I have often attributed human-like qualities to cars ever since I first began to identify them by their correct makes and models by sight, starting around age four. For example, when I look straight-on at the front of a car, I see features not unlike those on a human face, as was the case with the furious-looking “1959 Dodgler 300” featured earlier this month. Sculpted fenders and quarter panels can appear analogous to curves or muscles. Flaking paint or clearcoat can have the appearance of dandruff. The rust on this NUMMI-built, Toyota Corolla-based Nova hatchback reminds me of my face around the time I was in middle school.
Sadly, yes – at some point between the end of elementary school and graduation from eighth grade, the surface of my mug had morphed from being baby-smooth to resembling a plate of Jeno’s pizza rolls. It probably didn’t help that, by that point, I had developed an affinity for greasy foods like Jeno’s pizza rolls. My adolescent hormones also probably had something to do with it, but the speed with which my face had transformed with the onset of becoming a teenager shocked even me. Thankfully, some better eating and a doctor’s prescription helped mitigate this situation, and my skin was (mostly) clear and scar-free again by my senior year of high school. No miracle like that was too small, especially for a self-conscious teenager like me.
Getting back to this car, no amount of Doxycycline… ahem, Bondo is going to bring it back to its former glory as an example of probably one of the most reliable, Chevrolet-branded small passenger cars of all time (due in no small part to its Toyota “blood”). At the time of these photographs five years ago, nobody probably cared enough to even try to patch its rust, as long as this Nova still ran, drove, and didn’t come apart on the street.
In contrast to the previous Chevys that had shared its model name, I can’t imagine any of the fifth-generation cars being even mildly collectible, save for perhaps a final-year, ’88 Twin Cam model (3,300 built) in pristine condition. In my mind, anyway, even the very last, RWD X-Body Novas for ’79 – even in four-door form – seem to have a reasonable amount of homegrown, uncomplex lovability that these FWD Novas lack.
These cars were a reasonable sales success for Chevrolet, with close to 168,000 (125,000 notchbacks + 43,000 hatchbacks) sold for extended first-year ’86, with an additional 150,000 total sold for ’87 and 109,000 moved for ’88, which was the last year for this design before being replaced by the Geo Prizm. It’s notable that with prices for the ’86 notchback starting at 8% over a comparable, 4-cylinder base Cavalier four-door ($7,435 vs. $6,888), overall Cavalier sales that year, at about 383,500, more than doubled that of the inaugural, reborn Nova, even in spite of the latter’s four-month head start in the model year.
My parents had purchased a used, silver ’87 Nova notchback in the summer of 1990 as our new “family car”. It had many more-than-average miles on it, but Applegate Chevrolet in Flint, Michigan gave us a good deal. Even having been a former commuter car with moderate wear, it was still a good bet being based on the bulletproof Corolla. This Nova met with wholehearted approval from Ted, our mechanic – a good, trustworthy guy who by that point had probably come to groan (and probably curse) as a knee-jerk reaction to every time he saw our red ’84 Ford Tempo GL pull into the driveway of Autotech in downtown Flint. I later inherited that Tempo as my official “first car”, so I soon came to witness Ted’s muted frustration, firsthand.
When searching for a newer, more reliable family car to replace the Tempo, Mom and Dad had initially looked at a then-new, ’90 Cavalier wagon, and also a very lightly-used, final-year ’89 Plymouth Reliant sedan as candidates for the place in our driveway that our ’87 Nova ultimately won. My younger brother and I rejoiced when our parents returned with the “Silver Bullet” (a nickname bestowed on it with our tongues planted firmly in cheek) instead of either one of those other cars. The bench seats in the Reliant, though they had been used as a(n evil) tool by the salesman at Chinonis Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge to try to convince my mom that the Reliant was a “full-size car!” (a line she almost bought), made the Plymouth seem completely dorky and unacceptable to us kids who were then forecasting ourselves driving it in the future. (I would go on to earn my Learner’s Permit later that summer.)
