(Police Nova's)

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1974 Police Nova

1974 Police Nova Prototype
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 The 1974 Nova was not available with any police gear, period. However, the '74 Nova became the test platform for one of the most popular and highly engineered police cars to ever hit the streets, especially in Southern California. The Nova police car got its notoriety from Motor Trend Executive Editor John Christy. Christy was also a Specialist Reserve Deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. Christy made technical changes to the LASD vehicle test procedures to make them more realistic, more accurate, more detailed and more relevant. This new test method paved the way for mid-size cars to replace full-size cars in many patrol areas. The '74 Nova tested by the LASD was powered by a 350-cid/185-hp, four-barrel carbureted V-8 with a Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission and 3.08 rear gears. This engine was totally unique to the police Nova. The chassis was a mixture of standard and optional Nova SS and Camaro Z28 parts. The brakes were from the full-size Bel Air. The power steering had Z28 valving, which gave more road feel and response. The suspension had front and rear sway bars. The Nova used specially-developed, Firestone E70x14 pursuit tires. The COPO 9C1 Nova, jointly developed by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and Motor Trend magazine, is the most important police car Chevrolet ever made. The Nova 9C1 revolutionized the police use of mid-size patrol cars in exactly the same way as the special service package Ford Mustang got cops to rethink pursuit cars.

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1975 Police Nova

  What would be the biggest police car news from Chevrolet in years was the 1975 Nova with the COPO 9C1 police package. Few police cars in history have had the impact of the '75 Nova 9C1. The Nova would be the car of choice for large urban police and sheriffs departments all over the country.
 With this Nova, Chevrolet became a major force in the police market. The Nova 9C1 instantly unseated the AMC Matador and successfully blocked first the Dart/Valiant and then the Aspen/Volare. Chrysler Corp. was shut out of this end of the police market by a compact Chevy designed specifically for police work. The durable, engineered Nova 9C1 literally opened the door at police departments for other Chevrolet models to compete. When the '77 downsized full-size Chevy arrived, Chevrolet was set to literally take the police market away from Chrysler.
 Until the Nova 9C1, Chevrolet had been tied with Ford for second choice behind Plymouth. The Nova changed all that. It established Chevrolet as a source for highly developed squad cars specifically engineered for police duty.
 In its first year of specialized police service,the carefully developed and highly engineered Nova came just one way: The Nova used the LM1 350-cid, four-barrel carbureted V-8 with the M40 Turbo Hydro-Matic 350 and the 3.08 rear axle ratio. No other engines, transmissions or axle ratios were available.
 The 350-cid/155-nhp V-8 was specifically developed for maximum horsepower and maximum torque under the constraints of the California emissions laws. This was the first four-barrel version of the 350 since 1973. It was down about 25 nhp from that era but all engines were down in power.
