1968-1972 Chevrolet Nova emblem.
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The Chevrolet Nova or Chevy II was an American compact car introduced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors in 1962. The original Chevy II was of unibody construction, powered by an OHV inline four or six-cylinder engine, and available in two-door and four-door sedan configurations as well as convertible and station wagon versions. After the rear-engine Chevrolet Corvair was handily outsold by the conventional Ford Falcon in 1960, Chevrolet began work on a more conventional compact car that would eventually become the Chevy II.
- First generation: 1962-1965
- Second generation: 1966-1967
- Third generation: 1968-1974
- Fourth generation: 1975-1979
- 1985-1988 Nova
First generation: 1962-1965.
Available powerplants included a four-cylinder and an inline six. The six was actually the third-generation powerplant, replacing the second-generation Stovebolt. Rival manufacturer Chrysler introduced the Slant Six in their Plymouth Valiant, a Chevy II competitor.
Although the Nova was not originally available with a V8 option, the engine bay was perfectly proportioned for one. It wasn't long before Chevrolet V8s were offered as dealer-installed options (between 1962 and 1963), up to and including the fuel injected version available in the Corvette. The combination of readily available V8 power and light weight made the Nova a popular choice of drag racers.
For 1963, the Chevy II Nova Super Sport was released. As mentioned above, Novas could not "officially" have V8 engines at this time - the standard SS engine was the six-cylinder - but many ended up with a small-block V8 under the hood. For 1964, the Chevy II's first factory V8 option was introduced - a 195 horsepower 283 cubic-inch V8. In 1965, the 327 cubic-inch V8 was also available with up to 300 horsepower.
In 1962 and 1963 the Nova was available in a convertible body style, and a two-door hardtop was available from 1962-65.
Second generation: 1966-1967.
1966 Novas saw a significant restyling, based in part on the Super Nova concept car. In general, proportions were squared up but dimensions and features changed little. Engine options still included the basic inline four- and six-cylinder engines and V8s of 283 and 327 in? (4.6 and 5.4 L), the latter offering now offering up to 350 horsepower, making the Nova so-equipped quite a pocket rocket during the musclecar era. During this time, the 90-horsepower 153 cubic-inch four-cylinder engine was only offered in the base Chevy II 100 series models with the 120-horsepower 194 cubic-inch six standard on the Nova and Nova SS lines. In addition to the V8s, other optional engines included a 140-horsepower 230 cubic-inch six and a 155-horsepower 250 cubic-inch six, the latter a new offering for 1967.
Third generation: 1968-1974.
An extensive restyle came in 1968, when the station wagon and two door hardtop were discontinued. This body style continued (with minor revisions) through 1974. One notable change was the front subframe assembly - as compared with Ford, Chrysler and AMC, in whose cars the entire front suspension was integrated with the bodyshell, a separate subframe housing the powertrain and front suspension (similar to the front part of the frame of GM's full-size, full-framed vehicles) replaced the earlier style. Although the front subframe design was a Chevy II-exclusive design, the Camaro introduced a year earlier was the first to incorporate such a design; the redesigned Chevy II was pushed a year back to 1968 instead of 1967. 1968 was the final year that the Chevy II nameplate was used, although all 1968 models were "Chevy II Novas" with one single trim line.
The 153 four-cylinder option was offered between 1968-70, then was dropped due to lack of interest. Far more popular were the 250 cubic-inch six-cylinder and the base 307 cubic-inch V8, which replaced the 283 offered in previous years. At mid-year a semi-automatic transmission based on the Powerglide called Torque-Drive was introduced as a low-cost option for shiftless motoring for both the four and six-cylinder engines. The two-speed Powerglide was still the only fully-automatic gearbox available with most engines as the more desirable three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic was only available with the largest V8 engines.