The Nova was the first car I was allowed to drive, around the small complex of my grandparents’ farm in northwestern Ohio. Our car is pictured above, in front of my grandpa’s grain elevator – which, coincidentally, was the very first grain elevator erected in Henry County, Ohio. I diligently practiced signaling and parallel parking (I’m still a champ at the latter, if I do say so myself), all the while taking full advantage of the cassette deck with a center console bin full of my cassette singles. (Our Tempo had just an AM radio with lousy reception and two dashboard-mounted speakers.) That Nova served us well for about four years, from Michigan’s cold and salt to Florida’s heat, eventually being traded for another silver car – one about as geriatric as the Reliant, albeit nicer: a 1991 Olds Cutlass Ciera with (you guessed it) – bench seats.
When I had seen this example after work about five years ago, it stopped me dead in my tracks. Suddenly, a car at which I wouldn’t have looked twice ten years earlier was the most interesting car I had seen in months. The hatchback version had always seemed rarer than the conventional notchback, with the latter having been introduced as an ’86 model in June of ’85, and with the former following a few months later. My clue as to the likely model year lies in the front grille, with the ’87 and ’88 models having more pronounced, bright horizontal trim on the grille which the earlier cars lacked. All of these Novas (save for the DOHC Twin Cam notchback, which boasted 110-hp) were powered by Toyota’s 1.6L four-cylinder with 74 horses. This mill seemed adequate in our car, though I do remember having to routinely turn off the A/C on expressway entrance ramps.
There always seemed something “anatomically incorrect” about the license plate holder’s position above the taillamp clusters on the hatchback. The only examples of this styling feature that I can think of at this writing that ever seemed to look okay were the 1973 – ’82 GM A-Body wagons and utes. As the saying goes, though, beauty is only skin-deep. Perhaps the beauty of this rusty Nova was that in spite of its dermatological issues and unfortunate rear styling, it was still probably a reliable car as evidenced merely by its existence in 2013 – a distinction which is something few other GM products of that era could claim. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as often as in real-life relationships, sometimes there’s something to be said for dependability over physical attractiveness, or even just clear skin.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, January 12, 2013.
Related reading from Jeff Nelson: Automotive History: 1985 Chevrolet CorNova – Lessons Not Learned.
From a really pedantic standpoint, the Nova was a federalized, mildly reskinned E80 Sprinter rather than a Corolla proper. (By “mildly reskinned,” I mean that the sheet metal is different than the JDM Sprinter of the same body style, although I don’t think a single hardpoint was changed, so they really don’t look very different.) The OHC engine in these was the 4A-C, with the Twin Cam having the DOHC 4A-GE also found in the RWD AE86 Corolla and Sprinter coupes. Carbureted cars were generally reliable but not fast — Car and Driver‘s mechanically identical ’84 Corolla needed more than 13 seconds to hit 60 mph, and that was with only a driver and a lot of aggression.
These cars weren’t at all exciting, but if GM’s X-cars and U.S. J-cars had managed this degree of no-nonsense painless transportation out of the box, history might have played out differently.
Joseph….I hear ya….thats funny.
When I used to look at the rear of the first family car I remember, I always thought it was smiling at me as if it had a face.
Oh, the acne years. (Shudder) But what a great tie-in to this poor, unfortunate car. I can remember when cars looking like this were a common sight. I was amazed that even on our Detroit trip last year, really rusty cars have become a rarity.
I worked with a girl who bought one of these new about 1986 or 87. Your apt phrase anatomically incorrect applied to the entire rear part of the car. That rear quarter window treatment on the hatchback was just unfortunate, turning a moderately attractive little car into a blob.
Suddenly I am hungry for pizza rolls.
I agree, rusty cars are almost a thing of the past. Growing up in the Bronx, there were many rusty cars on my block, my fathers ’65 Impala was rusting by 7 or 8 yrs old. The other day I noticed how many 2-3 yr old cars there are in my work parking lot, I think my ’01 Honda is probably one of the oldest cars there! I guess marginal quality and cash for clunkers have really weeded out the 20-30 yr old cars.
