(first posted 11/1/2012) Billy was washing his ’79 Nova at the Sloppy Dog Car Wash and grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve got a big night tonight!”, he was thinking, “Me, the Nova, and Tina. Gonna be a barn-burning good time!”
The agenda was to go to the carnival out by the dragstrip. Billy had signed up to participate in the drag races, and he was positive the Nova would kick some serious ass. Having a winning night in the Nova would be a terrific way to impress a new lady friend.
To fully appreciate Billy and his Nova, you need to know a little about each of them. Billy had graduated high school five years earlier and now worked at the lead mine. He had had his Nova for about three years, during which he had been making continual modifications to it.
Billy was almost as proud of his hair as he was of his Nova. Nobody in the area was able to achieve anything of comparable caliber. Unfortunately, Billy did not know people were snidely calling him “Mullet Man” behind his back. He had never become wise to mullets being so seriously out of style.
As for the Nova, here’s a recent list of the modifications Billy performed:
When Billy would brag about his Nova at work, he was frequently questioned as to why he had chosen certain upgrades. For example, why he had gone to so much trouble to convert the car to a manual transmission only to install a three-speed? His answer was typically, “Damn, dude, don’t you know? A three-speed doesn’t eat up as much time shifting running the quarter-mile. If it’s a four-speed, all you do is shift. Hell, it’s common sense!”
Others would quiz him on his keeping the stock 305 cu in (5.0-liter) V8 instead of upsizing the engine. As with the transmission, Billy had an answer ready: “Damn, dude, don’t you know? A 305 has less rotating mass than, say, a 350. It winds up quicker. Hell, it’s common sense!”
Few people had actually seen his Nova, while those who had wondered why it wore three different shades of blue on the passenger side.
Back to the story…
After Billy finished washing the Nova, he drove across town to Walmart. He knew Tina really liked music, especially that Swedish group, ABBA. Billy figured he could tolerate listening to them if there would be a payoff later that night.
Billy marched over to the electronics department and bought “ABBA’s Greatest Hits” on cassette. When the cashier gave him a funny look, Billy self-consciously barked, “It’s not for me, dammit!”.
The cashier remained skeptical. Billy walked off thinking the old hag didn’t need to know his business.
Billy picked up Tina at 5:30 that afternoon. Tina was a senior in high school, which meant that Billy had to listen to her father’s admonitions about driving safely and being back before midnight. Billy thought Tina was great and he really liked her hair. He was certain you could tell how a woman would take care of herself by how she took care of her hair.
When they got back into the Nova, Billy gave Tina a nicely wrapped package, complete with a red bow on top.
“Oh, Billy, you didn’t have to…but, thank you,” Tina said. She opened the package.
“This is great! Thank you so much. Let’s put it in the tape deck.” Billy slid the cassette into the Nova’s upgraded Spark-o-Matic sound system. His senses were immediately assaulted with a song containing a flailing piano with lyrics about some girl looking for a dance partner. He thought it truly wretched, but if it paid off….
Billy and Tina had a nice chat inside the Nova’s comfortable cabin. As Billy turned into the gate of the drag strip / carnival, he flashed his drag-race entry card to the attendant and was directed to go left to enter the staging area. As Billy pulled in, he noticed that his friend Jimbo was also planning to race.
Jimbo was Billy’s high-school classmate and lifelong friend. He worked at the waste water treatment plant, and had brought his pride and joy, a ’78 Dodge Magnum. He also brought his girlfriend, Tammy.
Billy and Jimbo introduced Tina to Tammy; they immediately disliked each other. Billy and Jimbo were too busy discussing race times and joking about kicking the other’s tail to see a potential cat fight brewing.
The first race was 90 minutes out, so Billy thought he’d take Tina to get something to eat at the carnival. He and Tina dined on corn dogs, deep-fried Snickers bars, deep-fried dill pickles, a funnel cake, and watered-down lemonade. They were having a grand time.
After eating they went back toward the Nova, which was still parked in the staging area. Billy and Tina approached Jimbo and Tammy, who were in the midst of a heated discussion.
“Jimbo, how about you let me ride with you? You’ve been promising that for a long time,” they heard Tammy plead.
Jimbo wanted nothing to do with it. “Tammy, you have weight, which will slow the car down. I want to win.” Billy winced. Tina was shocked. Tammy burst out crying. Jimbo realized he had touched upon a subject so highly taboo with the fairer sex, and there was no taking it back.
