Junkyard Find: 1987 Chevrolet Nova Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1987 chevrolet nova sedan

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.

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  • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Mar 26, 2013

    This was my first car! I'm a real young guy (turning 21 in July) and I didn't get my license until I was 18. Back in summer 2011, after unsuccessful Craigslist searches, we found a solid little 1987 Nova 4 door literally in someone's driveway for a thousand bucks. It was a solid little car...sorta. The engine was reliable...once you got it pumped up and started,it had an okay automatic transmission, the doors all worked, the lights all worked...but it had already gotten a pretty decent case of the tin worm. And, despite having factory air conditioning, the previous owner had removed the compressor. Fast forward a bit more than a year, and I was noticing a strange clattering noise from somewhere under the car. Sure enough, on the way home from a grocery trip, I lost all power to the front wheels. Transmission had gone dead, clearly the clattering I had heard was various transmission components turning into metallic mulch. It was so sad watching the little blue block get hoisted up onto the flatbed...but it would have cost at least a thousand bucks to fix up. Now I drive a 1995 Buick Skylark coupe with the 3100 V6 and a beat up interior.

  • Lovejc63 Lovejc63 on Oct 19, 2014

    I just purchased an 88 Chevy Nova from a private owner, gave 1K for it. 53K original miles, took my mechanic with me to look at it. He crawled under it and kept saying, "WOW". It has an Rtitle (I'm in Pa.) and seller told me he had found it abandoned on some lot somewhere, which is why it had an R title. He showed me paperwork on what he replaced: radiator, master and slave clutch cylinders, brake stuff, new tires, etc. Mechanic drove it, said it was cherry, and said he would buy it out from under me if I changed my mind. No body rust whatsoever, said mechanic; he said no rust on any one of the strut towers. So I said to the guy "Why do you want to sell it?" He said he and his wife are retired, and don't need a third car cluttering up their garage. Question to readers: How will she do in the snow?

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.