H-35 in December 1959, the design of the Chevy II began as a plan to fill the need for a basic intermediate 'economy' car. Riding on a 110-inch wheelbase the compact car would be powered by four and six cylinder engines and would be a direct competition to the popular Ford Falcon.
The Chevy II was one of the fastest new-car development programs in GM history and was manufactured in just eighteen months after the designers received the go ahead to begin design work. On August 1961, the first production Chevy II rolled off the assembly line in Willow run, Michigan. Gradually offered with a wide variety of engine, trim and convenience options the Chevy II was the first car to feature a Chevy 4-cylinder engine since 1928, an engine that would be inspire development of GM's 4-cylinder sub-compact engines of the 1970 and 1980s. Becoming a very affordable muscle car during the 1960s the Nova featured the then new 153-ci 4-cylinder and the 194-ci 6-cylinder engines.
Intended only as a ‘back-to-the-basics compact car', the Chevrolet Nova nevertheless found its way into loyal U.S. hearts thanks to its sensible size and sporty appeal. Chevrolet General Manager Ed Cole introduced the Chevy II to the press on September 29th as offering 'maximum functionalism with thrift'. A strong following soon followed despite its lackluster introduction at a time when the rest of the Chevrolet lineup was all about impressive horsepower from big blocks. The name chosen for the small car was heavily debated before finally settling with 'Chevy II'. Since it didn't begin with a 'C', the Nova name lost out but was chosen for the top-of-the-line series, and eventually the name would replace the Chevy II name in 1969.
Tired of the Falcon outselling their rear-engine Corvair, Chevrolet got busy with their conventional compact model design, which would be the Chevy II. The Chevy II very closely mimicked the Ford Falcon range even down to the four-door sedans, station wagons, convertibles and the two-door coupe. The compact model was of semi-unibody construction with a bolt on the front section connecting its unitized cabin and trunk rear section. The 1962 model arrived in the three series and five body styles; the 100 Series, 300 Series and Nova 400 Series. (A short-lived 200 series was introduced briefly.) With a total of 23,741 model produced, the most sporty offering from the Nova was the 400 convertible. It carried a $2,475 pricetag.
Powering the 1962 Chevy II was either a Chevrolet 153 4-cylinder engine or a 194 cu in Chevrolet straight-6 engine and all engine featured Overhead valves. Though not initially offered with a V8, the Nova soon featured an available Chevrolet V8 as a dealer-installed option between '62 and '63 up to and including the Corvette fuel-injected version. This lightweight and powerful V8 made the Nova a popular choice for drag racers. The Nova option for 1962 and 63 were offered in a convertible body style, and a two-door hardtop from 1962 through 1965. The hardtop option, marketed as the Sport Coupe was short-lived and disappeared in 1964 only to return later in the model year.
Chevrolet introduced the Chevy II Nova Super Sport in 1963 under RP0 Z03. The Super Sport was available only on the 400 series sport coupe and convertible and featured special emblems, wheel covers, side moldings, instrument package, buckets seats and floor shifter. This was the only year that Chevrolet manufactured a 'drop-top' Nova SS since the convertible body style was discontinued in 1964. The Super Sport package cost $161.40 (or $1,230 today) and wasn't available with V8 engines, and the standard engine was the six-cylinder. Even though it only came with a 194-ci 6-cylinder engine, the 1963 convertible SS is one of the most valuable Nova models ever produced due to the short convertible run.
The arrival of the new Chevelle slowed sales of the Chevy II for 1964. New this year was the first factory V8 option, a 195 hp 283 cu in and a 230 cu in straight six. The hardtop coupe wasn't offered in the fall, but sluggish sales forced Chevrolet to reintroduce the Sport Coupe in the lineup later on in the model year. It remained in the lineup through 1967. Motor Trend tested a '64 195-bhp, two-barrel Nova SS with Powerglide and recorded 0-60 mph in just 11.3 second. They concluded that the Nova was a desirable compact with good performance thanks to their V8 and bigger brakes.
Chevrolet updated the Chevy II and the Nova for 1965. The refreshed models featured a new full-width grille and new integrated headlight bezels. Sedans received a new roofline; parking lights were relocated to the deep-section bumper and taillight and backup lights were restyled along with the rear cove. For 1965 the Chevy II was available in the basic 100 trim, or the upper level Nova 400, each in three body styles. The Nova SS was offered this year as a Sport Coupe exclusively and featured new brushed-chrome console with floor-mounted four speed manual transmission or Powerglide automatic, though a column-mounted three-speed manual remained standard. Only 9,100 Nova Super Sports were produced. The dashboard now offered oil pressure, temperature gauges and oil pressure indicators and the bucket seats featured textured vinyl trim. New power options included six power choices of the six-cylinder or V8 engines. The four-cylinder engine was only offered in the 100 entry-level trim.