I agree to. My guess is that modern cars have plastic fenders and wheel arch liners.Plastic doesnt rust!. The last British ruster was the Ford Escort. Roll back 40 years and body work fell off good mechanicals within 6 years. Now bad electrics kill cars ..BMW control .MB biodegradable wiring harnesses..
New cars are just sealed, no owner service parts, computers on 4 wheels that after 3 years are worthless like last years I.phone
Note the plastic fender liners on the example.
Yes, building them much, much better these days. 2 Years ago, I owned a 20 year old (1996) Ford Explorer. Here in Kentucky where roads are salted in the winter. It had, after twenty years mind you, a 6 inch spot of rust on one of the fender lips. It was never pampered as far as I know, I was second owner. Met its demise with a substantial deer strike sadly. Hated to see it go. I can’t imagine a 1960 Chevy, for instance, not rusting to dust by 1980. This car pictured is not the worst I have ever seen. Lived in Florida west coast Citrus County many years. Saw a mid 70’s Buick, in 1985, so rusted you could see the door mechanisms on both sides. No outer panels left! The outside of the car was easily 75% rusted through. I couldn’t believe it still drove safely. You could only imagine what the frame looked like!
When I think of these Novas, I’m always reminded of my parents’ friend Dolores. She had a 1986 Nova that she bought new and kept for 10-12 years — she was a very nice person, but couldn’t possibly care less about cars.
Dolores never washed her car. Never. It had been red, but in a few years and faded to some orangey hue, and the poor thing looked three times as old as it really was.
One day in the early 1990s, Dolores visited my parents and they all went out somewhere for several hours, leaving the Nova in our driveway. As a meticulous car owner at the time, I simply couldn’t stand the sight of her car — covered in dirt and virtually blanketed in bird droppings. So I dropped whatever I was doing, and I washed it.
Part of the reason I washed her car was just to see if she’d notice. And as I had anticipated — she never noticed at all. I’ve long figured that many of these cars were owned by people just like Dolores who just wanted affordable, reliable transportation, and didn’t care about anything beyond that. In that way it was the perfect car for such people.
Even though these cars had a decent reputation for reliability, they seem to have disappeared pretty quickly from the roads, more so than the Corolla badged version.
For some reason there are cars that people just don’t want to take care of.
The picture shows why – they rusted, badly. I remember a cousin doing bodywork on his in the early ’90s that was well on the way to being as rusty as this one.
The next generation was far less rust-prone; they must’ve gone back to GM rustproofing processes which were at the time well ahead of Toyota’s. Toyota quickly adopted the NUMMI rustproofing companywide, something GM never quite pulled off how to do.
Agreed. The Prizm successor to the Toynova was a lot less rust prone. But I haven’t seen any of them on the road in years.
I still occasionally see them around these parts.
Thanks for the article. i have always liked these nova’s. ever since i owned a 1975 chevy monza 2+2 and later a 1991 mustang gt, i have been a fan of hatchbacks. and i find the nova to be a great combo of 2 things i like, hatchback and four doors. also the combo of chevy cues and toyota reliability is a win win for me. if i find one in good shape i will probably buy one. i like the looks and simpleness of these cars. that rust pot is probably in car heaven by now:(
“anatomically incorrect” nails that rear hatch. I’ve always thought that was a particularly ugly touch.
You’re right – this model (not just this particular one) will never be a collector’s item. It’s already been used and abused mostly out of existence.
Count me as a dissenter who likes the hatchback in all its awkward geekiness. Hatchbacks and wagons typically are where Toyota lets its hair down a bit; sometimes the results are great (the next generation E90 Sprinter Cielo/Geo Prizm/Corolla Seca, the original xB and Matrix, the literally iconic gen 2 Prius); sometimes less so (this, the redesigned xB and Matrix, gen 4 Prius, Corolla All-Trac, C-HR) but at least the E80 hatch has the conning-tower visibility missing from closed-off later models.
