The Truth About Cars » nova http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » nova http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com A Testament To The Urealized Dreams Of My Youth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/a-testament-to-the-urealized-dreams-of-my-youth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/a-testament-to-the-urealized-dreams-of-my-youth/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739513 Nova 1

According to the clock, it would still be more than an hour before the sun slipped over the Western horizon and sank into the Pacific, but from my place behind the wheel of my 74 Nova beneath the leaden November skies and running through the steady drizzle, the dark of night was already beginning to ooze its way up and out of the hidden spaces of the great forest that lined either side of the narrow roadway. Ahead, a single mailbox loomed up and out of the mist and I checked its number against the one I had written on a small scrap of paper some hours earlier. To my satisfaction they matched and I pulled off the pavement and onto a long gravel driveway, my headlights cutting a bright swath through the increasingly murky darkness as I worked my way back into the woods.

At the top of the driveway I emerged into a broad clearing that had been hacked out of the living forest and, at the edge of a wide gravel turnaround, found myself looking at a double-wide trailer with several cars parked out front and a recently constructed metal garage. Dogs barked loudly at my arrival and, in response to their cheerful noise, the porch light flicked on and the door suddenly opened. A grizzled man in his mid-thirties man stepped out and extended his hand as he met me at the bottom of a set of roughly hewn wooden steps that led to the door of is humble abode. “I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it.” He said with a smile.

“It was a little further than I expected.” I answered, straightening up from my typical teen-aged slouch and giving him my firmest handshake. Despite his rough looks, he seemed friendly enough and I felt instantly at ease. Looking around, I noted the different cars in the driveway and but it took another moment of to before I found the reason I had come so far up into the mountains, a forlorn looking Nova parked alongside the metal outbuilding, practically invisible in the growing dusk. Together we crunched our way across the gravel toward the old car and it was only when we drew close that I noticed the silver SS badge at the center of its blacked-out grill.

Taken aback, I paused. The classified ad had only mentioned that the man was parting out an old Nova, I hadn’t expected a super sport. When I had called, he had described the car and told be that it still had its bucket seats, a console and some other interior parts that I needed for another old Nova I was trying to fix up and so I had made the trip but now, faced with a real SS, and one that seemed to be in fairly decent shape, I was at a loss how to proceed. “Wow.” I gasped. “Would you like to just sell me the whole thing?”

The man shook his head. “No,” he answered, “I need the sub frame for a truck I’m building. I’m just parting the Nova out to get back some of the money I spent and once people stop coming I’ll cut off the parts I need and graft it onto my Ford.”

Nova

I was shocked. “You know,” I offered, “This is a pretty nice car on its own, it seems a shame to cut it up for an old truck.” The man replied with a simple shrug but it spoke volumes and I knew then that he would not be swayed from his chosen course of action. I opened the car’s door and found a beautifully preserved black and white interior, just waiting to be taken. “I can use a lot of this stuff,” I said, “But I only have $50.”

“No one else has asked about it,” he answered, “you can have everything you can carry.” It was almost too good to be true so I paid the man and went to work.

It took about an hour, but by the light of a flashlight I removed the door panels, the console and the buckets and then added a few exterior trim pieces, things like chrome rain gutter trim that I bent horrible trying to remove, in an effort to fill every bit of available space before my long return home. When nothing more would fit, I bid the man a happy farewell and headed home. I had done well, but I felt bad. Sure the car wasn’t perfect, but it was still too good to be scrapped.

My $50 had purchased quite a lot but, had been a little older and a little wiser, there are a lot of other parts I would have taken instead. In my rush to get all of the obvious bits I forgot many of the most important parts, things like the mounting plate and linkage to go with my floor mounted shift lever I had taken and all of the interior trim pieces that would have been required to complete my planned interior swap but in the end it doesn’t really matter. The next morning, in the full light of a new day, I realized that the parts I had seemed far too nice for the gutted piece of junk I was trying to repair and instead I chose to put them into the attic of one of my father’s outbuildings where I knew they would be safe while they awaited their eventual installation in the much better car I was so certain that I would eventually purchase. That purchase never happened and so I imagine that they are still there today, some thirty years later, a moldy, forgotten testament to the unrealized dreams of my youth.

Nova

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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American Graffiti – X http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/american-graffiti-x/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/american-graffiti-x/#comments Sun, 15 Dec 2013 12:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=679594 Click here to view the embedded video.