1965 was the year that the Chevy II grew into a muscle car. Achieving GTO performance in at least straight-line acceleration, a 327 cu in (5.4 1) V8 was available with up to an impressive 300 horsepower. Halfway through the year a more powerful 283 with dual exhausts and 220 horsepower arrived. Unfortunately these modifications couldn't keep up with the Chevelle Malibu SS sales. Only 9,100 of the 122,800 Chevy II's in 1965 were Super Sports. The Chevy II's were the only models in GM's lineup that suffered a sale decline in 1965.
1966 brought with it the second generation of the Chevy II and brand new sharp-edged restyling that was inspired by the Super Nova concept car. The second generation featured squared up proportions, a bold grille and semi-fastback roofline and vertical taillights and single headlights. The lineup started once again with the Chevy II 100 and the Chevy II Nova 400 models. For an additional $159, (or $1,143 today) buyers could opt for a Nova Super Sport. The top of the line Nova SS was available only in a Sport Coupe. The Super Sport came standard with the 194 cu in (3.18 L) inline-six engine, but any Chevy II engine could be combined with the Super Sport. It was easy to find the flamboyant Nova SS in a crowd thanks to its bright aluminum deck lid cove, wide rocker panels, ribbed rear panel, bright SS grille emblems and Super Sport script on the quarter panels.
The wheel covers were passed down to the Nova SS from the '65 Malibu SS. On the inside the SS featured strato-bucket front seats included in the cost, but an extra cost for a tachometer. Though the name ‘Nova' wasn't found anywhere on the Super Sport's body and the front and rear emblems read 'Chevy II SS', Chevrolet clearly advertised the Super Sport as the 'Chevrolet Chevy II Nova Super Sport' in 1966 advertising. The following year the name still remained Chevy II, but the Nova SS option package replaced all Chevy II badging with Nova SS badging.
The base Chevy II 100 series were powered by the 90 hp 153 cu in inline-four engine. Standard offering in the Super Sport, buyers could opt for a 194 cu in (3.18 L) inline-six engine or a 230 cu in (3.8 L) inline-six, a 195 hp or 200 hp 283 cu in (4.64 L) V8, a 275 hp 327 cu in (5.36 L) V8 and the top engine, a new Turbo-Fire 327 cu in (5.36 L) V8 engine that delivered 350 hp. The powerful Turbo-Fire engine first appeared in the Chevelle and was the close-ratio four-speed manual transmission that transformed the Nova into a fierce muscle car.
Not many updates were made for 1967 Chevy II models other than all Nova's receiving a crosshatch pattern that filled the deck lid trim panel. Taking over the bottom tier of sales, the Nova was officially still called the Chevy II Nova. The 100 trim level was very plan without any trim or bright work. 1967 brought with it numerous safety updates that included a government-mandated safety steering wheel, energy-absorbing steering column, sun visors, armrests, front shoulder belt anchors and recessed instrument panel knobs.
The introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro dimmed sales for the '67 Chevy II and the Nova trim. The 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS was offered exclusively in hardtop coupe form, and featured a new black-accented anodized aluminum grille. Once again the Chevy II received pass-me-down wheel covers, this time from the 1965-66 Impala SS. The '66 'Chevy II SS' badges were replaced with 'Nova SS' emblems. Powering the Nova lineup was the 194 cu in (3.18 L) in-line six or the newly optional 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-six. Other available powertrains were a 195 hp (145 kW) 283 cu in (4.64 L) V8, or a 275 hp (205 kW) 327 cu in (5.36 L) V8 engine for an additional $93. Though other models featured a column-mounted gearshift, Nova SS coupes featured a console-mounted shift lever with their Powerglide automatic transmission four-speed manual.
Unfortunately sales continued to drop for 1967, nearly a third of the sales, bringing the number total down to 106,500 produced. 10,100 of these were Nova SS Chevrolets, 8,200 of these with V8 engines. Six-cylinder engines outsold the V8s in the Chevy II 100 and regular Nova series.
