F Abbott has captured the quintessential Nova. These were once everywhere, making their noisy presence known from their foreshortened dual exhausts exiting from all parts of the body behind the mid line (usually). This one is sporting a particularly flamboyant upswept exhaust, which is making the mandatory gray primer go black just above its outlet . And of course it’s shod with the obligatory Rally wheels. I will admit that the four spot lights are a bit out of the ordinary; I’m not quite sure what to make of them.
These are the cars that finally replaced the tri-five (’55-’57) Chevys as the cheap hot wheels of a generation or two. As those became increasingly rare and expensive, the ’68-up Nova coupe was just getting to the right age to make the perfect replacement. Common as dirt, and performance upgrades to the SBC were dirt cheap. The only thing to possibly challenge them were the Duster/Demon, but it was always going to be easier to find suitable engines and such for a Chevy. SBCs were a dime a dozen.
I have mixed feelings about these not making their presence felt anymore; the world is certainly a quieter one as a consequence. But a bit duller too, even without that dull primer.
Ah yes, the once omnipresent Stoner Nova. A fixture of 70s and 80s high school parking lots. I wonder what the stoners drive these days?
Stanced Subarus with the oversized exaust
Yes, now that I think of it you’re right!
And what album would Chevy Nova driving stoners listen to? Probably ‘Harder, Faster’ by Canadian rock music legends April Wine. I’m pretty sure that’s a Nova featured on the album cover.
I like to rock! I like it you like it! Lol. Had forgotten that one but it fits with the car. The album cover is a bonus!
I would peg that as a Dart Sport or a Duster.
Thats y im on this site at all was wanting the actual identity of the car . My husband bought the album and he was a Mopar man he owned a duster an i believe it’s possibly that or a demon he owned one of those to . I could also come really it possible it could b a nova but im hoping a duster . My husband’s gone now but ya
It is funny how these things turn out. This car became the low-buck Camaro. But the Falcon, which had been almost identical to the early Mustang under the skin never became the low-buck Mustang.
I think Novas were really kit cars. As a six/Powerglide econo car, they were not particularly satisfying. The Valiant/Dart did that job way better. But stick a 350 and a 4 speed in it, add the rally wheels with big tires on the back and a suitably loud muffler and these became much better cars, and quite inexpensively.
We can now look back on this as Chevrolet’s genius – the ability to swap better parts easily and cheaply was what made these cars so popular. Ford did not make this as easy and Mopar stuff was fairly uncommon and thus all the more expensive to modify.
What a good point, one I never really considered. The ability to make changes really was genius if GM did that intentionally. Ford was the late one to the party in that regard, much to it’s own detriment.
I don’t think that there is a front-runner for this type of car any longer. The manufacturers offer too many options up front, and most work with at least one of the aftermarket groups directly to give us factory warrantied “kit” cars, so there is little need for a DIY version, unless you enjoy working on cars. Think of Saleen and Roush for Ford, and Lingenfelter for GM. Since fewer and fewer seem to be willing to wrench, you see less and less of these. The big market for similar seems to be with the import tuner crowd now, instead of good old US iron as the base.
Well, that all started in 1955, right? So Chevy had been doing it for quite some time.
The genius key was that the original sbc was such a good and advanced design, it could be made for decades, unlike the smaller V8s at Ford and Chrysler.
The 318 and 360 Mopar engines survived into the 2002 model year. They called them the 5.2 and 5.9 “Magnum”, but the only real difference between the late 60’s ones and the new ones were slightly better heads than they had in the middle to later ’70’s. I was truck shopping in 2000, and if the hemi had been available on the 1500’s, I would have bought one. One short drive in a Chevy with the 5.3 sold me on a GM truck. The 5.9 in the Ram I drove pinged like crazy and was pretty gutless. In 2003, I wrecked the Sierra I had and replaced it with a 2003 Ram 1500 4×4 with a Hemi. I loved that truck and still miss it.
Chevrolet deserves credit for getting it right the first time, for certain, but the small block Ford lasted from 1962-2001, and the Chrysler LA, as mentioned, had decades long life as well, and were as good if not better small V8s as the Chevy.
The mistake Ford made was the bazillion engine families. In the 60s Chevy only had two, big block and small block, and stuck with them into the millennium. Ford on the other hand had the Y block, FE, MEL, “Windsor”, 335 series(Cleveland) and 385 series families all within a 10 year span, with a lot of redundant overlap within. The engines that stuck around nearly as long were the Windsor and 385(460), but it took a lot of culling to get there, and in the case of the Windsor it wasn’t even the newest or most advanced design to pick.
