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Time Off - Volume 5, Issue 12 - December, 2005

Just a quick note this month to say that I will be taking a break from updating for a little while. My family and I are in the process of looking for a new home and it's taking up a lot of the time I used for updates. So for a little while I won't be adding any pictures to the Nova Galleries or writing any more rants. However, feel free to send your pictures. I am storing them and will get them into the Galleries eventually. Also, I will still answer and Nova questions you email to me.

Happy Motoring!

The 1975 GTO - Volume 5, Issue 11 - November, 2005

Many know the last GTO was based off the 1974 X-body Pontiac Ventura. Previous to that, the 1964-72 GTO was based off the LeMans and the 1973 GTO was based on the Grand Am. Due it the low HP Pontiac 350 engine and the smaller body style the 1974 GTO has been almost ignored by GTO fans. That's unfortunate because it a very good looking car, in my opinion, and one of the nicest looking GM X-bodies.

While the 1974 GTO is mostly unloved by current GTO fans, the buying public in 1974 actually liked the car. The 1974 GTO may not have sold anywhere near the numbers of the mid-to-late 60's GTO, it did out-sell the 2 previous years: 1971 = 5,807, 1973 = 4,406, 1974 = 7,058

It looks as if like GM was considering to continue using the X-body Ventura for the GTO line if it had continued for the 1975 model year. Unfortunately, it did not and we wouldn't again see a GTO until 2004.

I found this picture on the website. The information there said, "It's a design studio picture of the never-made 1975 Pontiac GTO based on the Ventura platform. This car sports the exhaust-splitters first seen on the '74 GTO, but still wears the finned wheel covers from an SJ version. A 'work in progress' for sure." Credit for the picture goes to Thomas E Bonsall, 'GTO Resource Guide', Stony Run Press, 1994.

If anyone has any more information or pictures of this concept car, please email me.

Happy Motoring!

The Holy Grail? A 1966 L79 wagon - Volume 5, Issue 10 - October, 2005

Years ago, just about anything went at GM. You could order just about any engine in any car if you knew the right strings to pull. Fred Gibb did it when he ordered 396 engines with TH400 transmissions in 1968 Novas. Don Yenko did it when he ordered LT1 engines in 1970 Novas.

But easier than those COPOs was to order available equipment in unusual ways. While most 1966 L79s were in Super Sport coupes we know there were approximately 200 L79 engines installed in the base 100-series 2-door sedans. Were there L79 engines ordered in 4-door sedans or better yet, what about wagons? Theoretically it was possible but was it every really done? That question has been out there for some time. I've never seen one until possibly just a few weeks ago. Take a look at what could be a real L79 wagon: Item # 4567193748

Is this a real L79 wagon? I don't know but the parts are all there: correct stamp on the block, 4-speed transmission, 12-bolt rear, air cleaner assembly, etc. Sure it could have been faked but the condition seems to indicate that if it was faked, it was done a long time ago. I don't know if it's still for sale but somebody need to check it out, verify it and restore it. Talk about rare, it could be as rare as a real 1967 L79 Nova.

Happy Motoring!

A Camaro Replacement? - Volume 5, Issue 8 - August, 2005

Ever since the Camaro was killed after 2002 people have been crying for its return. Since then GM gave us the GTO (forget for a moment the issue about it not looking retro because the 2002 Camaro wasn't retro either), people complained that it was too heavy, slower than the Camaro and at $33k, it cost too much. The LS1 Z28 cost about $24K and according to Car and Driver has a 310-hp V8, manual transmission, weighed about 3500 pounds, ran 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, had an ET of 13.8 @ 104, pulled .84g on the skidpad, could stop from 70 mph in 182 feet and got about 18/25 mpg.

What would you say to a 2-door coupe with a manual transmission that could do 0-60 in 5.7 seconds, had an ET of 14.4 @ 100, pulled .88 on the skidpad, could stop from 70 mph in 160 feet and got about 23/29 mpg all for about $22K? Meet the Chevy Cobalt SS. Yes, it's a 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car but it's almost as quick as stock LS1 Z28's and quicker than stock LT1 versions. Rated at 205 hp, the engine is less than half the size of the LS1 and is in a body that weighs 600 pounds less. There is also word of a performance package that raises boost to produce 230-hp and should make the Cobalt SS closer to the LS1.

