Product Type: Vauxhall cars
Newest Review: ... that has refused to help with anything I've asked. Novas have had a bad reputation in the past for being owned by 'barryboys' and 'boyra... more
It still knows how to perform on roads today, and will do for years to come.
Member Name: uncle_bob
Date: 30/08/01, updated on 30/08/01 (5195 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to modify, Cheap to run, Well known, with personality
Disadvantages: Security, Brakes, Became the Corsa.
1. What was the best thing Vauxhall did?
2. What was the worst thing Vauxhall did?
1. Introduced the Nova
2. Changed the Nova for the Corsa!
Answers that a lot of people would give when asked those 2 questions. And with good reason. Vauxhall’s baby, The Nova. Let lose on the Roads in the UK in 1983, and was set to take the hatchback market by storm, and soon became a leading contender in the hot hatch market. Vauxhall, which is General Motors UK, took an Astra and Cavalier, chopped it up a bit, added a few tweaks, and out popped the Nova, Opel Corsa, GM Minivan (that’s what I have been told It was called in the States. Personally, I don’t even know if it was released there. Be interested to find out if anyone knows).
When released, the range included the popular 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, and the not so successful, 2 and 4 door saloon models.
Each showing off a 1.0, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.6 litre, 4 cylinder OHC engines. Back then the OHC engine (that’s over head cam) was quite a new thing, and not seen in many cars of its era. Vauxhall used its increased performance to their advantage and the result was a car that could outperform most OHV (that’s over head valve) engines of the same capacity. For example, and this is personal experience, but when I first purchased my Nova it carried a 1.2 engine. This Nova, before I set lose on it with my credit card, out performed a Ford Fiesta XR2! Not bad for a 1.2 I’m sure you will agree. But that isn’t due to engine alone.
The 1.0 only had an OHV engine fitted and was frankly not worth much. All engines above that used OHC.
As well as engine choice, you had model choice too, ranging from the standard L version, up to the Sri and GTE models, all offering various trim options and features.
Later the range was added to with the 1.4 and 1.4 injection coming out, and the 1.5 diesel. The Gsi was the sort aft
er Nova, boasting a sporty 1.6 multi point fuel injection engine, and all manor of interior fittings and trim. With very sporty body styling, that still fits in with today’s hot hatches. Not many were produced and this made them all the more special, and sort after.
Power figures produced by the various engines are as followed:
1.0 - 45bhp
1.2 - 55bhp (up to 1992)
1.2 – 45bhp (after 1992)
1.3 - 70bhp
1.4, this gets complicated:
The carburettor model produced 72bhp
The injection produced 60bhp
The multi-point injection produced 80bhp
The 1.6 pumped out 100bhp and I believe the Gsi topped that, but I am not sure of the figures for that.
Those figures look small compared to hatchbacks today, but its worth remembering, in their time, you didn’t have fancy engine management systems, complicated fuel maps, and the design you have in engines these days. Those engines were basic, as it stands lumps, and it was more about what you could do with them, rather than what a computer can do with them, like today.
They were, and still are, very nippy little cars, with their lightweight design and very good gearboxes, they out performed a lot of the competition.
So, why am I a fan of the Nova still?
Well, even though I have gone up in the world and joined the world with the modern day car and systems, I still have my baby. A Nova 1.4SR sitting in my garage. I just can’t part with it.
I brought the car about 3 years ago. I paid £250 for her, and it was a bog standard 1.2 L which had been smashed into in a supermarket car park. I already had a Nova identical sitting on my drive, which had been written off the week before by someone running into her from behind. So a quick swap of doors and damaged body panels, engine parts etc, before the insurance company came along and took her to the great scrap yard in the sky, sorted the new one out up to a drivable standard. I did all this ove
r Christmas too, spent a pleasant Christmas day, taking the doors off!
After far to much money, and far to much time, it now stands as a 1.4SR (that’s the 3rd engine swap it has had) and in a ‘different’ Purple colour, with a unique body styling scheme set on it, incorporating parts from all over the place from different cars.
Performance of her now stands approx.:
0-60 8 seconds
60-0 4 seconds
Top end of 115mph (anything after that, and it can get a little hair raising)
That’s not up with a lot of your hot hatches today, but she still gives a lot of cars a run for their money, and often annoys the BMW driver off the lights.
So. Pros and Cons of the Nova?
Well being Vauxhall and their reputation, it had very good DIY friendly build. All panels etc were bolted on, instead of the favoured weld. This meant changing panels was easy and cheap. And engine work was easy with a lot of major jobs capable without having to remove the engine. A feature that is non-existent today, in favour of charging you the Earth to have them do it for you.
Also because of its simple design, and similarity to the Astra and Cavalier, it meant customisation was a snitch. With most parts from the 2 cars dropping straight on, with little or no modification. Parts were also interchangeable through out the range. For instance the bumper from the Gsi fits straight onto the early 1.2 with very little work needed.
Also, because the Astra and Cavalier were the roll models for a lot of the cars Vauxhall produced the years after, meant even more choice in parts. The common one being the 2litre lump out of the Calibra, which can be fitted to any Nova fairly easily. Who discovered that? That’s what I want to know.
