By on March 9, 2013

The forest green 1969 Nova sat unwashed and unloved at the side of the modest house. I studied it from the side of the road with the eye of an experienced hunter and I recognized the signs. Shunted off to the side while two more modern cars sat in the driveway, it was obvious that the old Nova had already passed that threshold of usefulness and begun the descent into eventual abandonment. The grass beneath the car, just a cutting or two taller than the rest of the yard, told me how recently that had been – just a few weeks. There was a chance then, that the car had not sat long enough to totally degrade. Perhaps, I thought, there was still some value to be had.

It was a 2 door coupe, a style I liked, and my practiced eye identified optional wheel covers and matching trim pieces covering the rocker panels. The vinyl top and bright trim on the rain gutters told me this car had been fully loaded when it was new, but the absence of badges next to the front marker lights made it unlikely it was a performance model. Still it looked good sitting there and there might be a chance to have some fun and make a buck. I pulled into the driveway and headed for the door of the house.

The man who answered was friendly enough when I asked about the car and together we walked into the yard to take a closer look. Up close the Nova looked dirtier than it had from the street and I could see the paint just beginning to bubble in all the usual places. Still, overall, it looked good. The smell of “old Chevrolet” assailed my senses as I opened the door and I found myself looking at well-worn bench seat and a column shift automatic. The headliner was good and the back seat nice, but the floor behind the driver’s seat showed some signs of rust. Under the hood I found an oil stained 250 cubic-inch inline six cylinder that fired right up with minimal effort and idled noisily through an exhaust with a missing muffler.

My conversation with the owner was brief. He wanted the car gone but didn’t know how much to ask. I low balled him with an offer of $50 and he countered with “Any car that runs is worth $100.” In the end, we settled for what I had in my wallet, $85. That evening I came back with my best friend Rick and together we convoyed back to my house.

The next day I took good look at my purchase. Unlike my buddy Tim, I wasn’t in the parts business, which was good because from his perspective the old car would have been a losing proposition. The six cylinder engine ran OK and the transmission shifted fine, but these were parts no one would want. The body, already in the first stages of rust, would bring no real money either. Arguably the best bits, the high option trim pieces, would interest only a collector in the midst of a major restoration project and I knew of no such person so there was no money there either. My plan. however, was to have some fun and then eventually resell the car and for that purpose, the car was perfect.

My first step was a thorough cleaning of the interior, something that netted me about $7 in loose change. Next, I took a closer look at the floor behind the driver’s seat and found that the rust had fully penetrated the floor pan. The holes were not big and I, knowing nothing about rust and structural integrity, solved the problem by covering the area with a couple of rubber floor mats. Under the hood, I cleaned the oil stained engine with a liberal application of engine degreaser and water and, while I had the hose out, I washed the car. I followed it up with some wax and the result was good.

I next turned my attention to the exhaust system. With a hacksaw, I removed three or four inches of the damaged exhaust and clamped a purple, Thrush brand glass pack, complete with a cartoon woodpecker smoking a cigar painted on its side, onto the end of the pipe. I finished by hanging the entire contraption up with some plumber’s tape and called it good. The result was a monotonous, undignified, droning exhaust note, but I thought it looked awesome – never mind the fact that no one could see it.

Thrush Muffler mascot

My exhaust work made the car sound like a pickup truck from the 1950s and there were other things that reminded me just how old and out of date the little Nova really was, too. On the street its power steering gave zero feedback and the car’s worn suspension made it jangle over bumps and wallow in the curves. The six cylinder engine made modest power but, thanks to the automatic transmission, very little of what it produced actually reached the rear wheels. The car was painfully slow. Still, I was young and, even though I had a much nicer car at my disposal, I thought the car was great fun. I spent a happy summer cruising around the back roads with all the windows down and music blasting from the tinny AM radio.

Towards the end of summer, my best friend Rick approached me and asked if I wanted to sell the old car. His current ride, a 1969 Charger, was too fragile and expensive to be used as a daily driver and with Fall coming he needed something more mundane to carry him around. The Nova was dull and unremarkable but it made up for those faults by being as reliable as a stone axe. It was perfect for him and sold it to him $350, a bargain for him and a nice profit for myself as well.