People forget the while the Camaro was a pony car it was based off Chevrolets economy car, the Nova. Just like the Mustang was a glorified Falcon (and the Fairmont in its Fox-body days). The thought of the Cobalt SS as a Camaro substitute is not that far out there. It's an inexpensive, well-built car that packs a lot of performance even if it's pulling with 4 instead of pushing with 8.

And don't call this a Cavalier either because it's not. The Cavalier was a good car but little changed under the skin since it began in 1982. This is an entirely different car. When's the last time you saw a factory Cavalier with 18" wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes and a supercharger? One of the biggest problems with the Camaro was that it didn't sell well as a non-Z28 car particularly to women. The Mustang is still around not because the GT was better than the Z28 (it wasn't) but because the base Mustang was better than the base Camaro. With the Cobalt, you get a great performance car with a great base model. Compared to the Camaro, the Cobalt is much smaller on the outside but almost the same size on the inside.

Acura RSX, Dodge SRT-4, Subaru WRX, Toyota Celica GT-S, Mitsubishi Eclipse GT (previous generation), Mini Cooper S. These are all very quick FWD (or AWD) 4-cylinder cars under $25K that sell very well and the Cobalt SS keeps up with or beats them all.

Happy Motoring!

The Nova Skyroof® and Donmar Enterprises, Inc. - Volume 5, Issue 7 - July, 2005

I was reminded recently of something that happened a long time ago when was just starting out. Not long after I created the history page of my website I received an email from a Marc Levinson of Donmar Enterprises, Inc. requesting that I either remove all references to the term Skyroof® or add a disclaimer that says Donmar owns that name as a registered trademark. If not, legal action would be taken.

It seems that in 1984 Donmar started selling a different sunroof with the Skyroof® name. In 1989 Donmar registered the Skyroof® name as a trademark. Since then they have gone out of their way to sue anyone who used that name. Some of the companies include Nissan, Mitsubishi and Mercedes-Benz. You can do a Google search on "skyroof trademark" and see for yourself.

What is worse, in my opinion, is that Donmar required GM-Hummer to pay them to use the Skyroof® name on the H2 SUV. Donmar didn't even create the name, GM did back in the 70's when it was used on a concept Camaro and regular production Novas and Vegas yet here they are trying to profit off it. It's similar to the guy who registered the "GT40" name and tried to get Ford to pay him $40 million to use it again. I wouldn't be surprised if Donmar makes more money with these trademark infringement suits and licensing then they do in actual sales of the product. Again, that's just my opinion.

I can see wanting to protect a trademark from a company that is profiting from the use of the name but when they threatened me with legal action for using the name in a webpage that is only reporting historical fact and not generation any profit whatsoever, I got mad. I for one would never use their products just because of it. What kind of public relations is that? I'll let you make your own opinions of the company.

I fully expect to get a new email from Marc complaining about my comments above. However, those comments are my opinion and I'm entitled to them. I hope this explains all the little "®" marks and disclaimers used on this website every time the Skyroof® name is used.

NOTE: The name Skyroof® is now a registered trademark of Donmar Enterprises, Inc.

Happy Motoring!

Different Novas - Volume 5, Issue 6 - June, 2005

It never ceases to amaze me how the Nova can be used and/or viewed in so many different ways. On the way home from a Memorial Day cookout at my sister-in-law's house, I came across a jacked-up disco Nova with large truck tires and wheels. It was very different from the normal 4x4 conversion where the body is just mounted on top of a full truck frame. This Nova retained its stock front and rear subframes. The builder created the lift by adding spacers to the body bushings to raise the front of the body off the front subframe. In the rear was what looked to be a factory leafspring setup except the lift was created by attaching the rear under the springs instead of on top. While this is not something I would do to a Nova, I had to admire the thinking involved and be happy to see a Nova accomplishing a task it was not originally designed to do.

Earlier in the month I came across an auction for a 1970 Nova that was converted into a giant monster snowmobile! A truly one-of-a-kind machine that was interesting to look at. The seller/builder was from Cedar City, Utah and said it had over 1000 hours of fabrication into the Nova, modifying everything from the frame up. It had a rebuilt 400 small block and 3 one-ton rear axles.

