Chevrolet Nova


The Chevrolet Nova did as much for Chevy as any compact car has ever done for its maker, and this article profiles all the Nova models responsible for that success.

1962 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova convertible side view
The Chevrolet Nova was an economy car that, in 1962 convertible
form, had style. See more pictures of Chevrolet Novas.

The Nova traces its roots to the 1962 model year, when it came to the rescue of a division that had put its compact-car eggs in one fragile basket called the Chevrolet Corvair. The oddly styled Corvair had debuted for 1960, but buyers were already shunning the little rear-engine car -- and more would reject it as its safety woes became public.

Into the breach stormed a front-engine compact with conventional good looks, low prices, and a nice array of sedan, hardtop, and convertible body styles. It was called the Chevrolet Chevy II. That name doubled as the label for the new car's entry-level models, while sportier versions proudly wore the Nova badge.

Sales of the thrifty four- and six-cylinder cars were strong from the start, and for 1963, Novas could be ordered with Chevy's hot Super Sport package. By 1968, the Chevy II name had been shed altogether and the entire lineup operated under the Chevrolet Nova banner.

That was also the year Chevrolet redesigned its compact car, giving it curvaceous new styling. By 1969, the Corvair was history, Nova was Chevrolet's smallest car, and Nova buyers could order a 375-horsepower 396-cubic-inch V-8 to create a muscle car revered to this day.

By the early 1970s, the Chevrolet Vega had slipped in under Nova as Chevy's smallest offering, but the basic 1968 design served Nova well, finally being phased out during the 1979 model year.

The Nova name, however, would resurface for 1986 on a modern, front-wheel-drive subcompact built in California from a design shared with Toyota. Nova had come a long way, but it always represented sensible value and, occasionally, serious fun, as you'll see in the pages that follow.

1974 Chevrolet Nova with Spirit of America package, rear view
Nova's longest-running body style spanned
1968-1979. This is a 1974 hatchback.

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1962 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova

The 1962 Chevy II, part of the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
The 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II was the
base-level companion to the Chevrolet Nova.

The 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova were created around the time Chevrolet executives realized that the Chevrolet Corvair wasn't going to match, much less beat, Ford's Falcon in compact-car sales.

Despite its technical innovations, the Corvair simply lacked the kind of universal appeal needed for high-volume production. No, what Chevrolet needed was a new -- but not really different -- type of car, a down-to-basics vehicle to compete in the quickly growing compact league.

The rush to production resulted in the boxy in silhouette but adequately pleasing Chevy II -- a sure bet not to offend or fluster anyone. Providing basic transportation and modestly billed as "the thrift car," Chevy II nevertheless pledged "no-nonsense styling [that] will catch glances years away from the showroom."

Ads lauded the "frisky, family sized Chevy II," aiming to blend "luxury and low price." Three trim levels went on sale: basic 100, mid-range 300, and posher Nova 400, topped by a Sport Coupe and convertible. The lineup also included sedans and station wagons in each series.

A Chevy II could have a 90-horsepower, 153-cubic-inch Super-Thrift four-cylinder engine or a 120-horsepower, 194-cubic-inch six (the latter standard on Novas). This was Chevy's first four-cylinder powerplant since 1928. Anyone who didn't want to operate a column-shift three-speed gearbox could select two-speed Powerglide instead.

Chevy Nova 120-horsepower, 194-cubic-inch six.
Standard on the 1962 Chevy Nova was
this 120-horsepower 194-cubic-inch six.

A handful of dealerships even began to install V-8 engines, one of which, cranking out 360 horsepower, delivered a 0-60 dash in 5.2 seconds. Chevrolet executives took note and began to ponder and plan a V-8 for factory installation.

No other GM cars shared the integral body/frame construction with a separate front sub-frame. Single-leaf rear springs claimed to eliminate the "inherent harshness" of customary multi-leaf springs. Front bucket seats were available in the two-door Nova 400 -- a harbinger of things to come in the mid-Sixties. Model-year output totaled some 406,500 cars, including an impressive 23,741 convertibles.

1962 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II 100
2,410-2,755
$2,033-$2,399
47,000 (approx.)
Chevy II 3002,425-2,855$2,084-$2,57792,800 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova 400, I6
2,540-2,775$2,198-$2,497266,721 (approx.)

The Chevy Nova 400, part of the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova.
This Nova 400 was the only convertible
offered in the 1962 Chevy II line.

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1963 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova

The 1963 Chevy Nova SS Sport Coupe, part of the 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
This 1963 Chevrolet Nova Sport hardtop
wears newly available Super Sport trim.

The 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova continued to sell well in their second model year, giving Chevy the confidence to expand the line. If a Super Sport edition could prove successful on its big cars, Chevy reasoned, why not on the Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova?

Chevy introduced the SS option on this compact lineup, confining it to hardtop coupe or convertible body styles. Since both those body styles were offered only in uplevel Nova trim, that effectively limited the package to the six-cylinder Nova 400 models.

