Junkyard Gem: 1988 Chevy Nova Sedan

A Chevy-badged Corolla, built in the factory Tesla now calls home.

  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
General Motors stopped building the all-Detroit rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet Nova after the 1979 model year, replacing it with the Citation. The Nova name still resonated with Chevrolet buyers, though, and so GM applied it to the Chevrolet-badged AE82 Toyota Corolla Sprinters it built with Toyota at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif. Here's an '88 Nova, photographed in a wrecking yard about five miles from where it was built.

The New United Motors plant, aka NUMMI, was a GM-Toyota joint venture at the old GM Fremont Assembly plant in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tesla took over the site in 2010, and now the Model S, Model X, and Model 3 are built where Pontiac GTOs, Olds Cutlasses, and various GM-Toyota machines were assembled.

Under the hood, it's pure Toyota, with a 4A engine rated at 74 horsepower. Production of the versatile 4A engine family ran from the early 1980s into our current century, with various flavors of 4A powering everything from the legendary AE86 Corolla GT-S to the early MR2s to the Daihatsu Charmant.

These cars were just as reliable as Japanese-built Corollas, and they served their owners well for decade after decade. In 1989, the Nova became the Geo Prizm, and a high-performance version with the same 130-horse engine as the Corolla GT-S, the Prizm GSi, became available. No, there was no hot-rod Nova SS built at NUMMI.

Values for Novas and Prizms always lagged behind those for their Toyota-badged siblings, but enough of these cars have stayed running that you'll still see them now and then.

Want a car that's both American and an import? GM had you covered in 1988.

The Chevy way to go is absolutely right!

In Japan, these cars were sold as Sexy Sprinters, for obvious reasons.

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