Rick was rough on things and from the minute he got it, the old Nova was driven hard. The car’s accelerator was always mashed flat under his foot and the little engine struggled to keep up with the demands he placed upon it. At higher speeds, the car’s old suspension was prone to bottoming out on the hilly back roads and the muffler I had spent so many minutes installing soon broke off and flew into the woods after striking the ground one too many times. I imagine it still looks great there embedded in the earth or stuffed under a log.

Another time on a trip to the drive in, another of our buddies named Marvin, who had been consigned to the back seat, discovered the holes in the floor. In protest of being denied the coveted shotgun position up front, Marvin rolled up one of the rubber floor mats and shoved it through the hole where it dragged on the road until it caught fire. It was fully aflame when he pulled it back into the car and the black oily smoke-filled the cabin. In a panic, Marvin stuffed the burning mess back through the floor where it flew off behind us into the night.

Despite all the shenanigans, Rick wasn’t at fault when the accident happened. The car that ran the red light had almost cleared the intersection when Rick entered it. The resulting collision twisted the front of the Nova up at an odd angle and destroyed the driver’s side fender, hood and front bumper. The guy who caused the accident tried to claim that Rick had rabbit started, but when Rick told the police the old car only had a six cylinder, they had laughed at the notion and had written the other guy a ticket. For once, being slow paid off.

Rick had the old car towed home and hunkered like a wounded animal in his mother’s driveway for the better part of a week until the offending party came to make amends. Rather than make an expensive insurance claim, the man offered to buy the car outright. There wasn’t much haggling, Rick gave him the option of buying the wreck for $1500 or going to court. The payment was in cash and the car was taken away. We never saw it again.

Looking back now I realize it was an ignoble ending for the little car, but it was, perhaps, better than the fate that would have awaited it had I left it unwashed and unloved beside the house where I first found it. At the very least, it had one last summer in the sun and one final chance to finish its days in the fast lane. It remains there in my mind today, droning steadily along on some sunny afternoon, on its way to some new adventure.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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61 Comments on “One last summer in the sun: The final days of a Chevy Nova...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The 60s-70s version of a “disposable appliance” of a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Maintainer

      They were all considered “appliances” some one point.
      I’d rather have “Reliable as a Stone Axe” than exciting.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Great hot roding material. The Nova’s ”appliance” status still makes them a reasonable buy and being fairly popular while using similar pieces to their 1st Gen Camaro siblings provides plenty of aftermarket support..

      Maybe one of these days I’ll scratch that tunnel rammed LS7 Nova off of my bucket list.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Hmmm… I’ll take the Nova (better still a Buick V6 Apollo) over the X-Body replacement.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    A 60′s big block equipped B body Mopar fragile? That’s hilarious, the Nova would have been the fragile one.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      That “fragile” 1969 Nova came with an optional 396 C.I.- 375 HP big block motor, hardly fragile!

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        The big block chevy was fragile compared to the Mopar. Chrysler used a higher nickel content in their blocks than chevy. The big block Chrysler was also a deep skirted design, making the bottom end more rigid. Chrysler also used beefier rods than chevy. In fact a lowly 318 had beefier rods than a big blcok chevy. Chrysler also used harder cams with wider lobes and bigger lifter diameters than chevy. The chevy big blocks used the same soft cams with narrow lobes and small lifters that the small blocks used, when combined with the heavier valvetrain the big block chevy ate cams even worse than the small block. It wasn’t uncommon to see a big block chevy with a worn out cam with less than 50k on the clock. They were also notorious for breaking valve springs. Chrysler drivelines were also beefier, that’s why so many GM racers used them in their cars.

        • 0 avatar

          This was 1985 and Rick’s Charger was pretty beat down. It had real reliability issues. It was cool as they come, a 383 4 speed car, but its best days were a decade behind it.

          The Nova was a beater, too, but it had the advantage of not being the kind of car that got beat on the minute it left the showroom.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          Must’ve been a 70′s thing? I don’t see many torqueflite/Dana drive trains behind most old Chevys these days. Most of the time if its old school its a turbo 350 or 400 with a Ford 9” and if the car is particularly light then its a powerglide with a 9″.