“You worthless clod! I hope you lose. And, you can forget about any celebration parties. We are finished!” Tammy stormed off. Jimbo wanted to attempt to smooth things over, but he was up to race.
Billy paused a second before walking up to Jimbo. “Dude, don’t worry about her. There’s a lot more fish in the sea. You’re gonna do great racing your Magnum–except against me. Besides, Tammy was just a big hassle.”
Jimbo was instantly livid. “What do mean ‘hassle’? You know what? Soon as I’m done with this race, I’m gonna come back here and stomp your little mullet-covered ass! What do you think about that, dude?”
At this point, a race official walked over to see what was happening. Jimbo looked at Billy and said, “I’ll worry with you later!” as he got into his Magnum.
“The hell with him,” Billy thought as he walked away. Jimbo drove his Magnum to the starting line as Billy and Tina were walking back to the Nova. Tina didn’t know what to think.
Then, Billy saw Jimbo’s challenger at the starting line. “Ha, that ’71 Road Runner will totally kick his butt! I can’t wait to see it happen,” Billy said. Tina thought this was rather mean-spirited to say about a friend; suddenly, she wasn’t so sure about Billy. She also felt a bit sorry for Jimbo.
When the Christmas tree did its thing, there was nothing but the sound of two Mopar V8 engines at wide-open throttle. From the staging area, Billy could not have known that Jimbo had won his heat. Later, he would learn that the Road Runner’s tattered spoiler had broken mid-race, startling the driver and causing him to take his foot off the throttle. Jimbo and his Magnum had run the 1/4 mile in 14.5 seconds at 98.08 mph. Billy realized Jimbo hadn’t mentioned what he had enhanced on his Magnum. Billy, on the other hand, had told everyone what he had modified on his Nova.
Billy was signaled to prepare for his heat. “Good”, he thought, “time to take control of this race!” As Tina walked over to take a seat, Billy looked around. When he saw who his challenger was, it wasn’t good: It was that jerk, Biff, who was a supervisor at the mine. “I’m gonna stomp him into the ground”, thought Billy.
Biff nodded at Billy. “What a jerk”, Billy thought again. “He comes here in that fancy Oldsmobile, thinking he’s hot stuff. Well, he has a surprise coming.”
Billy and Biff eased up to the starting line. Jimbo had arrived back in the staging area and was in the background yelling at Billy, threatening to kick his tail. Billy didn’t notice – he was too intent on obliterating Biff and his putrid Oldsmobile. Billy saw the “W-25” on the front fender and scoffed. “Wussy, age 25. That’s all that means!”
When the green light lit, Biff and Billy took off as nearly shot-like as their low-compression, emissions- biased chariots could muster. The Oldsmobile was a nose ahead and kept inching ahead. Billy was winding out his 305 and banging its few gears. Biff looked over at Billy and smiled as he lurched ahead, crossing the finish line a full 3/4 of a second ahead of Billy.
Billy suspected Biff was simply toying with him when he saw that his time was 17.52 seconds at 83.6 miles per hour.
“That worthless bum!” Billy yelled. It was a long, humiliating trip back to the staging area. To add insult to his Nova-induced injury, when Billy got back to the staging area, he saw Jimbo talking with Tina. She had her hand on his leg, and was giggling!
Before Billy could take care of the situation, Jimbo was back up to race again.
Jimbo handily beat the upstart in the Grand Prix. The guy missed a shift, and Jimbo cruised to victory.
As Billy sat with Tina, all she could do was blather endlessly about how good a driver Jimbo was. Billy was getting quite annoyed with little Tina. He’d have taken her home had he not wanted to see some more racing. Truth be told, he was still hoping his fortunes would turn and the ABBA tape would pay off.
After Jimbo’s race, a timeout was called for the races. It was time for the Carnival Queen to be named. However, someone on the planning committee had failed to think about the coronation being at the drag strip. The often overheard derisive comments about the location really soured the evening for those poor girls. They didn’t appreciate being called the Drag Queen candidates.
Just as the queen was about to be named, Billy felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Jimbo. Billy turned around and stood up.
“So, Mullet Man, what’s this business about Tammy being a hassle, huh?” Jimbo inquired.
Billy squinted and his face tensed as he looked Jimbo squarely in the eye. “Damn right she’s a hassle, dude. It seems you just don’t satisfy her, so I have to do that for you. The bad thing is, she just keeps nagging me about it. It’s a damn hassle to be taking care of her after you can’t. And she says your Magnum isn’t that much.”
Tina was dismayed. Jimbo was quiet – yet explosive.
