Junkyard Find: 1988 Chevrolet Nova Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

For 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.

These cars are not uncommon in self-service wrecking yards nowadays, especially in California. In this series, we’ve seen this ’87 sedan and this ’87 hatchback, and now we’ve got today’s final-year-of-production (before it became the Geo Prizm) Nova, which I spotted in a Denver yard a few months back.

244,816 miles, which is impressive even by 2015 standards. Sure, they probably weren’t very exciting miles, but nobody bought a NUMMI Nova for adventure.

The good old 4A engine family, which went into Coronas, Corollas, MR2s, Celicas, Sprinters, and so forth, all the way into the late 1990s. Some 4As made great power, but the 4A-LC was more about longevity and fuel economy.

Brought to you by Chevrolet and Toyota.

You can get an American car and a foreign car!

Of course, the Japanese version was much more sexy.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Veeg Veeg on Apr 08, 2015

    My folks had one when I was a kid, in that light champagney gold that was all the rage back then. That little mother was bulletproof; we went cross country and back in it, and as I recall put 100,000 miles on it in about two years. Even survived my stepfather's terrible mechanic skills. As I recall, Ma wanted something bigger - she was always fond of pimpmobiles - and we traded it for a cherry early 80s Buick of some sort. That was my folks; always changing cars. This and the 60s Continental are the only ones I really liked. I remember being eight or nine, and wishing it was the Twin Cam sporty model. I'm in NYC and haven't seen an 80s Nova period in ten years plus; I haven't seen the sport one since the 80s.

  • Big al Big al on Apr 10, 2015

    Does anyone else remember the blazing headline from Car & Driver(if I remember correctly) announcing Hell Freezes Over when GM introduced the new Nova :).

  • El scotto The days of "Be American, buy America" are long gone. Then there's the mental gymnastics of "is a Subaru made in Lafayette, IN more American than something from gm or Ford made in Mexico?" Lastly, it gets down to people's wallets; something cheap on Amazon or Temu will outsell its costlier American-made item. Price not Patriotism sells most items. One caveat: any US candidate should have all of his/her goods made in the USA.
  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.