Vintage Review: 1975 Chevrolet Nova LN – Chevy’s Take On A BMW

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Detroit’s infatuation with Euro-style sedans got their start in a big way in 1975. The Ford Granada was a cynical riff on the Mercedes, mainly having to do with crowing about its boxy design, Mercedes-look wheelcovers and a prominent grille. We posted Road and Track’s review of it here, titled “The Perfect Car For Mother To Buy”. Chevrolet’s redesigned Nova also arrived in 1975, and it too paid homage to a German sport sedan, but this time the BMW. Unlike the Granada, the Nova had some handling chops to go along with the Hoffmeister kink. But that hardly made it a genuine Euro-sedan. What Detroit still hadn’t gotten is that it takes more than good smooth-road handling to compete with Europe’s better sedans. Things like all-wheel independent suspension, steering with genuine road feel, and a body that is genuinely space-efficient.

The Nova LN was effectively a four-door Camaro, including all of its pros and cons. It was no BMW, but if Mom was going to be happy in her Granada, Dad would probably appreciate the Nova quite a bit more.

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The poor interior space utilization is the result of having a body that was designed back in the mid-60s, at a time when that was just not a priority for the compact class. The 1968 Nova, which shared its platform with the ’67 Camaro, prioritized a long hood and a very coupe-like body, regardless if it had four doors or two. This 1975 update was still stuck with that same basic body architecture, now grafted to the new front subframe, suspension and steering that the 1970 Camaro and Firebird ushered in.

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Ford blessed the Granada with an all-new body, with relatively better interior space utilization, even if it did still use aspects of the increasingly archaic “Falcon platform”. The results speak directly to the outcomes. And of course the Granada had the blingy Iaccoca look that buyers gravitated to much more strongly.

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Pretty solid performance for 1975, but abysmal fuel economy (13.5 mpg) for a “compact” sedan that couldn’t even sit full-grown adults on its rear seat with adequate comfort.

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The Buick Skylark’s uneven-fire 90° V6 comes in for the usual drubbing, given its persistent low frequency “rumble”. It did yield a much more respectable 21 mpg, but R&T wonders of the engine sound and very leisurely performance was worth it.