1977 Chevrolet Concours: “It’s just a Nova!”

Murphy Chevrolet

For a brief period in 1976–77, Chevrolet tried to give its plushest compact a separate name from the perhaps more prosaic, basic Nova. It’s kind of ironic. Initially, the compact Chevrolet was dubbed Chevy II upon its introduction for the 1962 model year, with the Nova being the top-of-the-line version with more chrome, nicer seats, and more standard equipment. But within a few years, “Chevy II” was retired and “Nova” became the name for the basic version. So, when a new Broughamier version was added, the GM marketeers needed yet another model name.

Murphy Chevrolet

I had a confusing experience with one of these in my youth. I rode my bike all the time, 90 percent of it within about an eight-block radius of my house (that included the disused black 1971 Lincoln Continental I previously have written about).


It was probably around 1990. There was an alley that ran behind our block, which included our house, the Ohlweilers next door, and the Kendalls at the end. I’d just hit the far end of the alley and saw a caramel-colored Concours parked on the next street. I think it had a beige top, pretty much the same as the one featured on the cover of the ’77 brochure.

Murphy Chevrolet

I thought, “Nova,” of course, but as I slowed down (it was in super nice condition, and even then I had an appreciation for ’70s domestic rolling stock), I noticed it did not say Nova anywhere. On the side it said “Concours,” which I dimly recalled was the top Chevelle wagon in the early ’70s (thank my science teacher Mr. Spilker’s cache of vintage National Geographics for my remembering that obscure fact, even back then). And each wheel cover had a cursive letter “C.”

Murphy Chevrolet

Out back—again, no Nova nomenclature. Instead, in a Cadillac-like cursive script on the right side of the trunk lid, it said, “Chevrolet Concours.” I was thoroughly confused! What was this, some obscure export version? It looked like a Nova. Same sheet metal, same glass, same size, same everything, perhaps rather more ornate and well-equipped than an average Nova, but really … what the heck?

Murphy Chevrolet

It wasn’t until years later I found out it was just Chevrolet Motor Division trying to separate their fanciest compact with a different name. At some point I finally got a ’77 Concours brochure and immediately remembered the much more elaborate grille with a chrome header, the wider taillights, and, of course, that “Chevrolet Concours” script on the trunk lid.

1975 Nova LN coupe owned by Jim Conrad. Thomas Klockau

I was reminded of that experience back in mid-February when I saw our featured car, a rather well-preserved example in Medium Green Metallic. It was for sale at Murphy Chevrolet, a dealership in Foley, Minnesota. It looked to be in nice shape, with the exception of a sunburned passenger-side fender. You don’t see these fancy versions often. But first, if you don’t mind a minor digression, the whole luxury compact Chevy started with the LN, a one-year only model.

This car was purchased new by Jim and Mary Conrad at Bob Eriksen Chevyland in Milan, Illinois. The car has been restored and is on display at many shows in the Quad City area. It is highly equipped with bucket seats, center console, and the 350 V-8. Thomas Klockau
1975 Nova LN sedan. GM

When the Nova was redesigned in 1975 with a highly touted “European” look, with more upright styling and more glass area, the LN, or Luxury Nova, debuted with color-keyed wheel covers, plush seats, and a much lusher look than the usual utility-company-spec Novas hovering around in refrigerator white.

Thomas Klockau

The Luxury Nova was available as a sedan and coupe. A LN coupe with the V-8 had a base price of $3857 ($21,639 today), while a plain-Jane Nova coupe with the six-cylinder engine started at $3280 ($18,402). An extra-frugal Nova S coupe was $3099 ($17,386).

Thomas Klockau

After all was said and done, 1138 LN six coupes, 11,395 LN V-8 coupes, 1286 LN six sedans, and 8976 LN V-8 sedans were sold. Not terribly great, but let’s face it, around $700 more over a stripper Nova was a lot of money back then. If I had to guess, I imagine many folks took that $700 and moved up to a Malibu. But the LNs sure were pretty!

Thomas Klockau
Thomas Klockau

At any rate, in 1976 the luxury version was renamed Concours, but it retained the nicer interior, trim and appointments. This continued into the 1977 model year. As with the Novas, the Concours came in sedan, coupe, and hatchback versions.