 Actually,the LM1 was heavily tweaked. Rather than simply adding a California Emissions Package to an already existing engine, Chevrolet built the LM1 with the Emissions Package as a starting point. Carb jetting, ignition timing, valve sizes, and cam profiles were selected to make the most from this engine and still be perfectly compliant with the emission laws.
 The police Nova was a police package car in the truest sense. Each piece in the drivetrain was selected with the same care components in the LM1 engine. The built-up Nova was loaded with fluid coolers, and fitted with heavy-duty chassis components. Chevrolet used heaviest-duty Nova SS and Camaro Z28 suspension components and the brakes from the full-size Bel Air and Impala. The '75 Nova got a brand new body and styling. In fact,it was the first significant Nova body change in eight years. The total glass area was increased. The windshield, for example, was 15 percent larger. The wheelbase, however, remained at 111 inches.
 The retail Nova was available as a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe plus a hatch-back coupe. The police package, however, was based stictly on the six-passenger, four-door sedan.
 The Nova got all the emissions and safety upgrades for 1975 as did the other Chevrolet models including a catalytic converter, double roof panels, High Energy Ignition, larger diameter exhaust, outside ducted air intake and threaded fuel tank cap with smaller diameter filler hole. The Nova also got a new steering gear location now forward of the front wheel centerline.
 The COPO 9C1 police package included the special "California V-8" and heavy-duty suspension, brakes and cooling. The retail tire was either an E78x14 bias-ply tire or an ER78x14 steel belted radial. However,the police package tire for the Nova was an E70x14 "wide oval" bias belted tire mounted on a special 14x7 heavy-duty wheel.
 The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department thrashed a number of 1975 police package cars; however, they disqualified even more of them before the vehicles were even unloaded from the trailer. The result was a four-way showdown between the Plymouth Fury 360, Dodge Coronet 360, AMC Matador 401 and the Chevrolet Nova 350.
 The Nova 9C1 turned in a competitive overall performance compared to the two larger and more powerfull street veterans. And it did it with a numerically lower rear axle and bias-belted tires compared to much larger pursuit radials. To pass the first hurdle, the Nova 9C1 was given an accepable rating around the Pomona EVOC track at the L.A. County Fairgrounds.
 The Nova 9C1 produced an average 0-60 mph and 60-95 mph acceleration but out-braked and out-evasively handled the bigger sedans. The Nova had a controlled fluid temperature heat rise and scored well in the areas of officer ergonomics and communication equipment installation. The real Nova 9C1 victory came during the 72-mile gas mileage test under combinations of urban and rural surface streets and freeway driving. It bested the Matador in-service car by more than 2 mpg.
 The LASD recommended that one-third of its enormous 1975 fleet of police cars be made up of the Nova. This would give the LASD an opportunity to both validate its new vehicle test procedure and to give the Nova a formal, large-scale, in-service, field test. With the LASD, it would be continuous Chevrolet from then on: First, the Nova, then the Malibu, then the Impala.
 This 1975 LASD vehicle test was a stunning victory for Chevrolet in general and Nova in particular.