“The hatchback version had always seemed rarer than the conventional notchback,”
That’s odd that the hatch was so rare in your area. It seems like the MD/DC/VA was ground zero for the hatch Nova. I hardly ever saw the notchback one.
As this car is 27 years old as of your stated year the pic was taken, I am going to give the car a pass for the rust. It most likely spent 27 hard winters in the Chicagoland area so it is a survivor
I live in the rustbelt (Iowa) and see cars this rusty on a semi frequent basis. I always shiver thinking how badly rusted the unibody and suspension parts (as well as the suspension mounting hardpoints) are. This is like riding on tires that have the cords exposed. Scary. In a crash, the rusty body won’t protect the occupants.
Perhaps the greatest immediate risk, is exhaust gas (carbon monoxide) entering the passenger compartment.
You also have to wonder about the condition of the brake lines. A panic stop could be a sporting proposition.
I tried to buy one of these in 1986. I knew about NUMMI and that the car was a Toyota for all intents and purposes wearing a bow tie. The logic was simple – Toyotas were selling for a premium and Chevys were being discounted by thousands of dollars. I didn’t expect a discount from Chevy, but figured that buying it for list would be better than being forced to take paint protection, pinstripes, serial-number etched glass, and any other mop n’ glow a Toyota dealer could dream up.
So I walked into a Chevy dealership, and allowed myself to be lassoed by a old sports-coated salesman. I told him I wanted to see a Nova. We walked through the cars in the lot until he stopped at a…. Chevy Celebrity. I asked him why we’d stopped and he began to wax lyrically about what a great price he could give me on a Celebrity. I stopped him short and told him I only wanted to see a Nova. He said,
“Son, I just don’t have any room to move on those Nova’s.”
So I just walked away and never got to see the Nova.
I often wonder how common this scenario was for Nova buyers. Apparently there just wasn’t as much profit for a salesman in a Nova, so they pushed buyers to other vehicles. What would sales have been like if Chevy had actually tried to sell them?
Probably very common. The main problem was likely that by the mid-eighties, anyone walking into a Chevy dealership for a subcompact was shopping on price, alone. There were no big ‘price on the hood’ rebates or incentives on Novas; the most they were discounted were a couple hundred dollars. Even if a salesman had approached the situation properly by telling potential customers that it wasn’t an expensive Cavalier, but a cheaper Toyota Corolla, I don’t see the uninformed rabble that was a typical Chevy customer by then, caring.
The NUMMI Nova might have been 8% more expensive than a Cavalier, but the wise shopper understood that, as Ate Up With Motor pointed out earlier, that 8% premium would pay off in the long run with the same sort of no-nonsense, painless transportation that was paying off so handsomely for Toyota. If you wanted the best bang-for-your-buck value in a car at the time, NUMMI was the way to go.
I’d go so far as to classify the NUMMI cars, in whatever brand or model, as the equivalent of a plug-and-play sixties’ slant-six Valiant, and it was a real shame when the last NUMMI Pontiac Vibe rolled off the line.
The other problem was that while this one was fabulous, other captive imports were not as good. Both before and after the GEO name came out there was a collection of Suzuki and Isuzu vehicles to go along with this sole Toyota. Those not into cars did not have a simple way to distinguish the great Japanese Chevy from the merely OK Japanese Chevy. Also I think folks predisposed to buy their cars from a Chevrolet dealer wanted a real ‘Murcan Chevrolet. As you note, they could get more car for fewer dollars a month and that was what made a lot of sales. And those Chevy salesmen were the last ones on earth to push how one car in the showroom was better than the others because it was really a Toyota.
Good point about there being Toyota-Chevys, Suzuki-Chevys, and Isuzu-Chevys. Talk about a difference in quality. Some of those Suzuki-Chevys (Aveo) have a reputation as being among the worst recent cars sold. They were very cheap to buy, but also cheaply engineered and built, and another great example of you get what you pay for.
