With all the talk about Detroit Malaise last week, it seemed like a good time to break out an example of one of The General's Malaise warriors, as captured in its natural habitat of an Alameda street. The Nova is a great example of the Malaise Effect; it started out as a small, barebones commuter car with a steel dashboard, went through a period of wild hot-roddedness in the late 60s, then bloated into a big, tape-striped slug in the 70s, cursed by British Leyland-esque build quality and slathered in cheap-looking plastic that cracked and faded before the buyer even paid off the car. The 80s Corolla-based Novas served only as a cruel epilogue to the Nova story. Still, I can't help but like the Malaise Novas for their sometimes-say-die spirit; I had a '76 for a while and it may have been the most easily-repaired car I've ever owned (but the only way to learn this about a vehicle is to have it break down constantly, which my Nova certainly did).

Did Ford shamelessly rip off that grille design for the Fairmont or what? Hmm... those big bumpers would do well on a 24 Hours of LeMons car. Just put a 350... er, I mean a 305 (all LeMons racers with small-block Chevy engines will tell you they have 305s) in it and you're ready to understeer through turns and burn rubber out of them!

The mock-optimistic emblems and low-bidder taillight plastic tell a tale of Malaise Era diminished expectations. This car is a history lesson!

Compare this car's bulk to the Nova of just 14 years earlier. Of course, in a process familiar to Honda Civic fans, the Nova got bigger and bigger and eventually had smaller models (Vega, then Chevette and Monza) placed beneath it in the model hierarchy, so it's not really fair to judge a car by bloat.

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