Note: The following is just a repeat of the text in the above module in case images aren't functioning.


Background on the kit car industry... In England around 1970 -- the era in which the GT40, Lamborghini Miura, and Ferrari were the main 'production' supercars -- the 'exotic kit car' industry was still virtually in its infancy. The basic premise behind any kit car or component car was to use existing gear that would be costly to develop (like engine and chassis) from an existing inexpensive, readily available donor car (like the ubiquitous VW Bug) but to then "re-dress" the car with a radical new body to make it look more exotic. The idea had been around for years, but previous contenders often produced awkward looking results and/or mediocre quality bodies. ••• What would eventually come to set the Nova apart from this crowd were that 1) it had unusually tasteful, well- balanced styling and exotic quirks -- not the least of which was the sensational, lifting canopy -- combined with 2) refreshingly high quality fabrication and craftsmanship. As such, the Nova wasn't the first kit car, but it became legendary as one of the most beautifully styled, well engineered, properly executed kits. In retrospect, it reset the standard for the industry. All of which makes its origins even more surprising... (cont'd)


(Origin, continued...) One of the quirkiest parts of the Nova's story is that the design did NOT originate from any of the established design teams like Bertone, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc., or even from any of the few kit manufacturers that already existed. Rather, the Nova was created in what was essentially a back-street shop, styled by a gifted, 23 year old car enthusiast (Richard Oakes) with a natural talent for design but no formal training, with the help of his friend (Phil Sayers), another young man with a good knack for backyard engineering. They were both unknowns! ••• As the story goes... In 1969, Richard had left his job as an apprentice sign painter and moved to London to work as a fabricator for Davrian, one of the more successful kit car manufacturers/race houses of the day. His experiences at Davrian (and later, part time work at two other race houses) gave Oakes a unique set of fabrication skills and a keen appreciation for the potential of fiberglass-bodied component cars. Basically, Richard had seen what was being done in the world of kit cars. And he believed perhaps he could do better... (cont'd)


(Origin, continued -- the Tramp Beach Buggy.) But a person must walk before they run... One of the most successful categories of kit cars at the time were dune buggies. Buggies were popular in part due to their simplicity of design and fabrication, usually having few body parts in general, plus no doors, hoods, etc. Oakes' initial foray into the kit realm was with a buggy of his own design called the Tramp Beach Buggy. Though not a game-changing design, the Tramp's edgy lines garnered some attention. More importantly, it helped give Oakes some clout -- and additional experience -- as a burgeoning young designer. Still, although dune buggies were a relatively inexpensive and immensely playful genre in their own right, it's fair to say that buggies would never be confused with an expensive exotic supercar. As such, Oakes knew there was still a significant niche that wasn't being filled. Something was missing. The environment was ripe for the birth of a new "GT-style" kit with the simplicity of a buggy but with exotic sports car styling.
In 1969, Richard had left his job as an apprentice sign painter and moved to London to work as a fabricator for Davrian, one of the more successful kit car manufacturers/race houses of the day. His experience there gave him a unique set of fabrication skills, a look into the world of exotics, and a keen appreciation for the potential for making composite bodies for component cars. Basically, Richard had seen what was being done in the world of kit cars...and he had some ideas for how to improve upon the status quo.


(Origin, continued...) Oakes say he remembers an event from those early days which had solidified his design goals and catalyzed the Nova project. Apparently, a Lamborghini Miura had recently been wrecked somewhere in the greater London area by the notoriously destructive drummer from The Who. As fate would have it, the broken Miura had come to rest in a shop which he had access to. Oakes said he remembers spending many lunch hours simply sitting in that true exotic, dreaming of a way to re-create the same supercar ambiance in a car that would be affordable and build-able by virtually anyone. ••• Over that year, Oakes refined the designs that he'd been mulling for some time and he teamed up with his friend Phil Sayers to create a scale model of what would become the Nova, all based on the VW Beetle as a donor platform. With a solid, stunning, workable design on the table, the duo set out to secure funding to develop the full scale body and the molds to mass produce it. Backing eventually came from a brave, wealthy, reputable race shop owner, John Willment. With modest funding in hand, the Nova's launch was now close.


(Origin, continued -- Production Begins.) Production of the Nova (Series One) started late in 1971 in a small but adequate brick warehouse in back-street Southampton under the company name Advanced Automotive Design (often appearing in ads and magazines as "ADD" Nova). Body panels were fabricated on the second story of the building by a small crew of experienced ship-builders who then lowered the bodies through an almost cartoon-ish trap door in the floor (known as "the hole" --and don't pronounce the "h"). On the first story, Oakes, Sayers, and one or two loyal helpers performed various sub-assemblies and finishing touches and then prepared the kits for delivery. The operation was humbly adorned and small in scope with only a tiny handful of employees. But the company would quickly become well known for producing robust, thick, high-quality body panels that rivaled even some of the composite-bodied production cars of the time (like Corvette and Lotus). As such, all the pieces were adequately in place on the production end of things, The final hurdle would public opinion of this oddly exotic new creation.


