By on November 25, 2014

12 - 1977 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe fourth-generation Chevrolet Nova sold in huge numbers, wasn’t a bad car by the standards of its time, and stayed on the street in significant quantities well into the 1990s. However, the Malaise Era Nova just never gathered much of an enthusiast following compared to its predecessors— if you want to restore a Nova these days, you’ll get a ’64 or ’70, not a ’78— so the few remaining survivors go right to the scrapper when they die. Here’s a very worn-out example that I saw in California last week.


I’m quite familiar with this generation of Nova, having owned a $50 beater as an extra car in the early 1990s.
07 - 1977 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMine had the 250-cubic-inch L6, just like this one. It was slow and plasticky and the ride was nowhere near luxurious, but it worked every time I wanted it to.
19 - 1977 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one had factory air conditioning. Turning on the AC on the highway probably felt similar to hitting the parking brake.
03 - 1977 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomeone grabbed the interior, perhaps for a Seville.

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101 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 Chevrolet Nova Coupe...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Oh, that cheap plasticky dash, how well I remember those. Folks cars are really so much better now

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      No they’re not. You crack your head getting in and then you can’t see out. I loved this generation of Novas, handsomely proportioned.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        You still mad about Honda?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        This generation of Novas had its own problems. I owned a few of these that I had bought used from other GIs, and IIRC steering, handling and brakes were really, really bad.

        But I always managed to sell them to someone looking for a midsize sedan, and always for more than I had paid for them. I never lost money on them, no matter what I put into them.

        For the many who bought them, new or used, they were the answer to a transportation question. And on par with other Americans cars of the time.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Driving a “police spec” 1977 Nova sedan I have to agree with that, but then again it was a pretty old car by the time I drove it.

          I say “police spec” because it had an 85 mph speedometer, seemed more like a plain Nova with a V8 in it.

          Even so, it felt more solid than any 80’s Crown Vic I’ve driven.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            There were several jurisdictions in the US that used the Nova as Police Cruisers.

            I was overseas at the time, in Germany, so I only saw the civilian versions brought overseas by GIs at Uncle Sam’s expense, and then abandoned.

            The V8 was not the only thing different.

            The suspension had firmer springs and shocks,

            a heavier duty cooling system with a tiny radiator oil cooler for the power steering,

            an additional exterior transmission oil cooler,

            the steering was a quicker ratio,

            the wiring harness had a lot more wires in them

            and the driver’s seat was like a Lazy-Boy, oh so comfortable for those long patrols.

            My mom’s brother owned a junk yard outside of Los Angeles and he would often fix me up with pulled parts I could not get while in Germany.

            The military postal system even helped out several of my German cousins who chose to buy Yank tanks from departing GIs.

            BTW, much of the police spec gear in the Nova was the same as that used in the fullsize Police Caprice.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            There were several jurisdictions in the US that used the Nova as Police Cruisers.

            I was overseas at the time, in Germany, so I only saw the civilian versions brought overseas by GIs at Uncle Sam’s expense, and then abandoned.

            The V8 was not the only thing different.

            The suspension had firmer springs and shocks,

            a heavier duty cooling system with a tiny radiator oil cooler for the power steering,

            an additional exterior transmission oil cooler,

            the steering was a quicker ratio,

            the wiring harness had a lot more wires in them

            and the driver’s seat was like a Lazy-Boy, oh so comfortable for those long patrols.

            My mom’s brother owned a junk yard outs1de of Los Angeles and he would often fix me up with pulled parts I could not get while in Germany.

            The military postal system even helped out several of my German cousins who chose to buy Yank tanks from departing GIs.

            BTW, much of the police spec gear in the Nova was the same as that used in the fullsize Police Caprice.

          • 0 avatar

            The 9C1 Nova was a four door Z28, though some say it’s a better handling car than the Camaro because the Nova’s body is stiffer. A 1976 9C1 Nova is on my lottery list.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            @highdesertcat, that’s the thing about GM cars in the era: there were so many interchangeable parts you could perform serious upgrades of their base cars with little trouble. Even ’70s parts would fit Murilee’s ’65 Impala. If you could wrench and knew your way around junk yards, you could build a custom car you couldn’t buy.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          The Nova I drove had a V8 but I couldn’t tell if it was a 350 or 305, it did have posi-trac which was nice.