Chevy said the new Super Sport option promised to deliver "Nova 400 glamour with a sports car flourish." The $161 package required larger (14-inch) tires and included bucket seats, a four-gauge instrument cluster, finned wheel covers, silver-color rear cove, and Nova SS insignia. That was exciting, but not quite as hot as the V-8 engine available in Ford's rival Falcon.

The 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova got a mild restyling, included a bolder aluminum grille. Nova 400 models all carried the 120-horsepower, Hi-Thrift 194-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine. The Chevy II 300 and thrifty 100 series could have the 90-horsepower Super-Thrift four-cylinder. Beltline stripes and chromed rocker-panel moldings set the Nova 400 apart from its more modest mates.

New features included self-adjusting brakes and a Delcotron alternator. These Chevy compacts could be ordered with seatbelts, heavy-duty springs, Positraction rear axle, a grille guard -- even taxi equipment.

After one year in the marketplace, the brochure insisted, the unibodied Chevy II was "already stepping out from the crowd in popularity."

This would be the final year for a convertible body style, and 1963's ragtop was manually operated unless the buyer shelled out an extra $54 for a power top.

1963 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II 100
2,430-2,810
$2,003-$2,397
50,400 (approx.)
Chevy II 300
2,440-2,900$2,084-$2,57578,800 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova 400, I6
2,590-2,835$2,235-$2,494171,100 (approx.)

The 1963 Chevy II Nova 400 Station Wagon, part of the 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
Nearly 60,000 Chevy II Nova 400 Station Wagons
were produced for 1963.

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1964 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova

The 1964 Chevy II Nova 4-door Sedan, part of the 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
The 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova 400
sedan was priced at $2,243.

The 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova added a third choice to their four- and six-cylinder engines. Chevrolet's traditionally engineered compact finally got a V-8: specifically, the 195-horsepower Turbo-Fire 283, priced at $108 extra.

"Despite its new vigor," read an ad for the 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova, "it's still a nice, quiet, sturdy, sensible, unpretentious car. With sharper teeth." Sharper than before, to be sure, but a V-8 Chevy II still required more than 11 seconds to reach 60 mph.

On the downside, the cool Chevrolet Nova convertible was dropped. So was the Nova's Super Sport option -- at least until midyear. Customer demand brought it back as a package for the Nova hardtop coupe.

Those 1964 Chevrolet Nova SS coupes wore thin body-peak moldings and silver-colored rear coves. Inside were front bucket seats and a console-mounted gearshift for a choice of Powerglide automatic transmission or, in V-8 versions, a four-speed manual. More than one-third of Sport Coupes had the SS option.

The mid-level Chevy II 300 series faded away for 1964. That left the Chevy II 100 in two- and four-door sedan and four-door wagon form, and the plusher Nova 400 in sedan, wagon, and hardtop coupe form.

The 90-horsepower 153-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine was available only in the value-priced Chevy II 100 series. The Chevy II Nova 400s came standard with a 120-horsepower 194-cubic-inch six.

1964 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II 100
2,455-2,840
$2,011-$2,406
53,100 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova 400
2,560-2,860$2,206-$2,503102,900 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova SS, I6
2,675$2,43310,576

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1965 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova

The Chevy II Series 100 2-door Sedan, part of the 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
The 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II 100 had exclusive use
of this pillared body style .

The 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova were updated with cleaner front-end styling courtesy of a fresh full-width grille with integrated single headlights.

Parking lights moved down to the deep-section bumper, and sedans gained a new roofline. Taillight and backup lights were restyled, as was the rear cove. An expanded engine lineup gave customers six power choices.

They began with the mild-mannered 90-horsepower Super-Thrift four-cylinder and 120-horsepower Hi-Thrift six-cylinder. Up the ladder were a 140-horsepower six and a 195-horsepower 283-cubic-inch V-8. Up top were a pair of Turbo-Fire 327-cubic-inch V-8s that churned out 250 or 300 horses.

Midyear also brought a more potent 283 with dual exhausts and 220 horsepower. It was quite a selection for a mainstream compact car.

The 1965 Chevy II came in entry-level 100 form or as the posher Nova 400, each in three body styles. The Nova Super Sport came as a Sport Coupe only, and its production dipped to just 9,100 cars.

Nova models had one of the six-cylinder or V-8 engines; the four cylinder was available only in the 100.

Super Sports had a new brushed-chrome console with floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission or Powerglide automatic, but a column-mounted three-speed manual remained standard. Bucket seats wore textured vinyl trim, and the dashboard held ammeter, oil pressure, and temperature gauges.

1965 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II 100
2,505-2,875
$2,011-$2,413
40,500 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova 400, I6
2,645-2,880$2,243-$2,51051,700 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova SS, I6
2,690$2,4339,100

The Chevy II Series 100 2-door Sedan, part of the 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
A bench-seat Chevy II was plain and simple,
though this one has factory A/C.

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova

The 1966 Chevy Nova SS Sport Coupe, part of the 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
The 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova
got crisp new styling. This is a Nova SS.

The 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova introduced an extensive sharp-edged restyle for Chevy's popular compact.