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1976 Nova SWAT model box

   1979 Squad Rod

1976 Police Nova

1976 Chevy Police Vehicles
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 After the overwelming success of the high-performance, fuel-efficient, six passenger, police-tough Nova in 1975, it was easy to imagine what vehicle was on the cover of the 1976 Chevrolet Police Vehicles catalog: the COPO Nova 9C1. In fact, the compact Nova was now listed first in the official police literature, followed by the intermediate Chevelle, then the full-size Chevrolet. The Chevrolet literature brought the logic of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department tests to the attention of police fleet administators. On the back cover:
"Todays police administrators are aware that there's a lot more to consider in selecting a police vehicle than just purchase price. For that reason, many law inforcement agencies are weighing the total cost of owning and operating a vehicle during its period of service.
"This procedure, called Life Cycle Cost/Performance Evaluation includes the following criteria: initial cost, fuel economy, parts replacement cost, resale value, general patrol capability, human factors such as driver comfort, mechanical evaluation including downtime and serviceability, heat tests and the adaptability of communications equipment.
"When it comes time to evaluate your department's needs and the vehicles available, you may want to consider a Life Cycle Cost/Performance Evaluation. And when you do, we think you'll find Chevy Nova is the practical new alternative to the traditional police vehicle."
The irony of this advice to consider an alternative to the traditional police vehicle was the back cover containing this advice also contained a full page photo of the full-size Impala. However, the facts were clear. The Nova 9C1 was forging an entirely new segment of the police car market. It was right for the times.
 The Impala, however, was still getting beaten up by the Dodge Monaco and Coronet and Plymouth Gran Fury and Fury. The Impala was simply not yet right for the times. That would change in 1977. But for the time being, the Nova 9C1 was the darling of the nation's police fleet. Chevrolet knew this and played it up.
 Chevrolet emphasized that the St. Louis,Missouri, police had 189 of the Novas, the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department had 75 more units and the Madison,Wisconsin, police had 32 police Novas. This made it clear that the Nova 9C1 was a good fit in big, medium and small urban police departments. Actually, the Saint Louis Police would become one of most fleet progressive agencies in the country. They jumped on the police-engineered Nova, and were among the first departments in the nation to make widespread use of the front-wheel drive Celebrities and then Luminas.
 The Nova 9C1 lineup was expanded to include both the four-door sedan and the new-for-1976 two-door coupe. Both these cars had the same 111-inch wheelbase.
 The Nova 9C1 was nearly a complete carry-over for 1976. Chevrolet Fleet, the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and Motor Trend magazine had developed the perfect compact police cruiser over the past two years. No one expected much to change. In fact, the only real improvement for 1976 was a special rear seat on the four-door sedans. This gave improved knee and entry/exit room.
 The LM1 "California V-8" was the only engine offered in the Nova 9C1. This was basically unchanged for 1976, however, it was listed at 165 nhp. Again for 1976, the LM1 350-cid, four-barrel carbureted V-8 was restricted for sale and/or registration to the state of California, except when powering the Nova 9C1. The police Nova sent to all 50 states used this "California V-8".
The GM-specification steel-belted tires, which were standard equipment for all Chevrolet retail and some police cars in 1975, caused some confusion among cops. For 1976, Chevrolet made it clear:
 "GM-specification steel belted radial tires and bias belted tires are available options for police chassis-equipped vehicles although not recommended for high speed use. Contact your local Chevrolet dealer, zone or regional sales person for ordering of all tires."
 Steel belted radials were all the rage for retail cars and for police cars used for detective work. However, police cars used high speed emergency responses needed to use fabric belted radials or bias belted tires. After the death of a state trooper due to a steel belt seperation, it would be years before steel belted radials gained high speed ratings and police confidence. Chevrolet joined all automakers in urging the use of fabric (Kevlar) belted radials until the steel belted radials were speed rated for operations up to 130 mph.
 For 1976, the Nova 9C1 came with FR70x14 fabric belted radials. This was one size larger than in 1974 and a radial instead of the 1974 bias belted tire. This was a great match.
 The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department performed its annual tests on 1976 model year vehicles. Many of the Fords and Mercurys except the Montego 400-cid V-8 were disqualified for specification problems. The Dodge Coronet 400-cid V-8 was disqualified because of unacceptable handling and braking. American Motors, once the owner of the Southern California police market-which is a mystery to most automotive enthusiasts-did not submit any 1976 vehicles for testing.
 The Nova 9C1 was the clear and heads-up winner. It had the fastest 0-60 mph and 60-95 mph times and the quickest quarter-mile trap speeds. It generated an incredible 1.2 g of braking force, and equaled or bested all the other cars on the evasive maneuvers course and the skid pad. The Nova 9C1 had the best actual gas mileage by far and was competitive in all other measured and subjective categories.
 When the results were weighted and totaled, the Nova 9C1 was the best overall performing squad car by a big margin over the best from Dodge, Plymouth, Pontiac, Mercury and Ford.
The LASD was so happy with the Nova 9C1 that it ran the car as its exclusive black-and-white patrol cars in 1976, 1977 and 1978. This was as long as the Nova came with a 9C1 police package.

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1977 Nova police car pics
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Museum
Front   Left Side
Rear   Right Side