          @ TTAC None of my comments are showing up, just replies. Am I under a light shadow ban or something?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Ryoku75, thanks for reminding me! I forgot about PosiTrac! Also a standard police spec item.

          • 0 avatar
            its me Dave

            The 9C11 package also had a rear sway bar.

            The entire front subframe was shared with the Camaro, so this platform was a really cheap way to play with bolt on performance stuff from the local Whitlock.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Anytime, I believe the rear axle on the Nova I drove was aftermarket.

          Couldn’t tell ya if the suspension had any sway bars, the brakes were kinda lousy, it certainly didn’t handle like I’d expect an old Camaro to.

          If anything I think I skipped it due to the gas mileage and the custom rear-lift.

          btw ignore my shadow ban comment, my replied are working fine now.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      As if today’s car don’t have loads of cheap hard plastic in and around the dashes. LOL

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That climate control unit is very familiar to me. I am certain they used that identical piece for over ten years.

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    Back in the 80s my best friends Mom had one of these in gold. She is the only person I have met who got a ticket for driving too slow. Also both sides of the car were scraped from her parking in her garage. She would miss almost every time. When My friend got his license he could take this or his sisters Mustang II. We always chose the sisters car, the Nova was so bad.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    My neighbor Matt has an older Nova (it’s either a 73 or 74, I can’t tell the difference) in his garage as a never finished project car. It only looks slightly less rough than this heap, but it does have an interior.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      When my parents got married in 85 my dad had an all black early 70s Nova. My mom slid into the passenger side before they pulled away to their honeymoon… causing a huge scratch on the leather seat with her new ring.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    As a NOVA “enthusiast” (i.e. a person who was flat broke when these things darkened the used car market) I must point out that you have the HVAC panel wrong in one picture. That last photo is from a Ford product. The proper HVAC panel is vertical and pictured in the 2nd and 3rd photos.

    Other than that nice depiction of a steaming nasty little turd. I had a ’79 Omega that I bought for 80 bucks in the early 1990s. I beat it to within an inch of its stupid, slow plasticky life. Rusty and stained, it was a cheap simple thing. I took great pleasure in handling it proper.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    These were handsome cars, IMHO.

    Mainly coupe only. Two more doors and I lose interest on this one.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      The sedan wasn’t too bad looking, but the one I had had a tendency to stall on left-hand turns, and the trunk was incredibly small when carrying a full-size spare. The one I had had a V8 and front disc brakes though, and on the NYS Thruway I managed to get it up to L from time to time… It put me off GM products for 15 years or so though.

      Oh, it also tended to eat alternators, I had to get 3 in the 4 years I had the damned thing.

  • avatar
    lon888

    Hands down, THE worst car my father ever bought was a 77 Nova sedan. It took 3 attempts (the transmission kept failing!) to get it home and we lived only 2 miles from the dealer. When we finally got it home I heard some funny noises when I shut the passenger door. I pushed the button to get in and it fell into the door. Looking in the window we could also see that the dome light fell from the roof and was hanging there by the wires. Its crap like this that busted GM! After that he only bought Japanese cars.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I still encounter a red Nova hatchback of similar vintage in various parking lots around town. The owner once mentioned to me its rarity compared to the trunk equipped models, but even then I knew that was simple code for “nobody wanted these when new.” The latest sighting was 15 years after I first encountered it, and it hasn’t changed much since that first day, being straight but rough around the edges.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Back in the day, I had a number of friends who owned these, they ran the gamut from really nice cars to clunkers. They were reasonably roomy and sturdy for this class of car.

    I would love to have one of these today, to make a warmed up daily driver. Any SBC will fit in that engine bay, and you can use all of the go fast parts from the then-contemporary F-bodies to make it handle and stop better.

    A shame to see a nearly rust-free body crushed to make Chinese refrigerators. (Posted from a snowy, salty upper midwest location…)

  • avatar
    Russycle

    . A buddy of mine has a very low-mileage Buick version he picked up on ebay. It drives and looks OK, but there’s really nothing about these to get excited about. And thanks to the miracle of badge engineering, you could get the exact same car with an Olds or Pontiac grill slapped on front. I think that’s part of the reason these don’t have the cache of earlier models.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      ‘Cause Buick makes it all better.