Highlights included a bold grille and semi-fastback roofline. "Humped" fenders in an angular rear end were reminiscent of larger 1966 Chevrolets, though the 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova had vertical taillights and single headlights.

The lineup again started with Chevy II 100 and Chevy II Nova 400 models. For just $159 more than a Nova 400, buyers could be the proud owner of a Nova Super Sport. Available only in Sport Coupe form, the Nova SS was top of the line.

The 1966 Chevrolet Nova SS was visually distinguished by wide rocker panels and a bright aluminum deck lid cove. It had bright SS emblems on the grille and in the ribbed rear panel, and Super Sport script on the quarter panels. Wheel covers were borrowed from the Chevrolet Malibu SS. Strato-bucket front seats were included, but a tachometer cost extra.

Any Chevy II engine except the four-cylinder could be coupled with the SS group of goodies, but the top dog was a new Turbo-Fire 327-cubic-inch V-8 delivering 350 horsepower. This engine was first seen in the Chevrolet Chevelle. A close-ratio four-speed manual transmission helped turn the normally mild Nova into a little beastie; Powerglide automatic was not available with this hottest engine.

Buyers of the 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova could also order a 275-horsepower version of the 327, a 195- or 220-horsepower 283-cubic-inch V-8, or an inline-six of 194 or 230 cubic inches.

The standard column-shift three-speed was now fully synchronized, allowing shifts into first gear even while rolling. Two wagons were offered, the upmarket one named Nova.

1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II 100
2,520-2,990
$2,028-$2,536
47,000 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova2,640-3,010$2,245-$2,51873,900 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova SS
2,740-2,870$2,430-$2,53523,000 (approx.)

The 1966 Chevy Nova Wagon, part of the 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
Chevy's 1966 compact wagon came in
Chevy II 100 trim and as this Nova model.

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1967 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova

The 1967 Nova SS 2-door Hardtop, part of the 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova line.
Top model in the 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II and
Nova line was the Nova SS hardtop.

The 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova received nothing more than a touch-up after a wholesale restyling for 1966. The 1967 Chevy II and its deluxe Nova rendition continued to attract compact-car shoppers, but the Chevrolet Camaro, introduced for 1967, drained away some buyers.

"Plain Jane it ain't," declared one ad that featured a 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS. Available only in hardtop coupe form, the 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS got a new black-accented anodized aluminum grille.

Every 1967 Chevrolet Nova got a crosshatch pattern that filled the deck lid trim panel. The Nova officially was still called the Chevy II Nova and had overtaken the bottom-rung Chevy II 100 in sales. The Chevy II 100 lacked much in the way of trim or brightwork.

A four-cylinder engine was standard in the 100 series, but most had a six-cylinder instead.

Nova versions started with the 194-cubic-inch six but could have a 250-cubic-inch version for a little extra dough and go. Further powertrain possibilities included a 195-horsepower, 283-cubic-inch V-8 and, for $93 more, a 275-horsepwer 327-cubic-inch V-8.

Nova SS coupes had a console-mounted shift lever with their Powerglide automatic transmission four-speed manual Other models employed a column-mounted gearshift.

Compared to 1966'sl model-year output, sales of the 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova dropped by more than a third, 106,500 (including 12,900 station wagons). About 10,100 Nova SS Chevrolets went to customers this year, 8,200 of them with V-8 engines. In the Chevy II 100 and regular Nova series, six-cylinder engines sold far better than V-8s.

1967 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II 100
2,555-2,985
$2,090-$2,583
35,900 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova2,660-3,015$2,298-$2,67147,600 (approx.)
Chevy II Nova SS
2,690-2,820$2,487-$2,59010,100 (approx.)

The 1965 Chevy Nova SS 2-door Hardtop, part of the 1965 Chevy II and Nova line.
Most 1967 Chevrolet Nova SSs were ordered
with a 283- or 327-cubic-inch V-8.

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova

1968 Chevy Nova, part of the 1968 Chevy II and Nova line.
The 1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova was a
larger new rendition of Chevy's compact.

The 1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova was fully redesigned on a longer 111-inch wheelbase that gave Chevy's compacts a chassis that was just one inch shorter than that of its midsize Chevelle coupe.

The 1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova had a freshly contoured body that featured a new "tunnel effect" roofline. Bodies were longer, lower, and wider, displaying the trendy long-hood/short-deck shape. Chevrolet boasted of its "clean sweep in styling, performance and economy" with the 1968 Nova.

Gone were wagon and two-door hardtop body styles. The 1968 Chevrolet Nova was available only as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan. Four-cylinder, six-cylinder, and V-8 engines were offered.

Compared to the 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II and Nova, the 1968 Chevy Nova had more shoulder room and legroom and a redesigned interior with a contoured new instrument panel.

With the Chevrolet Camaro and Chevelle lines competing for sporty-coupe shoppers, production of the Nova Super Sport dropped to 6,571 from over 10,000 for 1967.

Still, the Nova SS offered plenty of fun. A 295-horsepower Turbo-Fire 350-cubic-inch V-8 was standard. There were simulated air intakes on the hood, black accents on the grille and decklid panel, and special emblems and badges. The Nova SS also included a deluxe steering wheel, red-stripe wide-oval tires, and stiffer suspension. A floor-shifted three-speed gearbox was available, as were a four-speed manaul and Powerglide automatic.