Way back in 1973, a relatively young and inexperienced director by the name of George Lucas made a movie that starred a whole bunch of nobodies. Called “American Graffiti,” it turned out to be the little movie that could. Co-Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz for just $775,000, it went on to become one of the most profitable films of all time, making an estimated $200 million dollars and, in the process, turned several of those “nobodies,” people like Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Summers, and Cindy Williams, into bankable stars. In 1995, the National Library of Congress declared it to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation by adding it to the National Film Registry.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the story by revealing any of the finer points of the plot. Generally speaking, it is the story of teenage angst and antics set amid classic cars and punctuated by great old-time rock and roll music and the action follows several teens on a hot August night in the far away year of 1962 as they cruise their cars around the California town of Modesto in search of action and adventure. The movie hit theaters just as the first wave of the baby boom generation, people born between 1946 and 64, began to close-in on the ripe old age of 30 and to see it now is to look back upon the days of their youth through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia.

It has taken me a long time to appreciate it. I was all of 7 years old when American Graffiti went into theatrical release and didn’t actually sit down and watch it until VCRs became commonplace in the American home sometime in the early 1980s. Frankly, I didn‘t get it. For me, a founding member of Generation X who was born in 1966, the movie seemed a cloying tale of ancient silliness that had long since been wiped away the decades that had followed them. I think now, however, that the real problem was that, even though I was the same age as the kids depicted, I would never have done the things they did. Having nothing real in common with any of the characters, I ended up listening to the dated, but admittedly wonderful, soundtrack and watching that old Detroit iron endlessly circling the town. In that regard, at least, the movie reflected a reality that I actually knew. That’s because, despite the 20 years that had elapsed between the action depicted in American Graffiti and the tawdry days of my own youth, virtually nothing had changed.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

I got my driver’s license in early 1983 and by my senior year of high school, 1984, my Nova and I were a regular part of the street scene. My car, armed with a six cylinder and a three on the tree, was never competitive but, thanks to my ability with pin stripe tape and a set of rallye wheels that came from my brother Tracy I had a good looking little cruiser that was both reliable and about as fuel efficient as I could get. It was my buddies who had the heavy iron, Rick with his Javelin at first and later a 69 Charger and Denny with a 340 Demon, who carried the honor of our small group. Even so, we were never the “fast guys.”

The fast guys were older than us. Already working solid $4.00 and hour jobs 40 hours a week, they had real money to throw at their cars. There was Jim, who had an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a 442 front end grafted on. It wasn’t fast, but it was custom. Then came Dave, whose father owned a local body shop, who had a wickedly fast 68 Camaro but who spent most of his time selling and smoking pot rather than actually racing. Next was Bob, who had a custom bodied Comet Caliente that mounted square headlights above a front spoiler do big we called it “The Bulldozer.” And finally Tye, our own local hot-rodder who had finished school just a year earlier. His 68 Mustang had none of the shine or polish the other cars enjoyed, but he worked relentlessly to make it just a little bit faster each week.

Perhaps it was because their cars were so similar beneath the skin, or perhaps it was because, when everything was said and done, they were both a couple of jerks way down deep inside, but for some reason Bob and Tye who should have been, in my opinion, friends were instead mortal enemies. I remember them now, a couple of wanna-be toughs in greasy pants and with cigarettes dangling from their lower lips as they glowered at one another from opposite ends of our local video game arcade’s parking lot. They got there early and staked out their spots, their supporters filling in around them while the rest of us endlessly circled around like a giant school of fish.

Like stags in the rutting season, each boy was compelled to trumpet his prowess in the loudest way possible and every so often, one or the other would jump into his car to start and rev his uncorked engine. If we were lucky, the other boy would respond to the challenge and a burn off contest would ensue. Back and forth it would go, the pressure of imminent conflict gradually increasing by the hour as the witching hour drew nigh. Then, just before midnight, when most of us had to be home, both boys would lead their troops to the battlefield.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

We had a special spot close to the Everett Boeing 747/777 assembly plant. The factory is immense and tens of thousands of people work there. Every shift change floods the roadway with commuters and as a result the plant is served by its own 6 lane wide highway spur. At one end, close to the factory gate is a stoplight to control ingress and egress from the huge parking lots that line the roadway and approximately ¼ mile away is a giant overhead sign that directs traffic onto the main highway, East to Mukilteo or West to Everett. The course was wide, safe and, at anytime other than shift change, totally desolate.