      ____ billion Chinese can’t be wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Hey, the first-gen Olds Omega was a spiffy car, especially with color-matched Super Stock wheels and the Olds 350.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Bud Lindemann liked him some Oh-meeee-ga. Must have been the cocaine.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          My NOVA crap box was a ’79 Omega coupe. It had the code “G” 305 2-bbl small block Chevy and was light blue with a dark blue vinyl roof. Same exact body, chassis, powertrain as the Nova. I think even the dashboard was the same. Only the steering wheel, seat fabric, and grill, tail lamps and wheels were different. Pontiac apparently took a few minutes to design a different dash for its Phoenix but the Omega and Skylark were pretty much Chevy Nova all the way to the core.

          I’m amazed GM got away with making four models of pretty much the exact same car. Pretty cynical, and we can probably trace the eventual demise of GM to this era and this kind of contempt for their brand-loyal customers.

          Surprised they didn’t slap a Cadillac crest on it and…oh wait. Didn’t we just have a Seville Junkyard Find?

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    In a word, underwhelming.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Finally! A *real* personal luxury coupe gets some attention on TTAC!

    *applauds*

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Aw , too bad .

    I liked these then and now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I grew up riding in a 1975 (I think) coupe. My stepdad inherited it from his mom in about 1985 and that was when he parked what is now known as the Land Ark for the last time.
    The Nova was a not-well-taken-care-of lime green. It was possibly the worst color for a car in the late 80s and early 90s when everything 1970s was horrifically passe. It had a straight 6 like this one, and my stepdad drove it like it was intended, very VERY slowly all the time.
    I don’t recall it ever actually breaking down. I do remember him going through exhausts at an alarming rate and that the back end sagged way down, almost dragging the tail pipe. He had the shocks and springs replaced and it didn’t seem to help. I’m convinced the work was never done.
    The interior was black and white-ish cloth and very worn, even with lower miles. The driver’s seat was torn in several places. I remember being very embarrassed to be seen in it.
    It was eventually sold to a family friend in about 1994 and he was the final owner. I’m convinced it would still be running today if he had taken better care of it.
    Not that I’m nostalgic for it. I was glad to see it go.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My Great Aunt Marge had one of these, though it was the two-door hatchback version. In light blue. It replaced a red Ford Torino – thought that one was cool due to Starski and Hutch. It was replaced in turn by a turd-brown K-car station wagon. So ahead of her time with the brown wagon, my fat Aunt Marge. For the panther lovers around, THAT was replaced by a succession of Crown Bricks.

    Funny the things we remember from our childhood.

  • avatar
    DPerkins

    This generation Nova (and Omega, Ventura, Apollo) have been a staple at circle tracks across North America – in Street Stock, Thunder Car, and other similar classes. They were very cheap for quite a while, easily repaired, and took any manner of small block Chevy for power. They are finally getting hard to find, southern front clips a very pricey even if they can be found. My son raced one for 15+ years, had lots of Friday night fun.

  • avatar
    Roader

    I swear one of the middle-manager types where I worked back in 1977 or so bought a new Nova or Omega or Apollo with a four cylinder engine. It also had a manual trans but I can’t swear that it was a five speed, although that’s what I remember. Memory is a funny thing.

    This was during a gas crisis and everyone was looking for mileage. As I recall he wasn’t happy with his purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      No, there was no 4 cylinder 5spd ever offered in the 4th gen Nova only 6 and 8cyl. 3spd stk or whatever speed auto

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It was probably a Pontiac Phoenix which could be had with the Iron Duke and a 4 speed manual transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Roader

        I’m not vouching for this source that I stumbled upon:

        “For the 1977 Pontiac Ventura, the GM Iron Duke was the base engine (in response to the Arab Oil Embargo) coupled to a Borg-Warner T-50 transmission (it has no relationship to the T-5 found in third-generation GM F-bodies).”

        http://classiccars.wikia.com/wiki/Chevrolet_Nova

        Like I said, my memory might be faulty, but I do remember talking to the co-worker who bought it and who expressed regret in doing so. I thought it was a Nova or one of the rebadged Novas but we’re talking over 35 years ago.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Your memory is good, but the 4 cyl was in the one version you didn’t mention and I didn’t even remember the Phoenix/Ventura, whatever, existed in this platform

          • 0 avatar
            Roader

            Yeah, 90 horsepower:

            http://www.caaarguide.com/id179.html

            In a car that probably weighed 3200lbs. 0-60 in 15 seconds? 1/4 mile times in the low-20s?