          • 0 avatar
            Moparman426W

            Raph, it wasn’t the automatics that were swapped out, but the manuals. GM racers that used automatics mainly stuck with beefed powergides or turbo 400′s. Many racers in the lower classes used beefed turbo 350′s. Nowadays hardly anyone uses the TH350 because the 200 and 700 R4 are just as cheap to buy, you can practically get one free, and they don’t cost much more to build, have the advantage of a lower first gear and overdrive, and are stronger than the TH350.
            It was the GM muncie 4 speeds that were commonly swapped out for chrysler 833 4 speeds and the ford top loader because the weaker muncies couldn’t handle the power of the more extremely built engines for very long, not even the M-22 rock crusher.
            The top loader was the most common swap, but the 833 was still very commonly used, and is still used sometimes.
            The GM 10 bolt and 12 bolt rears were swapped for chrysler 8-3/4′s and ford 9 inch pigs for the same reasons the transmissions were swapped. The 9 incher is now by far the most common swap, but some GM racers do still use the 8-3/4 setup.
            A couple of years back there was a 66 Goat featured in Popular Hot Rodding with a built to the hilt stroker poncho under the hood and it had the 8-3/4 pig and 833 trans. The owner was a yonger guy, about in his early-mid 30′s. He said that after blowing 2 muncies and several 12 bolts he discoverd why so many GM racers took the route they did back in the day and decided to do the same.

        • 0 avatar
          rpol35

          Moparman:

          All I can tell you is what I have learned from experience. I have lost track of the number of big-block powered Chevies that I have owned over the years and still have one from 1968 to this day.

          I have never encountered the “worn out” cam syndrome that you reference, and I’m not one to baby my cars, so I cannot factually support your claim that, “It wasn’t uncommon to see a big block chevy with a worn out cam with less than 50k on the clock.” I can’t say that I have ever encountered any unusual problem of any sort with any of the rat motors that I have owned.

          • 0 avatar
            Moparman426W

            If you have never seen a pre roller cam chevy, small or big block with a worn out cam, and you never knew that they had problems wearing out cams then two things are obvious, you were never around many chevies and you don’t know much about engines. The chevy cam wear problem was very well known. Even both books that were out at the time, “how to rebuild your small block chevy” and “how to rebuild your big block chevy” discussed the problem.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            I don’t remember the 427 cams going flat but sure enough , our fleet has over a thousand Chevies with SB 350′s in them and the cams failed in droves ~ as Munincipal vehicles tend to spend 3/4 their service idling , they’d grind flat in about 30,000 miles .

            The fatory Light Truck Parts Book had (IIRC) _7_ different 350 cams so we’d just pick one at random and once we got one that really woke up those old 350′s , we ordered nothing else for the next 10 years until all those 350′s were long gone .

            Over the years I’ve heard it was GM’s fault for not properly hardening the lobes but I also learned to properly break in the cam in a couple minutes as slipper cams need to be ” work hardened ” ~ Once I learned this , I never had another flat cam , ever . any engine .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            Moparman426W

            Wow, can’t recall ever seeing a bad one with only 30k, but I did swap out my fair share of bad cams in small blocks for people. The majority of the ones that I ran across had a flat lobe on the no.1 exhaust valve. A few had about half the lobes worn away, but literally every one that I fixed with only one bad lobe had the no.1 exhaust worn flat. I would normally stick in a mild crane RV grind. That especially helped the low compression smog motors. The first one I ever did was in my brotherinlaw’s 68 C10, it had the 327 2bbl engine, with 64k miles. Once I swapped the cam it ran as smooth as a swiss watch. Seems like most of the others had mileage in the 80′s or so.

          • 0 avatar
            Moparman426W

            I never had the opportunity to work on a big block chevy, but I saw quite a few people swap out bad cams in them with fairly low mileage on them.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Maybe he meant keeping it in parts was too expensive?

