STREETSIDE: The BMW-Cribbing 1977 Chevrolet Nova

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What’s this on our way to an appointment in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley?  It’s a 1977 Nova, GM’s ’70s compact-car homage to BMW.


The Nova was one of five GM cars from this platform, whose offspring also included the Pontiac Ventura/Phoenix, Oldsmobile Omega and Buick Apollo/Skylark – along with the more heavily modified Cadillac Seville. Model proliferation, thy name was General Motors.

It’s always fun to run the numbers on how GM valued each offshoot. Adjusting the 1975 debut year prices to today’s, they’d go in almost the same order. For the fanciest of each of the V8 four-doors – Nova LN ($16,900), Ventura SJ ($17,300), Apollo S/R ($18,200) and Omega Salon ($18,300).

Those prices sound very low, except that power steering and brakes were optional. Not to mention power windows and locks, tilt steering wheel, clock, etc. Come for the base price, stay for the options.

Way up at the top end was the $54,400 Cadillac Seville, more than double the lower cars when they were fully optioned. Sevilles were nice, but you don’t need a microscope to see the profit margin there.

Anyway. Back to this San Francisco Nova and its extremely well-preserved flanks.


This white one is a mid-level Nova Custom, which is identified by its shiny rocker panel trim and full wheel covers. Its adjusted base price, assuming it has the base six-cylinder engine, is $14,900.

No rust in that rear quarter. California cars are amazing.


The headliner here is the BMW “Hofmeister kink” in the C-pillar. It was a cruel sham that an Autobahn runner as sophisticated as the contemporary BMW would be aped by a car with Conestoga-wagon-like leaf springs in the rear, but at least GM recognized BMW’s appeal.


About 273,000 Novas were sold in 1975 (Ford sold 302,600 Granadas by comparison), and those Novas were just about evenly split between the six-cylinder and V8 variants.


The Nova was one for the masses; the cheapest coupe would be $13,400 today. (The cheapest Fords were Granada at $16,700 and Maverick at $13,200).

So if you needed a new car, and you wanted something with substantial weight, and you had not much cash, a Nova would do the job. That it invoked one of Germany’s finest performers was disingenuous, but considering how handsome it turned out, that fakery really didn’t hurt a bit.


Tell us in the comments – what do YOU think of the Nova?