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Is there anything an Iron Duke WASN’T slow in?

            Maybe a regular cab S10 with the bed taken off?

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            If you took the bed off it had no traction. Lose-lose situation.

          • 0 avatar
            Mr. K

            Recall the Apollo?

            http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.autominded.net%2Fbrochure%2Fbuick%2FApollo%2525201973%25252001.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fstorm.oldcarmanualproject.com%2Fbuickapollo1973.htm&h=768&w=949&tbnid=8S0E5miVZen5tM%3A&zoom=1&docid=0TT7jAMyTgFmiM&ei=vfN4VNaHEvjbsATt4oKwBg&tbm=isch&client=firefox-a&ved=0CDUQMygCMAI&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=1064&page=1&start=0&ndsp=8

            https://www.google.com/search?q=buick+apollo&client=firefox-a&hs=JLq&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=uPN4VJPDIKuHsQTcyoDoAg&ved=0CB8QsAQ&biw=1024&bih=613#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=vIMYicqohlXp9M%253A%3BVQ5IlRKwOgs0IM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Foldcarbrochures.org%252Fvar%252Falbums%252FNA%252FBuick%252F1973_Buick%252F1973-Buick-Appolo-Brochure%252F1973%252520Buick%252520Apollo-05.jpg%253Fm%253D1374337055%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Foldcarbrochures.org%252FNA%252FBuick%252F1973_Buick%252F1973-Buick-Appolo-Brochure%252F1973-Buick-Apollo-05%3B1498%3B1200

  • avatar

    I have never cared for these cars, they are cheap and nasty, though for some reason my cheap and nasty 77 Chevelle appeals more to me than this 77 Nova.

    GM really had the crap-tastic interiors down pat for the low-spec smaller cars, but decent ones for the midsized and full size cars.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    My first car was a ’78 Nova. How much trouble could a teenage driver get into in a seven-year-old brown 4-door sedan? Plenty, if the above-mentioned sedan is packing a 350 V-8. Malaise era? Sure, but so were the rest of the cars on the road. Put in gear, not touching the gas, it would accelerate to and hold 25 mph, and barely touching the gas it would do 50. Honestly, I spent more time on the brake than the gas.
    By today’s standards, the Nova was a total shitbox. Still, it was mechanically simple enough for a total newbie like me to work on, relatively light, it handled well, and had a V8 and RWD. How many first cars are like that today?
    Ironically, after all his lectures on insurance and speeding tickets, it was my dad who wrecked it.
    I still miss that car.

  • avatar

    To me, these were the most abuser friendly cars ever made, and the perfect Chicago winter beater. I rate them above their cousins the Seville’s because the Nova strikes fear into the souls of Yuppie from blocks away and I love Seville’s too much to hop curbs with them.

  • avatar
    ex-x-fire

    You could build a decent performing car with using all the Z28/trans am parts that swap over.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    While the vitriol this generation Nova receives is not entirely undeserved, remember this was the seventies, a time when it could be easily argued that the Big 3 made some of their most poorly built cars, ever, surpassed by only maybe the 1957 ‘Forward Look’ Chrysler products.

    Taken in that context, the last domestic Nova wasn’t all that bad. And although the styling was kind of ‘meh’ (particularly compared to previous generations), at least the 5mph bumpers were integrated a whole lot better than, say, Ford products which, for all intents and purposes, looked like chromed railroad ties.

  • avatar
    CGHill

    I can testify that you could always feel the A/C compressor recycling, even — maybe especially — with the 305. (We had a ’76, but differences were insignificant.)

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The “bad” cars were Vegas and Pintos, and the FWD X cars, while proven designs lasted longer. All the younger car fans assume “all” 70’s Detroit cars were “bad” since they “heard so”.

    But, same year Accords rusted from the factory. Sure, they started all the time, but quality is subjective.

    But as someone said, these are good race track or street machine cars, not “Barrett-Jackson bars of gold”.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “But, same year Accords rusted from the factory. Sure, they started all the time”

      They still did that all the way up to 1996 or so, they have trusty engine but terrible rust proofing.