Zora Arkus-Duntov wrote a memo in 1953 to advocate for Chevy to support the upcoming V8 with hot rod parts.
To: Mr. Maurice Olley
From: Mr. Z. Arkus-Duntov
Subject: Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders, and Chevrolet
Date: December 16, 1953
The hot rod movement and interest in things connected with hop-up and speed is still growing. As an indication: the publications devoted to hot rodding and hop-upping, of which some half-dozen have a very large circulation and are distributed nationally, did not exist some 6 years ago. From cover to cover, they are full of (flathead–Hubba) Fords. This is not surprising then that the majority of hot-rodders are eating, sleeping, and dreaming modified Fords. They know Ford parts from stem to stern better than the Ford people themselves.
I have never seen this before, and this goes a long way to explaining Chevrolet’s dominance ever since. Ford became the hot rodder’s choice by accident and the Ford Motor Company sort of sat back, watched it happen, and assumed that it would keep happening. Imagine how different things could have been had Ford taken this approach with a bunch of specially engineered performance parts for the Thunderbird. They would eventually do so by the early 1960s but by then they were coming from behind. Nobody but Ford or Chevrolet had the market penetration to support inexpensive hot rodding. Ford had it, then blew it due to neglect.
There’s no question that Chevrolet, spurred on by ZAD, made a very conscious effort to become dominant in the performance arena and supplant the flathead as the engine of choice.
Imagine how different things could have been had Ford taken this approach with a bunch of specially engineered performance parts for the Thunderbird.
Sorry; but it wouldn’t have worked. The Y Block was heavy, large, and had a terrible head with contorted porting that made it a non-starter for hopping up. The only way Ford could get any decent power out of ti was with supercharging.
Breathing ability is everything in an engine; the sbc had it, the Y block didn’t. And weight and size is the number two issue, and again, the sbc had it and the y block didn’t.
Ford really bungled it with the Y block. A good engine for basic use and trucks, but terrible for competing with the sbc. DOA.
I guess I was thinking in terms of some real engineering resources that would have made performance a priority. I am not familiar enough with the Y block to know if it was possible to offer a performance head with better breathing, but it is clear that the performance market got no real boost from Ford. And Ford engines’ reluctance at performance would not go away until the 1950s engineering did. At least they were willing to throw cubic inches at the problem with the 312. 🙂
This memo first came to my attention 30 or so years ago, thanks to being reprinted in an old issue of Hot Rod.
IDK if it’s possible to overstate its importance upon automotive history.
I wonder if one of the reasons why the Falcon didn’t have the same appeal as the Nova, at least to hot rodders, is that Ford never really developed a speed reputation for the Falcon. Until the last of the line/Torino-based Falcons, Ford never installed any engine bigger than a 302. The styling held steady with the boxiness of the original, again, right up to the Torino-based car.
But Ford also purposefully put lighter duty drivetrains in six cylinder Falcons, right down to the 4 lug wheels. It should have been no trick to stick a 351 into a Falcon but if you did not start with a V8 car you needed to replace virtually everything else between the bell housing and the pavement. Not so with the Nova.
You do have a point that Chevy put a Nova SS out there to give everyone the idea, but a 351 Falcon or Maverick would have been seen a lot more if the swap had been as painless as it was in a Nova.
The Aussie Falcons are fine to hot up they had heavier duty suspension components and the five lug wheels the original four lug stuff proved too weak though no V8 models appeared down under untill the 66 restyle body arrived on the scene retro fitting one is childs play.
The real problem with the Falcon (60-65) was that the only V8 that would (barely)fit in between its shock towers was the 260/289/302. The 351w didn’t come along until 1969, remember, whereas Chevy IIs were getting 327 swaps from hot rodders basically from inception, the chassis was literally more open to it. The wider 66-70 Falcons had engine room but were just too do dowdy to bother with, no hardtop, dull styling, and still the aeformentioned light duty running gear. You may as well be asking why Rambler Americans weren’t being embraced.
The Mustang was a different story because not only was it visually more appealing, the engine room was widened in 67 via smaller shock towers for other bigger engines to fit. You don’t see many 65-66 models with anything else but 289-302 blocks in them either, and if you do they had to go through major surgery to make it possible. Also bear in mind, 6cyl Mustangs used light duty running gear and 4 lugs until 1968 just like the Falcon, so they’d need to be upgraded too
Chevrolet sold factory V8 conversion parts for Chevy IIs as soon as they hit the market, even when it was only sold new as a 4/6 cylinder.