The third generation of the Chevy II was introduced in 1968. This generation arrived with a pretty extensive update that included a longer 111-inch wheelbase. Now just one inch shorter than the midsize Chevelle coupe, the Chevy compact was hoping to be taken more seriously. The hardtop sport coupe and the station wagon were both dropped from the lineup. The most obvious change this year was the front subframe assembly, which was now completely separate, housing the powertrain and front suspension, compared to previously when the entire front suspension was integrated with the bodyshell. This design was new for the Nova, but Camaro had been the first to incorporate this design the previous year. 15 available powertrain options were available for 1968 coupes, and 12 options for sedans. New options this year included steering and power brakes, rear shoulder belts, head restraints and Four-Season or Comfort-Car AC. A small number of Chevy Nova's were produced this year with the 194 ci (3.1 L) motor, which had been used previously in the Chevy II.
The sales once again took a major hit. 1968 recorded less than half of their sales for the Chevy II. The 'Chevy II' portion of the name was dropped and the line was simply known as the Chevrolet Nova now. Loss of interest in the 153 cu in (2.51 L) four-cylinder engine caused it to be dropped and make room for the Vega. The 250 cu in (4.1 L) six-cylinder and the base 307 cu in (5.03 L) V8 engine were much more popular. The 5.03 L replaced the 4.64 L V8 engine from previous years. The Torque-Drive (RPO MB1) was launched as a low cost option for clutch-less motoring halfway through the model year and was a semi-automatic transmission based on the Powerglide. Only available with the four and six-cylinder engines, the transmission cost $100 less than the Powerglide. The popular three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic was only available with the largest V8 engines and the two-speed Powerglide remained the only fully automatic transmission available with most engines.
The Nova Super Sport, one of the smallest muscle cars ever, became a performance package in 1968. Priced at $312, the SS now included a 295 hp (220 kW) 350 cu in (5.7 l) V8 engine along with a heavy-duty suspension and other special performance equipment. Engine options included two versions of the big-block 396 cu in (6.5 l) V8 engine rated at 350 hp and 375 hp (280 kW), selling for $348. Both of these engine were offered with their choice of transmissions that included the M-21 close-ratio four-speed manual, the heavy-duty M-22 'Rock Crusher' four-speed manual, or the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission. For 1968 the sales numbers peaked at 17,565 SS coupes produced. Until 1972 the Nova carried the SS badge. On the 1968 Nova SS front disc brakes were optional.
The Chevy II name was completely removed from the lineup for 1969. All that remained was the Nova nameplate, which replaced 'Chevy II by Chevrolet' on the trunk lid with 'Nova by Chevrolet' and 'Chevy II' above the grille with the bowtie emblem. All of the Chevrolet sales literature was changed to reflect this.
Other changes for 1969 Nova's included new locking steering columns like other 1969 GM cars and standard front disc brakes for Nova SS models. Relocated to the front fender behind the wheel well instead of the rear quarter panel, simulated air extractor/vents were added beneath the Nova script. The SS continued to be powered by the 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 engine with four-barrel carburetor, but it was tweaked to produce 5 hp more to 300 hp. A new option this year was a two-barrel carbureted version of the 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 on non-SS models. The SS option price stayed the same at $312. Though the older two-speed Powerglide was still available on the smaller-engined Nova's a new Turbo-Hydramatic 350 three-speed automatic was introduced for non-SS Nova's with six-cylinder and V8 engines.
The 1970 Nova didn't change much from the previous year. This would be the last year for the SS396, and all of the other engines were brought over though the rarely ordered four-cylinder would be in its final year. Updates this year include the side marker and taillight lenses being made wider and positioned slightly different. After two years of transitional nameplates, the vehicle simply became known as the Chevrolet Nova. Sales for 1970 Nova's were 254,242 units, with 19,558 of these the SS 350 or SS 396 version. Around 177 Central Office Production Order (COPO) Nova models were ordered and Yenko Chevrolet converted all but two of these models. The remaining two models were sold in Canada. This year would be the year that the Nova participated in Trans-Am racing.
The Nova underwent very minimal changes for 1971. This would be the year than the Rally Nova was introduced, which was a trim level that only arrived for two years, before disappearing until 1977. The Rally kit featured a sticker on the driver's side of the hood, rally wheels, black or white stripes running the length of the car and around the back, multi-leaf rear springs and a 'sport' body colored drivers side mirror that was easily adjustable from the inside of the car. Other changes this year included the 396 cu in (6.49 L) engine replacing the 350 cu in (5.7 L) in the SS model. The popular Vega affected sales in 1971, but thankfully this slump wouldn't last much longer.