Practically every manufacturer of modifying parts produces parts for the Nova, even today you can still get new designs of body kits and engine mods, for the Nova, and still will be able to in ye
ars to come, because the Nova is not going out without a fight!
Parts from almost any car could be chopped and modified to fit the Nova. I have seen Novas with front and rear bumpers off the Renault Clio fitted, and Cosworth body kits chopped and changed to fit. If it will come off the donor car, it will go on the Nova. The biggest mod I have seen anyway, being the 2.4 engine fitted. How he did it, I will never know, but lets just say, it gives Ferrari a run for their money!
This was the nice thing about the Nova, it wasn’t advertised as a ‘Hot Hatch’ and so it was fairly insurance friendly, as long as you left it alone. The trouble started when modifiers got a hold of it and started modifying it. Insurance companies then realised they could ripp off young drivers even more, and so it jumped up a group. Only 1 insurance company would insure my Nova, that was Priviledge, and I was paying £750 3rd party F&T! When you consider I am only paying £790 for my Calibra now, that’s a steep insurance quote. But they could charge what the wanted.
Well it has to be said the Nova is not the safest car on the road, as standard. Forget your airbags, ABS, Traction control etc, it just wasn’t going to happen. The standard stoppers on the Nova would stop the car, eventually, and that was about it. However, there was no reason why vented discs and 4-pot callipers wouldn’t fit, and they did. I run vented discs and Callipers from the Gsi on my Nova, and they have saved my life! I have even seen ABS fitted to some Novas. It’s a task, but possible.
The thing about the Nova is It is hard to say what a great car it was, when looking at standard cars, because, it just isn't standard. Very few Novas are running on the roads today standard. The standard ones died out a long time ago. And so any problems the Nova had, have been improved by the drivers, not by Vauxhall. Vauxhall gave up a
nd launched the Corsa. Nuff said!
It has to be said, the Nova could handle. Its short wheelbase made it great for corners, and when lowered handles great. I can’t get the back end of mine out, even in the snow.
Being Front wheel drive gives you great control, with out the risk of sliding when you put the power down in a bend, and if you do happen to get into a spin, you can usually recover from it easily, which you cant in a rear wheel drive.
However, as standard, the lightweight, flimsy body shell, did make the Nova roll a lot, and that was often the cause for them going to the scrappy. But again, uprated suspension and strut braces sorts out that little problem.
Well, the Nova was not the most aerodynamic car on the road, hence its name the ‘shopping trolley’, It does show a resemblance. It has a square front, and square back, and everything in between is, you guessed it, square. But, once again, a call to Deamon Tweeks, sorts that out, and sets the Nova off, once again, into the smart stylish car you see today.
Rust was another thing that often killed the Nova. Because of its flared arches, and sills, it has a lot of water traps. So the dreaded rust sets in and starts to eat away the car. Care and attention can prevent this, but once it has started, it is very hard to stop it.
However the ‘bolt together’ body panels mean if the front wheel arch starts rusting, whip it off and bolt a new one on, jobs a gooden.
This also was not top of Vauxhalls priority list when developing the Nova. It is very easy to break into and have away with. Often a sharp knife is enough. With no alarm fitted as standard, and the door locks being child’s play, it made for a very easy target for the low life scums out there. This also bumped insurance up.
But yet again, a good after market alarm system protects your Nova, a lot better than most standard alarms fitted t
You can’t pick the locks on my Nova, because I don’t have any! I took them off
You cant smash the windows and unlock them from inside, because, security film on the windows, and the absence of anything to unlock them with inside, makes that method useless.
Ultra sonic, current sensing, tamper sensing, shock sensing, nasty hair cut sensing, the works, all controlled by a little black button on my key ring.
You can fit any number of security devices to the Nova, easily and cheaply.
So what’s with this Corsa then?
Well, the Nova has always been the Corsa. The Corsa you know today is not a new car, it is a Nova, just sporting a major overhaul. Like I said at the start, the Nova was called a Corsa in many parts of Europe, and the launch of the ‘new’ Corsa, was just making the UK, one of them countries.
How does the Corsa match up to the Nova?
Badly, that’s what I say. Now I know a lot of you will be shouting at your computer screen singing the Corsa’s praises and how bad the Nova is. But the hard facts are the Nova just out performs the Corsa.
Check on-line, or in magazines, no end of head to heads have been carried out on the 2 cars, and the Nova wins almost everytime. (can’t wait to read the comments on this now).
The main advantage the Nova has over the Corsa, is their modifying bonus. The Corsa joined the world of computers and Welding, making engine modifications and body modifications a lot harder, and people just don’t waste their time anymore. Better to go buy hatchback that already has the styling and engine and save the time and money, because the Corsa is not practical. Now I know a lot of people do spend the time on the Corsa, and have produced some very nice cars, but how many modified Corsas are on the road, compared to Novas? And how many variations of the Corsa do you see? Very few, because not as many parts are available.
Max Power did
a good comparison of the 2 cars a little while back. Putting any Corsa, up against any Nova. The Nova won hands down and it shows that although it has been discontinued for a few years now, it still knows how to perform on roads today, and will do for years to come
Long live Vauxhalls Baby