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Reminiscing About My 1974 Chevy Nova: ERTL ’70 Nova SS and Hotwheels ’68 Nova

My then-friend, now-wife Shawie and I with my 1974 Chevy Nova and its Miss Universe commemorative plate “HI QT” (Hi Cutie) in 1994.

In 1993, I found myself suddenly without a ride when the privilege of taking home my company car was suspended because of petty office politics. At that time, I was in a supervisory position and I only had a small amount of cash in my personal account. With the meager funds I had, I could buy a used Japanese sedan but I realized I was more interested in American cars like my grandfather and my father before me. You see, when I was a small boy in the late ’60s, my grandpa was chauffeured around in a 1963 Chevrolet Nova II 4-door sedan while my Papa tooled around in a 1952 Chevy Styline Deluxe 2-door sedan that he bought from my grandpa. So, with P50,000, I bought a used 1974 Chevrolet Nova 2-door sedan to drive daily from my home to the office and back. Having my big American car in the company parking lot full of Japanese cars drove my boss crazy.

My butter yellow Chevy Nova got me into the American muscle car hobby.

My butter yellow Nova was powered by a 250-cubic-inch (4.0-liter) inline 6-cylinder engine that was mated to a 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic 350 automatic transmission. Because of the U.S. Federal safety requirements of 1973, it sports big 5-mph chrome bumpers that intimidated drivers of smaller vehicles to move aside and give way in narrow streets. With its big bumpers, minor dings and small scratches, it was the perfect street warrior against unruly PUV drivers in the mid-90’s. I reluctantly sold the Nova in 1996 to finance the restoration of my 1971 Chevy Camaro RS but I vowed to buy it back sometime in the future or at least find a similar one.

In hindsight, I should have kept my car and turned it into “1BDNOVA (One Bad Nova)”.

While searching for my old DEB-643, I found a 1:18 scale model of a 1970 Chevy Nova Super Sport (SS) that was part of ERTL’s “American Muscle” series of die cast models. While my ’74 Nova and the ’70 model share the same body, they have a different bumper and grill treatment at the front and well as a different tail light assembly and center valance at the back.

The 1970 Nova SS shares the same body with my ’74 Nova but with different front end…

… and different rear end treatment.

The first ERTL Nova SS scale model I bought from the now-defunct “Uncle Johnny’s Hobby Shop” was a black one but I was able to trade it with the butter yellow model – the one you see in this post – from my good friend and former Everyday Holiday American Muscle Car Club fellow member Michael “Mike” Wong, who’s now based in the U.S. At least, the ERTL die cast model resembles my actual car, albeit in color only.

The ERTL Nova sports 5-spoke SS wheels…

… with opening hood and doors.

Other than the butter yellow finish, the ERTL die cast model differs from my actual car with its 375-horsepower 396 cubic inch (6.5-liter) big block Chevy V8, chrome SS wheels, hood grill (that was derived from the 1968 Camaro parts bin), fender fins, front bucket seats (my car had the base model bench seats), and floor-mounted stick shift (mine had the column-shift automatic). Nevertheless, I love the attention-to-detail that ERTL endowed on this model car.

The ERTL model sports a 375-hp 396 big block V8 under the hood…

… and a lot of attention to detail that I love to examine closely.

A few years after acquiring the 1:18 die cast Nova SS, my son Chevy and I later found a couple of Hotwheels ’68 Nova die cast toy cars at, most appropriately, Toys ‘R Us. While the rendition of the 1:64 scale Hotwheels Nova aren’t very exact – with large wheels like a restomod muscle car and a “nose-down rear-up” drag race car stance – they look good enough to keep as collectible toys. These toy cars remind me of the “Death-Proof” Nova that Kurt Russel drove in the Quentin Tarantino film. I just like the way they look.

Hotwheels released a 1:64 scale die cast ’68 Nova SS in metallic blue with racing stripes…

… and in orange with black stripes and flames.

I continued to daydream about the cars I had, the cars I have, and the cars I want to have in the future while confined to my home during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) required to fight this COVID-19 pandemic. I felt lucky to have experienced driving a ’74 Chevy Nova for three years and I resolved to find and buy back my old DEB-643, given a chance. Unlike my scale model cars, which are easy to find a space to store it indoors, getting my old butter yellow Nova back means I have to make space for it. Time to butter up to the wife-y.

Wife: “Why are you searching the web for a butter yellow 1974 Nova? Huh?!”

Me, whispering: “I’m not searching. I know where a real ’68 Nova SS 396 is stashed. Heh-heh.”