P – thanks for posting – Car appears to be a daily driver at least in the winter of 2018… Scottsdale location with desert nearby may explain the lights?
Dump the push bar, and with the attached lighting, and you’d have a cool old Rat Rod.
What about thing on the hood? See it daily in Scottsdale…lights could be for bombing desert roads?
I’m guessing some kind of goofy, JC Whitney-special hood ornament.
Lose the pipes and that thing in the front…………….and you have a beautiful nova. i had one of these years ago,wonderful simple car that was totally as reliable as any japanese car you throw at it……………….including a corolla.
As someone else mentioned, the push-bar and extra lights may serve a legitimate purpose if the guy drives fast through the desert at night. Notice that, instead of the conventional low mount in the push-bar, they’re mounted high so as to not block the airflow through the radiator.
As to the pipes (known as ‘zoomies’), I rather like the nostalgic touch. At least they’re better than some cheapass chrome dual extensions hanging out the back.
BTW, anyone else notice that big-ass roof spoiler?
Mad Max fan who grabbed the nearest available car?
It does have a nice muscle car stance!!!
This one apprears to be a “Death Proof” wannabe with the rubber duck hood ornament.
When I saw this post,that was the first thing I thought of,too!
I have mixed feelings about these not making their presence felt anymore; the world is certainly a quieter one as a consequence
Pretty much any kid today with a mildly sporty 90s import puts on the obligatory ‘fart can’ exhaust, so it’s not quieter around these parts. V8s at least sounded good uncorked.
I used to live in Boise and a good set of -we called them ‘Rally Lights’ was imperative for a fast car, both in the mountains and on the long, straight, roads of Idaho’s Treasure Valley. It was pretty common for us to hit 120 out there even in the days of 55 mph limits… there was no enforcement. Stock hi-beams just didn’t let you see far enough out front and life comes at you fast at 2 a.m. on a road where you can see the lights of the nearest city 60 miles away across the desert. You haven’t
ruined a pair of pantslived until you’ve have something big as a bear leap out of the dark in front of your car, hit it, and had that tumbleweed disintegrate like a ghost.
As for those Novas: America’s Choice!
I had one of these Novas in the early 2000s, great car, I miss it the most of all the cars I’ve had and sold. Drove it from the Bay Area up to Boise and back to visit a friend, can vouch that you can go as fast as you are willing in the Treasure Valley. On the return trip from Boise, at about 2am, I was cruising along at 90-95mph, and a pair of taillights kept disappearing over the horizon in front of me. After what must have been close to an hour, I finally was able to make out the shape of a semi trailer. This trucker was cruising at 95! I was going about 140 when I passed him.
Oh yes, the good old days. Back in 85 I got into a group of semi’s coming out of OKC…my car at the time topped out at a 100 and they just plain ass walked away from me. I miss that. My rig is governed at 66. And yes it sucks.
For a brief period in the early and mid 80s, I’d suggest Aspen and Volare coupes were the choice cars of stoners who had moved beyond the Duster.
I was 18 in 1969 and looking for my first car. Had about $1,500 saved and was looking for a late model Beetle. Wanted reliability and economy, as college made spending money tight. And, Beetles were everywhere and a cool car at the time for a young guy to have. Dad hated them however, feeling they were unsafe. He offered to pitch in $500 if I bought something more to his liking.
The bribe worked and for $2,100 I bought a new Nova coupe. 250 six, Power-glide, wheel covers and radio. The coupe didn’t look bad, made several trips to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break (once nudged it to 100 on Alligator Alley), and served me well for 5 years. This gen Nova was a blank slate where you could make it anything you wanted, or just keep it a pleasant, basic car.
I think what we have here is a nod to the Quintin Tarantino film death proof ,( minus the off road lighting). The hood ornament , the side pipes, says it all.
It has been mentioned that the reason the Nova got the nod as the hot-rodder’s choice was purely by GM’s cheapness. While Ford and Chrysler were having a tough time jamming big engines into their small cars and ponycars, GM’s compacts had a big engine bay because they essentially used the same front suspension and engine bay for everything they built. Combined with the sheer numbers of the things (making go-fast parts the cheapest, by far), well, it was just simple economics. If you wanted to go fast for the least amount of money, a SBC in Chevy’s cheapest car was the way to go.
