As the legend goes, “Nova”—when separated into two words, no va—translates to “No go” (or “Not going”) in Spanish. While that may draw some good-natured laughter among the anti-Chevy establishment, it’s certainly a reach in practical terms. On the other hand, if you’re talking about the values of classic first- and second-generation Chevrolet Chevy II/Novas, it makes a little more sense. Even then, 1962–67 Novas are more slow go than no go.
While Nova values were relatively flat as of January 2019, median values have now increased for several Chevy II models in #2 (Excellent) condition. According to Andrew Newton, Hagerty’s valuation editor, “convertibles and sports coupes in #2 condition are up 8 percent and station wagons are up 2 percent. In addition, Nova Sport Coupes are up 4 percent.” Newton says that overall, Nova values are up 3.9 percent in the last two years.
Good news for buyers and sellers
That’s great news for Nova owners who have been wondering when their vehicles might get some love from the rest of the (buying) automotive world. Newton cautions, however, that although median prices are heading north, it’s too early to reach any conclusions. “Other indicators of future collectibility, like insurance quote frequency, are lagging behind the rest of the market,” he says, “and while auction and private sales prices are strong, they aren’t crazy.”
The slow pace of the practically-under-the-radar rise might actually be a blessing when it comes to buying a Nova. “They’re affordable classic muscle, and most of our data shows them staying in the affordable camp,” Newton says. “If you want the look and performance of a classic muscle car in a compact but relatively cheap package, the Nova has always been a top choice.”
Chevy II/Nova history
The 1962–67 Chevrolet Chevy II/Nova was GM’s no-thrills answer to the Ford Falcon. According to Chevrolet designer Clare MacKichan, it had to be no thrills since the turnaround time was tight. “There was no time for experimentation or doodling around with new ideas from either the engineers or from us in design. It had to be a basic-type car,” MacKichan said in Focus On: 100 Most Popular Compact Cars. “I think that was the quickest program we ever did at any time. We worked night and day on that car, and it didn't take very long to run it through our shop because we had a deadline.”
How fast was the turnaround? Approval to production took only 18 months. (Perhaps the most laborious part of the process was deciding what to call it, and Chevy II won out only because the preferred “Nova” moniker didn’t start with the letter C. But it eventually got there, of course.) The first Chevy II rolled off the line in August 1961 and exhibited what Chevy General Manager Ed Cole referred to as “maximum functionalism with thrift.” It’s no wonder then that the minimalist 1962–67 Nova doesn’t sell for big bucks these days.
Chevy II/Nova flavors
Like the Falcon, which had a wheelbase only a half-inch shorter than the new Chevrolet’s 110 inches, you could get a Chevy II as a sedan, two-door hardtop, convertible, and wagon. To avoid competing with Chevrolet’s own El Camino, the Chevy II was not offered as a utility coupe to match the Falcon Ranchero. The Chevy II was offered in three series levels: the 100, 300, and Nova (there’s that name) 400.
Available engines in 1962–63 were Chevrolet’s 153-cubic-inch inline-four and 194-cu-in straight-six. The most popular 1962 Nova was the convertible, which cost $2475—or about $20,727 in today’s dollars.
A V-8 engine arrived in the Chevy II in 1964, after Chevrolet introduced the muscle-bound Chevelle. Design updates followed, and the Nova Super Sport was available only as a Sport Coupe. The biggest change in ’65 was an upgraded 327 V-8 that generated 300 hp.
The second-gen 1966–67 Nova received a more substantial redesign—including a new grille and fastback roofline—and once again, the Super Sport led the way. It could be had with the new 327-cubic-inch, 350-hp Turbo-Fire V-8. The 1966 Nova SS with 327/350 L79 engine is by far the most valuable, with an average price of $54,400 in #3 (Good) condition. Concours-condition examples are valued at $126,000.
Future looks stable
First- and second-gen Chevy II Novas are most popular among Gen-Xers and Millennials, who make up 49.8 percent of insurance quotes Hagerty provides.
“Early Novas are relatively affordable, they offer a wide range of performance options and body styles, and parts are widely available,” Newton says. “They’re really not very exciting to look at, even in SS trim, but they make an ideal budget or starter classic.”
And considering their turtle-like movement in the market, it looks like they may stay that way for a while.