Welcome to Part 4 of this ever-expansive dive into the depths of automotive history, exploring various times when relatively small displacement engines were used to power mainstream offerings. Today, we are examining an offering from none other than Chevrolet.
In 1962, Chevrolet brought forth an engine whose type had not graced the brand since 1928. Beginning in 1962, and ending in 1970, one could acquire a four-cylinder engine in a compact Chevrolet.
Advertised as the Super-Thrift 153, due to its 153 cubic inch displacement, this engine is not to be confused with the Pontiac Iron Duke 2.5 liter engine. While the Iron Duke has a 4 inch bore with a 3 inch stroke yielding a smaller displacement of 151 cubic inches, the 153 has a 3.875 inch bore and a 3.25 inch stroke. That bore and stroke of the 153 is identical to that of the Chevrolet 230 cubic inch straight six that would come along one year later (1963) and would be found in the full-sized Chevrolets starting that year.
These Chevy four and six cylinder engines were developed at the same time, and share architecture and most internal parts. The 153 four and 230 six also share the same bore and stroke with the 307 cubic inch Chevy small block V8. There was some limited commonality with those engines, but not as much as between the sixes and the four.
The Super Thrift four was advertised with 90 hp, but as this chart from GM’ heritage Center Vehicle Kit shows, its net hp was 75. That makes a better point of comparison to post-1972 cars. For what its worth, that 90 hp was still a bit more than the 85 hp on the Falcon’s 144 cubic inch six. But it ran smoothly, at least.
There were four and six cylinder versions of the two lower trim Chevy IIs available; the six cost exactly $60 more, in 1962, that was undoubtedly money well spent. The deluxe Nova model only came with the six. Not only was the 194 Hi-Thrift six more powerful, with 120 gross/95 net hp, it obviously ran a lot smoother too. Big fours are pretty notorious for being rough-running without balance shafts.
Harvesting from the bounteous fruit of YouTube, one is able find a video of a running 153 mounted in a 1963 Nova convertible.
Which is rather odd, since several sources (like the ’63 brochure) show that the Nova series only came with the six. Apparently someone wanted a four in their Nova convertible really badly. Did they get a $60 break in the bargain?
Given the production of four-cylinder Nova / Chevy II’s (which, oddly enough, my mother had a ’62 with the four-banger), good luck finding one.