But, really, the biggest problem was the very low profit margin on the Cornova. Since there wasn’t much money to be made, salesmen just weren’t interested in wasting their time on them when they could make a lot more on a domestic-built model. They couldn’t even push Novas as a loss-leader since other models undercut the price.
The only way they sold Novas, at all, were to the cognoscenti who knew exactly what they wanted, and why. The smart guys knew that they’d get their money’s worth, even if it cost them just a bit more.
I Thought Chevy Aveo Is Rebadged Daewoo Matis,But I Could Be Wrong On That.
Indeed, the Aveo was a rebadged Daewoo. The Suzuki-Chevys (and Suzuki vehicles, in general) weren’t that bad.
As a fellow who went from a Slant Six to the ’88 Nova hatch just like this, you got that right.
The 5 speed manual, especially, got me into the Nova. And wow, could you cram a lot of stuff into it for its length.
My parents got a good deal on their Nova only because of its high miles. IIRC, they looked long and hard for one of these Novas, still being very much about buying an American-branded car at that time.
People in the Flint area were very GM-loyal, and they also knew these cars were super-reliable.
Sigh – clueless salesmen are still around. My wife encountered one late last year. She’d done the research and expressed interest in a Mazda CX5 (we needed the space), and Clueless tried to sell her a top-of-the-range CX3 for a similar price. Might meet his needs, but not the customer’s. An insultingly low trade-in was the last straw, so she walked out. No Mazda.
When will these idiots learn?
FWD Nova [and other small cars] were for some dealers ‘bait and switch’ products. “For a little more, we can put you in a bigger, comfy car.”
Local Chicago dealers pushed Novas, but made up for any lower profits in the F&I department.
Great find and great pictures! I haven’t seen one of these for years!
That first picture is Facebook cover photo-worthy, should you want a rusty Nova to be it 🙂
Sold my sis-in-law one of these in ’86. She kept it 14 years and almost 200K miles before it gave up the ghost. In the PacNW, rust wasn’t the issue, she just wore it out.
*I don’t know how many realize this, but salesmen (and managers) were paid on unit PROFIT per transaction, not total dollars transacted or number of units sold. Of course, there were volume bonuses, but the bulk of the income came from profit. Translation- high markup cars, trucks, and USED CARS were the units that paid the bills. That explains, in a large part, the lack of enthusiasm in domestic dealerships showrooms for the compacts/sub-compacts during the malaise era.
Imports, on the other hand (thinking Toyota & Honda specifically, since I had experience with them), paid dealers back end volume bonuses for hitting sales goals, and occasionally bonused sales people for volume or sales of slower selling models. Completely different approach, and I’d argue highly effective.
Excellent article as always Joseph. And a great comparison to acne. I remember high school classmates in the 80s routinely being faced with the dilemma of whether to use Accutane or not. It was a new powerful treatment for acne at the time, that also came with a host of risky side effects.
These five door hatchback Novas/Corollas always reminded me of the five door hatchback VW Passat released in 1981. The five door hatchback version was not part of the VW Quantum lineup sold in the US.
I had forgotten that we never got the five-door Quantum here in the US. However, the three-door that was available didn’t look that much better.
I do not remember, in all my years upon this earth, ever seeing a 3-door Quantum in the metal. It was quite a shock to find out, via the interwebs, that they did in fact exist.
It’s not like Quantum sedans and wagons were super-common, but the hatch? Nope.
I *have* however seen what might be the only Quantum ute in existence, though I doubt it left Wolfsburg that way:
Great that you captured it for posterity (or something). I wonder how long it survived before the rear floor rusted out and the side panels gave way?
While I realize that the comments here reflect a different generation, I find it interesting that when these were introduced that the hatchback was the bigger seller and by a large margin. (Do you suppose the Chevette, being a hatchback only, “softened up” potential customers to the styling?)
