The 1969 Chevy Nova: An Unfinished Canvas

Originally known as the Chevy II, the Chevy Nova had a long road to becoming the kind of car that collectors are willing to put the time and effort into resurrecting. In part, this is because the car was never intended to appeal to car fanatics.

For example, in the book "Chevrolet: A History from 1911," authors Beverly Rae Kimes and Robert C. Ackerson quote Chevy's general manager Ed Cole's original aim for the car, which was to provide "maximum functionalism with thrift" and to create a car that would be "economic to operate, maintain and purchase" so that it could appeal to the average American family. This may surprise some readers who are more familiar with the later, more powerful models.

However, by 1969, this direction changed as the pony car wars were upping the ante for power and performance. By this time, the 1969 Chevy Nova SS had evolved to blow away the early Chevy IIs. With a 350ci turbo-fire V8 – and the option to upgrade to a 396ci V8 capable of generating 375 horsepower – to increase performance, the car also received extra style to increase its crossover appeal. 

This was provided by a hood with dummy air intakes, 14-inch red-stripe tires, a black grille and black accents. But despite the efforts, car buyers didn't take to the "turned-on version of the Nova" as it was advertised, even if it did fare better in foreign markets than rumors tell it.

Still, buyers today often soup-up these vehicles, filling out the unfinished canvas that was the Nova. For example in the March edition of Hot Rod Magazine, writer Mike Finnegan profiled a particularly noteworthy Nova customization that was build in collaboration between pro golfer Hunter Mahan and Dusold Designs.

With a lower frame, revamped chassis and a Ferrari-quality leather interior, Mahan's car shows that what American automakers weren't able to perfect, car fans are able to give the love and care they needed to finally turn heads and catch eyes. The car is good enough, it makes you wonder if maybe all the Nova needed was a little extra imagination after all.