The two caravans of cars, and those of us who had dared to break our curfews to become hangers on, would converge on the spot just prior to the main event. Looking back on it now, the local police had to know what we were doing but for the most part they left us alone. Generally they were good to us so long as we were good to them and, unlike the movie (spoiler alert!) we played no shenanigans. Usually we would get about 30 minutes on-site before a single cruiser would roll through with its lights on reminding us that we needed to go home.

In that 30 minutes we had, however, the ritual was unvaried. Bob and Tye would stage up singly and make a practice run while the other watched. Final adjustments would be made and burn offs would follow. At last, the night culminated as they came to the lone, door handle to door handle.

The stoplight switched to green and both drivers hammered the gas. The sound of their Fords’ engines pounded the night and reflecting back at us off the wall of the factory as the two cars accelerated. Bob hit his shifts perfectly while Tye’s automatic did the work for him as they came out of the hole and ran up to speed. It was neck and neck and then, slowly the Bob’s Bulldozer began to inch away. He stretched out his lead to one car length as then two before they passed the finish line. The winner would slow and turn, making a victory lap along the line of kids while the loser, unwilling to face the jeers of the masses, would continue up the on ramp and onto the freeway.

With the main movers done, the rest of us would take our own turns. Rick or Denny would take on all comers, sometimes winning sometimes losing, while I looked for someone whose engine was as deficient in acceleration as my own lest I be beaten to a pulp every time. There was never money involved, we never had more than a few dollars in our pockets anyhow, it was all for fun and, perhaps, just a bit of pride. And then, as he 30 minute mark would approach, that single police cruiser would come and, as quickly as it started, it would end.

At the end of the movie, we get to find out what happened to the kids those “nobodies” played. As the credits rolled, a single subtitled line told us their fates. Without ruining for you, all I can say is that some of them went far in life and some of them didn’t. I would imagine it is the same for the kids I knew too. Some of us have found our way to places no one would ever have believed we could go while others of us still struggle. The one thing we have in common now are those nights and the heady days that came at the ends of our own childhoods. Maybe one day, someone will make a movie about that.

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

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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One last summer in the sun: The final days of a Chevy Nova http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/one-last-summer-in-the-sun-the-final-days-of-a-chevy-nova/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/one-last-summer-in-the-sun-the-final-days-of-a-chevy-nova/#comments Sat, 09 Mar 2013 17:21:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480274

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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My Role In The Extinction Of The American Muscle Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/my-role-in-the-extinction-of-the-american-muscle-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/my-role-in-the-extinction-of-the-american-muscle-car/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:02:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477966  

1969 Chevelle SS

 

A few weeks a go I had the opportunity to watch part of the Barrett Jackson auction. I found myself captivated by the colorful commentary that went along with each sale. Every car had a story and the commentators spent a great deal of time telling us about them. They also discussed the cars’ performance, available options and recited the original production numbers, contrasted by telling us exactly how many of those cars survive today. It turns out that many of the cars I regularly used to see back in the 1970s are extremely rare today. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, however, after all, I had a hand in making them go away.

By the time the 1980s got into full swing, around 1983, people were good and tired of the 1970s. The ‘70s had been pretty rough on the average American. We had our pride hurt when Saigon fell, we lost faith in our political institutions thanks to Watergate and we were embarrassed when our embassy was stormed by a bunch of kids in Iran. To make matters worse, we had gone way overboard on cheesy variety shows, bell bottoms and the cocaine and now we had one hell of a hangover. It was, we collectively decided, better if we just put the past behind us.

In 1983 I was a junior in high school and, with the economy still in a shambles, jobs in small-town America for kids my age were few and far between. Fortunately, my mom and dad weren’t stingy and I had enough money in my pocket to play Defender at the 7-11 and to put gas in my 6 cylinder Nova, but I aspired to bigger things. I wanted to build a fast car. It was my search for a job and my attempt to access to cheap parts that led me to form a friendship with the local hot-rodder.

Already married with three kids, Tim Harris was only about a decade older than me. He was the kind of guy who lived and breathed cars; the kind of guy who forever smelled of old crankcase oil and Dexron II. As a neighbor, he drove down your property values. His yard was filled with half stripped cars, disembodied engine and racks of body parts. Naturally, I thought he was the coolest guy around.

Easy Prey

The owner of several Chevrolet Vegas in his younger years, Tim had begun collecting parts to keep his own cars running but soon found that people were willing to pay a handsome premium for the parts they needed to keep their own cars going as well. Before long, Tim had an established business, buying up and parting out Chevrolets all over the county and, luckily for me, his business had grown to the point that he needed someone to help him. Since I was willing to work for a pittance, and bought most of my parts from him anyway, I got the job.