      On the other hand I’ll see some once neat Detroit cruisers in the junkyard, usually little rust on them.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Those Accords also had some of the worst automatic transaxles ever, terrible motor mounts that rusted away and head gaskets and timing belt failures were common taking the valves and heads with them of course.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I am surprised at all the negative comments about this generation of Nova. These cars sold in HUGE numbers in Puerto Rico, and were revered for their toughness and longevity. And let me tell you, Puerto Rico is a tough market. Roads are pretty bad, traffic jams are the norm, and buyers here have favored Japanese brands since the mid-1970’s. A lot of people were disappointed when the Nova was discontinued when the Citation came out, and many held on to theirs for as long as they could. You hardly see them now, but they are still remembered as a simple yet hardy car, sort of like the Slant-Six Darts are remembered in the States.

    Incidentally, that old urban legend about the Nova being a sales failure in Hispanic countries because the name sounded like “no va” which means “doesn’t go” is a myth.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      You have to understand that GM is an easy target and often one’s punching bag today whether the cars were good or not. It’s the popular thing to do so many join in.

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    When these first came out in late 74 (1975 model year) I remember they were lauded for their clean “European” styling. Sounds ludicruous now, but remember what came before them, esp. the clunky 73-74 Novas with the big bumpers.

    My Aunt in Winnipeg had a 1978 mid-range 6 cyl two-door, very much like this one. I remember driving it as a teenager on a long visit there during the summer of 1980…Even at the time these were wholly unremarkable cars, although you still see survivors out there, I guess a tribute to the simplicity and basic quality (interiors aside) of these things.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    No, they were fairly horrible cars. Not Chevy Citation horrible, nor Chevy Chevette horrible, but horrible enough. Like most Chevrolets of the era, I have to admit that the Nova had nice, clean styling that has held up surprisingly well. I wonder why the bread and butter line for General Motors could be so nicely styled and so bad in every other conceivable way.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Drove one of the later Novae for a few months (in my mind it was a 1980 but that’s probably too new). White, light brown interior, orange tape stripes, rally wheels, V8. Handsome in its way. I had only ever driven imports, so the ride comfort, quiet, crashworthy-feeling weight, fully finished interior, and functional climate controls were all revelations to me. But: slow for all those cubic inches, clumsy handling, and shockingly profligate at the pump.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    I always assumed these late Novas were basically unchanged mechanically after 1968, but I guess that’s not quite true. Nonetheless, these are essentially 1960s cars, with 1960s problems (heavy, clumsy, slow, bad gas mileage) and virtues (hard to kill, whether through neglect or accidents). When I was growing up in NJ, these cars, and later the Pontiac, Olds, and Buick rebadges, were as ubiquitous as Camrys are today, more so than were Impalas and Malibus or even the proletarian Valiants and Darts.

    One big change was the interior, which as seen here, was cheap, ugly, and charmless. The earlier Novas’ insides were no wonders of workmanship, but at least they had those cool, albeit hard to read, horizontal speedometers and logos and shiny stuff on the doors and dashboard. Also, I imagine at this point more Novas were sold with 4 cylinder engines (a four was also available earlier). Those must have been painful to drive.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    The Nova was a good car for the time. The AC was cold and either the six or the eight could well handle the same GM compressor that Rollers of that epoch used cutting in and out.

    The power steering was … efficient, and while not quite as akin to turning the volume knob on the radio as on the Fords of the era transmitted very little road feel beyond you just went into a pot hole.

    It’s unfair to hold a car from very long ago to today’s standards. The Nove and the Maverick (and the Dart and the Hornet) ran ok, were reliable by the standards of their epoch, and helped speed adaption of Toyota Datsun, and Honda.

    You should be thankful for the car that helped make the (Alti)Camcord of today possible.

  • avatar
    bickel84

    My mom’s first brand new car she ever bought was a ’74 Spirit of America edition Nova. I wish she would have kept it but she traded it in for Chevette before I was born. Ugh…

  • avatar
    Bellerophon

    I think this had the ghastly integral cylinder head. Intake, exhaust and head all one big heavy cast piece, always full of cracks.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      .
      Prolly so ~

      In about 1986 I had 8 ~ 10 1/2 ton Chevy trucks just sitting around The Mayor’s garage after GM ran out of replacement heads and decided to redesign it , that took about a _year_ , we’re not allowed to use non stock parts nor would our Mechanics ever attempt to use an earlier head and manifolds…..

      So many cars & light trucks got scrapped in the late 1980’s because of this awful penny pinching GM clutsterfork .

      -Nate


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