Murphy Chevrolet

GM went all out for 1977 in differentiating the Concours from the lesser Novas, as it was the only year it had its own showroom brochure. Yes, in 1977 if (like me) you routinely went to the local dealer to collect brochures, there was a 1977 Nova brochure and a separate 1977 Concours brochure, the only model year where that happened.

Murphy Chevrolet

As the copy extolled: “This elegant compact, finely styled and engineered in the great road car fashion, is now even more luxurious … and in the continental manner, styling changes this year are subtle rather than extreme.”

Murphy Chevrolet

“Concours also has very complete and elegant standard trim work. All three models include newly designed full wheel covers, wider bright-metal wheel-opening moldings, a stylish hood ornament, and distinctive identification. For 1977, nine of the 14 available colors and three of the seven vinyl roof color choices are new.”

Murphy Chevrolet

It was all very nicely presented, and the extras the Concours sported were stylish in my opinion, but it just seemed like giving it a different nameplate didn’t work. It looked like a Nova. Because it was one, more or less. More chrome, more trim, more standard features, more wood-grained trim, yes, but still essentially a Nova—ornate grille and stand-up hood ornament notwithstanding.

Murphy Chevrolet

And some wags who should know better will likely chime in right now to say the 1976–79 Seville was the same deal. Let’s not go there; I’ve covered the K-body Seville already.

When it was all said and done, with its own special brochure and everything, 5481 Concours hatchbacks, 28,602 Concours coupes, and 39,272 Concours sedans were sold for the model year. Sedans, like our featured green example, had a base price of $4066 ($21,569 today) with the inline six and $4186 ($22,205) with the V-8.

Chevrolet gave up, and most of what made up the Concours became the “Nova Custom” in 1978. It was nice but perhaps not quite as gilded as the ’77 Concours but retained the snootier grille and wider taillights. Sales didn’t improve however, as 23,953 Custom coupes and 26,475 Custom sedans (sixes and V-8s included) were sold. Seems like most folks just preferred the garden-variety Novas!



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    I owned a 76 Chevy nova concours and bought it new. The engine was labeled 305 and definitely not stock new. The rear axle was a 225 and this car was untouchable. Fast in hairpin curves and really fast on the top. I figured the internals were left overs from the z305 engines

    The stock rear axle for the 1976 Nova was the 2.73 ratio.
    2.56, 3.08 and 3.55 axle ratios were available but not a 2.25 ratio.
    (3.08 was standard on a 350 with a 4-speed)

    I don’t know what the “z305” was, but a friend’s parents bought a new 1976 305 Nova/automatic, and it was not especially fast. Maybe you bought what some used to call a “factory foul-up”, equipped with some better engine than it was supposed to have.

    Can’t speak for the ’76 but my mom bought a new ’72 Nova that me and my brothers used to go Corvette hunting (St. Louis term for drag racing a Vette), and after beating said ‘vettes, the losers always wanted to see what was under the hood of which we proudly would show, would a base 350 with a 4bbl, no power steering, no power brakes, no air conditioning, and no anti pollution crap!!! It was a beast.
    Now here is the real secret of it.
    The St. Louis, Mo. police department had over ordered and just by blind luck my mom bought brand new with only 17 miles.

    I always like reading quotes from the old showroom brochures, and find it interesting that often, phrases like “European look ” and “continental manner” are touted, when the maker of the cars were (at the same time), spouting off about making quintessentially American automobiles.
    Since Novas were, from the outset, “garden variety” cars – and quite successful at that – it never seemed to make sense to me to try and develop a luxury model of them. Smacked of silk purse/sows’ ear to me at the time.

    The Concours was a Delorean idea as he was very Euro minded but GM stopped him often from doing what he wanted.

    The original Chevy Concours was a 4 door Chevelle in 1968. It was the top line model and only offered one year as a sedan. The next year it was a Wagon then vanished.

    The Nova was much nicer inside and it was more quiet. But yes it was a Nova.

    My father had a 68 Concours and when he went to sell it he had to explain what it was so few were sold. It had all the option you seldom see on these cars.

