Junkyard Find: 1968 Chevrolet Nova Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

There was a time, from the late 1960s through the late 1980s, when the third-generation Chevrolet Nova was among the most plentiful Chevrolets found on North American roads. These cars were cheap, sturdy, and fuel efficient for their time, but discarded ones are so rare now that this is the first one I have seen in a self-service wrecking yard since this ’73 hatchback in 2011.

1968 was the first model year for this generation of Nova, which shares much of its chassis design with the 1967-1969 Camaro/Firebird. The Chevy II name was still used in 1968 (Nova was the name used for a higher trim level of the 1962-1968 Chevy II); all these cars became just plain Novas for 1969.

This one is a bench seat car with three-on-the-tree manual transmission, six-cylinder engine, and four doors. While many of these cars survive today, just about all of them are V8-powered two-doors.

Even a rusty two-door late-1960s Nova would be snapped up long before it arrived at this sort of junkyard, as old-school drag racers and muscle car fanciers worship the lightweight Nova (into which just about any GM V8 engine may be bolted or near-bolted).

Most of these cars came from the factory with the straight-six engine, as this one did, though the seldom-purchased Super-Thrift 153-cubic-inch inline-four engine was available until 1970. Production figures show 146,300 1968 Novas built with the 250-cubic-inch I6 engine and 53,400 with a V8 engine (either a boat anchor 307 or the much rarer 327).

You’d think someone would want a good old Saginaw three-speed manual transmission for $99.99, but I suppose there’s a glut of these things in garages around the country.

According to the cowl tag, this Grotto Blue Chevy II was built at the Willow Run Assembly plant in Michigan during the fifth week of January, 1968. That means this car rolled off the assembly line within a day or two of the start of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

An uncomplicated economical car becomes a beautiful expensive-looking car.

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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  • Ben T Spanner Ben T Spanner on Oct 09, 2017

    I got back from Nam in 1970 and my first employer had a fleet of 1968 and 1969 Chevy Biscaynes in various greys. The only options were powerglide and AM radios. I always thought that Novas would have been much better. but Novas didn't fit the corporate image of a full size car.

  • Synchromesh Synchromesh on Oct 12, 2017

    It started out Grotto Blue and finished Ghetto Blue. How very logical.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.