The engine lineup for the basic 1968 Chevrolet Nova started with a 90-horsepower Super-Thrift four-cylinder and a 140-horsepower Turbo-Thrift 230-cubic-inch six. A 250-cubic-inch six was also available. The V-8 choices were a 200-horsepower Turbo-Fire 307 cubic incher or a 275-horse Turbo-Fire 327. The hot 350-horsepower 327 was gone.

All told, the sales brochure claimed 15 power team choices for coupes and a dozen for sedans. Options included power brakes and steering, Four-Season or Comfort-Car air conditioning, rear shoulder belts, and head restraints.

Performance buffs could select front disc brakes, a heavy-duty clutch, dual exhausts, rally wheels, Positraction, and special instrumentation. Chevy, perhaps recognizing the wordiness of the car's name, would soon drop the "Chevy II" designation and simply call all these compact simply Novas.

1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Chevy II Nova
2,760-3,025
$2,222-$2,419
201,000 (approx.)

The 1968 Chevy II Nova 4-door Sedan, part of the 1968 Chevy II and Nova line.
The 1968 Chevy II Nova came only as a
two-door coupe or this four-door sedan.

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1969 Chevrolet Nova

The 1969 Chevrolet Nova Coupe, part of the 1969 Chevrolet Nova line.
Sales of the 1969 Chevy Nova fell by half.
This one has a 307 V-8 and vinyl roof.

The 1969 Chevrolet Nova became Chevrolet's smallest passenger car as the rear-engine Corvair was finally laid to rest.

Chevrolet dropped the Chevy II portion of it compact car's name. Now know simply as the Nova, it repeated the two-door coupe and four-door sedan body choices from 1968. Basic Novas again came in a single trim level with a choice of three engines: a 90-horsepower four-cylinder, a 140-horsepower 230-cubic-inch six, or a 200-horsepower 307-cubic-inch V-8.

Not enough muscle? Try the 1969 Chevrolet Nova SS. This coupe was billed as "the turned-on version of Nova." It came with a 300-horsepower 350-cubic-inch Turbo-Fire V-8 and a hood with dummy air intakes, blackout grille, black body accents, front disc brakes, and 14-inch red-stripe tires. Optional was Chevy's storming 396-cubic-inch V-8 with up to 375 horsepower.

Multiple-leaf rear springs were installed on SS models, while other Novas kept their single-leaf configuration. Fake front fender louvers also were available, but not required. A total of 17,564 SS coupes were produced for 1968.

Chevrolet's sales brochure touted a low-cost clutchless Torque-Drive transmission for Novas, but the value-oriented model would need more than mere gadgetry to attract buyers.

Muscle cars were in full force, and midsize muscle cars were the rage. This hurt Nova's image as a sporty machine, a condition that contributed to sales falling by half, to some 106,200, of which 17,564 were SS models.

1969 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,785-3,065
$2,237-$2,434
106,200 (approx.)

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1970 Chevrolet Nova

1970 Chevrolet Nova SS, part of the 1970 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1970 Chevrolet Nova lineup
started with a $2,335 four-cylinder two door.

The 1970 Chevrolet Nova continued as the entry-level Chevrolet and was little changed in appearance compared to the 1969 version. The one distinction was a new egg crate-patterned grille.

Like the 1969 model, the 1970 Chevrolet Nova was offered only as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan.

Basic Novas had a 90-horsepower 153-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine, a new 155-horsepower 250-cubic-inch six, or a popular 200-horsepower 307-cubic-inch V-8.

High-performance fans could take advantage of Nova's relatively light weight and the availability of the Super Sport package. It came with a 300-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8 or the "big-block" 396.

Actually, the 396 V-8 displaced 402-cubic-inches for 1970 thanks to a slight increase in bore diameter, but Chevrolet stuck with the familiar "396" designation. Hot Novas were therefore named SS 350 and SS 396 and were offered only with a four-speed manual gearbox or floor-shifted Turbo Hydra-Matic.

The SS 396 could be ordered in 350- or 375-horsepower tune. Nova SS models had a special hood with simulated air intakes, blackout grille and rear panel, and wide-oval tires on seven-inch wheels.

A Custom Exterior package for lesser Novas cost $98, while a vinyl top added $84. Out of 254,242 Novas sold for 1970, 19,558 were the SS 350 or SS 396 version.

1970 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,820-3,071
$2,335-$2,533
254,242 (approx.)

The 1970 Chevrolet Nova Coupe, part of the 1970 Chevrolet Nova line.
A new egg crate grille pattern distinguished
the 1970 Nova from the 1969 model.

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1971 Chevrolet Nova

The 1971 Chevrolet Nova 2-door Coupe, part of the 1971 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1971 Chevrolet Nova two-door coupe
outsold the four-door sedan .

