Welcome to “Flashback Friday” #1. This will be an ongoing series where I elaborate on the vehicles I have had the pleasure (or not) of owning. Our “first cars” are almost always actually owned by our parents since you can’t legally one one at age 16 and are usually gone by the time you are 19. I’m going to include the 3 vehicles that I had use of during that time period also but never actually owned.
The first is of course the 1972 Chevrolet Nova. I could go on an on about this one, but I don’t have the time to do it here. I could even recite the VIN from memory and tell you what each digit meant. There are some things you just can’t forget. But I’ll spare you all that and just record a few details that may be of interest. My parents bought this car new. My Mom drove it until around 1982 when they bought a 1981 Caprice Estate wagon, then it became my Dad’s daily driver until I turned 16 and it became my daily driver. This is the first car I ever drove, and I was 14 when I did for the first time. I drove it in a deserted industrial area several times before I turned 15 because my Dad wanted me to start driving immediately when I turned 15. When I did turn 15 I began driving it (with him as a passenger) every day to and from school. Dad understood that after a year of driving during rush hour I would be ready to handle being turned loose on my own at 16.
In 1983 or 84, Dad was driving when a lady pulled out in front of him in an even larger vehicle. The front end was toast, so it got a new one and new paint… on the front. The car was 12 years old so the original yellow was faded some and the shade of the new front paint didn’t quite match. Somewhere between 84 and 86 the engine was rebuilt, and the heads were reworked to handle unleaded gas since leaded had been phased out. In 1986 I was coming home late one night and hit a deer in the fog, taking out one fender. Rather than have 3 shades of yellow we opted to have the entire car repainted properly by a paint & restoration specialist who would remove all the trim and do it right in the exact original shade of light yellow. It came out beautifully, as you can see in these photos that were taken in 1988.
In 1987 it developed an oil leak that we could not find. It was confusing because after driving it for an our or so there would be fresh oil all over the front of the engine and the passenger side wheel well. But you could never actually see where it was coming from. Dad decided to park it, we put a cover on it, and it sat for the next three years. Every few weeks I would crank it and let it run for an hour or so. Every month I would wash it and drive it around, and wax it every few months. I was not going to let it deteriorate under the cover.
In 1990 Dad decided we needed to fix the problem, which meant we needed to find the problem. We took it to an old guy who was a retired mechanic that had a full shop in his back yard and would only work on old cars. He eventually found that a pinhole had developed in the timing chain cover (probably rust from the outside). When the engine was revved the increased oil pressure would shoot a tiny stream of oil through the hole. Of course the cooling fan is right in front of the timing chain cover, so the fan was blowing the oil back all over the engine comparment. Mystery solved, but several years wasted due to a $25 part. Dad decided to wait to replace the cover. I think he wanted to get a chrome cover kit, but I can’t remember for sure. Within a year my parents decided to sell the house and move back into the city. No more huge back yard for it to sit in. Dad decided it was time to sell it, and so he did. So with 170,000 miles it went to it’s second owner. I think the sale price was $2,200. I saw it a year or two later, banged up and filthy. What a waste.
The driving experience wasn’t really bad at all. The car was not as heavy as you would expect, weighing only a bit over 3,000 lbs., similar to a new Honda Accord. The V8 had 200 hp at the flywheel, so it had plenty of power without being too much of a tire burner. If there was ever a car begging for larger tires this would be it. I put on slightly wider 205/70-14 white letter tires but they were the widest that would fit on the 5.5″ steel rims. It had good balance though and felt fairly well planted on the road.
1972 Chevrolet Nova, VIN: 1X27F2W121379
2 Door Coupe, Light Yellow with Sand Vinyl Interior
307ci. V8 with 2 barrel carburetor
‘Powerglide’ 2 speed automatic transmission
Power Brakes (4 drum)
Whitewall tires (195/75-14)
Optional side molding
Rubber floor cover (no carpet)