1977 Police Nova

1977 Police Nova

1977 Nova ad  In 1977,Chevrolet fielded three 9C1 police package sedans: Impala, Chevelle, and Nova. The emphasis in 1977 for all law enforcement vehicles was the better performance and, at the same time, better fuel economy that was available from the intermediate-size squad cars. For example, the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare with engines from the 225-cid, one-barrel carbureted Slant Six to the 360-cid, four-barrel carbureted V-8 were new for 1977. Mercury introduced its compact Comet and intermediate Cougar with police packages. Pontiac hyped its 3.8-liter V-6-powered LeMans.
 For the July 1978 issue, Car and Driver test drove the leaner 1977 Impala 9C1 powered by the LM1 350-cid, four-barrel carbureted V-8. The 116-inch wheelbase squad car had the three-speed Turbo Hydro-Matic and a positraction 3.08 rear end. The 0-60-mph time was 9.7 seconds with a top speed of 117 mph. These stats would remain basically unchanged for the next dozen years.
 This level of police car performance is bleak, however, consider the times. A 1977 L82-powered Corvette with a 350-cid/210-nhp V-8, Turbo Hydro-Matic transmission and 3.55 rear gears took a full 8.8 seconds to hit 60 mph and had a quarter-mile speed of 82 mph. Ironically, the LM1-powered police Nova 9C1 outperformed the Corvette with an 8.6 second 0-60 mph time and an 85 mph quarter-mile speed. The point is, however, all the cars were slow in the late-70s, both sports cars and police cars alike.
 In 1975, Chevrolet released the 262-cid V-8. This tiny small-block had a 3.671-inch bore, a 3.100-inch stroke and a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The two-barrel carbureted, 110 nhp engine was never a police package engine. It was discontinued after the 1976 model year.
 The replacement for the 262-cid V-8, which was released in 1976, was the famous 305-cid V-8. This had the unique bore of 3.736 inches, but shared the same 3.480-inch long stroke as the 350-cid V-8. This engine was designed to provide an ideal balance between horsepower and torque and the emission standards of the time. This was a police package engine from 1977 through 1993.
 In 1985, the highest performance 305-cid retail engines were equipped with Tuned Port Injection (TPI). Most police and retail 305-cid V-8s continued to use Throttle Body Injections (TBI). The 305-cid V-8 would be replaced in 1994 by the 4.3-liter (265-cid) V-8. This engine reminded many enthusiasts of the original Chevy small-block from 1955.
 The police Nova 9C1 was available as either a four-door sedan or two-door coupe. For the first time the LG3 305-cid, two-barrel carbureted V-8 was available in addition to the legendary LM1 350-cid, four-barrel carbureted V-8. All police Novas came with the Turbo Hydro-Matic transmission. The 305-cid/145-nhp V-8 got 2.56 rear gears while the 350-cid/170-nhp V-8 used 3.08 rear gears. Both cars had single exhaust even though they had dual tailpipes (single inlet/dual outlet muffler mounted over rear axle exiting just behind rear tires ).
 Chevrolet was extremely proud of the successes of the police Nova. The factory literature emphasized:
 "The Los Angeles Sheriff Department ordered 222 specially-equipped '76 Novas after an exhaustive testing, evaluation and comparison program. Nova's potential for police application is recognized by the use of a specially-equipped Nova by the Law Emforcement Assistance Administation in its design concept program for a police car of the future."
 This prototype car deserves a quick mention. In 1977, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) and Aerospase Corporation jointly developed a "car of the future." This was the 1977 Chevy Nova with a V-8 engine that performed on four cylinders during patrol but could kick in all eight cylinders whenever necessary.
 Field tests on this squad were conducted in Dallas and New Orleans. It featured advanced engine systems, centralized emergency equipment controls and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Overall, the mobile "test lab" was not popular among cops. However,certain features used on the LEAA prototype Nova were well recieved and eventually found there way into police packages.
 In 1977,the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department conducted its annual tests of police vehicles. Out of a field of eight police cars from Dodge, Plymouth, AMC and Pontiac, the Chevrolet Nova was a clear winner over the second place Pontiac LeMans. The Nova 9C1 had both the best overall vehicle performance and the lowest inservice operating costs.

