The Chevy Nova is known for being a classic muscle car, but had its humble beginnings as a GM compact car. After a few subtle changes, the Nova was given a complete rehaul in 1969 to make it the Nova we all know and love. Fuel economy guidelines and restrictions are blamed for the demise of the muscle car and forced the Nova back to its not so glamorous roots prior to being discontinued in 1979.
The Chevy Nova first rolled off the assembly line in 1962 and was dubbed the Chevy II Nova. The intention of its creators was to come up with a reliable, compact family car. GM had been missing out on much of the market, losing sales to Ford.
The Nova was conceived hastily but was a solid offering. The line consisted of 2 engine options - a 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder and came in 5 different styles. Not bad for a quick idea.
The price tag was right on the money with the 400 series running a little less than $2500.
There was an SS version offered the second year, but the SS didn't offer much in the way of horsepower.
The Chevy II Nova came with the V8 option starting in 1964 with a 283 engine that put out 195hp. The car only weighed 2500 pds so even though the 195hp doesn't sound like much by today's comparisons, it was a serious contender capable of holding its own against the muscle cars of the day.
Just a Nova
It wasn't until 1969 that a major remake was given to the car. The “Chevy II” was officially dropped and the car simply became known as a Nova.
The body was completely redesigned and given the traditional muscle car exterior for which cars of the time were so well known.
The big block engine was an upgrade to the '69 as well. The standard option came with a 350 V8 but could be upgraded to a 396 which offered 375hp.
Over 250,000 ‘69s were produced and came with an average price tag of $2300 and collectors are now paying $35,000 for one of these muscle cars.
Don Yenko took a number of third generation Novas and retrofitted them much as he had with the Camaros and Chevelles. And as with those models, these Novas were deemed “Yenko Novas” or “Yenko Supernovas”. The suspension was upgraded and a 427 V8 engine was installed. They were built to take on the leading muscle car contenders like the Mustang and Barracuda.
The big block was discontinued in 1971 and the engines were retooled with lower compression ratios dictated by the prevalence of unleaded gas usage.
Sizzle Fizzles Out
The last Nova came off the assembly line in 1978. It was a far cry from its muscle car legend beginnings. The Nova was brought back for a short run from 1985-1988, but had no resemblance to the classic Novas of the day. There is a generation of Nova lovers would rather ignore completely.