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Nice. My old man had a disco era nova with a 250 straight six. That car went 225k before he decided to quit driving it. I briefly owned a 2 door Nova before selling it to my brother. For such a basic car, it sure was a lot of fun.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      That same 250 six was in my brother’s ’76 Chevy C10 pickup. The truck and engine was a legend in reliability. It did crack it’s original head at 150K, but that was it. As it approached 300K the rust was getting pretty serious, so he gave it to a guy in upstate NY who used it on his property for damn near another decade. By the time it was finally scrapped, it probably weighed half of its original weight.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    I have fond memories of the ’68 Nova that I owned in the early ’70s… 307 4 speed with black vinyl bench seat.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I remember renting a 1971 or so brown Nova hatchback once when we flew into Vancouver BC for a weekend. It was a slow car although it was still fairly new with less than 20k miles on it. It’d made so many trips through car washes that the paint was scuffed up on all four corners.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    As an adjunct source of income, I bought and sold cars to my classmates in college. I was the only buy-here, pay-here available to full-time students. The first unit I gambled my entire flooring wad on was a 1973 Nova. V8 with a three-speed on the floor. Had that car not made it to the end of the 18 month contract, my nascent finance company, in my Father’s parlance – “Hip National Bank” , would have never finished school. I will always have a soft spot for those cars.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    I remember that the ’73 or ’74 year (?) had the hatch version that had an option where you could open the hatch, pull some floor extender out and equip the rear with some funky tent-like contraption. Working off memory here…

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    I remember those Thrush mufflers. If I were a Tattoo kind of guy I’d have that bird on my skin.

    Cheers to sending that little Nova out with some dignity.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      That’s not exactly the Thrush muffler bird. It’s actually for Clay Smith cams, but it’s still close enough that it’s not that big of an error (and it was probably a lot easier to find an image of the Clay Smith bird):

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Horsepower

      Mr. Horsepower is also often confused with the “Thrush Bird”, the logo of Thrush, a muffler manufacturer. The differences lie in that the Thrush Bird does not have anything in his mouth whereas Mr. Horsepower has a cigar or a “cigar replacement.” The Thrush Bird’s beak is also curved on the bottom whereas Mr. Horsepower’s is not. Both birds share a rather maniacal demeanor however.

      • 0 avatar

        I could swear I remember the cigar…

        I did find pictures of a bird without the cigar, but thought that the mascot had been made more politically correct in the last couple of decades.

        Either way, the world needs more bad ass mascots like this and a lot less Hello Kitty.

        • 0 avatar
          Piston Slap Yo Momma

          Awesome, you channeled my inner dialog re. Hello Kitty. I know two grown ass men here in Austin in their 40′s who wear that crap. I’d revoke their man cards if I was Ron Swanson.

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          My dad fitted an exhaust to his Dart GT during the 80′s and I can remember the exact logo you put up there. They put them in the chrome shinny tips.

          I was a little kid back then, so I can’t say for sure what was the actual brand. But having Woody Woodpecker in daddy’s car was sure very cool.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I bought a very nice 1972 Nova shortly after I left the air force in August, 1973.

    Mine was also a 250 six. Three-on-the-tree, power steering, AM radio. That was it. Can’t recall if the brakes were power or not. It was that golden brown with off-white vinyl interior. A very nice car – another one I should have kept longer than I did, 1.5 years.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    To think that this was replaced with the awful Citation, what a letdown!

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Looked identical to the 68 coupe I bought in the Navy. Mine had a 230 though. Not a 250. Traded it on a truck so I could carry a bike. Wish I had just bought a trailer instead.

  • avatar

    Thomas,

    My father sends his regards. Growing up, his parents had one of these, in a four-door bodystyle, a four-speed column shift manual and – get this- right hand drive. These were Canadian built for export to British colonies. It was apparently one of the quicker cars on the winding, partially paved roads of Barbados.

  • avatar
    zeg

    This was my first new car. Had the 6 cylinder with a two-speed powerglide transmission. No carpeting, just a rubber floor mat. $1900 out the door. Wooo Hooo!!

