This 1969 Chevrolet Nova has been part of one family for more than 50 years. It has its factory 230 straight-six engine, 2-speed automatic transmission, original interior, and paperwork. It is at 103,000 miles and counting.
The driver and car
Alex M. of Trumbull, Connecticut drives a 1969 Chevrolet Nova sedan. It is powered by Chevy’s 230 motor, a 3.8-liter straight-six that produces 140 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. A Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels.
The Nova was introduced for the 1962 model year as the top-spec variant of the Chevrolet II. The first generation Nova came in various body styles and offered larger motors in addition to other performance and cosmetic feature. By the third generation launch for 1968, the Chevy II’s entire range was generally referred to as the Nova, though unofficially. The ’68 model year included a new body style and longer wheelbase, putting it close to the midsize category (for the time). The 1969 Nova carried over much of the changes implemented the previous year and the Chevy II name was dropped.
“The Chevy II was GM’s second attempt to rival the Ford Falcon in the compact car market after the dismal failure of the Corvair,” Alex told NewYorKars.
Alex took possession of his ’69 Chevrolet Nova in June 2019 and the odometer reads 103,000 miles as of November 2020.
Alex’s ’69 Chevy Nova’s bill of sale lists the following “additional equipment:” Powerglide 2-speed automatic transmission, power steering, headrests, front and rear bumper guards, push button radio, and custom exterior. The latter included polished metal headlights, louver trim on the front fenders, molding across the doors and fenders, and a rear end panel trim plate, according to GM’s vehicle information kit. Curb weight for a 6-cylinder Nova sedan sans options was 3,050 pounds.
This Chevy Nova was originally finished in Olympic Gold with black vinyl interior, but has since been repainted blue. The car came only with a driver’s side mirror, so an aftermarket passenger mirror was added. Rear seatbelts were also installed.
All in the family
“This car is a family heirloom. It was originally bought by my wife’s grandfather’s uncle and then passed on to his nephew. The Douglaston, N.Y. dealership is still there but it’s under a different name. My wife’s grandfather’s name is John, but he goes by Babe. Babe grew up in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the 1930s and ’40s. He didn’t know his father; just his mother, grandmother, and his uncle. His uncle was known as Joe the Butcher. Them being an Italian family, we thought for a long time that this was a mob name. It turns out his real name was Anthony and he was a butcher at the markets in the Bronx. Anthony was like a father figure to Babe, who admired and looked up to him.
“Anthony bought a new car in 1965 – a 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II. He drove it for a few years and then in 1968, he traded it in for a 1969 Chevrolet Nova. The list price was $2,690, minus a $975 trade-in for the Chevy II.”
Babe steps in
“When Anthony became too old to drive the Nova, he gave it to Babe, who wanted the car to last as a testament to his love for his uncle. He drove it fairly regularly even as the car reached 40 years of age. My wife tells stories of how she was was embarrassed when her grandfather Babe would pick her up from school in the Nova, as he also had a brand new Mercedes S500.
“When I was introduced to my wife’s family, I immediately became enamored with her grandfather. Babe and I hit it off right away and, being fans of old cars, we were soon talking about his Nova. We got close enough that he actually let me borrow it to go to the Glen Cove Car Show in June 2013. It was such a joy to drive.
“Babe slowed down as time went on and he aged through his 80s. A few months after I got married to his granddaughter, he made it known that I would be the recipient of the Nova upon his death or when he felt he was too old to drive it. None of his grandchildren wanted it. He said that I would be the only one who would appreciate it and refrain from selling it. He actually wanted to give it to me while he was still alive, but I had nowhere safe to put it thanks to NYC apartment living. A car like that, I wanted to garage or at least keep in a driveway.
“As he was approaching his 90th birthday in November 2019, Babe realized that the strain of driving and maintaining such an old car was too much to handle. He once again offered me the Nova, but I had to decline for the same reason as before.
“Finally, in May last year, I closed on my first house. It has a driveway, though the previous owners converted the garage into a family room. I took possession of Babe’s beloved Nova in June. I feel honored to keep it in the family. I take occasional pictures of me and Babe’s great grandson (my son) with the car and mail it to him. My son absolutely loves the car. He’s only four but whenever we go outside and I tell him to go to the car, he always goes to the Nova.”
“The Nova is a four-door everyday driver family car. It wasn’t babied. It wasn’t kept under lock and key. It wasn’t tended to every day. It has dings, it has dents. It has duct tape on the inside. It has a couple of holes in the chrome bumper. It’s imperfect. Also, it’s not a V8 dragger. It doesn’t have slick 275 rear tires. It’s just a normal car. And that’s why I love it. To see real value in the car, you need to know its story and history.
“To see an object as nothing special is to miss the point of why it actually is very special.”
Alex’s other rides
1979 Chevrolet Malibu Landau Coupe 5.0-liter V8 Auto
1988 Honda Accord LX 1.8-liter I-4 5-speed manual
1990 Acura Legend L 2.7-liter V-6 automatic
1989 Mercury Grand Marquis LS 4.9-liter V-8 automatic (most comfortable driver’s seat I’ve ever had)
1989 Ford Taurus 2.5-liter V-6 automatic
1992 Mercury Sable 2.5-liter V-6 automatic (second-worst car I’ve ever owned)
1998 Pontiac Grand Prix GT 3.8-liter V-6 automatic
1999 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0-liter I-4 automatic (worst car I’ve ever owned)
2001 Pontiac Trans Am Convertible 5.7-liter V-8 6-speed manual
2002 Pontiac Grand Am 3.4-liter V-6 automatic (one of the best cars I’ve ever owned)
2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6-liter I-4 Turbo automatic (current)
2018 Ford Fusion Titanium Hybrid 2.0-liter + 88kW automatic (current)