Nova. A memorable Chevrolet from the past. Today, it’s mostly due to the high octane two-door variants: Super Sports, Yenko Deuce, and the like. But the majority of these compact Chevys were garden variety two- and four-door sedans. The 1962 Chevy II was GM’s second, and far more successful attempt, at cashing in on the compact scene of the early ’60s. Sure, we all love the Corvair, but were Ned and Betty Smith of Olathe, Kansas, going to buy one? Surely not. So the II and its tonier Nova version entered stage left, and sold like beer at a baseball game. By 1974, the Nova still was going strong, but was getting a tad long in the tooth, wearing most of its 1968 sheetmetal. But it was still fighting the good fight against the Dart/Valiant and Maverick.
The first-gen 1962-65 Chevy II/Nova and the redesigned 1966-67 version were both very squared off, but the new 1968 model had the same flowing lines and Coke-bottle flanks of the also-new Chevelle line. It was quite an attractive car, both in two- and four-door versions.
For several years in the early Seventies, the Nova was touted similarly to the VW Type I “Beetle,” in that no major changes were made to styling. Refinement, not change for the sake of change, was the watchword. That continued with the facelifted 1973 models, for the most part.
The most obvious change to the ’73 Novas were the much larger chrome 5-mph bumpers. For some reason, both the 1973 Nova and Chevelle/Laguna had large rear bumpers as well, though the Camaro, Impala/Caprice/Bel Air, Monte Carlo and Vega all made due with better-integrated rear bumpers. Perhaps the Nova and Chevelle were designed with 1974’s 5-mph rear bumper mandate in mind?
Of course, every time I see one of these I think of 1973’s Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s first 007 film, and the Nova police cars attempting–and failing–at catching Bond and Solitaire (the lovely Jane Seymour) in a double-decker bus.
In addition to the bigger bumpers, 1973-74 Novas gained new front and rear fascias, an uplevel Custom series, and a hatchback model. The hatchback was heavily played up in both the brochures and period advertising, but it was never a big seller, compared to the standard two-door coupe.
The SS also returned, though by this point it was more of an appearance and handling group than the tire-burning models of the Sixties and early Seventies. They still looked good though, with their six-slot Rally wheels and stripes.
A new, more European-styled Nova was waiting in the wings for 1975, so the ’74 model was largely a re-run. The only obvious way to tell a 1973 from a 1974 is that ’74s added a Chevrolet bowtie to the grille.
As the 1974s debuted shortly before the 1973 gas crisis, smaller cars got a healthy boost in sales. Suddenly, more folks were looking at Novas, Hornets and Mavericks – and even some of those funny little Japanese cars, for Pete’s sake! But Midwesterners were less likely than folks in New York or California to look at a Datsun or Toyota, so cars like this Nova were a big draw to Chevy showrooms.
Chevrolet took advantage of that fact, playing up the Nova as a good choice for folks used to big cars. As the 1974 Nova brochure cajoled:
We offer you four-door convenience combined with Nova reliability in a car that’s smaller than many on the road, but still seats six inside. If you’re a “big car man” looking for something smaller and more economical, this might just be it.
Well, the Nova really was a scaled-down full-size Chevy, but has anyone ever actually seated six passengers in one of these? Sure, it was clearly roomier than a 510 or Corolla of the time and I think five would fit with no problem, but I am skeptical of six people riding comfortably in one of these, despite the 111-inch wheelbase and 72″ width. Maybe if they were really skinny and on exceptionally good terms with one another…
Despite the big bumpers, this was still a rather nice looking car, though this one would have looked better if it had the optional bumper rub strips. Did GM really need to put those bolts in such an obvious place? I suspect it was a ploy to encourage Nova buyers to spring for the extra cost deluxe bumper guards and rub strips. Otherwise, your plain chrome bumpers announced to other motorists what a cheapskate you were.
Being a non-Custom, our featured Nova has a rather plain interior, save for that oh-so-’70s houndstooth upholstery pattern. What did they do, make them out of Herb Tarlek’s sport coats?
The instrument panel was typical ’70s GM, with a two-spoke steering wheel, column shift (3-on-the-tree, Poweslide or, on V8 models, a THM. I’ve always liked the Chevrolet script on this vintage of Chevrolet. I think it would loook pretty cool on new Impalas and Malibus, though perhaps not on the Camaro.
More green houndstooth awaited rear-seat passengers. Judging from the oblong valve cover on the floor, I am guessing this car has the Turbo-Thrift 250 Six. It was far too long to belong to the 307 or 350 V8s that were optional on Novas of this era.
I spotted and photographed this one in downtown Rock Island, on February 23, 2014, at a little corner car lot. It appeared to be for sale, as it had no license plates, and I was impressed with its originality, right down to the factory-appearing paint, full wheel covers and whitewalls.
Of course, I loved the green-and-white color combination. And this car does not have a vinyl roof–that is white paint. It too appeared original, but my copy of the 1973 Nova brochure does not list two-tone paint. Was it a factory option, a special order or was this car repainted when the vinyl gave out?
Hopefully this Nova found a good home. At any rate, I never saw the car again, either on the road or at a car show.
One final note. This was all set to go up on Cantankerous Coot back in late 2014. However, I received my final crazy-pants email from the Coot himself not long before this was scheduled to run, so it never did, and had been biding time on my computer until I ran across the Word doc on it while looking for something else recently. So here ’tis, at last, heh!
Live and Let Die bus chase courtesy of Youtube.