The 1971 Chevrolet Nova was unavailable with a four-cylinder engine, a first for Chevy’s compact car. The new subcompact Vega introduced for 1971 took over that end of the powertrain spectrum for Chevrolet, so Nova moved to a more responsive six-cylinder engine -- 250-cubic-inch and 145 horsepower -- as standard fare.

Apart from that powertrain shift and installation of new Power-Beam headlights, little changed for the 1971 Chevrolet Nova.

Ads referred to the 1971 Nova as "America's not-too-small, not-too-big car," and in a slap at the cramped new subcompact breed, noted that Nova coupes seated five adults and sedans six.

Six-cylinder Novas could get Chevy's ill-fated clutchless Torque-Drive semi-automatic transmission. This transmission was also used in the Vega, but only 2,992 were installed in Novas.

The 1971 Chevrolet Nova coupe could be dressed up with a custom interior and exterior trim package and also with Super Sport equipment. The SS group included a 270-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8 engine, plus black accenting, a sport suspension with E70x14 tires, and appropriate SS badging. With the muscle-car years now in the past, the 350 was the largest V-8 engine available in the Nova.

The coupe proved to be the most popular 1971 Nova model, and many of them carried the 307-cubic-inch V-8 engine, rated at a useful 200 horsepower.

The well-hyped Vega stole sales from the Nova this year, but the compact soon would enjoy a resurgence of popularity that would last deep into the 1970s.

One reason is that Nova pleased a wide range of buyers looking for practical, sensible motoring. Even the coupe's appeal crossed many demographic lines, large enough for families, yet not so large as to seem "unnecessary" to young singles.

Older buyers thought the coupe's styling was appropriately conservative, while youth found the car's looks just rakish enough to be fashionable. And prices, which started at less than $2,400, were just right for most everybody.

Nova was a nice fit for a new era of escalating insurance rates and stringent federal standards for emissions and gas mileage. It gave Chevy a strong player able to go up against similarly "sensible" cars from other GM divisions, and from Ford and American Motors.

1971 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,952-3,108
$2,376-$2,501
194,878 (approx.)

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1972 Chevrolet Nova

The 1972 Chevrolet Nova 2-door coupe, part of the 1972 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1972 Chevrolet Nova sold well
despite being virtually unchanged from 1971.

The 1972 Chevrolet Nova could be distinguished from its 1971 counterpart only by an expert -- and that person couldn't really be sure. The cloth-and-vinyl interior differed a bit, but from the outside, most examples of the 1972 Chevrolet Nova were identical to 1971 models.

An exception would be a 1972 Chevrolet Nova equipped with the new Skyroof option. This was a folding soft sunroof available in six colors and was installed in 6,268 coupes. The Rally Sport option with special suspension returned and was a rather popular choice, with 33,319 sold.

Super Sport equipment went on 12,309 coupes, some of which also had the Rally package. Nova production moved to Norwood, Ohio, where it would be assembled alongside the Camaro.

A 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine remained standard, with only two other choices available: the 130-horsepower 307-cubic-inch V-8 or 165-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8. Coupes started at $2,351 with the six-cylinder engine, while four-door sedans commanded $28 more.

A Custom Decor group included full-length rocker panel and bodyside moldings, as well as bright window or drip rail moldings. Air conditioning cost an extra $381, and a vinyl roof went for $87.

Despite the lack of change, Nova had its best sales season in year, with production of the 1972 models reaching 349,733. Of these, 139,769 had the six-cylinder engine.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,949-3,116
$2,351-$2,469
349,733

1972 Chevrolet Nova 2-door Coupe, part of the 1972 Chevrolet Nova line.
Top engine for the 1972 Chevy Nova was
the 165-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8.

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1973 Chevrolet Nova

The 1973 Chevrolet Nova Hatchback Coupe, part of the 1973 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1973 Chevrolet Nova got bigger bumpers
to meet new federal rules.

The 1973 Chevrolet Nova gained a hatchback two-door model and a revised nose. The facelift was thanks in part to the federal government's newly mandated five-mph front and rear bumpers.

To go along with the bigger bumpers, stylists gave the 1973 Chevrolet Nova a new grille with a loosely patterned crosshatch insert and parking lights located inboard of the headlights.

Wheelbase was unchanged, but the car's total length grew a bit because of the new bumpers. The 1973 Chevrolet Novas also weighed about 100 pounds more than their 1972 counterparts.

An SS option remained available, but it was just a $123 dress-up package that included a blackout grille and Rally wheels. It could be ordered with any of the Nova engines. Interestingly, 35,542 SS packages were installed, making 1973 the best-selling year for that option group.

Engines started with the standard 100-horsepower 250-cubic-inch six. A 115-horsepower 307-cubic-inch V-8 was available, as were 145- and 175-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8s.

The hatcback was available only on the two-door model and included a large hinged panel that included the rear window and extending to just above the taillamps. A dressy Custom series joined the Nova line and a Custom hatchback listed for $2,701 with a six-cylinder engine. That was $173 more than the six-cylinder base-model two-door hatchback. Air conditioning added $381.

Every 1973 Chevrolet Nova got side guard door beams and additional sound insulation, as well as flow-through ventilation systems. Rear springs switched to multiple leaves. A sunroof could be installed, and fold-down rear seats were available.

