The Vauxhall Nova appeared all brand new and sparkly in 1983, though it’s much better known as a second-hand jalopy, often parked somewhere near an all-night newsagent.
It’s sad, as once upon a time the Nova was driven by kids cool enough to own a pair of British Knights, but now it’s almost exclusively favoured by the ‘mod car’ crowd. Those apprentice chavs who can’t seem to wait to crash their stolen widowmakers into a bottle bank round Tesco’s car park.
The mod (modified) car scene has swept over Britain’s quiet cul de sac’s like a toxic plague. It’s also referred to as cruising, which makes us feel quite old at hecklerspray, because cruising meant something quite different in ‘our day’. It was illegal back then too.
The Nova is undeniably king chav in mod world (the ‘Novadose’). Frequently adorned with a vast array of skirts, spoilers and Day-Glo stickers, the once semi-proud Nova name has been reduced to laughing stock amongst anybody old enough to vote.
We’ll ignore this fact for now and just concentrate on the good old days. Let’s call them the early-nineties. Reservoir Dogs had just done the rounds, U Sure Do continued to rule the clubs, and we were all still embarrassed to buy condoms.
If you owned a Nova back in the day you had proper street cred. If you owned an SR model in red you could have had sex with anybody you wanted. Only a Peugeot 205 XS got you more action.
The Nova was an unsettling driving experience. Set low down, it felt as though someone had torn the seats out and replaced them with gym mats. The gear change belonged in a forklift truck, and let’s not forget the interior design. The 1.2 litre’s (much used) wine cloth and matching carpets evoked the feeling of a 1970’s Ford Mustang, but without giving the driver any sense of self worth whatsoever.
The brakes were never happy to stop unless an announcement was made a good two minutes before a junction. It didn’t matter though. Bang, crash, wallop, you got a ding and you travelled on regardless. The Nova’s brisk acceleration came in handy on such occasions, so long as you kept all on-board passengers to a bare minimum. One, preferably.
Normally in this feature we like to dig out some claims to fame about our chosen car. Something akin to "Ewan McGregor drove a Nova around the set of The Island", or "Johnny Depp bought a Nova for his wife’s birthday". But to be brutally honest, we’ve come up a bit short this time. Unless you consider Sean Bean apparently driving one before he got the Lord of the Rings gig to be in any way impressive. No, thought not.
It’s not a famous car, the Nova. It’s not loved by anyone much – even its owners if truth be told. There are a few websites around dedicated to attaching exhaust pipes bigger than barrels to its rear end, but they’re all run by people who can’t leave the country without it infringing on their ASBO. That doesn’t count as love, more like misguided glorification.
If any car’s reputation was ever built on rose-tinted memories it’s the Nova. Memories and those three spoke hubcaps that can still look okay in the right light, or strategically placed shadow.
If we had more cash than our £2.78 lunch money we would definitely buy a Vauxhall Nova. If only to enjoy burning out the clutch on the way to the scrapyard – assuming of course its after-market New Delhi tyres don’t just evacuate the road on the first wet roundabout.
Our choice for the week is a faded blue 1992 model with service history and electric windows. It starts at just £50.00. Though don’t blame us if it ends up killing you.
If you’re still struggling to take the plunge, then this little tale of misery won’t help seal the deal…
In 1993 a woman from Pontefract only managed to park her Vauxhall Nova after eight hours and fourteen minutes of trying. This is despite having a whole 63ft to manoeuvre, which is roughly equivalent to three parking bays. She also crashed into two lampposts, a shop front and two adjoining cars in the process.
She was absolutely a crap driver, but if you want to discover just how little help she got from the Nova you’ll have to go buy one and find out.
[story by Chris Laverty]