Sometimes when you’re changing a product’s image, you have to pull out all the stops. Or in the the Nova LN’s case, you’d break out the parasol.
In the 1960s, US manufacturers rounded out their lineups with compact cars like the 1966 Chevy Nova pictured below. Unlike the novel rear-engined Corvair, the Nova was as common as cars come, with leaf springs holding up a rear-wheel-driven beam axle. Novas – and Ford Falcons, and Dodge Darts – were completely conventional, and their prosaic designs helped keep their prices low.
The marketing reflected this. Here we see sensible women in white gloves and pleasant hats visiting a modern house with a friendly and slender hostess. The nondescript Nova fits right into this kind of mild scene.
Under this more tailored look was the same basic Nova – Chevrolet even used the word “basic” to describe it. And, the people photographed with these Novas were innocuous people who grocery-shopped and dressed their kids in red, white and blue.
That is, until you turn the page to the Nova LN, which was a new experiment for 1975. Chevrolet and other carmakers had awoken in the early-’70s and realized that their simple compact sedans were sized like the premium Mercedes-Benz and BMW and Audi sedans that were emanating from Germany.
So, they created versions of their compacts with European flair to appeal to those German-car buyers. Ford had the Maverick LDO, Dodge had the Dart Special Edition, and Chevrolet brought forth the Nova LN – the “Luxury Nova.”
All three of these Euro-pretenders had the main hallmark of Mercedes imitators – the color-keyed wheel covers.
But only one of them was pictured with this ghostly family, with its odd fashions and lacy parasol. Suddenly, the models had gone from typical and relatable to curious and strange. Why is the couple seeming to levitate three feet or so above the ground – is the parasol floating them up?
It’s unsettling, especially since they’re locking eyes with us. If we were the kids, then we’d probably hide in the shadows too.
Whoa, here come the bedroom eyes. If you hadn’t ever held a sultry thought when thinking of a Nova, then this model aimed to change that.
Now it’s time for a very blond family outing. The kids in back seem pleased, but it looks like Uncle Sven up front is in another one of his states of crippling ennui. It’s rare for a car brochure to evoke thoughts of existential dread, but no one said that adopting a European sensibility would be easy.
Ah, that’s better. Turn the page, and there’s the typical-’70s advertising conceit: a small mob of casually-dressed Americans smiling at the camera and crowding around the product that’s carefully arranged in the frame. It says: you look like everybody here, so go ahead and buy the car they like.
That was the opposite tack for the Nova LN, and maybe that’s why it lasted only one year. In 1976, the Nova LN was replaced by the Nova Concours, and the LN’s Euro-like color-keyed wheel covers were changed out for discs with more glitter, and shiny trim was dappled on the the rest of the Nova as well.
And so in the end, traditional American values won out – but the 1975 Nova LN remains one the Chevrolet’s oddest marketing adventures.