  • avatar
    wreath and crest

    I had a 72 with the 350,probably the car I miss the most from my misspent youth. Got it for $550 with 77k , sold it for $300 with 144k.It also had rare buckets with an auto with a floor shifter,which broke off due to being out of adjustment and repeatedly forced,so I used to twist the column to shift/old school shifter lock(quite a conversation piece).Didn’t cost much to fix on the rare occasions that it broke down.It had a/c that was so cold That it gave you a headache.Tim worm was pretty bad in the end like most cars of that era.It was also the car that I made the switch from bias ply to radial tires.Wow,felt like a sports car now.Man,I miss that car.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember switching from bias ply tires to radials in my 74 Nova (also a 6 cyl but a three-on-the-tree car). With the bias ply Sears specials I was running I was pretty good at getting the front end to push wet roads – it was very stable and predictable in a slide.

      The first time I tried whipping the wheel to induce a slide, the car turned right in. Scared the hell out of me.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    Thanks for the story. My early years were a daze of cheap cars bought and sold. Mostly not for profit, just for fun. Old (fifties) Chevrolets, Corvairs, any foreign car. Cars were so simple back then that any kid (me) could get one running well enough to drive. Reading this brings back many happy memories.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The ad for the 1969 model at top was a rarity , as the Torque-drive IIRC was a semi-automatic , like the VW Automatic-stickshift , and at least initially on this generation of Novas was available with the Iron Duke 4 cylinder . Had a buddy who had a 1972 Nova coupe , with rubber floormats and the six , but this being Texas with A.C. Originally it had the Powerglide , but when that went out twice during the warranty period he got G.M. – after prolonged complaining – to replace it with the Turbohydramatic . Remembering going on a trip to New Mexico in it . He sold it at about 100 k miles , at which point the interior was falling apart and allegedly needed a head gasket . Also knew a girl who had a 1974 model Nova coupe with the six and three- speed column shift in maroon with the houndstooth interior , and a roommate had a loaded 1974 Nova hatchback with the 350 Turbo , in the same maroon and the same houndstooth interior . It was maybe 6 months old at the time and I remember being impressed with all the cargo room . We went on a trip somewhere and I was able to sleep very comfortably with the back seat folded down – of course I’m only 5’5″ .

    • 0 avatar

      I had no idea there was such a thing. I picked the ad because the car had the same trim and hub caps as the one I bought. I owned several Novas over the years and thought I knew pretty much everything about them, but I learned a lot thanks to comments like yours. Thanks.

      In the same vein, I read somewhere a long time ago that drag racers used to use something called a “clutch glide” setup – a 2 speed powerglide set up with a clutch for drag racing. They could get the rpms up with the clutch in, dump it when the light turned green and then let the auto make the jump from low to high.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    Thomas, I enjoy your articles.

    This one would have been more fun — to me, anyway — if you’d given a time frame with it. I kept waiting to hear whether this beater was 5, 10, 20, or 30 years old when you bought it… depending on the context, it becomes a different story… after a couple paragraphs, I got it, but it still would have been helpful to know off the bat.

    I’ll be looking forward to your next one. -m

    • 0 avatar

      You might be right, I could have said “16 year old Nova” right off the bat to set the scene. Since my stories jump all over in time, I can see that it might be hard to get a fix on when something happens. From my perspective, it was all just last week…

      Thanks for the compliment, too. I appreciate it.

  • avatar
    Mr. Bill

    My elderly great aunt Jean had a ’70 Nova four door with Torque-Drive. I remember when she got it about 1973 after trading in a ’63 Dodge 330 sedan. This particular Nova was a very ugly dark green with an extremely cheap, basic black interior. At some point, an underdash air conditioner had been added which did nothing to help the car’s forward motion.

    At the time, I remember seeing the words “Torque-Drive” printed on the in-dash mounted transmission gear indicator. I had no idea what Torque-Drive was and obviously, aunt Jean didn’t either as she didn’t ever move the selector as the transmission was designed for in its operation. If I recall correctly, one would put the lever in 1st and then shift to high as the car accelerated. My aunt would just put the selector lever in high and leave it there. Resultingly, the car revved hard and we could hear her accelerating down the road for what seemed an eternity when she left my grandmother’s house to return to her home a couple of miles down the road. The car served her well (she never went very far) in her South Georgia environment for a couple of years before she traded for her last car, a ’76 Dodge Aspen.