The SS was transformed from a trim package to a performance option for 1968 and now included a 295 horsepower 350 cubic-inch V8 engine along with front disc brakes, heavy-duty suspension and other performance hardware. Optional engines included two versions of the big-block 396 cubic-inch V8 rated at 350 and 375 horsepower. Both 396 engines were offered with a choice of transmissions including the M-21 close-ratio four-speed manual, the M-22 heavy-duty "Rock Crusher" four-speed manual, or the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 for those who preferred automatic shifting.
The Chevy II nameplate was retired and the car became the "Chevy Nova" for this year (some sources referred to it as the Chevrolet Chevy Nova - perhaps the decision to drop the Chevy II moniker was a last-minute decision for 1969). Like other 1969 GM vehicles, locking steering columns were incorporated. Simulated vents were added below the Nova script, which was relocated to the front fender instead of the rear quarter panel. The 350 cubic-inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor that came standard with the SS option was revised with a five-horsepower increase to 300 while a two-barrel carbureted version of the 350 V8 rated at 255 horsepower was a new option on non-SS models. A new Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 three-speed automatic was made available for non-SS Novas with six-cylinder and V8 engines.
Basically a carryover from 1969; the side markers and taillight lenses were wider and positioned slightly differently. This was the final year for the SS396. All other engines were carried over including the seldom-ordered four-cylinder which was in its final year. The car finally became simply the Chevrolet Nova this year after two years of transitional nameplates (Chevy II Nova in 1968 and Chevrolet Chevy Nova in 1969).
Approximately 177 COPO Novas were ordered, with 175 converted by Yenko Chevrolet. (The other two were sold in Canada.) A beater coupe is seen in the movie Beverly Hills Cop.
1971 Novas were similar to the previous year but with the loss of the simulated fender vents and the discontinuation of the 396 motor for the SS with the L48 350 taking its place. 1971 also saw the introduction of the Rally Nova, a trim level that only lasted two years (until it resurfaced in 1977). The Rally kit included black or white stripes that ran the length of the car and around the back, a Rally Nova sticker on the driver's side of the hood, and Rally wheels.
The 250 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine was now the standard Nova powerplant with the demise of the 153 cubic-inch four-cylinder and 230 inch six-cylinder engines. The 307 and 350 V8s were carried over from 1970 and all engines featured lowered compression ratios to enable the use of unleaded gasoline as a result of a GM corporate mandate that took effect with the 1971 model year.
After 1971, other GM divisions began rebadging the Nova as their new entry-level vehicle, such as the Pontiac Ventura II (once a trim option for full-size Pontiacs to 1970), Oldsmobile Omega (1973) and the Buick Apollo (mid-1973). Interestingly, the intials of the four model names spelled out the acronym NOVA (Nova, Omega, Ventura, Apollo.)
A virtual rerun of 1971, the 1972 Nova received only minor trim changes and both the Rally Nova and SS options carried over. At mid-year a sunroof option became available on two-door models. Also, the optional Strato bucket seats available on coupes switched from the previous low-back design with adjustable headrests to the high back units with built-in headrests introduced the previous year on Camaros and Vegas.
The 1973 model year introduced a hatchback bodystyle based on the 2-door coupe, as well as a front and rear restyling and a modified rear side window shape, plus a revised rear suspension adapted from the second-generation Camaro with multi-leaf springs replacing the mono-leaf springs used on Novas since the original 1962 model. By this time, six-cylinder and V8 engines were de rigeur for American compact cars, with the 307 and 350 in? (5.0 and 5.7 L) V8s becoming fairly common. Nova SS models offered a higher-performance 350 in? (5.7 L) V8. The 1973 Nova with a six-cylinder engine or 307 V8 were among the last Chevrolets to be offered with the now-outdated two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, which was in its final year. For 1974, it was replaced by a lightweight version of the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 already offered with the 350 V8, which was the only V8 offered for 1974.
A luxury-themed Nova Custom became part of the model lineup which included upgraded upholstery, full carpeting and more exterior trim. The SS option was still available but became more of a sporty trim package than a performance offering and now offered with any Nova engine, much like the 1963-67 Nova SS.