    It’s my understanding that the Chevelle Concours was a more obvious trim line instead of a stand alone model, since it had Chevelle badges on them as well as Concours badges. Maybe it didn’t as I’ve only seen pictures of a 68 Chevelle Concours. My 1968 Chevelle Malibu has Chevelle badges on the front and rear, with Malibu badges on the front fenders and interior. People still often call it a 68 Malibu, which I think is technically incorrect. This 1977 Concours seems a little different, since there aren’t any Nova badges on it.

    My mom had a Concours sedan and while it may have been “just a Nova,” it was actually a pretty sweet ride. She kept it in great shape and she kept it a LONG time. When her oldest grandchild got his driver’s license, I suggested that the now decades old Concours perhaps might make a good first car. What, my Concourse is way too nice for a new driver, she responded. She was kind of right.

    I tell people all the time that the 4th gen Nova’s are the Nova’s to own if you like to spend time behind the wheel. The best handling Nova’s, hands down, and they ride nice and they are quiet. The only issue is finding parts as the aftermarket doesn’t support them as well as the earlier Nova’s. I am sure finding some parts for one of these Concourse cars is next to impossible. I would like one, though. I would drop a hot small block and 4 speed Muncie in it. Leave the rest alone.

    My second car as a teenager was a 1976 Chevy Nova bought in 1978. It was pretty basic and originally was owned by Hertz car rentals. It was great having a “newish” car, especially since my first car bought only a year prior was a ragged out 1963 1/2 Ford Galaxie 500 coupe. My Nova had the 250 CID inline 6 cylinder. That car saw me through high school, college, and driven cross country to my first job in California. As a car nut, i made so many modifications through the years, including, all DIY, transmission rebuild with shift kit, Cragar Super Sport wheels with tri-spoke knock-off hubs, Goodrich Radial T/A tires, new two tone paint with stripes, several different radios and speakers over time, aftermarket wiper delay, headlight covers, fog lights, tinted windows, and many more. I saw a Concours model and decided I wanted that look. I found one in a junkyard and bought the grill, headlight bezels and taillights and made the conversion to my basic Nova. I used to love that Nova, at least until I wanted a 1984 Chevy S-10 Blazer 4×4 more. I finally sold that Nova in 1987 in California to a father buying for his teenaged daughter. They said, it was by far, the best looking and running car they could find for anywhere for $1200. She was very happy about that.

    Doesn’t scream Nova to me. It’s more of a budget Buick/Cadillac to me in terms of looks and interior. The late 70’s was a weird time for cars.

    Ford was doing the same thing to the Maverick with their Luxury Decor Option (“LDO”). In the late 70’s, domestic big cars weren’t selling and expensive Euros were making headway so tarted up economy cars like these were Detroit’s response. I remember them when they were new and they weren’t half bad.

    My parents purchased a new ’77 Concour and my dad raved about the car. At the time, dad would have been 73 or 74 and it was the first car they had with A/C (they lived in central Indiana) the option that he really liked was the tilt steering wheel. The car was a 4 dr in silver with red vinyl interior. Dad passed in 1982 and mom drove the car until they took her keys away. It was only used in good weather as they had a ’70 Impala they kept to use in the bad weather.

    The idea behind the Concours was no different than that of the Caprice/Impala… same body w/ “upgraded” trim and equipment. Only the Nova’s pedestrian image made the transformation a bit less effective.

    My Mom’s twin sister who was actually an old maid schoolteacher bought a 75 Nova. She was 67 at the time and it was her last car. It was dark blue with a white top and looked like and Air Force recruiters car. It had a 350 with AC and power brakes and steering. She used to get a grin on her face when she would talk about her Nova with the 350 engine.

    After reading all these articles of everyone liking of their nova, I wish they would stop doing this; they THINK their car came from a larger car,like a Caprice/Impala,Well guess what?all Novas gets all its parts from Malibu,Yep that’s right,the chassis,engine transmission and tires are from Malibu,that’s why some people wonder how easy they could hot rod their Nova and it behaves like the big boys, that were really working on a Malibu in a smaller package.

    My first wife and I were looking to buy our new car in 1977. I liked the Concours but my wife and her single mom had a bad experience with a Nova a few years prior. She was adamant that we would NOT be buying a Nova! I then noticed what the article points out: Nowhere on the car or the advertising is Nova mentioned. I risked taking her to the dealership and she liked it. We bought it and nearly two years later I let the cat out of the bag. She still liked it, thankfully

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