By on June 17, 2015

06 - 1976 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

I see many Corolla-based, NUMMI-built Novas in my junkyard travels, but the earlier rear-wheel-drive X-body Nova has become a fairly rare sight in self-service wrecking yards during the last decade or so. Other than a handful of factory-performance versions, 1970s Novas were disposable, cheap transportation appliances, and so the ones that haven’t been crushed by now tend to be nicely restored and/or drag racers. Still, I find a few; we’ve seen this ’77 two-door, this rare ’73 hatchback, this ’79 Oldsmobile Omega (one of GM’s many adventures in X-body badge engineering), and this ’78 Cadillac Seville Elegante (one of GM’s many adventures in Cadillac brand dilution) so far, and now we’ve got this ’76 in California. (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2015

10 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor reasons that trolly shouters on both extremes of the American politico-socio-automotive spectrum know to be the truth, the exact same workers at the Fremont Assembly plant who couldn’t hammer together a decent-quality Buick Regal or GMC C/K— no matter how many Mickey’s Big Mouths they guzzled in some South Hayward parking lot before their shifts— suddenly became capable of building rebadged Corollas that were every bit as good as the ones made by their Japanese counterparts, once the plant became NUMMI (nowadays they build Teslas there). Of course, each of you knows that this is due to (insert damning indictment of those dupes who believe Wrong Things here) with a touch of (insert bilious tirade that sounds the alarm about Some Evil Conspiracy here), and to provide ammunition for your arguments I present this 1988 Chevrolet-badged AE82 Toyota Sprinter aka Corolla. (Read More…)

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. (Read More…)

By on September 29, 2014

18 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinAs Aaron Severson explains in great detail in his excellent Ate Up With Motor piece, the 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville (which was essentially a Chevy Nova under the skin), accelerated the long decline of the Cadillac Division that continued with the Cavalier-based Cimarron and didn’t really turn around until Cadillac started building trucks for rappers and warlords in the 1990s. Having driven a $50 1976 Nova many thousands of miles, I can assume that ’78 Seville ownership was very similar, though with a plusher interior and (slightly) more engine power. Here’s a brown-on-gold-on-brown-on-yellow-on-ochre-on-umber-on-brown-on-beige-on-copper example that I spotted a few weeks ago in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on July 15, 2014

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The students at Los Angeles’ Norwalk High School learned about the 1978 Mark Hamill movie “Corvette Summer” in the worst possible way this week when the 1969 Nova that they spent seven years working on was stolen from its parking spot in front of their teacher’s house at around 3 AM Monday morning.

(Read More…)

By on November 10, 2013
Photo courtesy of curbsideclassic.com

Photo courtesy of curbsideclassic.com

My 1974 Nova was as utilitarian as they come. It was a low optioned base model with a 250 CID inline six mounting a one barrel carb and backed by a three speed manual with a column mounted shift lever. It had so few options that on the inside it had a rubber floors, vinyl seats and a pegboard for a headliner. Outside there was no decoration, nary a pinstripe nor so much as a strip of trim to protect the car’s flanks from door dings. It was a plain, gutless, spiritless little car that inspired no passion or love from anyone other than the 17 year old boy who owned it. To me it was, and still is, one of the greatest cars ever built. (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2012

The fifth-gen Chevy Nova was built at California’s NUMMI plant for the 1985 through 1988 model years, prior to becoming the Geo and then the Chevrolet Prizm. The Nova was really a rebadged AE82 Corolla, and so most of them managed to survive into the turn of the 21st century. By now, however, a NUMMI Nova is a rare sight; we saw a trustifarian ’87 hatchback in California last winter, and now this well-preserved sedan has appeared in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on February 22, 2012

When the GM Fremont Assembly plant took on Toyota managers and became NUMMI in 1984, the same supposedly inept lineworkers who hammered together sub-par Buick Apollos suddenly started building Corollas that were at least as well-made as the ones made by their Japanese counterparts (you are free to draw your own conclusions about GM management in the 1980s). The initial round of GM-badged Corollas were given the Chevrolet Nova name, prior to becoming the Geo Prizm; you still see Prizms around, but the 80s Nova has become a rare sight on the streets and in the junkyards. Here’s a Nova I spotted in an Oakland, California, self-serve yard earlier in the month. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2011


Remember the early Nova hatchbacks? They didn’t sell very well, probably because the hatch cost $150 more ($810 in 2011 dollars) than the Nova coupe with a traditional trunk. I can’t remember the last time I saw one, and I wouldn’t have noticed this one in my local self-service yard, had it not been for the sharp eyes of the Tetanus Neon LeMons team co-captains, visiting Denver from Houston and stopping at the junkyard on their way to the airport for some Neon throttle-body shopping. (Read More…)

By on June 24, 2011


The folks in Dearborn spent many decades making Mercuries that were just slightly flashier Fords, and so the car-shopping public had no problem with a Comet that was obviously a Falcon (or Maverick), or a Marquis that was obviously an LTD (or Granada). Not so with GM, whose divisions mostly did a pretty good job of building cars that camouflaged their connections to corporate siblings… that is, until the Malaise Era. By the time Carter was President, you could buy a Chevy Nova with Buick, Pontiac, or Oldsmobile badging. I found this example of the Olds Nova at a Denver wrecking yard yesterday. (Read More…)

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