Tim had me do all sorts of work around the his house. I hauled wood, dug ditches, ran barbed wire and helped dismantle the cars he brought home. He worked me hard, but sometimes I got to ride along as Tim went to pick up one junker or another and, as we drove, he taught me the tricks of his trade. Like most money making ventures, the underlying idea was simple, the execution was not.

The process began in the driver’s seat and we drove about ceaselessly scouring the area for possible purchases. A potential buy was always a car that was sitting. Signs of a sitting car included a layer of dirt, pine needles or leaves on top and a patch of longish grass or other debris underneath. Flat tires were almost always good for us while an open hood or ongoing body work were usually not. With the economy in a protracted slump and high gas prices at the pump, that part was easy.

It took real skill, however, to know what you were actually looking at. I have, it turns out, a photographic memory and I soon developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the cars of the 60s and 70s. I knew their shapes, options, trim levels, possible power trains, even more esoteric things like whether or not they might be hiding disc brakes under their hubcaps. I could look at a car from the seat of the van and instantly report what it was. Tim would do the other important part, the mental math that told him just how much profit our find might actually bring. If a car was worth it, we knocked on the door of the house.

This system worked surprisingly well. Tim was a cash buyer and a great many people were swayed by the sight of his money. Together we purchased some of the great cars of the era.

One that should have been allowed to escape.

At one house, Tim scored a 1968 Chevy II with a 250 HP 327, a Muncie 4 speed and a positraction rear end for $300. It had been sitting for a while, but together Tim and I compression started the engine by rolling it down a small hill. The old car fired up and ran strong. I laid a great deal of rubber at every stop on the way home. Naturally, I was in love and wanted to save the baby blue car, but Tim would have none if it. In less than a month every part of value was sold and Tim and I hauled the stripped carcass to the recyclers in order to make room for the next victim.

So it went with dozens of cars and Novas, Camaros, Chevelles, Impalas and dozens upon dozens of late 60s Chevy trucks were sacrificed one piece at a time to the great god of commerce. Like a 19th century whaling operation, we stalked our prey, made the kill and then hauled the beast ashore where we stripped away every usable bit one piece at a time before taking the final remains to a place where they were rendered down into smelter fodder. There was one exception.

One that did get away.

The 1965 Impala SS 396 was truly a thing of beauty. Canary yellow with a black vinyl top, we found her on four flat tires and with a surprising amount of moss on the cement slab beneath her. I could see the cold calculation in Tim’s eyes as we walked around the dignified old girl, big block engine, SS wheel covers, disc brakes, all the trim pieces in good condition, flawless interior. This car was ripe for the picking. Tim ended up paying just $500 to an elderly lady who confessed she just wanted to be rid of it.

Once the title was in hand, we spent a few minutes getting the car prepped for the trip home. I pumped up the tires with a small compressor, checked the oil and water, and then we started the old big block using jumper cables. It ran rough at first but soon settled down and when we were ready, Tim let me go ahead while he followed in the van.

The old car was nice inside and the big engine ran well. The transmission shifted smoothly, and not for the first time I noticed what a really fine car it was. It did seem to wander around a bit out on the road and it had a fair amount of play in its steering, but old Impalas, especially big block cars, had a tendency to wear out suspension bushings. It was a minor problem, and I made the trip home without incident.

After parking the car, I got out and gave it a good serious look. I was still there when Tim pulled up a minute later. “This is a nice car.” I said.

“Yeah,” answered Tim, “A really nice car.”

“You think maybe someone would just buy the whole thing?” I asked.

“I could get more from parts than I could the whole thing.” Tim replied.

“It wouldn’t be right though.” I said.

‘I know.” Said Tim, “I know.”

The next week Tim put an ad in the paper and an elderly gentleman made the trip out to where we lived in the country to buy the car. Tim got $900 for it and seemed happy enough as the old car rolled down the driveway and away into the afternoon. But as it faded into the distance, he turned on me, “I could have made more money if I hadn’t listened to you.” he said accusingly.

“Somebody has to be your conscience.” I answered.

His expression lightened and he smiled. “I know.” said Tim heading for his van. “Come on, let’s go find something else we can make money on.” I paused a moment, then laughed and went with him, always ready to drive home another piece of history.

Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a captive bear.