1973 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,274-3,033
$2,377-$2,792
369,509

The 1973 Chevrolet Nova Custom Sedan, part of the 1973 Chevrolet Nova line.
The outline of the hatch opening on the
new Nova hatchback is visible in this view.

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1974 Chevrolet Nova

The 1974 Chevrolet Nova 4-door Sedan, part of the 1974 Chevrolet Nova line.
A 1974 Chevrolet Nova sedan was a
smart buy during the first gas shortages.

The 1974 Chevrolet Nova got a new promotional bent that echoed Volkswagen's approach in pitching the Beetle's lack of change as a virtue.

Instead of focusing on any alterations, the 1974 Chevrolet Nova sales brochure explained that, "we've been building essentially the same car since 1968. We think we've got it down pat."

Evidently they did, as Nova sales continued the surge they had enjoyed since 1972 and approached 400,000 cars for 1974. Six-cylinder Novas were the fastest gainers, as sales of V-8 Novas declined.

These were the years of the first energy crisis as Middle Eastern countries cut back on oil exports. After waiting for hours in gas lines and fretting about the prospect of fuel rationing, thrifty compacts looked pretty good to plenty of Americans. Nova fit the bill.

The 1974 Chevrolet Nova got larger parking lights and new bow-tie grille emblems, as well as modified bumpers that added two inches to length and helped cushion minor impacts.

Nova SS hatchbacks and notchbacks could have either a 100-horsepower six-cylinder engine or a 350-cubic-inch V-8 of 145 or 185 horsepower. Steel-belted radial tires became available for the first time. Ordering the 185-horsepower V-8 brought a Muncie four-speed floor-shift with improved linkage.

A limited-edition "Spirit of America" series debuted; it was painted white and had red and blue accent stripes.

1974 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,150-3,437
$2,811-$3,217
390,537

The 1974 Nova Spirit of America, part of the 1974 Chevrolet Nova line.
In Spirit of America livery, the 1974 Nova
was a red, white, and blue wonder.

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  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America’s greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.

1975 Chevrolet Nova

The 1975 Chevrolet Nova LN Coupe, part of the 1975 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1975 Nova LN Coupe had cushy front seats
that felt like "lounge chairs."

The 1975 Chevrolet Nova was the most-changed Chevy car for the 1975 model year.

"Now it's beautiful," said the brochure of Nova's all-new sheet metal, "refined along the lines of elegant European sedans."

Chevrolet wisely maintained a visual kinship with the 1968-1974 design, and also retained Nova's efficiently sized 111-inch wheelbase.

Two-door coupes and hatchbacks and four-door sedans remained. Basic Novas could be spiced up with a sport-striped SS two-door option. But the big news in trim was introduction of the LN coupe and sedan.

The LN sent Nova into the luxury portion of the compact market; some actually thought of it as competing against a few high-end European imports. The Nova LN was called "the most luxurious compact in Chevrolet's history," with wide-back reclining front seats that "look and feel like big, soft lounge chairs."

LN equipment included ad­ditional sound insulation, map pockets, an electric clock, a smoked instrument lens, and a day/night mirror. Swing-out quarter windows could be ordered for the coupe. "Thanks to LN," the sales brochure announced, "Nova's image will never be the same again."

All Novas now had cut-pile carpeting, formerly installed only in the Custom series. Speedometers had larger, easier-to-read graphics. Windshields offered greater glass area. Front-door armrests were redesigned with integral pull bars.

Front tread grew by an inch and a half, and the front stabilizer bar was thicker. Novas now had front disc brakes and steel-belted radial tires.

1975 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,276-3,493
$3,099-$3,870
272,982

The 1975 Chevrolet Nova Sedan, part of the 1975 Chevrolet Nova line.
This "European look" Chevy Nova Sedan
flirted with a $4,000 price tag.

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1976 Chevrolet Nova

The 1976 Nova SS, part of the 1976 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1976 Chevrolet Nova offered a vinyl roof
as an option on two-door models.


The 1976 Chevrolet Nova added a fancy Concours model to rival Ford's Granada and the Mercury Monarch, as well as top versions of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant.

Like regular versions of the 1976 Chevrolet Nova, the Concours came in three body styles: coupe, hatchback coupe, and four-door sedan.

Concours was the most luxurious compact car Chevrolet had ever offered. Rosewood vinyl decorated the upper door panels, instrument panel, and steering wheel. Concours models had an upright hood ornament, bumper guards, bright trim moldings, black bumper impact strips, and full wheel covers; more-basic Novas came with hubcaps.

The Concours coupe also was the first Chevrolet coupe with a fold-down front center armrest. A V-8 Concours coupe sold for $547 more than the comparable base Nova.

Engines for the 1976 Chevrolet Nova were a 105-horsepower inline-six, a 165-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8, or a 140-horse 305-cubic-inch V-8. A Cabriolet padded vinyl top was available for Nova coupes.

Modest revisions were made to the brakes, and also to fuel and exhaust system mountings. Dashboards contained new knobs.