Two seconds after Billy dropped his bomb on Jimbo, he was in the air, as Jimbo had picked him up and tossed him. Billy landed on the hood of his beloved Nova. His mullet became entangled in the grille and hood latch.
Jimbo walked away with Tina’s arm around him.
The poorly repaired damage from Billy’s hard landing is still obvious to this day.
Billy landed with a sickening “thud” on the Nova. He groaned and rolled around. Biff walked by and said “I bet that hurt”. People were snickering and pointing at the big ball of hair fused to a Nova. Then Billy got up and jerked his head quite hard. He left a good chunk of mullet blowing around the front of his beloved Nova.
Sprinting like an Olympic athlete, Billy tackled Jimbo as he was walking away. He repeatedly banged Jimbo’s head on the ground while women screamed and men said, “Glad that’s not me.”
Nearly instantaneously the police showed up. As Billy and Jimbo were both on the tiny side, it took only two cans of pepper spray and some strategically aimed night sticks to calm the two unruly young men.
As they were being shoe-horned into the back of an unmarked Caprice, Tina yelled, “Jimbo, don’t worry, I’ll come get you. Don’t worry about that pipsqueak Billy. You are a bigger man than him.”
After the Caprice’s doors had been closed and they were heading out, all Billy could think of was the lyrics to that blasted ABBA song, “You’re a teaser, you turn ’em on, leave them burning and then you’re gone.”
“Some payoff”, Billy thought.
Under presher is one of my favorite Queen songs.
This reminds me of a craft show I went to (with the wife) years ago. One booth had Hillbilly type funny crafts. Like the penny in a beer can tab, being a hillbilly money clip. I was laughing my rear off when the lady manning (yes, manning) the booth started to yell at me.
She raised hell with me, telling me about where she was from, and guys like me either show respect or get their a___es kicked. I tried to explain that I meant no disrespect, that her craft items were funny, etc. I apologized the best I could, and got the heck out of there.
She didn’t need any help. Although I’m 6’3″, she could have easily beat the tar out of me.
Now, Now Dave These are the fine folks that keep Cheap horrible beer makers and tobacco companies that make generic, no brand name cigarettes in business!Not to mention all the money that state lottery scratch tickets bring in
. But, these are the guys that can look at something, and fix it with a basic tool kit. Can rebuild a carburetor, blindfolded, The neighbor that will get your car running for a 6 pack, and maybe $20. Will, when something catastrophic in their town, like a house fire happens, would give the victims the shirt off their back to help the family, get back on their feet. No questions asked, no thought of race, or religion. I’ve seen it happen here in Kentucky. These are the guys that know what to do if the septic tank overflows. Or how to rewire an old house, (permits? we don’t need no stinkin’ permits!) They know how to hunt for food, and dress out a deer for feeding their family all winter. Ok , Bad taste in haircuts sometimes. And some real idiots out there. Just like in every level of society But for the most part, just as the country songs say, Just “good ‘ol boys, never meaning no harm”
Weirdly funny story, true or false…
That has to be the single most awful excuse of a mullet I have ever laid an eye on! Whew!
The Nova? When I was looking around for my very first new vehicle purchase in fall, 1975, the Nova was a contender – you could get flip-out rear side glass as an option! I was interested…
Instead, even though I met who would become in two short years my wife, we weren’t dating yet, and I spent my weekends with the boys at my friend’s cabin in the woods outside Williamsburg, MO hunting, hiking and shooting the place up – more firearms than guys. More than a car was needed, as we all had Jeeps and my C-101 had seen better days, so I made my ill-fated Chevy truck purchase. The rest is history – shoulda kept the Jeep…
We sure had fun out at that place for many years thereafter – wifey allowed me several weekends a year!
Thanks for that! Very funny. I miss the Midwest of the past, or is it still like that?
May I assure you that some parts of it are just like that. With meth labs added in.
Paul, I’ve been exposed to this type of stuff for 40 years…but not necessarily participating. Yes, its still going on; Zackman mentions a town that is about 40 minutes from me that is a decent representative.
All fiction does have an element of truth.
I attended college in a small town in Ohio in the mid-80s. I had only lived in an East Coast suburb before that. I had seen the movie American Graffiti and found it to be quaint, never dreaming that people still passed their weekend evenings cruising a local strip.