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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Junkyard Find: 1987 Chevrolet Nova Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/junkyard-find-1987-chevrolet-nova-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/junkyard-find-1987-chevrolet-nova-sedan/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450426 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.
Just over 100,000 miles on the clock, which comes out to a mere 4,000 miles per year. The car doesn’t have That Distinctive Dust-and-Rodent-Whizz Smell™ that usually accompanies cars that sat for decades before getting scrapped, so perhaps this was just an around-town transport appliance that was driven very sparingly. Or maybe it spun a rod bearing in 1994 and has spent the last 18 years in a climate-controlled garage.
One difference between the Nova and the Corolla is the Delco stereo that went into the Chevrolet. In 1988, Novas and Corollas went down the same assembly line together at NUMMI.
Another example of the workhorse 4A engine, which powered everything from AE86 Corollas to MR2s.
Like the Corollas we dread renting today, this was a perfectly competent refrigerator-white vehicle with bland semi-comfortable interior and a low Fun Quotient. Still, a significant piece of automotive history.

Chevrolet’s marketers made the connection between the ’77 Nova (of the same sort that I once drove) and the ’87 in this ad. The tone of the ad is (non-GTS-grade) Corolla soporific, which seems appropriate.

19 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1987 Chevrolet Nova http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1987-chevrolet-nova/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1987-chevrolet-nova/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2012 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431899 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.

I had a summer job in a warehouse specializing in pumps and filters in 1989, and one of my duties was a weekly run to deliver boxes of paint filters to NUMMI. The place just smelled efficient, nothing like the horror stories I’d heard about Camaro abuse at GM’s Van Nuys Assembly plant, and I was impressed by the orderly ranks of new Corolla FX16s and Prizms. Every time I see a NUMMI-built car (which is frequently, given that I look under a lot of Toyota hoods during 24 Hours of LeMons inspections), I am reminded of my visits to the plant.
This Nova’s final owner was, apparently, a student at Mills College, an extremely expensive private university for women, located on the edge of a hardcore donks-and-drive-by-shootings neighborhood of East Oakland. I lived in this neighborhood during the height of the early-90s crack wars, and it was disconcerting to have this beautifully landscaped college campus, with its famous Julia Morgan architecture, side-by-side with homies getting cold blasted over disputed prime cavvy-dealing turf.
This car’s owner, who was either a slumming trustifarian gaining hipness points through use of a last-legs cheapo car or an honest-to-god broke student racking up vast amounts of student-loan debt, clearly moved in the same social circles as the owner of the East Bay Gig-Rig Ranchero we saw a few months back.
Then, one sad day, the reliable old Nova (which I’m guessing had an affectionate nickname, as such cars do) broke down and wasn’t worth fixing. Or perhaps it racked up $10,000 in parking fines from the Suede Denim Secret Police who run parking enforcement in San Francisco and Berkeley and wasn’t worth rescuing from the impound yard after getting towed.
Either way, this Corolla-by-another-name ended up in The Crusher’s waiting room. Perhaps GM will revive the Nova name once again, but for now this is the final one.

29 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 01 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 02 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 03 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 04 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 05 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 06 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 07 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 08 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 09 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 10 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 11 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 12 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 13 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 14 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 15 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 16 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 17 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 18 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 19 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 20 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 21 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 22 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 23 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 24 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 26 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 27 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden 28 - 1987 Chevrolet Nova Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'NUMMI' Greden nova Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1973 Chevrolet Nova Hatchback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/junkyard-find-1973-chevrolet-nova-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/junkyard-find-1973-chevrolet-nova-hatchback/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=402295
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.

This car, while reasonably rust-free, is probably too beat to have been worth restoring; while the Nova hatches of this era are rare, they aren’t worth enough to warrant pouring lots of money into a project car.

The 307 small-block-Chevy was the standard V8 available with the ’73 Nova, although there’s no telling how many engine swaps this car endured during its nearly four decades on the road.

This car was surrounded by a moat of icky, oily mud (Denver is in the grip of an unseasonably wet and humid July), so I wasn’t motivated to climb into (or under) the car and check for the presence of a Powerglide transmission. ’73 was the last year of the ol’ two-speed automatic in the Nova, which would make a Powerglide-equipped hatchback an interesting mix of 1950s transmission and 1980s body style.