The $187 Nova SS option group included a black grille with unique diamond-mesh pattern, Rally wheels, four-spoke steering wheel, and heavy-duty suspension.

After testing the 1976 Chevrolet Nova, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department placed the largest order for compact police cars ever seen in the U.S.

1976 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,188-3,485
$3,248-$4,134
334,728


The 1976 Standard Nova SS, part of the 1976 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1976 Chevrolet Nova SS dressed up
with special trim and decals.


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1977 Chevrolet Nova

The 1977 Chevrolet Nova Concours, part of the 1977 Chevrolet Nova line.
The Concours model accounted for
75,000 of 365,264 Novas Chevy sold for 1977.

The 1977 Chevrolet Nova marketing department wanted to set the posh Nova Concours model apart from lower-rent Novas. So Chevrolet issued a separate Concours sales brochure with pictures and text that bespoke elegance.

Styling touches differed between the Concours and other Novas. The Concours had finer-mesh grille and sported a stylish stand-up hood ornament, newly designed wheel covers, and wider bright wheel-opening moldings.

"International in style, it is American in function," the sales brochure insisted of the Concours. It went on to note that Concours offered a "very special blending of classic style and good sense."

That last referenced Nova's sensible size. Novas themselves, the marketing materials said, were "not too small, not too big, not too expensive."

Three engines and four transmissions were available for every 1977 Chevrolet Nova, including Concours. Buyers could pick a 110-horsepower 250-cubic-inch inline six, 145-horsepower 305 two-barrel V-8, or 170-horsepower 350 four-barrel V-8.

Shifting was accomplished by three-speed (column or floor shift) and four-speed manuals or Turbo Hydra-Matic.

Novas might also be equipped with a heavy-duty suspension or the F41 sport suspension. A surprising number of police departments ordered Novas with either a 305- or 350-cubic-inch V-8 engine, following the lead of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which had given the compacts an exhaustive evaluation.

1977 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,139-3,486
$3,482-$4,186
365,264
The 1977 Chevrolet Nova Concours.
The 1977 Chevrolet Nova sedan was
the quintessential mainstream American car.


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1978 Chevrolet Nova

The 1978 Chevrolet Custom Coupe, part of the 1978 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1978 Chevrolet Nova Custom, shown,
replaced the Concours as the top model.

The 1978 Chevrolet Nova got a restyled front end and a Nova Custom model took over as top-line duty, replacing the too-costly Nova Concours.

The Custom series had its own fine-mesh grille with built-in vertical parking lights, bright-accented headlights, triple-unit taillights, and hood molding.

Custom models lacked the stand-up hood ornament displayed by the Concours. Upholstery choices included all-vinyl or Edinburgh woven sport cloth/vinyl.

More basic versions of the 1978 Chevrolet Nova had a different, checkerboard grille texture, also inset with parking lights just inboard of the headlights.

The 1978 Chevrolet Nova was also available with Rally equipment, which included yet another front-end layout: a diamond-pattern grille with horizontal parking lights and black headlight bezels, plus triple band striping and color-keyed Rally wheels. All Nova drivers faced a new dual-spoke, soft vinyl-covered steering wheel.

Any 1978 Chevrolet Nova could have a 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, a 145-horsepower 305-cubic-inch V-8, or a 170-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8. Law enforcement agencies in 48 states were driving Novas by now, as the sales brochure boasted.

Production dropped almost 100,000 for the model, to 288,000, making Nova the only Chevrolet series to show a sales decline for 1978. Sales of the Nova hatchback body style lagged well behind regular coupes and sedans, and base models handily outsold Customs.

1978 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,132-3,443
$3,702-$4,220
288,109

The 1978 Chevrolet Nova Custom Sedan, part of the 1978 Chevrolet Nova line.
Nova used several front-end styling themes for 1978.
This is the Custom model.

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1979 Chevrolet Nova

The 1979 Chevrolet Nova Coupe, part of the 1979 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1979 Chevrolet Nova marked the end of Nova
as a rear-wheel-drive model.

The 1979 Chevrolet Nova was the end of the line for the rear-wheel-drive Nova. Fewer than 98,000 examples were produced.

Chevrolet's compact models were headed into the front-wheel-drive age and for 1980, Nova's place in the lineup would be taken over by the new and ver different Chevy Citation.

Production of the 1979 Chevrolet Nova officially ended in November 1978. The last of the breed could be ordered with an inline 250-cubic-inch six or a two-barrel 305-cubic-inch V-8. A 350-cubic-inch V-8 was also available in California and high-altitude locales. Both V-8s got a new Exhaust Gas Recirculation system.

The 1979 Chevrolet Nova lineup was the same as in 1978: base-level hatchback, coupe, and sedan, plus the Custom coupe and sedan. As usual, base coupe and sedan proved to be the best sellers.

Nova Customs had a special acoustical package including improved headlining and full hood insulation, along with other luxury extras.

These final Novas were promoted for their "solid value" and "reputation for dependability," capitalizing upon a 17-year heritage that had begun with the Chevy II.

For their last fling, a modified horizontal-bar grille contained vertical parking lights. New chromed hood and fender moldings were installed, and new front-bumper filler panels gave the front end a more finished look.