The 153 cu in (2.51 L) four-cylinder and 230 cu in (3.8 L) six-cylinder engines were replaced with the 250 cu in (4.1 L) six-cylinder engine as the standard Nova engine. The 307 cu in (5.03 L) and 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 engines were carryovers from 1970. All of the engines featured lowered compression ratios that enabled the use of unleaded gas as a result from a GM corporate mandate for the 1971 model year. GM divisions rebadged Nova models as their new entry-level models after 1971, such as Pontiac Ventura II, Buick Apollo and Oldsmobile Omega. Though the GM Company later fused their badge engineering with platform sharing to cut expenditures, this rebadging was done to build brand loyalty with respective GM divisions. Mayhap coincidentally, the initials of the four model names (Nova, Omega, Ventura, Apollo) spelled out the acronym NOVA.
For 1972 the Nova underwent slight trim changes. A total of 33,219 Rally Sport trims with special suspension were produced, making it a very popular choice. 12,309 coupes were sold with Super Sport equipment; some of these featured the Rally package. Production of the Nova was relocated to Norwood, Ohio where is began to be assembled next to the Camaro. Optional Strato bucket seats with the previous low-back design with adjustable headrest were replaced with the high back units with built-in headrests. The popular Rally Sport option returned again this year. A total of 33,319 were sold. Even though not many updates were made this year, 1972 proved to be an exceptional year for the Nova, with total production numbers reaching 349,733. The six-cylinder engine powered 139,769 of these Nova's.
Brand new for 1973 was a hatchback body based heavily on the 2-door coupe. To comply with the new U.S. mandate for front and rear bumpers capable of absorbing low-speed impact of 2.5 mph the Nova was modified at the front and rear. Other cosmetic changes for 1973 included a new grille with a loosely patterned crosshatch insert and parking lights placed inboard of the headlights. By 1974 they could absorb impacts of 5 mph.
Though still available as a $123 package, the SS option could be ordered with any Nova engine and included a blackout grille and Rally wheels. 1973 became the best selling year for the SS package, with 35,542 installed that year. New this year was a modified rear side window shape that replaced the vent windows on two and four-door models. Replacing the mono-leaf springs used on the Nova since 1962 was a multi-leaf spring on the updated rear suspension adapted from the second generation Camaro.
1973 was the time when six-cylinder and V8 engines were incredibly popular for American compact cars. The 307 cu in (5.03 L) and 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8s were now widely popular. In its final year, the two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission was available with a six-cylinder engine or 307 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine. Joining the lineup in 1973 was a fancy Custom series and a Custom hatchback priced at $2,701 powered via a six-cylinder engine. This option cost $173 more than the base-model two-door hatchback with a six-cylinder. For an additional $381 buyers could add air conditioning and other options like a sunroof and fold-down rear seats could be custom ordered. Every '73 Nova received a flow-through ventilation system, side guard door beams and additional sound insulation.
The following year brought with it new bow-tie grille emblems, larger parking lights and updated bumpers that had an additional two inches in length, which helped cushion 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, which was the only V8 offering in 1974, replaced the Powerglide. Nearly 400,000 Nova's were sold for 1974 making it another record-breaking year in sales. The six-cylinder models beat out the V8 models in popularity. Aiding the sales of the popular Nova was the first energy crisis in the U.S. that caused auto buyers to search out fuel-efficient models at the prospect of fuel rationing.
New this year was the 'Spirit of America' in honor of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. The 'Spirit' car was a limited edition Nova Coupe resplendent in white with blue and red accent stripes. The interior featured red and blue carpets and fabrics. New for this year was the Apollo and Omega as Oldsmobile and Buick entered the compact car market, and they shared the same body styles from the Nova lineup. These models featured extras like dashboard lighting and glove compartment lights. The final GTO offering from Pontiac at the time was heavily based on the updated 1974 Ventura coupe, which was already based on the Nova. The GTO was fitted with a shaker hood scoop from the Trans Am.
New safety equipment was added to Nova's and all 1974 cars this year. Following a safety mandate from the NHTSA, the Nova now featured a weight sensitive relay within the front seat that didn't alloy the car to start until the driver's seatbelt was fastened. Not far after this mandate was passed, Congress that repealed this unfair mandate, stating that this type of device infringed on a driver's freedom of choice, passed a new law. This repeal allowed owners of 1974 cars to bypass the seat belt interlock. Future Nova models didn't include this device. Other safety features for this year was a more convenient 'inertial reel' one-piece lap/shoulder safety belt system, standard for both front outboard passengers, that along with a plastic clip was attached to the headrest to maneuver the belt across the wearer's shoulder.
