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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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.