1979 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
3,135-3,394
$4,055-$4,499
97,721

The 1979 Chevrolet Nova Custom 4-door, part of the 1979 Chevrolet Nova line.
Sedans were the top-selling body style for the 1979 Nova.
This is a Custom model.

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1986 Chevrolet Nova

1986 Chevrolet Nova 4-door Notchback, part of the 1986 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1986 Chevrolet Nova kicked off
Nova's resurrection as a front-drive car.

The 1986 Chevrolet Nova was introduced in June of 1985 as a front-wheel-drive subcompact car. It resurrecting a name last used on the compact-class rear-drive 1979 Chevrolet Nova.

The 1986 Chevrolet Nova was built at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. The 1986 Chevrolet Nova was build from the same design as Toyota's Corolla but carried slightly different styling.

The 1986 Chevrolet Nova was initially offered only in a four-door sedan body style. A five-door hatchback was added shortly after introduction. The only engine was a carbureted 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 74-horsepower. It teamed with either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. This was the same powertrain offered in the Corolla.

The 1986 Chevrolet Nova four-door sedan listed for $7,435, a rather stiff tariff by Chevrolet standards. The five-door, which added a split-folding rear seat, started at $7,669. Corresponding Corollas cost a couple hundred dollars less.

All Nova options were grouped into seven packages, which did away with the long list of optional equipment that accompanied such cars as the Chevrolet Chevette. (Simple though it was, the subcompact Chevette offered nearly 30 options). However, adding one of the costlier packages could easily push the Nova's sticker to over $10,000.

1986 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,163-2,205
$7,435-$7,669
167,749

The 1986 Chevrolet Nova 4-door hatchback, part of the 1986 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1986 Chevrolet Nova lineup
included a sedan and this five-door hatchback.

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1987 Chevrolet Nova

The 1987 Chevrolet Nova 4-door Sedan, part of the 1987 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1987 Chevrolet Nova was lauded for a
smooth ride and quite engine.

The 1987 Chevrolet Nova saw only minor changes after it's introduction a year earlier as a near-twin to the front-wheel-drive Toyota Corolla.

Wider taillights, body-colored bumpers, and new aluminum wheels for the CL options package made up the primary visual changes. Meanwhile, a rear-window defogger was added to the list of standard equipment.

The 1987 Chevrolet Nova continued in two body styles, a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback. The four-door proved by far the more popular -- by about three to one.

Nova's only engine was again a 74-horsepower 1.6-liter four designed by Toyota, mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic.

As before, Novas were built at the NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.) GM/Toyota joint venture plant in Fremont, California.

Though Corollas were priced slightly below competing Novas, Chevy's version of the car could often be bought for less because slow sales encouraged dealers to discount prices.

"Slow sales," however, meant slow by Chevy standards, for the Nova sold about as well as the Corolla. Aside from some minor interior and exterior trim differences, the cars were much the same, though Novas had a slightly softer suspension that favored ride over handling.

1987 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,206-2,253
$8,258-$8,510
150,006

The 1987 Chevrolet 5-door Hatchback, part of the 1987 Chevrolet Nova line.
The 1987 Chevrolet Nova hatchback proved
less-popular than the Nova sedan.

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1988 Chevrolet Nova

The 1988 Chevrolet Nova (new) Twin-Cam model.
This Twin-Cam brought a touch of
performance to the Toyota-based subcompact.

The 1988 Chevrolet Nova added a sporty model to its lineup of subcompact front-wheel-drive cars.

This new 1988 Chevrolet Nova Twin-Cam got its name from a double-overhead-cam version of the Toyota-built 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in other Novas. Novas contineud to share their basic design with the Corolla, and this engine had previously been used in the Toyota FX-16, a performance version of the Corolla.

The twin-cam produced 110-horsepower, 36 more than its single-cam sibling. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, as in the regular Novas, but the Twin-Cam offered a four-speed automatic as an option versus the three-speed offered on other models.

The more potent engine elevated the 1988 Chevrolet Nova Twin-Cam into junior sport-sedan terri­tory, but the advancement didn't come cheaply. The base Nova listed at about $8,800, the Twin-Cam went for $11,395.

That price included fuel injection, sport suspension, power steering, leather-covered steering wheel, tachometer, four-wheel disc brakes, and wider tires on aluminum wheels, but it was a stiff tariff, and few were ordered. There were no color choices; all 1988 Chevrolet Nova Twin-Cams wore black metallic paint with a grey interior.

Every 1988 Chevrolet Nova got rear shoulder belts, rear window defogger, and AM/FM stereo radio as standard equipment.

This was the last model year for the Nova name at Chevrolet. Starting with 1989, Chevrolet pushed this car into its new Geo division and renamed it the Prism. Geo was Chevy's effort to come up with an import-sounding label to attract buyers who were not inclined to shop American.

1988 Chevrolet Nova Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Nova
2,211-2,257
$8,795-$11,395
109,133

The 1988 Chevrolet Nova Twin-Cam model.
The 1988 Chevrolet Nova would morph into the
import-sounding 1989 Geo Prism.

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