Retired racecar driver and muscle car specialist Don Yenko of Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, PA refitted a series of Third generation Nova's and several Chevelles and Camaros. His goal was to refit these models to have them compete with the front-running Ford Mustangs, Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas of the day. The refitted Nova featured a stronger body frame and suspension system that was powered by a huge 427cid (7.0L) V8 engine exclusive to the Yenko Super Cars, was sometimes dubbed the 'Yenko Supernova'. With an original selling price of four thousand, only thirty-seven of the Yenko Nova's have been produced, and only seven are registered and thought to exist today. Yenko, in an effort to combat 1970 emissions standards and fuel economy, requested a high-output Chevy 350cid V8 on his special Nova line and received the same engine that the LT1 Corvette and the new Z-28 Camaro shared. The 'Yenko Deuce' as it was often known also featured unique striping, badging and interior decals along with extensive suspension, transmission, and rear axle upgrades.
A total of 251,900 1969 Nova's were produced with a sales price ranging between $2,240 and $2,435. The following year the numbers dropped to 142,295with the average price falling slightly to $2,175 to $2,200. Numbers rose slightly in 1971 to 198,878 units with the average price tag starting at $2,175. 1972 was a fantastic year for the Nova as numbers rose to 349,733 with a base price of $2,375. In 1974 Nova sales peaked at 390,537 with the average rate of $2,810 to $3,105.
The fourth generation of the Chevrolet Nova was introduced in 1975. Considered to be the most updated Chevrolet car for 1975, the Nova was advertised as a ‘beautiful', fitted in all-new sheet metal and compared to ‘elegant European sedans.' The new Nova generation continued to ride on the 111-inch wheelbase and still carried styling cues from its 1968-1974 design. Updates for this generation included the front stabilizer bar featuring a larger diameter and front tread growing by an inch and a half. New standard features for the Nova included standard steel-belted radial tires and front disc brakes. The rear axle and suspensions were brought over from the previous generation, but the front suspension and subframe assembly where inspired by the second generation GM F-body models like the Pontiac Firebird and Camaro.
The 1975 Nova coupe and hatchback featured fixed side windows or optional flip-out windows and vertical vents of the B-pillar. Previously cut-pile carpeting had been exclusive to the Custom series was now featured on all Nova models. The graphics on the speedometer were now much easier to read and the windshield offered a much more vast glass area. On the interior of the Nova, front-door armrests were redesigned with integral pull bars. Powering the base Nova were the inline Six-cylinder 250 cu in (4.1 L), 105 hp (78 kW) and two v8 engines (305 cu in (5.00 L) and 350 cu in (5.7 L) for 1976 only. This engine lineup remained this way until the close of the decade.
Throwing their Nova hat in the luxury compact car market, Chevrolet introduced the LN (Luxury Nova) package in 1975. Considered the 'most luxurious compact in Chevrolet's history,' the Nova LN featured plush wide-back reclining front seats and luxurious extras that completely transformed the Nova image. LN luxury equipment included addition sound insulation, an electric clock, map pockets, a day/night mirror and a smoked instrument lens. The coupe could be ordered with swing-out quarter windows.
To compete with the Ford Granada and the Mercury Monarch and upscale versions of the Plymouth Valiant and the Dodge Dart, the Nova LN was rebranded the ultra luxurious Concours for 1976. The Concours was launched in three body styles; the four-door sedan, coupe and hatchback coupe. Considered to be the most luxurious Chevrolet compact so far, the Concours was heavily decorated with rosewood vinyl on the steering panel, instrument panel and upper door panels. Easily identifiable by its upright hood ornament, the Concours models had bumper guards, black bumper impact strips, bright trim moldings and full wheel covers. The first Chevrolet coupe with a fold-down front center armrest, the Concours had special triple-unit taillights, reminiscent of the large Caprice, rather than the dual-unit ones. The V8 engined Concours cost an additional $547 more than the base Nova.
Engine options for the 1976 Chevrolet Nova were a 105-hp inline-six, a 165-hp 350-cubic-inch V8, or a 140-hp 305-cubic-inch V8 engine. This would be the first time that GM vehicles used the THM200, from the GM T platform to GM X-Bodies. Nova coupes could now add a Cabriolet padded vinyl top for the first time. Updates were made to the brakes, and also to fuel and exhaust system mountings and new knobs were added to the interior dashboard.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department ordered the largest order for compact police cars ever in the U.S. after testing the 1976 Chevrolet Nova. The Nova SS options was priced at $187 and came with a black grille with a special diamond-mesh pattern, four-spoke steering wheel, heavy-duty suspension and Rally wheels.
