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. These cars were also sold in Canada from 1963 as the Pontiac Acadian, with minimal trim and
equipment modifications, until the early 1970s when they were renamed in keeping with their US cousins as the Ventura II.
First generation (1962-1965) Nova
Available engines for the Chevy II included a 153 in³ four-cylinder and a 194 in³ inline six. The six-cylinder was
actually the third generation engine, replacing the second generation Stovebolt. Rival manufacturer Chrysler had earlier developed
the Slant Six in their Plymouth Valiant, a Chevy II competitor, when the cars were introduced to the public in late 1959 as 1960
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, which was a 195 hp 283 in³ V8. In 1965, a 327 in³
V8 was also available with up to 300 hp.
In 1962 and 1963 the Nova was available in a convertible body style, and a two-door hardtop was available from 1962 to 1965.
Second generation (1966-1967) Nova
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 in³ (4.6 and 5.4 L), the latter offering now offering up to 350 hp.
During this time, the 90 hp 153 in³ four-cylinder engine was only offered in the base Chevy II 100 series models with the
120 hp 194 in³ inline-six standard on the Nova and Super Sport models. In addition to the V8s, other optional engines
included a 140 hp 230 in³ six-cylinder and a 155 hp 250 in³ six-cylinder, the latter a new offering for 1967. For 1966,
Super Sport (SS) models did not carry the Nova name, but were badged as Chevy II Super Sports.
Although Chevy IIs had the same body for both these years, 1967 models carried significant improvements in the area of safety
equipment. A government-mandated energy-absoring steering column and safety steering wheel, soft interior parts such as armrests
and sun visors, recessed instrument panel knobs, and front shoulder belt anchors, were included in all 1967 models.
Third generation (1968-1974) Nova
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 in³ (4.6 and 5.4 L), the latter offering now offering up to 350 hp.
During this time, the 90 hp 153 in four-cylinder engine was only offered in the base Chevy II 100 series models with the
120 hp 194 in inline-six standard on the Nova and Super Sport models. In addition to the V8s, other optional engines included
a 140 hp 230 in six-cylinder and a 155 hp 250 in³ six-cylinder, the latter a new offering for 1967. For 1966, Super Sport
(SS) models did not carry the Nova name, but were badged as Chevy II Super Sports.
Although Chevy IIs had the same body for both these years, 1967 models carried significant improvements in the area of
safety equipment. A government-mandated energy-absoring steering column and safety steering wheel, soft interior parts such
as armrests and sun visors, recessed instrument panel knobs, and front shoulder belt anchors, were included in all 1967 models.
For 1969, the Chevy II nameplate was retired and the car became the "Chevrolet 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). No Chevy nameplates remained for 1969. The trunklid badge "Chevy II by Chevrolet" was
replaced by "Nova by Chevrolet" 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 in³
V8 with four-barrel carburetor that came standard with the SS option was revised with a 5 hp increase to 300 hp while a
two-barrel carbureted version of the 350 in³ V8 rated at 255 hp was a new option on non-SS models. A new Turbo-Hydramatic
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 for the 1970 Nova 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.
1971 Novas were similar to the previous year but with the loss of the simulated fender vents and the discontinuation
of the 396 in³ engine for the SS with the 350 in³ engine 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
The 250 in³ six-cylinder engine was now the standard Nova engine with the demise of the 153 in³ four-cylinder and 230
six-cylinder engines. The 307 in³ and 350 in³ 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 and the Buick Apollo. Interestingly, the initials 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 were
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. Following a government mandate for vehicles to be fitted with front and rear bumpers capable of absorbing a low-speed impact of 5 mph, the front and rear of the Nova were restyled. A modified rear side window shape was also introduced, eliminating the vent windows on both two- and four-door models. A revised rear suspension was 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 in³ and 350 in³ (5.0 and 5.7 L) V8s becoming fairly common. Nova SS models offered a higher-performance 350 in³ V8. The 1973 Nova with a six-cylinder engine or 307 in³ 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-Hydramatic 350 already offered with the 350 in³ V8, which was the only V8 offered for 1974. These Novas where also fitted with a weight sensitive relay within the front bench seat that prevented the vehicle from being started until the driver's seatbelt had been fastened. Later, a law passed by Congress banned this type of device, declaring that it infringed on a driver's freedom of choice. The devices were not included in future Nova models.
A luxury-themed Nova Custom, later called the Nova LN, 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 to 1967 Nova SS.
Oldsmobile and Buick entered the compact car market; both the Apollo and Omega debuted, using the same bodystyles from the Nova lineup. Additional options were included on these Nova-like models, such as lighting under the dashboard and in the glove compartment. Pontiac's final GTO of this era was based on a facelifted 1974 Ventura coupe, itself based on the Nova, but fitted with a shaker hoodscoop from the Trans Am.
By accident or design, the names of the GM compacts of this era formed an acrostic of the name of the parent model:
Fourth generation (1975-1979) Nova
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.
Six-cylinder and V8 engines remained the norm through the end of the decade (and the end of the rear-wheel drive X platform).
The front suspension and subframe assembly was similar to the one used in the second generation GM F-body cars (the Camaro and Pontiac Firebird), whereas the rear axle and suspension were carried over from the previous generation.
The Nova lineup ranged from the stripped-down "S" model, base, Custom (1975 and 1978 to 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; 1977 models had a 3-taillight lens scheme much similar to the Impala with a Cadillac-esque front clip). All were intended as competition for the recently introduced Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare and Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch. From 1977 to 1978, there was also the Nova Rally (not to be confused with the Rally Nova of the early 1970s). These came with the 305 in³ V8 engine, and some with the 4-speed Saginaw manual 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). Rebadged versions of the Nova had either a Chevrolet inline-six or Buick V6 as the base engine.
During the 1977 model year for the Ventura, the GM Iron Duke was the base engine (in response to the Arab Oil Embargo) coupled to a Borg-Warner T-50 transmission (it has no relationship to the T-5 found in third-generation GM F-bodies). The Ventura was replaced by the Phoenix in the middle of the 1977 model year.
Base V8 engines included Chevrolet 262 in³ and 305 in³ engines, and an Oldsmobile 260 in³ V8; 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 platform 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 US. 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 to 1985), and Corsica (1987 to 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.
Appearances in pop culture
- Eddie Murphy's character Axel Foley in the 1984 hit movie Beverly Hills Cop drove an early 70's "crappy blue Chevy Nova".
- The 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction, hitmen Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta drove around in a green 1974 Nova that meets an interesting fate.
- In Quentin Tarantino's half of the movie Grind House, called Death Proof, Kurt Russell's character drives a 1971/1972 Nova. The Nova, with a huge skull and crossbones on the hood plays a major role in the plot of the film.
- Futurama protagonist Phillip J. Fry claims in the episode "Roswell that ends well" that he owned a Chevy Nova back in the 20th century, saying "I've never seen a supernova blow up, but if it's anything like my old Chevy Nova, it'll light up the night sky."