The Vauxhall Nova. What a car, right? Synonymous with boy racer culture, Max Power, dubious body-kits, TSW Venom alloys and crashing through the front window of your local McDonald’s in an explosion of Happy Meals and Kenwood Mask head units. Truly, the Vauxhall Nova represents a different time in motoring. But is that still the case now?
No, actually. The Nova had to begrudgingly hand over its Richbrook keyring enhanced keys to the Citroen Saxo in the late ’90s, leaving it to retire into the history books, it’s legacy equating to nothing more than tales of Friday nights gone by.
Now though, the Nova has done the unthinkable. It’s a legitimate classic. The car that was once Tony’s, being driven like a joy-rider, speeding into the the corner, is now an icon. Your mother might have warned you it was a sound system banger, but she could never have foretold of a Nova becoming a classic car.
Yes, that’s a Corgi model of a Vauxhall Nova. We couldn’t find any press shots we liked, so we took our own. Fight us.
Anyway, let’s talk about the full-scale car. It was released in September 1982 as the Opel Corsa. The Nova name was something only seen in the UK, this was because Corsa was deemed to sound too much like ‘coarser’ apparently. We’re not making this up. It would seem Vauxhall UK got over its concerns in the early ’90s though, when it superseded the Nova with the, um, Corsa.
The first Nova was built in Zaragoza, Spain. This is important. You see, our lads and lasses didn’t like the fact Vauxhall farmed out the manufacturing of its Chevette replacement to the Spanish. So they caused a ruckus, threw their Union memberships about and delayed the Nova’s UK arrival until April 1984. Pointless really, as Vauxhall basically ignored them and kept building it in Spain. Unions be damned it would seem.
When it did finally arrive, it was something of an instant hit. Its front-drive chassis, the impressive interior space and economical four-cylinder petrol engines made the Chevette look like a wheelbarrow with a lawnmower engine. The Nova was worlds apart, and we bought it in our droves.
Initially, the Nova was available as a three-door hatch or a two-door saloon, though a five and four-door soon appeared on the roster. The four-door saloon would go on to be the embarrassing first car for many a young driver who’s parents wouldn’t let them get a three-door for insurance reasons. Not that we’d know anything about that.
Normally this is the bit where we’d tell you about the engines. In the case of the Nova, it had about four million different options, and frankly nobody has time for that. So to keep things succinct, it had some 1.0, some 1.2, some 1.3, some 1.4 and some 1.6 four-cylinder petrol engines and a handful of 1.5 four-cylinder diesel engines (naturally aspirated or turbocharged) care of Isuzu. Transmission wise, you could have a four or five-speed manual ‘box. No automatic for you.
Engines weren’t the only thing the Nova had lots of. It also had many, many editions. There was the Spin, the Flair, the Merit, the Jet Black, the Swing, the Sting, the Club, the Nico, the Calypso, the Gem, the Pearl, the Ski, the Sola, the Anftibes, the Fun, the Sport, the Trip, the Dart, the Life, the Expression, the Diamond, the Star, the Snap, the Trend the Luxe+ and about sixty thousand more. Seriously, Vauxhall, what were you smoking at the time? We’re pretty sure there were more editions than actual Novas produced.
None of them mattered though. All the true Nova-nuts were after were the hot ones. The SR, the SRi, the GSi and the GTE. They were the ones to have. The ultimate in hot-hatchery. And the ultimate in phoning around for insurance cover. They became the big rival to Ford and to Volkswagen. They were fun, the were affordable and they were fast.
Sadly, they were also the ultimate car for even the most dim-witted of car thieves. You see, in the 1990 the Nova received a face-lift, which included an interior redesign. The hazard light button was put at the top of the dash. Pull this button out, turn it through 180-degrees and put it back and you had – we kid you not, we used to have one – ignition. Just outstanding work, Vauxhall.
The cars that weren’t stolen were inevitably wrapped around trees or modified into oblivion thanks to additions such as the Novadose body-kit (again, we’re not making that up). Maybe the odd Peco Big Bore 4 for good measure. And stickers. Lots of stickers.
The cars that survived all that weren’t out of the woods. Rust was a big issue for the Nova, with bulkheads, rear arches, A-pillars and scuttles suffering the worst. As such, a car that was once the epitome of automotive ubiquity suddenly became, well, rare. And that, combined with people looking at eBay through rose-tinted glasses means the Nova is now on the up in terms of value. And we’re not talking about the super rare Sport with twin Weber carbs or the GSi or the GTE. No, we’re talking about the run of the mill 1.2 Flair, the 1.0 Merit, whatever. If it has a Nova badge, it’s going up in value. So take it from us when we say that if you never had a Nova, if it’s still an itch you need to scratch, now is the time to do it.