For 1977 the Nova featured minor tweaking that included a much more modern round gauge cluster that replaced the long sweeping speedometer. A flatter designed dash panel replaced the previous design. New colors of the Nova were introduced this year along with some minor trim. Since the ‘1977 Nova' brochure only held information on the base and Custom version, Chevrolet produced a separate brochure for the Concours. The Nova SS was discontinued this year. The RPO Z26 option code for the SS remained as the Nova Rally from 1977 until 1979. Three different engines and four transmission options were available for 1977, including the Concours. Engine options were a 110 hp 250 cubic inch inline six, a 145-hp 305 cubic-inch two-barrel V8, or 170 hp 350 cubic-inch four-barrel V8. Shift options for the '77 Nova was a three-speed column or floor shift, four-speed manuals or Turbo Hydra-Matic. Suspensions options included a heavy-duty of F41 sport suspension. After the LA Sheriff's Department placed such a large order for Chevrolet Nova's they soon grew in popularity with other police departments with either a 305- or 350-cubic-inch V8 engine.
The luxurious Concours was introduced in 1977 with a snappy new stand-up hood ornament and a finer-mesh grille. Brand new designed wheel covers and new wheel opening moldings that were much wider and brighter than before. The 1977 Nova Concours was advertised as 'International in style', 'American in function' with a special 'blending of classic style and good sense.' The very attractive Concours unfortunately would be taken off the lineup the following year to make room for the Malibu. The Nova Custom received most of the Concours' exterior finery except for the traditional Concours hood ornament.
The 1978 Nova featured the same grille from the '76 and '77 models, but added a gold-tinted Chevy bowtie emblem at the leading edge of the hood. Rally equipment was available this year with another front-end layout that featured black headlight bezels, a diamond-pattern grille with horizontal parking lights, color-keyed Rally wheels and triple band striping. In the interior of the Rally package was a brand new dual-spoke, soft vinyl-covered steering wheel, identical to the Malibu and Caprice's wheel.
Powering the Nova this year was the buyer's choice of a 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, a 145 hp 305-cubic-inch V8 or a 170-hp 350-cubic-inch V8. Growing in popularity with the law enforcement officers, the Nova was now vehicle of choice in 48 states. Unfortunately sales for 1978 dropped to 288,000, nearly 100,000 less than the previous year, and the Nova was the only Chevrolet series suffering a sales decline for the year. Base models were much more popular than Customs, and the regular coupes and sedans were more popular than the Nova hatchback body style.
The final year for the rear-wheel-drive Nova, 1979 brought with it many updates that included a tweaked front end with a new horizontal-bar grille, square headlights, and vertical parking lights. Fender moldings and a new-chromed hood was featured, along with a new front-bumper filler panels that appeared more modern. The lineup stayed the same this year with the base-level hatchback, coupe, sedan, Custom coupe and sedan. The base coupe and sedan continued to be the most profitable sellers as usual.
The popular Rally Package returned to the lineup and now used the same grille as other 1979 Chevy Nova's. Nova Customs featured a special acoustical package that came with many luxurious extras, full hood insulation and improved headlining. Though they would disappear for a few years, these final Nova models were applauded for their strong reputation of dependability and for their 'solid value'. Less than 98,000 models were produced this year and production ceased on December 22, 1978. The new Chevrolet Citation would replace the rear-wheeled Nova lineup.
In the spring of 1984 Chevrolet brought back the popular Nova nameplate as a front-wheel drive subcompact car. The Nova would be assembled in Fremont, California by NUMMI, collaboration between U.S. GM and Toyota of Japan and was produced from 1985 through 1988. This new Nova was a rebadged modified Toyota Sprinter that recycled the Nova name from the compact-class rear-drive '79 Chevrolet Nova. The Sprinter had been sold in Japan as a badge engineered version of the Toyota Corolla. Sharing the Toyota Corolla's AE82 platform, the Nova was powered by 1.6 L (98 cu in) 4-cylinder engine. It was available with 5-speed manual, 3-speed or 4-speed automatic transmissions.
The following year the new Nova was initially only available in four-door sedan body style in the Midwestern U.S. states. It wasn't too long though before a five-door hatchback was also introduced and the lineup evenly distributed throughout the US and Canada. Powering the 1985 Nova was a carbureted 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 74 hp (55 kW). The engine was mated to either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain was identical to the Corolla. The asking price for the '85 four-door Nova sedan was $7,435, which was considered hefty for a Chevrolet. Buyers that wanted a five-door shelled out around $7,669, which included the additional split-folding rear seat. The Chevrolet Corolla was priced several hundred dollars less than the Nova. Nova options were broken into seven packages, which eliminated the extensive list of optional equipment like other Chevrolet cars but could easily take the Nova's pricetag to more than $10,000.