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Curbside Classic: 1976 Chevrolet Nova Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-1976-chevrolet-nova-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-1976-chevrolet-nova-coupe/#comments Wed, 17 Mar 2010 19:11:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=349183

[Note: this car does not have the original rectangular taillights. Someone mounted some sixties round lights in an attempt to confuse our readers, at least some of them]

In our recent visit to 1976, we virtually pitted the Accord against the Malibu. One garnered the title of “The Most influential Modern Car in America”, the other was disgraced as a “GM Deadly Sin”. Lots of folks said the two would never have been cross-shopped; they’re probably right. By the time a buyer stepped into a Honda dealer, a Malibu had already fallen of the list. But what about the Nova? A hatchback Nova with the options to make it comparable to the Accord’s standard fare would put it right around the Accord’s price. Let’s pit America’s most popular compact against the upstart challenger from Japan for round two.

Given that the shameful Deadly Sin moniker is missing from the title, this is obviously not going to be as lopsided.  I happen to have a minor soft spot for the ’75-’79 Nova, and we might as well get the goodness flowing first. The year I was a bus driver in Iowa City, the transit district acquired a couple of ’75 Nova sedans for ferrying drivers and such. As I new relief driver, I got some seat time, and was rather impressed; with its handling, that is.

That particular Nova came with a fleet heavy-duty package (they must have known I was coming), including the excellent suspension package and wider wheels and tires. It’s no secret that the Nova was essentially a longer wheelbase sedan version of the 1970 and up Camaro, a car we have duly lionized here for its handling prowess. The steering was quick, direct ,and had some genuine feeling; the brakes were mission-appropriate, and the handling was remarkable: it gobbled curves and corners, staying mostly composed and almost utterly devoid of the dreaded Detroit understeer. Having not had a turn in a Camaro at that point in my youthful life, this was clearly the best handling American car I had ever driven to date.

It certainly wasn’t the fastest though, as it came with the 250 (4.1 liter) six that packed all of 105 hp. In all fairness, the six had a decent surge of torque, was very smooth, and was reasonably adequate in the urban setting available for my gymkhanas. Now if only they had kept the Pontiac OHC version of this engine going, the Nova would have better lived up to its ambitions at being a Euro-car challenger at the time, especially mated to a four or five speed stick. No such luck.

In Brazil, the 250 six went on to be developed and used in a highly non-US fashion, with proper MPI fuel injection, as in this 1998 Chevrolet Omega, which marries the big Opel RWD sedan with the high output Chevy six. Our loss was their gain. It was cheaper for Chevy to just to throw V8′s in it, as there were plenty of them around. Of course the golden days of the prior generation Nova with its thundering big-blocks were a long-distant memory by then. Take your pick of a 305 with 140 hp or the 350 with 165. Plenty of torque to move the reasonably light 3200lb Nova briskly for the times, but nothing like the good old days.

But let’s not meander into the Nova’s inevitable appeal to hot rodding, given its cheapness and infinite availability of the parts to do so. Anyway, its ’68-’74 predecessor seems to have more appeal to that faction, despite its less capable suspension and steering. Let’s stick to the Nova as transportation, as an alternative to the Japanese competition.

Space utilization was at a low point in Detroit during the seventies, one of the worst aspects other than quality issues. The Nova was a bit better than the Malibu, but not by much. There was still a highly unfavorable relationship of real estate wasted to oversized front and rear ends, and not enough where it actually counted. At least the Nova came in a hatchback version, which made access to a long but shallow cargo area easy. But rear seat leg room was mediocre, and the non-opening rear side windows were a royal put-off.

Of course, these cars couldn’t approach the fuel economy of the Japanese competition. Getting much more than 20 mpg even with the six was an act of heroism. With the V8, forget it. And when it comes to build quality…let’s not go there. Actually, in relative terms, the Nova was probably one of the better GM products, thanks to its simplicity. I know folks who got some cheap long-term transportation out of old Nova sixes. But the words “jewel like” will never be uttered in their presence.

Perhaps a more apt comparison would be with its Big Three competition, and there the Nova acquitted itself better. The queasy-handling and recall-prone Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare quickly destroyed Chrysler’s domination in the field, allowing the Nova to take the number one sales spot in the compact segment. Ford’s Maverick was long in tooth even when it arrived, but by 1976 it was in terminal decline. The Granada was more of a semi-midsized anyway, and with upscale ambitions pricing-wise.

Clearly, the Nova was at the head of the domestic class in 1976. But as a compact in the post energy crisis it was fundamentally all wrong, as the Accord and its ilk proved all too quickly. And by 1978, Chrysler’s Omni/Horizon twins had it all over the Nova in terms of space utilization and economy. The Nova soldiered on for those either in denial about the future of the small car or perhaps wanting a four-door Camaro.  Now that was a small niche. And within a few years, that option would be gone too, as the Citation was lurking just around the corner.

More New Curbside Classics Here

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