Buick and Oldsmobile entered the compact car market; both the Apollo and Omega debuted, using the same bodystyles from the Nova lineup. Pontiac's final GTO of this era was based on a facelifted 1974 Ventura coupe fitted with a shaker hoodscoop from the Trans Am.
Fourth generation: 1975-1979.
A completely restyled Nova was introduced in 1975 and continued through 1979. Base coupes, including the hatchback, had fixed side windows (or optional flip-out windows) and vertical vents on the B-pillar. (For the Pontiac Ventura, the side vents were horizontal.)
Six-cylinder and V8 engines remained the norm through the end of the decade (and the end of the rear-wheel drive X-body platform.)
The front suspension and subframe assembly was similar to the one used in the second-generation GM F-body (Camaro, Firebird), whereas the rear axle and suspension were carried over from the 1968-1974 generation.
The Nova lineup ranged from the stripped-down "S" model, base, Custom (1975 and 1978/1979, which in later years became the LN and Nova Concours replacement), and the luxury-themed LN (the LN was the first to sport metric displacement badges - either "4.3 LITRE" or "5.7 LITRE"). The LN was replaced with the Nova Concours (1976 and 1977; 1977s had a 3-taillight lens scheme much similar to the Impala with a Cadillac-esque front clip). All were intended as competion for the recently introduced Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare and Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch. From 1977-1978, there was also the Nova Rally (not to be confused with the Rally Nova of the early 1970s). These came with the 305 engine, and some with the 4-speed Saginaw transmission.
The Apollo was replaced by the sportier Buick Skylark after 1975 (during the 1975 model year, the Apollo nameplate was used for the 4-door sedan, while the coupe was badged as the Skylark), while Pontiac's Ventura became the more luxurious Phoenix for 1978 (the Phoenix was the first X-body fitted with square headlights). BOP versions of the Nova had either a Chevrolet inline six or Buick V6 as the base powerplant.
During the 1977 model year for the Ventura, the GM Iron Duke was the base motor (in response to the Arab Oil Embargo) coupled to a Borg-Warner T-50 transmission (it has no relationship to the T5 found in third-generation GM F-bodies); this is a rare find these days although the motor differed from the six-cylinder based 153 last offered as an option in 1970.) The Ventura was replaced by the Phoenix in the middle of the 1977 model year.
Base V8 motors included a Chevrolet 262 (and 305) and Oldsmobile 260; Pontiac Venturas were not fitted with a Pontiac V8 from the factory after 1975, when Oldsmobile 260s and Buick 350s were installed as optional equipment. This led to civil action against GM.
The Nova SS continued for 1975 and 1976; when the SS was discontinued, the option code for the SS ? RPO Z26 ? continued as the Nova Rally until 1979.
Even Cadillac got into the act. The Nova's X-body was stretched by several inches and fitted with an Oldsmobile fuel-injected V8 to become the Seville for 1975.
A high-performance police version of the Nova was introduced for the 1975 model year, making it the first compact car certified for police duty in the U.S. Most were initially purchased by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 1976.
The Nova's final model year, 1979, saw few changes. The front end was revised with square headlights and a new grille for the short run. Production ended on December 22, 1978.
From 1980 onwards, the Nova's original niche in the Chevrolet lineup was filled by front-wheel drive compacts including the Citation (1980-1985), and Corsica (1987-1996). Upon introduction of the downsized GM A-body (later G-body) mid-size cars in 1978, the X-body and downsized A-platform had similar dimensions, and the more modern downsized A-bodies outsold their X-body counterparts.
In 1985 the Nova name was applied to a rebadged Toyota Sprinter, an upmarket version of the Toyota Corolla that replaced the Citation and was produced at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, as an historic first joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. 1988 was the last year for the Nova nameplate on this (or any) platform, which arrived in showrooms as the Geo Prizm the following year.
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