Nearly identical to the front-wheel-drive Toyota Corolla, the 1987 Chevrolet Nova continued in two body styles, a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback model. Standard equipment now included a rear-window defogger. Changes this year included new turn signal lens colors clear/white front and red rear instead of amber, and lighter silver highlights on the vertical grille bars. By about three to one the four-door Chevy Nova proved much more popular than the five-door hatchback model. Powering the Nova was the 74-horsepower 1.6 liter four designed by Toyota and joined to either a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic. Other than a few interior and exterior trim differences, the Nova and the Corolla were very similar. The Nova however had a slightly softer suspension that favored ride over handlings.
In 1988 the Nova added a sporty model to its lineup front-wheel drive subcompact cars, the Nova Twin-Cam. This new Nova received its name from a double-overhead-cam version of the Toyota-built 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in other Nova models. The Nova carried over their similar design to the Corolla and used an engine that had previously been used by the Toyota FX-16, which was a performance version of the Corolla.
Producing 110 hp the twin-cam made 36 hp more than its single-cam relative. Standard was a five-speed manual transmission like the regular Nova's, but the Twin-Cam model offered a four-speed automatic as an option instead of just the three-speed offered on other models. Much more expensive than the regular model, the Nova Twin Cam cost about $3,000 more than the base. The $11,395 Twin Cam model included sport suspensions, fuel injection, power steering, leather-covered steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes, tachometer, and wider tires on aluminum wheels. Unfortunately the hefty pricetag meant that few models were purchased, and approximately 3,300 models were built. The only color for the 88 Twin Cam was black metallic with a grey interior. No hatchback Twin Cam model was offered.
For 1988 the Nova received rear window defogger, AM/FM stereo radio and rear shoulder belts all standard. This would be the final model year for the Nova nameplate at Chevrolet. The following year the Nova would be pushed into Chevrolet's new Geo division and renamed the Prizm. This was all in attempt by Chevrolet to make the car sound more ‘import' to attract buyers looking beyond American cars. On August 18, 1988 the last Chevrolet Nova rolled off the assembly line. Though it lost all of its former 'Muscle' glory, the Chevrolet Nova was well received over the years for its durability and performance.
Pontiac-Buick dealer in Canada as the Acadian sold a mildly re-trimmed version of the Chevy II and Nova from 1962 through 1971. Based on the Chevy II, the Acadian was a stand along model produced in both the US and Canada, manufactured through Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealerships. No compact car was available to the Canadian Pontiac dealer because of Canadian tariffs on imports. Produced in 1961, the U.S. Pontiac Tempest wasn't available to the Canadian buyers at first because import would have been too expensive to compete in the Canadian compact market, so the Acadian was introduced. It appeased the unhappy Canadian Pontiac – Buick dealer with a car they could sell in the growing compact market.
The Acadian was initially offered in top-line Beaumont and base Invader trim, with the top trim line renamed Canso in expectation of the Chevelle-based Acadian Beaumont that would arrive in 1964. The equivalent of the US-market Nova SS, the Sport Deluxe, or 'SD' was a sporty model that arrived with deluxe interior trim, special badging and bucket seats. The '66 Acadian was priced at $2,507 base, and the 327-350 hp (L79) was available. A total of 7,366 models were produced in 1966. The Canadian Acadian was produced until 1971 before the Pontiac Ventura II replaced it.
In Argentina the 1962-64 Chevy II was available as the Chevrolet 400 through 1974. The 1968-72 Nova was sold as the Chevrolet Chevy from 1969 through 1978. Both of these models overlapped through the years. In 1973 an upscale model (Chevy Super) was introduced with special trim, a more luxurious interior with plastic 'wood' trim, front turn indicators and taillights, dubbed Malibu, but with no relation to the U.S. Chevelle. Depending on year and model, the first and second generations were available with the 194 cu in (3.18 L), 230 cu in (3.8 L) and 250 cu in (4.1 L) engines.
The third generation models were introduced with the 230 cu in (3.8 L) and 250 cu in (4.1 L) engines with specially tuned carburetors for sporting models. This generation had a 'Chevy' metal emblem that shared the same font as the 'Nova' emblems of '68-74 U.S. Nova's. They also shared the rearmost section of both rear fenders for the first few years. Eventually it was moved to the rearmost section of both front fenders, just like the U.S. cars from 1969. During the production run the optional side marker lights were changed often, from being deleted, to just a small chrome plate remaining, and also the same light as in the American cars. Instead of the U.S. 'Model by Chevrolet' on the rear deck, the Argentinian models simply read 'CHEVROLET' in chrome. Similar to the 1969 U.S. Nova's, the hood emblem was the bow tie in blue or just chrome.