With that said, I don’t think those post-1967 Novas were all that great for racing. While the earlier ’66-’67 cars are legendary, for some reason, the ’68 and newer cars weren’t as good. I think it had something to do with the way the weight was distributed and the less-than-ideal rear suspension. The problem was mainly that while they were fast, they weren’t very consistent. I personally knew of a guy who drag-raced one but could never win because it was so uneven on the elapsed times. He got so frustrated with it that, finally, he fired it up, put a brick on the gas pedal, and watched it self-destruct.
I would bet it’s curb weight, I’m fairly certain there was an added heft to the 68 over the 67s
Th 62-67 chassis is much different than 68+, in fact it’s a virtual clone of the Falcon design, with the distinctive large shock towers, coil springs mounted above the control arms and the shocks mounted inside the springs. The engine room was just a lot more accommodating to small block V8s from inception, while the Falcon was presumably strictly engineered for an inline 6 only. The 68s used the F body style half frame setup, with traditional GM suspension and frame rails mounted under the passenger compartment. These had virtually unlimited space for rat motors, whereas I’m not sure a 67 or earlier would accommodate them so well.
That’s a good explanation. While the 68+ hot-rod Nova was very popular, I’m not sure it was anywhere near the fastest on the street, even when equipped with a big-block (and most had a small-block, sometimes as mundane as the low-po 307).
It was not uncommon to see jacked-up, non-SS Novas with extended spring shackles, as well as ‘slapper bar’ torque limiters, on the rear leaf springs. They were really a Pep Boys special.
Yes, and the blocks for those had to have a recessed oil filter pad and I believe a front sump oil pan.
I have no idea what the extra lights are for, but I immediately think of the rival Ford Falcon and the rally events of the early-mid-60s:
my first car was a 63 Nova all primer (til the 29.99 APCOA ) paint job
6 ,three on the tree I’m afraid not the worst car for an 18 year old kid
My own pet theory as to why the Nova’s of that generation became the go to beater/rat rod rather than the Falcon is because of the high number of “secretary special” Mustangs that were made. When I think of the mid seventies, when Nova’s of this generation were becoming hand me downs, I also remember a lot of 6 cylinder base Mustang sedans but very few base Camaros.
So if you were a Chevy boy you grabbed Grandma’s old Nova and did the budget hot rod do over. Most Camaros were at least v-8, and a higher level of trim. In other words out of budget.(at least my high school budget!)
For the Ford guys, yeah you could do a Falcon or grab older sisters green, 4 bolt, 6 banger Mustang when she decided to upgrade and do much the same!
Lets not forget Chevy did a SS396 Nova, and Yenko even stuffed a few 427’s under the hoods of those cars.
Small wonder, if you come out to PIR with me, you’ll see more Nova’s than you can count at the night drags.
I was wondering why the SS396 Nova doesn’t get more respect and, after doing a little research, all I can figure is that the price and performance wasn’t all that much better than an SS396 Chevelle. Sales figures between the two Chevy musclecars seem to bear this out.
Chrysler, OTOH, priced the Duster 340 at damn near $1000 less than what it would have cost to get into a similar performance Nova SS396. Unfortunately for Chrysler, the Duster sales didn’t come from hot-rodders looking for a fast GM compact but from their own performance cars.
As an enthusiastic amateur photographer, I would absolutely stake out that car with a long lens to see and snap the owner of this vehicle.
Rudiger, I don’t know where you got your opinion of the post 1967 Nova’s not being consistent for racing. If that were the case, you wouldn’t see them used at every drag strip across the U.S. Nobody builds a race car to lose. Furthermore if your friend had issues with his in terms of consistency, then he obviously had issues with the car that he failed to sort out.
Guilty. I had a primered ’70 I used to street race for awhile. It was originally a stripper 307 car. Rubber floor mats. It sported a 350 out of an Impala and wore a set of 1.94 heads, Crane Fireball cam (.484 lift), and Cyclone headers. Exhaust was cut off at the rear axle. Trans was the Turbo 350 with a Vega converter (acts as a 2500 RPM stall converter) and a B&M shift kit. Slapper traction bars. Slot mags and raked stance due to a set of Hijacker air shocks. Interior was stripped… no rear seat, no radio (couldn’t hear it anyway, this car was LOUD), and a set of Mustang bucket seats. Loved it. Fun car. I later sold it to get a Firebird with a 400. The cops and locals were getting too familiar with the Nova. I even got followed three times by different cops one night. The last one watched from afar as I went home and shut it down for the night.
How fast? Mid 13’s at a bit under 100 mph. After blowing up the Firebird in short order, I quit the street scene. I was in my mid 20’s and tired of the hassle.