Nova Listserv member Adam said this was not the first time he had come across this. A few years ago he first saw this monster under construction right off a highway in Utah and took some pictures. Adam said he always wondered exactly what the plans were for it.

The seller claimed it ran and drove great, handled very well and that he had taken it through 10 feet of snow going up to 45 miles an hour. The auction got to $2,225.00 but didn't sell because the reserve was not met. Again, while I would never do this to a Nova, I admire the engineering involved in building such a unique Nova. I would love to see it run in the snow.

Nova Snowmobile 1 Nova Snowmobile 2 Nova Snowmobile 3 Nova Snowmobile 4 Nova Snowmobile 5
Nova Snowmobile 6 Nova Snowmobile 7 Nova Snowmobile 8 Nova Snowmobile 9 Nova Snowmobile 10

Happy Motoring!

Humorous Automotive Story - Volume 5, Issue 5 - May, 2005

It started out as an innocent question posted to the members of the Nova Listserv: "What is the worst traffic violation you ever got pulled over for?"

Stories poured in of all the dumb things we did as kids. Some funny, some scary and some just crazy. But perhaps the best story came from aspiring fiction writer Mark Kruk:

I wanted to race this '69 Pro Street Hemi Cuda. I revved up my '87 Yugo and tighten my racing gloves with the 3 holes at the finger tips. The light turned green, I stomped on all 3 cylinders. The race was on Boys. As soon as we crossed the intersection, we had the fuzz behind us with SCMODS (State Counts Municipal Offender Data System). I know when he ran my plate the chase would be on, seeing I have been on America's Most Wanted 14 times. I was wondering where the nearest mall was to find a Miss Piggy. I popped the clutch, not the parachute. And I was in 2nd gear hitting over 30 miles an hour. It looked like the cop was laughing, must have been laughing from fright. This was going to be an adventure, not a Pee Wee adventure. I round first headed to Second street. I had that Yugo on two wheels if I had it on one. I reached out of the window, and picked up a lucky penny. I landed softly back on all fours and my Yugo barked like a doggy into the next gear. I knew this was going to be my day. As I was not on a mission from God, but a Mission Impossible.

No one has ever broke the 65 MPH range in a Yugo and by jolly tonight that record would be gone. Even if I had to go downhill with all three cylinders a blazing. I was going to do it. I do not live by the Grand Canyon, so Death Hill would have to do. Well is it a small decline here in the city. But us Yugo owners call it death hill where we push our cars to the limit. I know you are on the edge of your seats. I wish I bought the optional seat belt. Because I would need the bungee cord on this trip. I am going so fast now the paint is peeling off of the car. Ok I am only doing 45 in a 55 mile zone, and the cheap paint peels every time the winds blows.

I was coming to the hill and the speedo says 60. Well folks it is time to see what life is like on the other side of 65. No holding back. I hope my friend peeing in the tank would help. Sorry, 78 octane was too much for my Yugo, and Xzibit would not pimp this ride. Cannot improve on the best.

The clock on the car read 12:00. It always blinks 12:00 because the 9 volt battery does not last very long. You could hear a pin drop. I block everything out as I swore I saw a lady pushing a grocery cart filled with cans passed me. I must be delirious at these speed approaching the big 60. My foot was on the gas pedal, well actually a coke can duct tape to the accelerator line. My foot was almost going through the cardboard floor. The cop was right on my tail. I knew only one of us would make it down the hill in one piece. And me being in an '87 Yugo, I bet you cannot guess which one?

I hit the hill at 62, the speed limit said 65. I laughed at that. As this night I was going to go where no Yugo has gone before. I must have had a tail wind because I was at 64 at no time. I throughout the pack of matches I had as a cigarette lighter in the car. I would have taken off the hood if I had one. It is 66 or bust baby. I hit 65, and all of a sudden there was a quiet bliss, as if I was in Heaven, in the clouds. I was on cloud 9. I looked at the speedo. 66 BABY!