    Torque-drive was offered in Camaros as well – as indicated by an example presented on the Curbside Classics forum a month or so ago.

    Mr. Bill
    Hamlet, NC

  • avatar
    86er

    This is like the automotive version of the movie “Stand Up Guys” with the Nova in the starring role.

  • avatar

    wow, just wow.

  • avatar
    The Dark One

    I went to High School with a girl who’s Dad fixed up a Nova like this one for her first car. He replaced the straight 6 with a 350 and moved the shifter from the column to the floor, Put in reupholstered bucket seats, painted it an electric Blue color and replaced the old carpet with blue and black indoor/outdoor Astroturf. He finished it off with a set of stock SS type rims and BFG T/A’s. She traded it in the next year for a brand new 1989 Chevy Beretta.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Nice writeup! The car reminds of the movie “Good Will Hunting” when they give him an old Nova with “some straight %*#&%@^ six” as a gift at the end of the movie.

    As a fun trivia fact, I’ve seen that actual movie car in person once. I used to work for a guy delivering newspapers and once a week I would rent a van to deliver a large amount.

    One day I went to rent the van in Arlington and saw a bunch of strange-looking police cars with incorrect markings at the lot. So I asked the guy at the counter who turned out to be the owner and apparently the rental place was the shop supplying movie cars for movies shot around Boston. After some chatter, he showed me around the back where behind several cars I saw the aforementioned car. Looked just like in the movie – quite beat up but recognizable. :)

    That guy also had some other cool cars (not movie related). I remember a large mid-60s Ford Galaxie sedan and an AMC Pacer with a 4-speed in ok condition.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I had a green 72 in high school, 250 with Powerglide. One Saturday afternoon, me and some friends stopped at the local CVS and purchased a big bag of toy green army men. We scattered them all over the inside and outside of the car. I didn’t realize it at the time but I guess we created an art car. Fun times.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Many years ago someone made a very successful roadracing sedan out of a Nova in Australia. Very primitive by today’s standards but it won races.
    http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSdcvsiqD-1tzmWLDpOOc4NCZosuOI2qQhOUWWVDvcPuWtD_dbsJA

  • avatar
    gslippy

    What a good story. I’m from the same era, but was more of a Ford guy at the time, and I had similar experiences with my Pintos.

  • avatar

    I will always believe that cars, regardless of their sporting intentions or lack thereof, are always happier living their days out on the road rather than sinking into a yard.

    Anthropomorphism? Of course it is. But we are gearheads here, we name our cars and bikes.

  • avatar

    In 1972, after my sister totaled Dad’s ’69 Torino during Thanksgiving break he bought a babyshit-mustard-colored stripped ’73 Nova-six, Powerglide, AM radio and rubber floor. It was a real tractor and a harbinger of the even worse atrocities to come from Detroit.
    My sister totaled it.

    • 0 avatar

      When I look back on the Nova 6 cylinders I owned the adjective that first leaps to my mind is “tractor.” But I tend to think of that as a good thing.

      If I were looking for a Nova today, I would seek out a 6 cylinder three speed manual car just because it is so agricultural.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Last Decade, a friend of mine restored a Nova his dad had when new. Two door, six cylinder, powerglide. It took a few years, but in the end came out pretty good. Re-painted silver, with a black top. They put the full SS kit on it, but left the 6cyl engine in place……. a poser car at first, but a few years later that was replaced too.

    No power brakes, or steering, the 350 that eventually was put under the hood was never really that fast, and the 2spd didn’t do it much justice either. It wallowed about in corners, couldn’t stop for nothing, steer, etc. Looks cool though, and a head turner around town and shows. Compared to other cars of the era, these weren’t really that great. Uni-body, rear leaf springs, etc. Give me a Chevelle of the same time.

  • avatar
    ChevyIIfan

    Great story Thomas. My father and I bought a ’69 Nova, 2 door, 250 straight 6, powerglide, vinyl roof, almost identical to one Thomas described. Got it my freshman year of high school for $2900 intending it to be my first car. It was in much better condition than the one in the story, but we slowly restored it over the next three years (I drove a beater ’80 Malibu). I moved on out of state for college, so my dad finished up the restoration 2 years later and sold it for $8000. I never got to drive it more than a little bit before we started restoring it- I want to get one of similar vintage some time in the near future.

