What classic car was underappreciated when new?


Did you know this coming Friday is Collector Car Appreciation Day? Well now you do, and we need to find some automobiles to truly appreciate. We could pick the usual suspects, but all vehicles are special in their own right. Very few get the recognition they deserve until decades after their debuts. Those vehicles deserve a better fate than slipping through the cracks on this special day, don’t you think?

Celebrating the life of automotive rock stars, especially heroes that made it big before they were born, has merit, but others silently live below the surface. They are in a middle ground, hoping to one day be more than just basic transportation. There’s a moment when an automobile transforms from its planned purpose into a specialized experience on its own. That moment is absolutely worth celebrating on Collector Car Appreciation Day.


While I am not sure this notion is entirely fitting for the 1968–74 Chevrolet Nova in particular, the Chevy II/Nova series wasn’t as prestigious as other cars wearing that famous bowtie emblem, and that’s truly unfair. The Nova sported stealthy style, stout suspensions, and both big- and small-block V-8s. It was a combination that made the Nova into a serious performer in sensible shoes. And it ushered the meteoritic rise of its more famous brother, the Chevrolet Camaro. Or as NovaResource.org put it:

“While many say the 1968 and later Novas were just Camaros with a trunk and seating for five, the platform was actually designed first for the Nova and then quickly introduced in 1967 as the Camaro to catch up with the Mustang. From there, the Nova and Camaro would follow a similar evolutionary path, in terms of suspension and engine availability, until the Novas demise after 1979.”

While more recent history has ushered the Nova into the same space as Chevelles, Camaros, and possibly even Corvettes (think Yenko Nova), there was far too much time when it wasn’t getting the respect it deserved. But today even the bigger bumper 1973–79 examples give the same good vibes, with a more approachable asking price. Or so it feels to yours truly, which again begs the question:

What classic car was underappreciated when new?





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    circa 1989 5.0 mustang? I don’t remember them being so highly considered until circa 2000. Maybe they were just off my radar.

    Fox Mustangs are an interesting example, mostly because loyalists and brand agnostic street racers liked them even more once the bigger SN-95 Mustang hit the streets. They were fast when new, and some folks never stopped liking them…but only some folks.

    SN95 Mustangs, the 1994-1998.
    People thought they looked soft or something, I don’t know because looks aren’t the number one thing for me. Many didn’t like the weight increase but that was from the reinforced structure over the fox body. If you want any power from a fox you have to do those reinforcements on your own anyway.
    Another complaint was the 4.6 V8, Ford left a lot of power on the table with its measly 210 HP.
    It doesn’t take much, however, to get even a two valve mod motor up to some serious power.

    It’s very nice to see some recognition for the last series of Nova (1975 – 1979). These are fantastic cars that haven’t generated much interest even among fans of earlier Novas. I purchased a new 1978 Nova coupe in December 1977. I ordered it with a 305 V8 (the only V8 available that year with a four-speed manual), the aforementioned four-speed, F41 sport suspension, posi rear, and special instrumentation (which included a tachometer). The F41 suspension also required ordering radial tires. I didn’t have much money at the time and honestly didn’t expect much from this car. Though from the day I took delivery, it has been simply a fantastic car. It was built at the time when Novas were commonly used as police cars, and it handles incredibly well. I can outrun just about anything on twisty roads. It has good power for a late 70’s car. It is as durable as a tank. I own 12 collector cars at present, including some higher end ones, and this Nova is my favorite of all the cars. Hopefully there will be more recognition of this last series of Nova, they were (and are) really great cars.