Then I realized the clouds was oil smoke getting into the car as the engine blew. I was coming to stop. The cop was going to get this Rad Racer. I took out my Library card as the Cop walked up. It looked like he was crying. He must be in shock to catch such a legend. I pulled the plastic window sheet down. He was laughing and said he never saw an actual piston come out of a tail pipe before. He gave me a ticket for littering. He must be a Yugo fan to cut me such a break.

To this day, people all over talk about the Yugo that hit 66 MPH. Some said there is no way. But I was driving that Yugo that faithful night. And it is true boys and girls. The only thing I could save from that Yugo was the speedo, and if you look closely, the needle is frozen just past 65 MPH. I consider that buried. Do not try this with your Yugo. You might not make it.

A strange insight into the twisted mind of Mark Kruk. No Yugos were harmed during the making of this story (but a few brain cells may have been).

Happy Motoring!

A Disco Nova makes the cover of Car Craft - Volume 5, Issue 4 - April, 2005

Car Craft, May, 2005 The devil better break out the long-johns because Hell has frozen over. How do I know? Because it's the only explanation for how a disco Nova got on the cover of Car Craft Magazine.

Primedia owns both Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines and has put David Freiburger in charge of both. Back in the April, 2002 issue of Hot Rod, the 1975-79 Nova was picked as #8 in a top 10 list of best budget project cars. Then in the July, 2002 issue, Freiburger asked for disco owners to basically stand up and be heard. Then in the June 2003 issue of Car Craft, the editors picked the 1975-79 Nova as one of the best cars for a first street machine.

Not long after that Car Craft got a hold of a 1977 Concours 2-door V8 Nova. They used this car first for a story about cheap paint jobs and the finished product made the cover of the May, 2005 issue. They removed basically everything that makes a Concours a Concours except the 3-lens tail lights. Gone is the side window trim, the hood emblem and trim, the unique grille, headlight bezels and emblems, all replaced with standard Nova parts. After they were done the car has a nice coat of bright yellow paint and a side spear stripe from a 1968-69 Chevelle.

Future plans are to make this a drag race car but no details have been given yet. While they did joke about the lack of love and respect for this body style, they did finally admit that they thought the car looked good in the end.

If you don't already have a subscription to Car Craft I suggest you go to the nearest newsstand, purchase the May issue and send in that subscription card inside. If you are a disco fan, you're not gonna want to miss what they do with this newest project car. Also stop by and keep informed.

Happy Motoring!

A Retro Nova? - Volume 5, Issue 3 - March, 2005

The 2004 GTO. The retro 2005 Mustang. The 2005 Magnum RT and the 2006 Charger. With the exception of the 2005 Mustang all are names brought back from the 60's. The Mustang is a little different as the name never went away so Ford brought back a design from the 60's instead.

I've talked about the GTO here before and I'd love to own one. Especially one of the 2005 versions with the 6.0L V8, hood scoops and dual exhaust that exit one on each side. The new Mustang is so sweet it makes me almost want to purchase my first Ford product! So far, I've been able to resist the temptation. And what's not to love about a Hemi-powered, rear-wheel drive wagon or sedan. OK, maybe the extra doors on the Charger are a little too "family" but that may change.

The Camaro may be gone (for now) but serious performance is back in a big way. And not only is it back but it's returned to the back wheels pushing the car instead of pulling it. And in the near future is a 427 Corvette Z06 and V8 powered Impalas and Grand Prix's. Unfortunately the Impala, the Grand Prix and the currently available V8 Bonneville GXP are front-wheel drive V8's but it's still good.

This all brings me to the statement I've heard people saying, "I wish GM would bring back the Nova."

Actually, they already did. In fact, the Nova was one of the first (if not the first) classic 60's car name to be brought back. The 1985-88 Nova was a re-badged Toyota Corolla. it was built alongside Corollas at the new shared GM/Toyota NUMMI plant. In 1989 GM created the Geo division and the Nova was renamed the Geo Prizm (still a re-badged Corolla). That lasted through 1997. In 1998 GM killed the Geo line but kept the car. The Chevy Prizm lasted from 1998 until 1992 when it was replaced by the 1993 Pontiac Vibe. A twin of the Toyota Matrix which both were based off the Toyota Corolla.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "That's not a real Nova!" I tend to agree with you because this site only deals with 1962-79 Novas but was the 1985-88 Nova really all that bad? Sure it wasn't a muscle car but this was the 80's where performance was only starting its long climb back to what we have today.