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1978 police Nova

1979 Nova ad  In 1978,Chevrolet police cars included the Nova 9C1 and the Impala 9C1. Both were available as a four-door sedan and a two-door hardtop. The 1978 Chevelle was not available with the police package.
 In the late-1970s, the Nova, not the Impala, was the darling of Chevrolet's police fleet. The Nova had an ideal police package and was unmatched by anything the competition had to offer. The Nova revolution started in Southern California and splead across the entire country. The Nova 9C1 was the definitive police car for large city police and urban sheriffs departments.
 The Nova 9C1 clearly carried the Chevrolet banner in the bleak years when the competition had big-block police engines and Chevy did not. The Nova was listed first in the text describing the '78 vehicles in the police literature. It was "Nova and Impala," not "Impala and Nova" as it had in the past. The Nova 9C1 was on the cover of the police car flyer. The Nova 9C1 features were listed at the top of each page, followed by the Impala 9C1. The Impala was actually represented as being a partner to a vehicle such as the Nova, functioning in a dual-team concept.
 The Chevy literature urged police fleet managers to conduct a Life Cycle Cost/Performance Evaluation. Chevrolet knew in such an evaluation the Nova 9C1 would come out ahead of all other police cars:compact, intermediate or full-size.
 "NOVA. Almost exactly what a contemporary police vehicle should be. Not a lightweight but light enough to permit high performance with a moderate-displacement V-8. Excellent space utilitization that combines a tall, comfortable interior with a compact exterior that can maneuver easily in tight quarters. And a strong, simple but proven design. Qualities like these borne out of extensive testing and evaluation programs conducted by various departments throughout the U.S. help explain Nova's growing acceptance for police fleets. In fact, in May 1977, 246 1977 Nova police vehicles were delivered to the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriffs Office...the largest compact police vehicle delivery in Chevrolet history. Now that's acceptance!"
 A new,and possibly confusing, optional engine was available in the '78 Nova. Keep in mind the mid- and late-70s engines had a wide variety of emission controls. One set of smog gear was used with Federal engines. These were the standard engines with the normal emission controls used by nearly everyone.
 Another set of smog controls came on engines headed to California. Police cars in California were required to meet California emission standards until 1982. After that time , emergency vehicles were required only to meet the less restrictive Federal emission standards. Yet another set of emissions equipment came on engines in the other 49 states for patrol jurisdictions designated as "High Altitude" by the Enviromental Protection Agency.
 These emission controls robbed a bunch of horsepower. The California emissions package, for example, reduced the output of most V-8s by 10 nhp and most sixes by 20 nhp, depending on the engine. For this reason, use great care when reviewing a horsepower rating, and be double-sure before calling any published rating incorrect.
 With all this in mind, the new Nova 9C1 engine was the Special Equipment Order (SEO) IB4 350-cid, four-barrel carbureted V-8. This produced 170 nhp and was only available with the Federal emission controls. The now famous LM1 350-cid, four barrel carbureted V-8 producing 160 nhp was alvailable for both High Altitude and California markets.
 To keep this confusing, the same LM1 designation was used for the Impala powerplants. The Federal LM1 produced 170 nhp and the California and High Altitude LM1 engines produced 160 nhp. All this is to say that the Federal 350-cid engine used in the police Nova was not the popular LM1. It was the IB4.
 The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department vehicle tests have a completely different emphasis than the tests conducted by the Michigan State Police. The LASD tests are more urban and fleet maintenance oriented while the MSP is more rural and performance oriented. Not surprisingly, the full-size, 116- to 118-inch wheelbase cars did not fare as well as the compact, 111- to 113-inch wheelbase cars in Los Angeles. But Chevrolet had that base solidly covered by the Nova 9C1.
 The Nova 9C1 had the fastest 0-60 mph times, the highest quarter-mile trap speeds, the second best brakes, the best suspension, and the best fuel mileage. When the score was tallied, the Nova 9C1 was the clear winner over the second place Dodge Aspen.
 This was the last year for the police package Nova. In 1979, the baton would be passed to the downsized Malibu. While the Malibu 9C1 was less-heralded than the tradition-breaking Nova 9C1, the Malibu 9C1 was used in even larger numbers.
 The Nova 9C1 revolutionized the way cops thought about compact police cars. The Nova 9C1 was probably Chevrolet's most significant police car.

     __            __            __     
 ___|  |____   ___|75|____   ___|  |____
/__Bill's__/  /___Nova___/  /___ SS ___/
    |__|    __    |__|   __     |__|    
        ___|  |____  ___|  |____        
       /__Police__/ /___Nova___/        
           |__|         |__|            

Most text used without permission from:
"Chevrolet Police Cars"
by Edwin J. Sanow ©1997
A very good book about Chevy police cars
with about a dozen photos of police Novas.

Other Police Nova Links

1976 Chevy Police Vehicles
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1976 Police Nova Brochure

1977 Police Nova Brochure
Chevrolet Nova Internet Source Police Novas
Police Novas In the late 1970s, Chevrolet's 9C1 police package Nova was ultimate squad car. Chevrolet made some "test mule" '74 police package Novas, but it didn't start to produce them in masse until 1975

Chevrolet Police Car Brochures (Only 1987 & newer now)

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Last Updated April 1 2003