    Ah, the late 70’s Chevy 305s with their undercooked camshafts. We mechanics made lots of money replacing those. Thanks for the memory

    Uncanny… I ordered a 1978 Pontiac Phoenix coupe (Pontiac’s equivalent to the Nova) in December of 1977, with the 305 V-8, with the four-speed (Hurst Shifter), bucket seats and handling package. It was an acceptable road car with quite reasonable handling. While working up in -30 C. Northern Ontario shortly after I got it, the transmission locked up in reverse while on my way to work. Efforts to free it up resulted in a new chattering noise coming from the tranny. Fortunately, the warranty covered that expense. Over the five plus years that I owned the vehicle, I had recurring problems with dashboard screws rattling, falling out, the vinyl upholstery splitting, rear vent window trim constantly loose then problems with the rear end pinion gears (the vehicle was not abused). But as Andrew Walters has correctly pointed out about 305 V-8 camshafts, I learned that eventually, I would be looking at top-end repairs on the engine of my Malaise-era classic. I ordered a 1984 Toyota Celica GTS (it took a while to receive because of the 83-84 Japanese import restrictions) that has served me faithfully since new and still own. That Phoenix could and should have been a great car.

    Sajeev, I agree 100% with you on the Nova. My vote is really for a truck rather than a car. The 1955-57 Chevy 1/2 pick-up was just looked upon as a work vehicle (business or home or farm) when introduced. It lived in the shadow of the tri-five cars for years. Still does to some extent, but due to the surging popularity of light pick-ups in general, they certainly qualify as “classic” and “collectable” these days. I learned how to drive in a green ’55 long-bed stepside and thus fell for them early in life, but I don’t think they were appreciated by the masses as much when new as they are now. I see them restored and shown all the time.

    The Chevy truck from the Tri-Five era are indeed a fantastic example, and we are lucky they are well appreciated now. Who knows, they may be more desirable than all but the most desirable Tri-Fives out there!

    That’s how all trucks were looked upon until the collector car market priced most folks out of the arena and they started collecting trucks

    They were trucks back then used to haul items and were also used as farm trucks. Same with Ford and all the other brands. Now these 50-100k trucks are soccer, grocery, fast food, runners.

    I’ll pile on with DUB6 and offer that the Malaise-era c10s probably fit this bill. They were seen as work/fleet/disposable trucks, really up until maybe 10-12 years ago it seems (feel free to have a valuator check me on this) but now they’re going for pretty crazy numbers when you really think about what they are.

    So, as TG suggests, did they just get finally appreciated because people couldn’t afford the classic cars of the same era, or because people suddenly realize they are cool in their own right?
    Discuss below!

    I propose that vintage trucks became more appealing because of the increasing popularity of trucks/SUVs in place of family cars. Once the Crew Cab truck became mainstream, everyone wanted everything truck related.

    In North America, Volvos. I mean the bricks from the late 60s to 80s. They had their niche cult following sure, but wider appreciation not at all.

    Now you have all flavors of fanbase: original, LS-swapped, etc.

    I know I loved mine, “Snailish” – a 1970 142 in dark blue (rather than white, red, or black). I think it was just me and vettes that had 4 wheel disk brakes standard equip. (of the non-exotics). And a mechanical system to provide some antilock brake protection. I swear it saved me from rear-ending someone. I could go on… And as the ad of the time predicted, I had mine for 11 yrs.

    I love mine… take all of the lingering 90s era complaints off the table, and it is a great, and great looking car. 30 years old and the styling is not terribly far off the mark of Cadillac’s current offerings. Plenty of power, handling is a little soft but as to be expected for a luxury oriented car. Fun to drive and turns heads everywhere I go – particularly heads of people not involved in car collecting who don’t know they are supposed to hate it

    The best under the radar Novas were the 77/78 RPO cars. Most were ordered by police departments, strippers with vinyl bench seats and rubber floor mats. But, you could get into the order book and spec a loaded Z26 Rally with all of the toys, plus all of the police performance bits and pieces. Smog choked 350, but a surprising machine in the corners. Reasonable price for a grandma special that could out handle lots of “sports cars”.

    Oh yes! I remember hearing the Nova police-spec models were legit performers. Thanks for bringing that one up!

    Ah, thanks for the reminder. My friend ordered the COPO police package with the mentioned “grandma package” of pale blue, white top and cloth buckets and console. I recall it was a hot car, but looking at the article specs, that was a total dog by today’s standards. A base Accord would walk all over those numbers. The discussion of the engine that can top 50K miles was also a painful flashback. Memories are best left in the 70’s.