The problem with the 1985-88 Nova, and it's still a problem with bringing the Nova name back today, is the memory of what people think a Nova was. Yes, it was a muscle car in the 60's and early 70's but the original Nova was designed to be cheap transportation. When they brought back the Nova name in the 80's it was put on a car that was similar to the original design, a basic transportation car.

The original Nova was never designed to be a muscle car. It happened to become a muscle car because of the time when it was around. In the 60's and early 70's just about every car was getting optional muscle. In the mid 70's when performance declined, the Nova went back to its original design as basic transportation.

The Mustang however was originally designed to be sporty from the beginning so the redesigned Mustang of today just continues that tradition. The GTO does as well. The original GTO was a muscular version of an ordinary family car (the Tempest). The new GTO is a muscular version of an ordinary family car. It's just not "retro-looking" like the Mustang.

Bring back the Nova? No. It will never live up to the memories because it will never be brought back on a performance car. There are other performance car names from the 60's GM could use (like Chevelle and Camaro) instead.

Happy Motoring!

Reality TV Cars - Volume 5, Issue 2 - February, 2005

Maybe some of you are like me and can't get enough of Automotive Reality TV. I love it and best of all, my wife loves it too. Granted, she is more interested in the human story while I like the cars but these are shows we like to watch together. Our favorites are Discovery's 'American Chopper' and 'American Hot Rod' and TLC's 'Overhaulin' and 'Rides'. 'Overhaulin' has shown me that not only is Chip Foose a great designer but he's a guy who is not afraid to get his hands dirty doing the actual work instead of letting someone else build his dream cars. On top of that, he a genuinely nice guy with a sense of humor. 'Rides' has shown me the same thing about Troy Trepanier.

Some of the cars I'm not as interested in and I could do without the monster stereo systems and huge wheels but for the most part I like the modern designs. One car in particular got me thinking about modern day hot rodding more than any other: Jay Leno's 1966 Toronado. All I can say is WOW! From the outside, only the very tastefully done 17" billet aluminum wheels give any hint that this is not a normal Toronado. Under the sheetmetal, mostly hidden from view, is a fully modern and customized Corvette chassis with a 1,000-hp, twin turbo, Chevrolet Gen IV small block V8. Who but Jay Leno would have thought about using a Toronado to make such a beautiful and nasty car? The price of all Toronados have probably just been elevated to that of 1969 Camaros and 1970 Chevelles.

That car got me thinking about what other unusual combinations of old iron and modern technology could be built. How about a 1963 Nova SS convertible with a GM Vortec 4.2L inline 6-cylinder engine? Even in stock form this engine makes 270-hp, a far cry from the 120-hp of the original 194-ci L6 engine. Add a modern 4-speed automatic transmission shifted buy a modified version of the original Powerglide shifter in the factory console. Also included would be an aftermarket front subframe and suspension like the ones from Heidt's, TCI or Chris Alston. If not a 1963 SS convertible how about a 1962-67 wagon instead and this time add the entire 4WD system from the Chevy Colorado truck the 4200 engine came from? That would give a Dodge Magnum R/T wagon a good scare.

Here's another Nova idea. What about a lightweight 1966 base 100-series 2-door sedan with the 205-hp supercharged Ecotec 2.0L I4 from the Saturn ION Redline and Chevy Cobalt SS? Again, that would be a huge increase over the 90-hp of the original 153-ci I4 engine. At around 2700-pounds the 100-series 2-door sedan is about 300-pounds lighter than both the ION and the Cobalt. Other ideas for that Ecotec engine would be in an early 70's Vega as a modern Cosworth or in a later 70's Monza Mirage or Monza Spyder.

Early pictures of a car that is yet to be completed has also got me thinking. That car is a 1969 Nova Z/28 built by Steve Strope of Pure Vision Design. That's right, a 1969 Nova built with all the 1969 Camaro Z/28's equipment. That includes a real DZ-code 302 with the cross-ram intake and dual Holleys, a cowl induction hood, 4-wheel disc brakes, a complete Camaro interior including the instrument cluster, buckets and console, a rear spoiler and Hugger Orange paint with white Z/28 stripes and emblems.

