The compact Chevrolet Nova was Chevy's first foray into the world of uni-body construction. Designed from the ground up, the Nova, originally named the Chevy II Nova 400, was the upper level trim for the model line and was produced only as a 2-door sedan or convertible. Intended as competition for the Ford Falcon and Dodge Dart, the rear wheel drive vehicle was targeted for the family car market. Advertising of the time referred to the car as offering luxury and low price".
For the first two years of production, Nova's engine options were limited to inline 6-cylinder engines, which provided the compact with more than adequate power for a family vehicle. However, with the 1964 model, Chevrolet introduced a V8 option that quickly got the attention of drivers looking for more performance without an expensive price tag. By 1970 the top engine choice for the Michigan-made Nova, the 402 V8, was banging out a respectable 375 bhp.
Chevrolet manufactured the Chevy Nova for 18 straight model years, 1962 through 1979, and then again for a short three year run between 1986 and 1988. During this time, Nova went from average family compact to solid muscle car to subcompact commuter vehicle. In 1968, Chevrolet instituted a complete redesign of the vehicle inside and out. Optional features included power breaks, power steering, air conditioning and additional safety features such as head restraints. After dismal sales, the car was again transformed in 1969 into the SS muscle car. The Nova SS came standard with a 350 cubic inch V8 that upped performance to 300 hp.
Of the more popular trim packages available for the Chevy Nova was the Rally kit introduced with the 1970 and 1972 model years. Racing stripes along the sides and back of the vehicle, Rally wheels, upgraded suspension, and custom stickers appealed to the growing number of Nova enthusiasts looking for a more exciting driving experience. Chevrolet continued to tinker with the line for the next few years and in 1976 was rewarded by a record-breaking fleet order by the LA Sheriff's Department.
Nova was crafted to fulfill the car maker's desire to create a solid, basic, affordable car suitable for city and highway driving. In 1962, the first year that Nova hit the streets, Car Life magazine honored it with an "Award for Engineering Excellence;" recognition that firmly established the car in the Chevrolet line up. Gutsy and light on its feet, the compact power of the Chevy Nova became one of the favorite hot rods of the muscle car era, an opinion still held by classic car enthusiasts and street racers today.
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