Turns out I was wrong. Every Friday and Saturday night, Beall Avenue was gridlocked by young locals inching one way up the road, circling around the McDonalds parking lot, and then inching their way back down in opposite direction. I suspect it still is, but I would guess there are more suped-up rice burners and fewer big blocks in the mix. But no matter the country of origin of the vehicles, mullets are surely still a fixture. Mullets are eternal.
Same deal when I lived in Kokomo, Indiana in the mid-1980s: The McDonald’s parking lot was THE PLACE to hang out on Fri/Sat nights, with lots of cruising on the adjacent street. I never did get that (maybe the cheap eats?).
I also remember when the movie Amadeus (about Mozart) came out in 1984. I used to drive by the theater every day on my way to/from work. I think that movie was in town for exactly a week. That says a lot!
That little town is near the Meth Capitol of Ohio, now. I know the town…name starts with a W, right?
I don’t think it’s a Midwestern thing a-tall. It used to be a Southern thing…what it really is, is a drug-and-contraband thing.
Mullets, wasted money on crap cars, stupid underage girlfriends, and police records are all evidence of stupidity and/or chronic intoxication.
Wooster, Ohio, it is. I wonder what it’s like now that Rubbermaid is gone. Lots of good jobs evaporated when Rubbermaid went away.
You’ve got me curious: What’s the epicenter of meth in those parts? Very sad to hear of that taking hold anywhere.
I talked recently to a law enforcement officer in rural eastern Indiana who tells me that heroin is making a comeback and is so inexpensive that it has displaced meth as the drug of choice. He tells me that locals buy it in Dayton and can travel to, buy it, and return for cheaper than they can make the meth. Nasty shit.
I’ve heard Willard, Ohio called that.
If not, then Mansfield. But the whole area is awash in the stuff…Mansfield has street crimes you’d never expect in a little burg like that. Long story that demonstrated it for me…as a railroader, for a time I had to use a Mansfield hotel as the away-from-home lodging point. Hotel got held up regularly…like clockwork.
One evening a couple of rail guys were in the lobby when it was getting a periodic stickup. Guys got pistol-whipped…and that was that with that hotel. We had to ride forty miles to another place after that…
This brought back sweet memories as a 1975 Chevy Nova owner in the 70’s. Just replace Billy with a mullet wearing Asian and Missouri with Maryland, and the parallel universe is just uncanny.
Business in the front, party in the back.
I had the “Richard Marx” style rather than the “Billy Ray.”
While reading this, I couldn’t help but hear the Drive-By Truckers “A Blessing and a Curse” in my head.
That ain’t no Nova, unh-unh. That there’s the ultra-rare, dee-contented, pro-to-type Seville coo-pay! My cousin DaRew told me that. Uh-huh.
/in all seriousness, if that thing’s got a clean frame and a dry body, it’s worth LARGE here in The Salt Belt…
These Novas, along with the preceding 1968-74 versions, and any Duster, are the cars most likely to make homeowners call the cops when they see one park in thier neighborhood late at night.
I had a truck just like that (did GM get a special deal on red paint?). Biggest piece of shit I’ve ever owned. It had a wheezy 150hp V8 and an antiquated 3-speed (I think Datsun cribbed the plans for their own automatic transmissions). I couldn’t get it to steer in a straight line for anything, every panel had a dent of some kind, and it wouldn’t pass a smog test because of a bad intake manifold gasket.
It was a shame because my father had owned a 1977 Suburban for years and years that got used for everything from daily transportation to family trips to the beach in Florida. It was still being driven ten years after he sold it… we spotted it at a park on the west side of town some time in the early 1990s.
My brother purchased a 1972 Grand Prix with a beautiful white and blue paint job after high school. Too bad the front frame was rusted out and he had to junk the car less than a year later because he couldn’t afford to have it repaired. He wound up with a 1977 (?) Ford LTD II as a replacement. What a grand old boat that thing was.
My first car was a 1979 Nova hatchback. Same look as the one in the story except it was dark blue. 305, automatic. A/C, AM Radio. Upgraded the radio to a Sanyo Cassette player. Bought it in 1980 with Dads help, it was 10 months old. I remember even with Dad’s good credit, the interest rate from GMAC was 19.15%. I think my payment was something like $105.00 per month.
you are doing better than me. My first car payment c.1980 was 23%!
Great story! Love the Nova body style in this era and can picture a SS Nova clone using this vehicle as a base.
A modern day Bose stereo system has nothing on the old Sparkomatic stereo, Craig 6×9 rear coaxial speakers and front 4 inch coaxials all powered by a Sanyo or Realistic graphic equalizer/power booster!
Exceptional story there Jason, a very well written and thoroughly enjoyable read!