    My 85 F250 and 86 F150. Even though Fords are usually the best selling truck, older/classic Ford trucks still live in the shadow of Chevy trucks. Also, my 1968 Chevelle Malibu….. 4 door post. When I got the car years ago, most people turned their nose up to a 4 door. It seems that a lot of people are coming around to the notion that any old car is neat in its own way.

    Had a 74 Nova hatchback for 10 years. It was like a sporty wagon. The back seats folded down for cargo, loved it.

    The 4th gen (1975-79) Novas were really good driving cars. The front suspension was finally changed to the 1970-81 Camaro subframe and that’s when the Nova because a great road car. That’s why so many Police departments used the 4th gen Novas for their squad cars. Look up 9C1 Nova:

    Under appreciated then, under appreciated now?

    1973 AMC Hornet Hatchback. The very first of the Hatchback trend. The six cylinder drive train was bulletproof. Drove mine 174,000+ miles with the original clutch. Finally “Gave Up The Ghost” after the front suspension became too rusted to weld.

    Cousin pulled the engine & tranny and drove it in his Gremlin for several more years..until that unibody rusted out.

    Probably still running somewhere


    77 Nova is not a classic, it’s just old. There are many cars from “the classic years” which have survived by some cruel twist of fate. Doesn’t make them a classic, just a long surviving car. A 79 Dodge Colt or a 75 Ford Courier are not classics worthy of lengthy magazine articles or nostalgic retrospectives. Let’s let the old junk fade into the past and save the space for candidates more worthy.

    Since you are the foremost expert on what exactly is and is not “old junk,” is it possible for you to send a full list to me so I make sure not to buy something that is merely old when I go out to buy my fun to drive car? I’ve been saving for awhile and want to make sure I can get through whatever gates you and people like you put up in the future.

    Very well put. Just enough snark to get the point across and not to the point of flaming. Is your day job in negotiations? 🙂

    I finally acquired a car that I liked when new but couldn’t afford.Worked at a dealership where I was able to”test”drive a Lincoln Mark VII LSC.Fast forward to last January and I bought a black on black 92 with 38,000 miles.Not a race car but a nice road trip car that both corners and drives well.They have a small but strong following but not mainstream by any means.To drive one is extremely nice,you will become a fan.

    I was not a big fan of the 68-74 Nova. The 62 to 67 models were more my style but in the early 2000’s, I came across a very low mileage, one owner 73 V8 Pontiac Ventura. With 62 K on the odo and some front right side damage, I drove it home for the paltry price of $125. I came to really like that car and it is one of the few I kept for quite awhile. I’d post a photo of it here…If I knew how.

    When they were NEW : these were under appreciated,
    Olds Toronado
    Buick Special & GS
    Chrysler Imperial & C series
    Ford Falcon Futura
    Volvo P1800
    Plymouth GTX
    Olds 88 1953-1957
    And more …….

    Had a 1969 nova 307 v8 auto and a 1972 nova ss 350 4 speed both matching number cars back in the day still love them my car friend is in process of putting a 427 full roller motor 600 plus h.p. in his 1969 nova ss cant wait to hear it ,i now have a 1967 pontiac beaumont 396 SD {sport deluxe}, only made in oshawa canada,

    Mark, some years back a buddy of mine had one of the ’70 Nova SS models with the 375hp solid lifter 396/Turbo 400 & I believe a 3.90 posi 12 bolt. Bench, column shift, dark blue/black vinyl top. Save for the headers and CherryBombs all factory. Subtle, looked just like the SS350, but that thing was scary quick and a real handful, especially in the rain. At the then mandated 55mph limit, he could kick it down and haze the tires for 3-4 car lengths. And adding ‘Vette 8″ Rallys and much larger Goodrichs did nothing to calm it down. Hope your friend is a really skilled driver, sounds like he’s building a real beast! Love those Beaumonts, there’s a couple here in Fargo. Cheers!

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