  • avatar

    My Mom had a Nova the whole 5 yrs we lived in the US. I remeber it was brown and I dont remember my parents complaining about it so it was probably very reliable. Also my Dad would have sold it off if it was trouble. By the way, we moved to the US in 1978 so it was a 78 Nova as it was bought brand-new. Don’t if it has much to do with the car mentioned in the article.

    Fun times. My Dad had a corporate car. It was the same car always (at least my eyes). One of those big GM SWs with the rear facing back seat. I always rode there even if it was just me and one of my parents in the car. Had 5 of them in 5 different colors as the company changed the car every year. I specially remember an acqua green one and a dark red one (the interiors I mean) because as a kid, those colors were very appealing.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Thanx Thomas ;

    Well written .

    It’s hard to understand now , how popular these were when new ~ I was very fond of the first generation boxy Chevy II’s (NOVA was a trim upgrade) and had several ’63 SS model Coupes .

    I still like the old tech L6 and my current Shop Truck sports one along with the TH350 slushbox tranny , it’s no ball of fire but when properly tuned (a rare thing indeed) it easily keeps up with modern traffic and returns over 20 MPG’s .

    The 194/230/250 Thinwall L6 engines were pretty durable as long as you changed the oil ~ dirty old oil often acted like grinding compound and wore the cylinders out in 50 ~ 60 K miles , I remember scrapping lots of these cars because the smoked and were not worth a bore job .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      You are correct, Nate. It was due to the low nickel content chevy used in their blocks. That was also why it was common to see the V8′s smoking anywhere between 80-100k if the oil wasn’t changed regularly. The 305/350 were even worse due to the longer stroke. Later engines with fuel injection weren’t too bad due to reduced fuel wash on the cylinders.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Well ;

    Cheap is as cheap does and Chevrolet didn’t make any bones about being ” The Low Price leader ” back then .

    I miss working on those oldies greatly .

    If I have to feed and fix it , it’ll always be a InLine 6 Banger .

    Your insightful and encyclopedic comments are always interesting for me to read .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I appreciate the compliment, you make it worth my time :)

  • avatar
    waltercat

    Thomas,
    Great story – I really enjoy your writing.

    Back in the early-to-mid 70s, I had a summer job in upstate New York servicing pay phones for Ma Bell (remember her?). The summer help was assigned whatever crappy vehicles, cars or light trucks, that were about to be culled from the fleet, and this particular summer, I was assigned a ’68 or so Chevy II, six and Powerglide, and nothing else.

    After the first day or so with this particular vehicle, I started complaining – it was way down on power, it knocked, and it has a pronounced baked-oil smell that seemed to get worse as the day wore on. My managers ridiculed me for criticizing a car that wasn’t up to my fancy-car standards (and I was driving a very shot Peugeot at the time!). But after a few days, one of the managers rode along with me for part of the day to see what the fuss was about.

    And it was a very bad day for the poor old Chevy II. It lost power very dramatically after a half-hour at highway speeds. Then, as we tried to limp it slowly to a phone company garage, we smelled smoke. Then saw flames. And that, as they say, was that.

    The telco mechanic theorized that (1) the thermostat stuck closed, and (2) the temperature idiot light was burned out. Plausible to me, but I guess we’ll never know.

    So any time I see one of the Chevy II/Novas from this era, I always think the same thing… barbecue?

  • avatar
    Vetteman

    Nice story It stirred up my old memories of my first new car a 69 Nova Super Sport 350 automatic . I was still liveing at home and going to college and working part time. I really wanted a SS/RS camaro big block 4 speed car but insurance costs being what they were the best deal I could negotiate with Dad was a Nova with an automatic . I chose a black bench interior with a pretty wild bright metallic green paint that was available that year with Rally wheels . It was a great looking car and it ran really hard with that 300 horse 350 It was a very solid car and handled really well with the heavy duty suspension and the big tires and wheels that came with the SS package . That car was a great value for a little over two grand new .


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