In the same way, how about a 1971 or 1972 Nova RS? Everybody mistakenly calls the 1971-72 Rally Nova a Rally Sport anyway, now's our chance to build one. I'm picturing a Nova with a similar Camaro interior like Strope's Nova Z/28, keeping the Nova SS hood but using the Camaros simulated velocity stacks in place of the Nova hood louvers. I also see a custom grille with hidden headlights and a front bumper painted body color with the square parking lamps and vent holes filled in and replaced with the round 1969 Camaro lamps. In the back I envision a Camaro rear bumper and creating a custom roll pan. The tail lights would be solid red with no reverse lamps, instead using Camaro RS reverse lamps in the roll pan. Lastly I would cut out the trunk pan replacing it with a 1973 Nova trunk pan so the 1973 gas tank can be used placing the filler neck in the rear end panel above the bumper as 1968 RS Camaros had. Add to that a rear deck spoiler and either a Camaro bumble-bee stripe around the front or a Rally Nova stripe modified to say "Rally Sport" instead of "Rally Nova". I picture it Daytona Yellow with a black vinyl roof or Rallye Green with a white vinyl roof. Maybe even start with a 1972 Nova with a Skyroof!

OK, maybe you think I've gone off the deep end with some of my ideas. But I think the Nova RS has potential and if I had the money I'd build it in a heartbeat. I'd even build the 4WD Nova wagon with the 4200 Vortec L6. I know I can't be the only one with ideas like this. What unique Nova (or other car) would you build? What blend of old car and new tech could be the next?

Happy Motoring!

The information is out there - Volume 5, Issue 1 - January, 2005

I recently received an email from one of the associate editors at Hemmings Motor News. He is writing a buyer's guide for the 1970 Nova that will appear in their Hemmings Classic Cars magazine. The feature car was a very unique Nova that he had some questions about. It was a low-mileage 4-cylinder Nova with a Torque Drive transmission. The engine, while being rarely seen, was not unheard of to him but he was unaware it was used that late into the Nova lifetime. I explained that 1970 was the last year for the 153-ci L4 and gave him other production figures.

The Torque Drive transmission, however, was another story. He was unaware of its existence and could find little info about it. For those of you who have also never heard of the Torque Drive, it's basically a light-duty, manually shifted Powerglide. It was only used from 1968 thru 1971 behind mostly the 153- L4 and some 6-cylinders. I've found that it was also used in Camaros of the same years, however, other than that info, I know nothing more. What other cars was it used in? Why was such a transmission used when the Powerglide already existed? Why was it only used for 4 years?

The whole experience got me to think about all the info we don't know about the Nova. It has to be out there somewhere. Someone must have those little bits of information or codes stored away waiting to be rediscovered. The most common would be the Fisher Body Plant accessory codes stamped on the bottom of 1968-79 Nova cowl tags. I know the key to decode a real SS is locked away in those codes if only a decode manual could be found.

What about all the "holes" in the production figures? Like the breakdown by body style of 1965-67 Novas, or how many 1963 convertible Super Sports were built, or how many 1973-76 SS hatchbacks were built, or how many (if any) 1966 wagons got an L79 engine?

I'd also like to know who is hiding all the information about the "special" 4th generation Novas built. Specifically the 1976 Shark, Medalist and Gold Medalist, the 1975 S-coupe and all the 9C1 police package Novas. Another email I received recently was requesting information on a 1975 "Dakota" SS Nova. The person sent pictures of what appeared to be a real 1975 SS in very bad shape but also having "Dakota SS" decals on the fenders and trunk lid instead of the normal "Nova SS" emblems. I wrote if off as something a previous owner did or possibly a package some dealer created on his own. I don't know for sure but what I do know is the information is out there and somebody must know. If you do, send me an email with your story and documentation and let the rest of us in on the truth.

Happy Motoring!

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Main Page Copyright © 2005 Scott Windle Created on: 02/01/05 Updated on: 12/01/05