To say Chevrolet’s Nova came from humble beginnings would be an understatement. After losing market share in the compact-car market in previous years to Ford, Chevrolet went to the drawing board in 1960. Engineers had visions of quickly producing a compact car for automotive buyers that would be both economical and desirable. That was a tall order to fill, but the rest, as they say, is history. By 1962, the first Chevy II Nova rolled off the production line.
However, the models built between 1968 and 1972 seem to be the body style many enthusiasts feel are the most desirable. That stands to reason, as these “muscle car era” vehicles rolled off the assembly with a plethora of options. For horsepower junkies, the most notable being a big block engine.
All About The Look
In 1971 and 1972, the Nova was offered with an appearance package called the Rally option (RPO-YF1). Although it sounds like a great performance package, in reality, there were no performance enhancements specific to the moniker. While it had the look of a muscle car: Rally wheels and Rally Nova-specific stripes, the pseudo-muscle car could not be ordered with the SS-only big block or L48 350 four-barrel engine. Engine options you could get were a 250ci, 307ci, or the L65 350ci engine with a two-barrel carb.
There were several reasons the SS-specific engine was not available in the Rally Nova. Most notably, the package offered car buyers the ability to have a great car with the muscle car look, all without paying for the more expensive Super Sport option. Another reason came down to other costs. Buyers of “real” muscle cars had to pony-up for surcharges applied to high-performance vehicles. In short, the SS was more expensive to insure because of the available four-barrel engine that delivered a higher horsepower rating. The Rally option ended after 1972 because the following year saw buyers enjoying the availability of ordering the Super Sport package with any available engine. Buyers could opt for the 250ci six-cylinder, 307ci V8, L65 350, and the L48 350.
Finding A Used Rarity
Allen Nihart’s ’72 Nova Rally might not have been his first choice of a second car when he purchased the Nova in 1987, but he has no regrets. “I was actually looking for a second car,” says Allen. “I found this car sitting on a used-car lot in Fredericksburg, Virginia. That was 1987, and I bought the car to drive back and forth to work, and mainly because it fit within my budget, (less than $3,500). It didn’t have much rust showing and the floors were good.”
For the next several years, the Nova served Allan well. Eventually, though, he decided it was time to give the Rally a much-needed facelift. Once the car was disassembled, it was verified the car had minimal rust issues. The quarter-panels needed small patch panels, and the driver-side door skin was replaced. When the bodywork was completed, the metal was covered in Candy Root Beer.
More Than Good Looks
Under that freshly painted sheetmetal is an interior that features hand-stitched seat skins by Mike Oss Upholstery in Manassas, Virginia. The door panels are the factory-installed units, and a new headliner — with a big hole in the middle — was made. “Keeping the factory, folding Sky Roof operational was tough,” says Allan.
Underneath, we find a set of Wilwood binders on the front and factory drums on the rear. The front suspension has been upgraded with a Heidts Pro-G subframe with rack-and-pinion steering. The 12-bolt rear is from Moser and is filled with a posi, 4.10 gears, and 31-spline axles.
Finally, 388 cubic inches of small-block power easily propels the Nova anywhere Allan wants to go. An Eagle Specialty Products rotating assembly creates a very streetable 10.0:1 compression ratio in conjunction with the Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads. Those aluminum air directors support a Victor Jr. intake and Demon 850cfm carburetor. In the heart of this small monster, we find a COMP Cams’ solid-roller with .590/.590-inch lift and 280 degrees of duration at .050-inch lift. Behind the mill is a California Performance Transmission-built 200R4 overdrive transmission.
What started as a second car has become so much more to Allan. While he no longer subjects the car to the rigors of everyday highway use, you can be certain the Nova Rally does get the opportunity to stretch its legs whenever the sun is shining and the roads are dry.