Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Cars in Yards: 1970 Chevrolet Nova

An Astro Blue 1970 Chevy Nova sits outside a body shop in Alabama.

Don't say it! Junkyard Life has found this… a 1970 Chevrolet Nova. There are so many things to mention about this car that was built for the common man. It came in so many forms, that most people could afford one. (Editor's note: Nobody said it was cheap. But...)

1970 Chevy "Nova" emblem with rust and blue paint around the chrome emblem.

Shakespeare asked, “What is in a name?”

The Chevrolet Nova has a cool name. Nova. Translated to mean “bursting star”, this car was contrived to compete with other makers that honed in on America’s obsession to go to the moon before other countries claimed that giant orb. So we had to pretend to get there first!

1970 Chevy Nova 307-V8 engine under hood photo show decades of dirt and neglect.
Somebody grab a can of orange spray paint.

Correction: It Does Go!

The common story that we here at Junkyard Life have been guilty of retelling is the great name fail tale. The story about how the translation of “Nova” in Spanish speaking countries meant “it doesn’t go” and how when the car arrived in the market with that moniker the buyers froze and refused to purchase. Why buy a car that tells you right up front that it doesn’t go? Going is really what we need it to do. Well, when researching our feature car - we now find out that story isn’t true. Puts a monkey wrench in my Fun Facts, doesn’t it?

All 1970 Chevy Nova's had the pillared post roof as shown.

This Nova is pretty honest about what it is. It has two (possibly three) options that jump quickly into view. Can you spot them? See Fun Facts.

The backseat is loose and sits in the front seat of the 1970 Nova.

Options on the cheap Chevy

This Nova was adorned in GM paint code 25 known as Astro Blue in 1970. See that space theme we mentioned? It also had the standard bench seat, RPO Code 731 for you numbers guys, covered in black vinyl. What you see, is what you get. Before we get you too excited about the tough guy persona of the rugged “post sedan”, hold your bursting stars. We learned that this ONLY came in pillared sedan form. Which is fine by us. We at Junkyard Life adore post sedans. The structural sound "post" body style is preferred by racers in all classes. However, not much racing was done with this 307 cubic inch example. If there was, he probably didn’t win a lot. That small block power plant was made to do what it did… last a long time and not use too much fuel.    

A 307-V8 emblem, shown on fender of 1970 Nova, was shunned by hot rodders who laughed at the underpowered engines.
In the 1980s a 307 emblem meant that you were driving grandma's car.

Air conditioner slider controls on dash of 1970 Chevy Nova.
Granny was on a budget but packed her car with amenities like A/C.

Straight on shot under hood looking at dingy, brown 307-V8 of the 1970 Nova.
The 307-V8 was still relatively new to the car buying world, having only been in the mainstream since 1969.

1970 Chevy Novas still had the clean, tucked-in bumpers. By 1973 the bumpers protruded away from the body to pass crash test standards.

Trim tag, a metal plate under the hood of the 1970 Nova, has details on the 1970 Chevy Nova.
Trim tag has details on the 1970 Chevy Nova.

Complete set of 14-inch hub caps found inside Chevy Nova.
Complete set of original 14-inch hub caps found inside Chevy Nova.

Don't let the wheels fool you

The only exception to my previous “What you see is what you get” is the Chevrolet Rally wheels. Although an option for the Nova in 1970, this example came with 14-inch wheels with a “Chevrolet Motor Division” hubcap outlined in the center. Very tasteful and economical. I may not have known that detail up front, but the owner told me he has the entire set of hubcaps. I also found them in the car under the removed back seat. Sadly, no build sheet was present.

(Editor’s Note: We have suggested therapy to Junkyard Life staff member Ron Kidd. He really likes hubcaps to an unhealthy degree)  

What would I do?

If this bursting star was in the Junkyard Life shop, my vote would be to yank the 307, add a fat rat motor, but keep the 307 emblems and the hubcaps. (Editor’s Note: See?) This is the perfect chassis for an incognito money taker. Unfortunately, it isn’t ours but an interesting car nonetheless.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Junkyard Life’s Nova Fun Facts:

  • The Chevy II was introduced in 1962 to compete for the Ford Falcon buyers. Chevrolet was somewhat late to the game.
  • The feature car is a 1970 model. The third generation for the Chevrolet Nova began in 1968.
  • 1968 was the last year to have both “Chevy II” and “Nova” emblems. It was only known as “Nova” after 1969.
  • The Nova was only built in two places: Norwood, Ohio and Willow Run, Michigan. The feature car was born in Willow Run. Yes, we love cowl tags at Junkyard Life.
  • 1968 was a great seller for the Chevrolet Nova despite several options no longer available. Hello 1968 post sedans. Goodbye last year’s station wagon, hard top, and convertible. A bold move in the market indeed. 
  • Chevrolet was late to the game AGAIN in 1967 with the introduction of the Camaro to attempt to regain sales stolen by the Ford Mustang since 1964. What does this have to do with the Nova? Rumor was that half way through the model year Chevrolet conveniently cut the high horse 327 from the Nova menu to boost sales of the new Camaro. Sneaky marketing!
  • The top of the food chain power wise in 1970 Nova was the 375HP 396-V8 (which was actually 402 cubic inches).
  • Hotly debated for years is the civil war between the hot new 350 LT1 borrowed from the Corvette and Camaro Z28 verses the 396 big block. Which was faster when installed in the 1970 Nova? Ginger or Mary Ann? Both hot.

(Editor’s Note: I don’t think “Gilligan’s Island” has ever been used for a Chevy II engine debate. We no longer allow Ron to write with the TV on here at the office.)

  • The Chevy II was designed to be very economical. It was offered with a 4 cylinder engine for several years.
  • The options we mentioned on the feature car we spotted were:
    • The 307 V8 was an engine upgrade (three actually)
    • The air condition was not standard, hence…an option.
    • (Possibly) the side body molding may not have been standard. 
    • The AM radio was one step above… no radio.
    • The automatic transmission was relatively a sure bet to be there, but don’t count it for free… there was a manual three-speed tranny that could cost less.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

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