Real Wheels: 1977 Nova a “Lil Man”

FORT JENNINGS — When James Schaad was 15, he went looking for his first car. He found the 1977 Chevrolet Nova that he still owns today.

“I bought it from a guy in Michigan. He was in the same shape as he was today,” the 26-year-old Fort Jennings man said.

“I put new wheels on it and new seats in it… did some work on the engine. That’s about it,” Schaad said. “It’s been a good vehicle for 11 years. I’m happy.

Schaad’s car is part of the fourth of five generations of the Nova, which has seen many changes over the 20 years of production.

General Motors introduced the Nova in 1962. It was also called the Chevy II Nova at the time, because members of GM’s marketing team insisted that all Chevrolet model names begin with a “C”. It wasn’t until 1969 that the nameplate dropped the Chevy II.

GM’s intention in 1962 was for the Nova to be a compact economy car that would compete with Ford’s popular Falcon, released two years earlier. Nova upped the ante in 1963 when it added the SS package, which included a V8 engine.

But the Nova faced stiff competition, not just from Ford, but within its own ranks. Chevrolet buyers turned to the Chevelle and the Corvair. As a result, Ford’s Falcon outsold the Nova by a 2-to-1 margin.

GM gave the Nova a facelift in 1968. The third generation Nova joined the muscle car ranks by offering a 295 horsepower 350 engine as standard equipment. The muscle only lasted three years, however. Chevrolet came up with a new style for the Nova from 1975 to 1979. The Nova would move out of the pony car world and into the commuter car world, where luxury and comfort reigned.

As part of the fourth generation of the Nova, Schaad’s 1977 model now had cut pile carpeting. Speedometers had larger, easier to read graphics. The windshields offered a larger glazed area. The front door armrests have been redesigned with integrated pull-up bars.

Production of the Nova ended in 1979. A fifth generation returned briefly from 1985 to 1988.

The 1985 Nova was built in a joint venture with Toyota. Using Japanese management systems, it was one of the highest quality cars produced by General Motors at that time, according to MotorTrend.

But the Nova still seemed to be rolling on a bumpy road.

It sold poorly in some years, largely due to the many Chevrolet models in their market segment.

There was also the urban legend that Novas were selling poorly because Nova in Spanish means “it’s wrong”.


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