I know this is (quite) old at this point, but I just linked to it from a comment in another article and can’t believe I never added my two cents here…
This is beyond hilarious! I was dying when I first read it and still gave a legit “LOL” my second time through just now. Without a doubt one of the funniest pieces ever contributed to the CC canon and written in the inimitable Jason Schafer style. You must have had some wild imagination when you were a kid, because the force is still very strong. “OK, what can I do with a picture of a beat up Nova and a mullet… hmmm….” and this comes out? That’s a gift, my friend.
Thank you for the music, dancing queen!
Although not as efficient or modern as their FWD X-body replacements, this generation was reliable and easy to fix.
Those generation Novas were gorgeous cars. Would love to find one that still reasonably stock.
Good read and a good laugh on Sunday morning, the’no low ballers I know what I got’ page must have come unglued,
Good base for a project car that Nova some panel and paint and a powertrain transplant and you’d have a reasonable car.
Funny thing about those 75-79 Nova’s (75-79 X cars in general really).
In the 80s and 90s they got ZERO respect as potential hot rods. Even though they were basically 5/8 of a Camaro. I guess the mentality was that they were junk because of the emissions choked engines.
Now? Just like the Collonades values have gone through the roof.
A rolling chassis similar to that blue one would be snapped up at $2000 pretty easily if it was clean (no rot).
I could never quite figure out why the last RWD Nova didn’t catch on with the hotrod set, either. It seemed like a perfect version of the Shoebox Chevy: cheap, small coupe with a V8 that was easy to modify for more speed.
Maybe it was that the Nova looked a little too much like the 4-door, rather like souping-up an old, pre-Duster Valiant 2-door sedan. I thought the styling was fine but maybe it just didn’t have enough pizzaz. Or maybe it was just as easy and cheap to hotrod a Camaro of the same vintage.
Even worse was the Maverick. You never saw a Maverick street rod, even with the exposure from Pro Stocks like Bill ‘Grumpy’ Jenkins car.
Well, on the other hand that meant they were popular amongst the “Billy” crowd, since they were cheap, and since they were built out of the GM parts bin there’s huge aftermarket support making them easy to modify. Seeing cars like the subject car were not uncommon, even a few years ago. Now the value has gone up to the point where a typical example is more resto-mod and less project car (i.e. the paint job is more likely to match). Finding an unmolested example is about impossible now.
An earlier generation had the same type of fellow you make sport of. At a much too early age, they went to war and gave their lives for the future of all Americans, God bless ‘em.
There has been that type of person in every generation and anywhere you want to go there are variations of this.
While I don’t disagree with your statement about veterans, I’m really not sure how it’s relevant to anything I wrote about here.
As a midwestern guy I will always know these Novas as “cars you commit felonies in.” They’re like the ultimate getaway car.
Love the City of St. Louis tax sticker on the windhield. Brings back memories.
When I was a teenager, my Dad bought the “Caprice” version of this car, a 2-door 1977 Chevrolet Concours. Firethorn Red with Red Crushed Velvet Interior. It was the first “right off the showroom” floor car he’d ever purchased. The car was even more Broughamtastic than our LTD. But it had that 305 and was pretty fast by the day’s standards of peak malaise. (Of course ANYTHING would’ve been faster than our smogged out 351-2V powered ‘73 Ford).
This 1979 example, if the grille is any indication, is what replaced the Concours. If memory serves, they called this version a Nova Custom. A girl I was dating around this time had one just like this in the same color.
In case anybody thinks anything has changed – here’s a posting from Billy’s grandson today in the Dallas Craig’s list:
1975 Chevy Nova
I may sell or trade my Nova if you have something I like.
It has a 350 4 bolt main headers, new tires, row bar
runs and drives . The person I got it from said it’s
a race car. transmission and rear end is built.
may sell around 3500 send a picture of what
you have. Email or text.The car is being turned into
a race car no door panels, no carpet, no back seat,
mileage don’t work a different engine.
The car will be worth a lot of money fixed up.
The car is in Indiana but can be delivered for a fee.
(Oh, and yes the car is an automatic).
“The car is in Indiana . . .”
Of course it is.
That (1975-79) generation of Nova seemed to be popular with the AARP crowd when they were new. Especially the 4-door models with the 250 6. The younger folks wanted Camaros and Firebirds.
F bodies were much more prolific and desired, even though one could modify a Nova using police package equipment, and F body parts.
Some even thought that these were FWD, since they were also called X body, duh!!