Though more luxurious that it's American counterpart, the Argentinian Chevy shared many similarities with the Nova. The Chevy was a base model without any extra accessories, and was used for cab service. The inside of the Chevy stayed the American 1968 version for its entire production run. Since the US-mandated steering lock wasn't required in Argentina the ignition switch remained dash mounted. By the end of the production run power steering became available. The V8 version of the Nova wasn't available and other dissimilarities of the two models included no power windows, darker tinted windows and the lack of the darker band on the upper edge of the windshield.
The interior of the Chevy was typically black, and the steering wheel, instrument panel and seatbelts were typically black for many years. Popular accessories for the model were rally wheels, sport steering wheels, vinyl roofs, tufted leatherette upholstery and bucket seats with high backs. The final year for the Argentina Nova was locally dubbed 'Opus 78'. This model was the most equipped model and featured extras like air conditioning, power steering, simil-leather bucket seats, electric antenna, and a new dashboard with integrated central console.
The SS or Super Sport counterparts were launched in both coupe and 4-door sedan bodies. The 4-door sedan SS was something of a novelty as it wouldn't be sold in the U.S. before the 1994 Impala SS. Many of these models were fitted with inline-sixes mated to a ZF manual transmission with floor lever 4 speeds, a single two-barrel Holey 2300 RX 7214-A carburetor that produced 168 hp and a sporting exhaust note. A local Argentinian auto magazine tested a Chevy Coupe SS Serie 2 and recorded a 0-62 mph time of 11.1 seconds.
In 1971 a Nova kit car was designed and built by A.D.D. After it was shown that General Motor's Chevrolet had a prior claim it lost a court case with GM Vauxhall over the use of the name.
Many dealers capitalized on Nova's success and produced versions of the Nova that went on to become muscle-car legends. One of these was Don Yenko, a Chevrolet dealer in Pennsylvania but a diehard racer at heart. Yenko could accommodate customers that wanted a performance upgrade right at his shop. He created Yenko Sports cars, a company that specialized in installing powerful engines into lightweight performance vehicles like the Chevelle, Yenko Nova, Deuce, 427-powered Camaro and the Corvair Stinger. Yenko Nova's are considered the most popular of the Nova supercar clan.
In 1969 the Yenko big-block Nova was produced, and the small-block-inspired Deuce was introduced the following year. Thirty-seven Yenko's were produced the first year, with 28 of these having a 427 installed by Yenko's crew. Nine Yenko's had the factory-installed 375-horsepower 396 powerplant. Yenko considered the L72 427-powered Nova's to be the most radical cars he ever produced. Capable of hitting 60 mph in less than four seconds with the right tires and suspension, 396 of these cars also didn't carry any SS badging.
To get around the legislation surrounding overpowered streetcars, the 1970 Yenko Deuce was introduced. Yenko installed a Camaro Z28 LT1 with 360 hp, solid-lifter cam, 12-bolt rear with 4.10:1 Positraction, F-41 suspension and the choice of either manual or automatic transmission. Offered in a variety of 8 unique colors, a total of 175 of these models were built under COPO 9010. Each Yenko Deuce featured a front bench seat and standard-grade black interior.
The most rare Nova muscle cars would most likely be considered those prepped by drag racer Dick Harrell. With only an estimated 15 to 25 SS 427-powered 1968 Nova models sold through a network of Chevrolet dealerships, these are definitely considered extremely rare today. Each of these models included a full limited warranty. Harrell had friends in high places like Fred Gibb, the high-powered Chevrolet dealer. Harrell used COPO cars ordered by Gibb as the basis for the Nova's he would create at his high-performance center. After the new Nova's were finished they were delivered to a dealer for the customer to pick up. Harrell's Deuce, like the Yenko's, underwent a total makeover that included a fiberglass hood; rally wheels and a 450-horse 427 big-block engine. Harrell's Nova's also featured under dash gauges, a competition-built automatic transmission, Positraction rear end, Jardine headers, 6.5-inch wide M&H slicks and traction bars. The Nova was priced at $4,412.
In the spring of 1968 the L78 Nova was entered into drag racing. Even though the L78 was doing well in the NHRA manual stock classes, Gibb convinced Chevrolet performance engineer Vince Piggins to install the TH400 automatic transmission into the cars so they could compete in the NHRA automatic classes too. Before the NHRA would recognize the L78 Nova as stock for the automatic class they required at least 50 cars to be built and available to the general public. During the first two weeks of July 1968 the fifty L78's with the TH400 (COPO 9738) were built and delivered to Gibb's Chevy dealership in LaHarpe, Illinois in July of 1968. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson