By on October 9, 2017

1968 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, door panel - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1968 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, front seats - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1968 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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).

1968 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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).

1968 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, transmission - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1968 Chevrolet Nova in Colorado wrecking yard, fender badge - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

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38 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1968 Chevrolet Nova Sedan...”

  • avatar

    I can’t be the only person who laments that four-door utilitarian cars don’t get the same enthusiast love as two-doors with performance options and modifications. A quick scan of any magazine rack or a run through Hemmings tells me that the bulk of the interest is in more performance-oriented cars. Camaros, Firebirds, Corvettes, Chevelles, Mustangs, etc. seem to get all the love.

    I can’t be the only person who fantasizes about a Caprice, LTD or Royal Monaco. Or a late-60s to mid-70s Cadillac or Lincoln. Actually though, Cadillacs and Lincolns can be found on Hemmings so that fantasy may someday become a reality. The problem I have is that since I live on the Atlantic coast any car of that vintage would biodegrade within a couple of years.

    This isn’t an entirely unfulfilled fantasy as 20 years ago a buddy of mine and I picked up an early-80s Cadillac Fleetwood that had a 48” stretch added by a company in Ontario. The thing was a POS but was a blast to drive. It had a problem stalling a lot but one day while taking my (now) bride for a drive we had a wee electrical fire under the dash. After it was extinguished the car ran better. That was the only ‘repair’ I ever made to the car.

    Bottom line: save the four-doors!

    (BTW – ’75 to ’79 is my favourite generation of the Nova. Give me a four-door with the 250 cid inline six and three-speed automatic any day. And if it had that weird plaid covering on the seats that’s even better.)

    • 0 avatar

      Amen. I have a sick fantasy involving an early 80s pro-touring Fairmont and a built Coyote.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re not. Funny how the common stock “everyday cars” became rare since no one saw fit to save them. And the high falutin’ performance variants are abundant to say the least.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course, how many of those “high falutin’ performance variants” are built out of “everyday cars” that left the factory? There’s an old quote about more classic Ferraris exist than left the factory. It is wildly easier to do the same with muscle cars.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, well, if I’m rebuilding my High school firebird, I’m not staying period correct with the 2 barrel 350….when I have the money and a 455 will fit.

        • 0 avatar

          Agreed. One of the disadvantages in buying a ‘desirable’ muscle car, a Chevelle SS 454 for example, is how easy it would be to fool all but the most knowledgeable in the history of that model with a well done clone. I’ve read horror stories of buyers who go so far as to get an ‘expert’ opinion that a car is authentic only to learn later that it is a clone. I have nothing against clones as long as that is disclosed. Given the difference in value between an authentic muscle car and a clone there is a lot of incentive to bury the truth.

          One advantage of liking ‘undesirable’ cars is that there is no such thing as a clone. You aren’t apt to hear someone say ‘Wait a minute! The VIN says that this 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire DIDN’T come with the optional vinyl woodgrain and this car has it! It’s a fraud!” The only difference in value there is the cost of the vinyl.

    • 0 avatar

      “I can’t be the only person who laments that four-door utilitarian cars don’t get the same enthusiast love as two-doors with performance options and modifications. ”

      doesn’t surprise me. back then, four doors are what your mom and dad drove, and the Boomers with money don’t want any part of those cars.

      • 0 avatar

        I grew up in the back of my parents’ two Accord hatchbacks through the 80s. When I went to school and bought my first car I wanted a similar vintage Accord since I knew how to work on them but specifically got a sedan.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m a leading edge Boomer, and I actually owned and drove ’60s sedans, and not hand me downs. The insurance was much cheaper, even with the big engines. My Montego MX with a mechanic installed 351 cost $480 less to insure than the coupe, $2400 in today’s monopoly money. The more upright rear glass stayed cleaner, and the owner installed rear shelf speakers sounded better, while police took less notice (with factory 351 exhaust). Being a hoon was easy; looking like a hoon is expensive.

  • avatar

    Extra points awarded to the final owner for the attempted two-tone paint job.

  • avatar

    How did Chevy convince Richard Nixon to do the voice-over on that ad?

  • avatar

    A friend’s parents bought a 1968 Nova as a second car in August, 1968 – one of the last before the 1969 models. 250/3 on the tree, radio and a two-tone paint job, dark blue roof, light blue body. Four door.

    It was a great car and my friend and I used to bomb around in it many times. They kept that car until the mid-70s, after which they either traded it or sold it mostly due to rust.

    A 1969 Nova 4 cylinder Powerglide was almost the only new car mom & dad ever bought, but couldn’t quite swing the payments, although they could have gotten it for less than $2,000.00. Just goes to show how tight things were in the household.

    Another friend had a 1970 Nova coupe, 307/stick. Yellow w/black vinyl top.

    After I got out of the service in August, 1973, I eventually bought a 1972 model, 250/stick, coupe. Another car I didn’t keep long enough. These were very sturdy, reliable cars.

    These things were all over the road back then, and the world was a better place as a result! ;-}

  • avatar

    I seem to remember these Nova’s exhibiting a sort of “crabbing” appearance heading down the road – like the rear end was a bit stepped out in relation to the front.
    Anyone else?

    • 0 avatar

      The Nova’s “monoleaf” rear suspension was prone to falling out of alignment especially as the cars got older. (I’m not sure if the problem was that the rear axle would shift around on the single leaf or if it was some other issue.) It was pretty common to see these cars crab-tracking down the road.

      • 0 avatar

        Chevelles did the same thing.

      • 0 avatar

        That was due to improper reassembly or repair, usually after an accident. It affected the multileaf cars as well as the monoleaf ones. Nowadays, if you’re building a restomod or pro touring car, you’ll probably pitch the leaf spring suspension and go to a four-link setup with adjustable coilovers. Not cheap. The only thing that disappointed me about the ’68 and up cars was that they didn’t offer a two-door hardtop like the earlier models.

        As for the four-cylinder ones, I’ve only seen a couple. When I was a kid, a neighbor’s friend owned a ’63 two-door with the 153 and Powerglide, and I’ve seen a ’69 with the four-banger.

        A long time friend of mine (who’s owned a zillion cars, including a few GTOs) had a great aunt that passed away in Oklahoma, back in the ’80s. She left him a ’69 Nova that had the 250 six, with the Torque-Drive transmission. Torque Drive was like a $69 option with the four and six (my friend said his great aunt was pretty frugal), a Powerglide that had the automatic shifting capability left off. So, you started off with the shift lever in “1st”, and then manually shifted into “Hi”, and then when slowing down, you had to manually shift back into “1st”.

        It wasn’t a very popular option (Chevrolet learned that even Chevy buyers were only so cheap), so the option disappeared after ’71. It was also an option on the Vega, for ’71 only.

        Here’s a page from the ’69 Nova brochure, showing the Torque-Drive quadrant; the brochure calls it “a low-cost, clutchless manual transmission”

  • avatar

    You would think the muscle car guys and import tuner crowd would have more respect for each other since they chose their ride for the same reason, a cheap light shell that any higher powered engine can be swapped into. Chevy guys and honda guys should be bffs and I tell the older generation muscle car guys if they were an 80s or 90s kid like me they’d would have been Honda fans.

  • avatar

    That was my beater (1973, huge chrome bumpers) for two years or so in Boston in the mid 80’s. The Inline six was a freight train. I was able to put on a set of decent shocks and tires, and some H4 headlights. The most expensive mode was a real stereo and set of 6×9 rear deck speakers. From Boston to DC, ski trips, etc. The inline six was way smoother than a cheap car of this class would expect. We did use towels as door seals, as the stock seals had long since disintegrated, and the doors didn’t exactly line up.

    Never let me down. One night, on a snowy rotary, an equally battered green Valiant (mo=par version of this car) slid into me. We pulled over, my car red and his green, and he said “we sorta have the same car”.. We shook hands and said Merry Christmas, it being the season. When I got home, I realized he’d popped a dent OUT of the quarter panel.

  • avatar

    And to think the X-cars replaced these things. The perfect definition of the word DECLINE. Everybody either owned one or had a family member who did.

    • 0 avatar

      Well…in theory, the X-cars were far superior – they were roomier, more versatile, and offered better fuel economy. Their quality and execution were what made them (at least the early ones, anyway) so much worse.

      • 0 avatar

        Theory unfortunately does not equal reality, I waited for the new Citation to come out instead of buying a last model year
        Nova and it has so far been the worst financial decision I’ve made in my 65 yrs.

  • avatar

    The mix between the 6 and V-8 certainly blow away the common misconception today that cars of the 60s were mostly street legal dragsters. Car shows give the impression that everyone was ordering with the biggest V-8 available and 4 on the floor, but most were actually very slow like this one, which would probably have a hard time getting under 20 seconds in the 0-60 run. You would also be lucky to get better than high teens MPG in urban duty, and perhaps low 20s on the highway if you kept it under 60 mph. Forget about 75+ mph cruising – it would throw a rod very quickly revving that high.

    • 0 avatar

      The good old days weren’t always good.

    • 0 avatar

      Myths created by the car rags and Barrett Jackson. For example, 1/3 of first gen Mustangs came from the factory with wheezy I6 engines that had the intake manifold cast as part of the head. While nearly 7 out of 10 Mustangs did have V8s, 85% of those V8s were small blocks equipped with 2 barrel carbs. The two barrel carb version of the 1965 289 was rated at a whopping 165hp. Even the hi-po versions of the 1st gen Mustang wasn’t much by today’s standards. Back in the day Consumer Reports tested a Boss Mustang. Recently they tested a V-6 Mustang. The only area where the old car beat the new car was in braking distance, not surprising since new Mustangs weigh considerably more than the 1st gen versions.

    • 0 avatar

      Not so (on the high speed cruising). In my very young boomer days, I was a back seat passenger in a Dodge 330 stripper with slant six and torque flite auto and not much else. We went to the east coast (from Kansas City) every summer and that thing would routinely cruise for many hours at 80. I’d track the speedometer from my middle back seat perch. This was in the pre-55 days and pre-interstates too. Turnpikes were the fast roads, back then.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I will always have a soft spot for these. They were good and affordable cars for the time.

    I had a 73 Chevelle 4 door with a 350 2 barrel which was one of the smoothest running cars I ever had. Maybe today’s cars are better but the Chevelle never let me down. Very reliable and fast.

  • avatar
    Ben T Spanner

    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.

  • avatar

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

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