I actually like the styling of these hatchbacks, even the license plate “treatment” as I find it to be nicely different. The follow on Geo Prism looked even better, I considered both models to be somewhat Citroen-like.
Dan, it’s actually the other way around – for ’86, the hatchback sold about a third as many as the notchback. By ’88, I think the ratio was something like 4:1.
Like you, I also liked the Geo Prizm hatchback that followed. I think my main issue with the slope and look of this Nova hatchback is that, like the Pontiac Aztek, it looks a little like a garbage truck in profile – especially with the shape of that rear quarter window.
“like a garbage truck in profile”
Joe, you have solved the mystery. The rear of this car never looked right but I could never describe quite why. That’s it!
It’s even parked next to a dumpster!
Last year I bought all original 1976 Pontiac Ventura (based on Nova Rwd X body) has 121 miles Yes that’s 121 original miles Not typo!! It was in storage since new. 260 V8 PS, PB, Factory AM radio, manual windows its light blue exterior with blue interior. Compared to this later generation I take earlier rwd X body over these anyday.
Later I was v surprised my 76 Ventura featured in article in Honniverse!! here is it http://hooniverse.com/2015/02/01/weekend-edition-quick-hit-a-minty-fresh-1976-pontiac-ventura-coupe-with-only-120-miles-on-the-odometer
Man,I Have Never seen a Car Rust Like That(YAZD Is So Dry,Maybe In Port City By The Gulf). There’s 1999 Chevy PrizmDriving Around Down Here Which Had Been Brought Back By A University student Who Just Finished His Study At UCLA.Probably The Only one In Iran.
Me neither. In my country the police would put a car off the road long before it reached this condition. My old Cortina – in perfect condition – would often be pulled over for inspection.
We have no inspections other than emissions in Illinois, and then only in eight counties (including Cook, where this car seems to reside). As long as it passes emissions, no one seems to care.
Most ’85-87 Nova-ollas looked like this by mid 90’s, unfortunately, in me and Joe’s area. But they started and ran.
Sigh, the CorNova or the Toylet, depending on how you feel about it. This car proved that even if Chevrolet had a Great car, no import intender would enter a Chevrolet dealer to buy it, even at a steep discount compared with the Corolla. Perhaps Chevy dealers were less willing to sell a Nova than a Cavalier, but they do like to sell cars, of any sort, and I am unwilling to believe that a Chevrolet dealership experience was substantially worse than a Toyota dealership experience in the ’80’s. The Chevy dealer experience may have been white vinyl shoed hucksters, but they did have to compete to sell the car. Toyota dealers’ attitudes were basically, YOU are competing to buy OUR car, and we can get whatever we want for it.
Consumer Reports begged its readers to buy this car, stating often that it was a lower priced Corolla, although their reliability data oddly showed some differences. This didn’t work.
This car probably ended up being more ammunition for the “build Saturn” arguments, which actually- – – Saturn did the good job of attracting customers who wouldn’t have other set foot in a GM dealership and the Saturns were high quality, compared with the awful Cavalier. Saturn just wasn’t profitable and rather than the Saturn revolution extending to all of GM, it got swallowed and destroyed.
The utility of the hatchback was impressive and from what I recall, Corolla did OFFER a hatch but they were rarer as a Corolla than a Nova. What quality! Perhaps it did rust, but it lasted over 30 years!
These Novas were high on my list as used cars in the early 1990s, but it just never happened. EVERYBODY seemed to be in on the fact that these were a way to get into a Toyota on the cheap. And so the used prices were anything but cheap, often as much as any equivalent Corolla – which defeated the purpose. And so, unlike the author, I DID end up with a K-car, bench seat and all.
This reminds me how lucky I was during puberty, my voice changed overnight and the acne I had was very minimal. The Nova reminds me of a few friends who were not so fortunate. Though, I don’t know if these were really worse rusters as anything else of the era, or if they were simply so were unkillable mechanically that they endured years and years of additional harsh winters. I mean I still see the odd 80s Nova and Toyota in beater duty to this date.
