The History of the Chevrolet Nova and Chevy II
Every successful automobile is a reflection of its time, but very few cars are as representative of their era in automotive history as Chevrolet s Chevy II and Nova. That may seem like a pretty grand statement to put on the shoulders of such a simple economy car, but after all the Chevy II changed many times over during it s 17 year run. The 1960 s and 1970 s were a time when automotive categories and markets were in a constant state of change, thanks to new assumptions about the automobile brought about by social changes, revitalized foreign competition, international oil policies, and new more powerful environmental standards and safety lobbies. Like few other cars of its era, the Chevy II was transformed to meet the requirements of all those constantly changing market conditions. The Chevy II was a perfect reflection of the attempts by General Motors (GM) to meet the rapidly changing demands of consumers during those two constantly changing turbulent decades.
had made economy cars the new darlings of the auto industry, the Chevy II was transformed into a muscle car in the mid-1960 s when all the country was overwhelmed by horsepower. The Chevy II, the simply called the Nova, was once again cast as a sensible economy car in its lineup. Novas of the mid-1970 s even sprouted pretensions of luxury, with features such as Cabriolet roofs and stand up hood ornaments, when the market shifted in that direction.
That the Chevy II was able to fill so many niches in Chevrolet s lineup is an indication of the flexibility of the platform, and of the public s acceptance of the car. The Chevy II was Chevrolet s entry-level, do-everything family sedan for a lot of people, and if those people wanted economy, practicality, and healthy does of horsepower, torque and style, well Chevrolet wasn t going to send them searching for those things from another manufacturer.
What market conditions brought the Chevy II about? There were two major contributors: the first real wave of economical foreign cars in the 1950 s and an economic recession in the United States. Both factors conspired to make economy cars more
Attractive to the car buying public. This shift in the market, obviously, also forced General Motors domestic competition into action, which made Chevrolets success in the economy car field all the more imperative.
Being introduced as a mainstream alternative to the unique Corvair, the Chevy II became perhaps the ultimate utility player for Chevrolet. This versatile platform included Chevy II models that served as mundane economy cars, as well as the rude Chevy Nova Super Sport models whose V-8 power gave this lightweight machine true muscle car performance.
In the 1960 s the Chevrolet Nova succeeded in outselling economy car rivals such as Ford s Falcon and Plymouth s Valiant. General Motors felt like they had accomplished what they had set out to do, the Nova became more then just another car, it became the car that defined a generation of automotive change. Once injected with Chevrolet Muscle and Super Sport heritage, it became one of the most beloved and respected of muscle cars of its era.
Stuffing a 396 big-block in a Nova was all out of proportion to the car s actual motive needs, but that wasn t about to
stop Chevrolet. A 396 Nova Super Sport had little of the well-balanced feel of a sports car or lightweight performance sedan. It was more or a drag-strip bully, ready to convert the helpless tires to smoke at the nudge of the throttle, ready to smash drivers against the seatback as only a car with a big-block can.
The original 1962 Chevy II may have been the right car for its time, but so was the SS 396 Nova by the late 1960 s. The general drift in muscle car design had been toward ever-increasing engine displacements or cubic inches and higher horsepower ratings.
Soon after all the motor and hype, were government regulations, which inevitably killed the Chevrolet Nova among other muscle cars. Chevy did away with big-blocks to meet government standards in 1971 and installed a smog pump which lowered emissions. Many contributed these changes to the Nova s demise. Looking back on nearly two decades of Chevy Novas, one can only