I remember them pretty well during my childhood, but oddly I don’t recall the hatches being any less common than the 4 door, in fact they actually seemed more prevalent to me, but I did regularly ride in one to school, so maybe that’s why it’s so familiar. I can’t say I ever liked them, I could even trace my lifelong distaste for both GM and Toyota to them, both for being a beacon of GM’s enormous fall, to the point they needed help from a competitor to figure out the problem, and even more so the propensity to blatatantly badge engineer cars, and Toyota’s tendency to be oblivious or even contemptuous towards aesthetics on their mainstream family car offerings. Doesn’t at all help that I grew up at the time when 60s and early 70s Novas became universally known as Muscle cars, so I ignorantly thought of it as name debasement, and those old beliefs die hard.
Most RWD Novas had I6’s or low HP 2 barrel carbed V8’s, hardly “muscle cars”. Some even had the 2 speed Powerglide.
Not all RWD cars before ’73 were ‘muscle cars’
Everything is collectible. I love this as most every car!
That’s not acne, its full-blown leprosy!
Reminds me of a bumper sticker that was common back in the ’80s when these cars were new: “What the hell, it runs!” I actually saw one of its Corolla sedan siblings yesterday that was in much better shape. Haven’t seen an EE80 liftback for a while now, as the sedans were much more popular.
But one thing about Corollas, people run them til they break in half. And then use duct tape to piece back together, jk 😉
What’s great about this is that I have seen duct tape the color of this Nova! The owners didn’t even bother with that, but I suppose that even duct tape would have a hard time adhering to the rusty, surrounding areas. 🙂
Any car is collectible after 20+ years, in my mind. If you don’t see it anymore, and it’s in good shape, the curiosity factor makes it collectible. I own a 79 Cordoba, and people honk and ask me about it all the time. Not a collector car by any sense. But, when I go to a car show, I stand out against all of the GTOs and Mustangs that surround me.
I know that’s not my first car because someone before me drilled the license plate into the front bumper rather than the rusted out license plate holder below the bumper. Mine was an 86 but I repainted the trim around the rear windows on the sides to look like an 88. There was nothing good about the car and certainly not the bulging back end. There was nothing wrong with it either. It served me well from 1996-2000 and I decided I wanted something much more modern looking with much less rust.
It is now 2021 and I have and still drive frequently a 1988 Chevrolet Nova! Notchback sedan. I may have wavered on the purchase in 2016 if it had been a hatchback – I wasn’t keen on that look. Found a very faded but low mileage model 1.6 with automatic in the Winter of 2016 for my son to replace the 1988 Dodge Aries 4 door sedan bench seater he had finally closed the coffin lid on after 162,000 miles. The Nova was showing a tick above 59,000 miles! It needed brakes and tires, exhaust and I discovered on the way home a master cylinder. Its now approaching 83,000 miles and the rust has been a constant battle. I even replaced a front fender last year to pass inspection. I think I have since replaced the tires, a wheel bearing, radiator hose and the brake lines which suffered similar rot through. But not much else in maintenance other that regular oil changes and 91 octane zero ethanol gas to keep it reliable and roadworthy. I’ve loaned the car long term to friends who were without for weeks or months at a time. I may eventually give it to a nephew when he starts driving next year. Its weirdly secure in the snow due to light weight, narrow tires, low torque and just inability to get to speed quickly even on dry pavements. I’ve known 2 other NUMMI Nova models from friends or family – both exceeded 300,000 miles before the body rot took them off the road – but those motors just kept running. A guy stopped me once to tell me he junked his at 425,000 miles and having driven it over 4000 miles one winter with no radiator or coolant! That 4A LC engine is about one of the most reliable powerplants ever – too bad the car bodies did not live longer. If I had a time machine I’d buy a small fleet of these with 5 speed manuals and make sure they got yearly rustproofing. I’ll bet every last one of them would still be daily drivers.