(Nova Mk 1, continued...) The Nova's media debut came via a cover article in Europe's "Hot Car" magazine in March 1972, the car being so new that a final name for it hadn't yet been decided upon. The article was flattering to the new design and to it's designers, all of which led to a small-but-confidence-building burst of orders for approximately a dozen kits. Oakes stated that there was then a brief lull in sales, followed by several more favorable magazine articles with an ever-increasing buzz on the streets from enthusiasts, followed by a veritable flood of orders for kits which, at one point, created an almost one year wait list on orders. The car was officially a hit, and orders were soaring. ••• In addition to the Nova's growing domestic success, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs from other continents were already vying to secure rights to produce the car in their own countries. The next two years represented the heyday for the original Nova and, by the end of those years, the Nova and it's licenced copies (such as the Sterling, Eureka, and Eagle) would be successfully sold all across Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa, and beyond.


((Nova Mk 1, continued...) Between 1971 and 1975, the Nova had won the notariety which would secure its place in history. The car had a very loyal, enthusiastic following. Unfortunately, as with so many things in life, much depends on being at the right place at the right time. And while the environment was perfect for the birth of this exotic kit, the timing and location for sustaining it as a venture soon became less favorable. First, the business had grown so fast that a relocation was necessary. For mainly personal reasons, the company was moved to the North of England which, unfortunately, pulled the car inconveniently far away from the concentration of potential buyers. Secondly, England was slipping deeply in to a period of economic uncertainty fueled by the oil crisis of the early '70s in combination with rampant inflation as well as unsettling changes to the national sales tax known as the V.A.T. Orders for the car eventually began to be cancelled, new orders dropped severely, Sayers left the company, and Oakes and his wife valiantly struggled on until September 1975 when all production ceased and the company went into liquidation.


(Nova Mk 1, Final Thoughts.) When it was all said and done, the original Nova as produced by Oakes and Sayers (...and in the end by Oakes by himself) had amounted to "only" about 180 cars -- which is actually not bad by kit car standards. ...But also keep in mind that the story was far from over. Nova clones and spin-offs were still in very successful production elsewhere in the world, and the Nova itself would be resurrected several times again in the UK. Still, it is somehow ironic that a design that would eventually evolve into an estimated 5000+ worldwide cars, clones, and variants started with a production run of less than 200 units. ••• In contrast, the original model of the Sterling in the States would end up accounting for the vast majority of total Sterlings produced (almost 90% of the ≈900 total). The Series One Nova, as produced by A.D.D. (Oakes and Sayers), in the end accounted for only about 20% of the production run of all Novas. But it was the acorn that grew in to the tree. The Nova became perhaps the most successful non-replica kit car in history. Not too shabby for two creative young men in a back-street garage!


The original Nova, 1971 -- Shown is a "Series One" Nova in all of its quirky glory. This is the basic design that would be shipped to more than a dozen different countries on at least five continents to become, with very little modification, the original versions of the Sterling (USA), the Eureka (Australia), the Eagle (South Africa), the Spider (New Zealand), etc. Over the years, each car underwent its own evolution, usually involving fairly minor changes to the hood, dash, rear panels, and styling features like scoops. And there would come to be other, more elaborate spin-offs of the Nova/Sterling as well -- such as the Cimbria, Sebring, and Eagle SS -- which definitely resemble their cousins but which strayed significantly farther from the original Nova. But in the end, the lineage is overtly apparent in all branches of the Nova family tree. •• The original Nova (shown above) featured the 'pod' style dash, the classic, deep open bay headlights, the 'nostril' style hood, a rear panel based on Bedford CF taillights (and later on, the Triumph TR7) ...and best of all, that iconic, exotic, wonderful, ridiculously impractical lifting canopy. Gotta love a Nova.


The era of the "pirate" Novas, 1975 to '78-ish -- For a few years following the liquidation of A.D.D. as the original and sole manufacturer of the Nova, a vacuum was created that resulted in a bit of a free-for-all in regard to attempts at continued production. Although official production had ceased, a loyal fan base and a surprisingly tennacious demand for the car had survived. The multiple events that then transpired are a matter of controversy depending on one's perspective. First, the official molds were purchased by a man (who went alternatively by 'Neil McManus' or 'Noel Redding') who promised lofty goals of the return of the Nova. Some stories paint this man as a charlitan, some as just an enthusiast who'd gotten in over his head. Either way, NO new bodies were produced from his operation. Secondly, during this same period, two other small outfits emerged, each headed by a Nova owner/enthusiast (Stever Driver and Don Law) who set out to continue production of the car on his own. From one perspective, these were "two bootleggers which sprang up to feed off the Nova's reputation by producing cheap knock-offs..." (cont'd)


("Pirate" Novas, continued...) From another perspective, these two individuals were just enthusiasts who had been avid fans of the car, hated to see it go out of production, and tried to maintain a supply of parts by fabricating molds from their own cars. ••• The first of the pirated bodies was by a Nova owner named Steve Driver who marketed his clone as the Nova SSD ("Second Series Design") under the company name of Crestwick Ltd. Steve produced several demo cars (including a beautiful one with a Lotus power plant!) plus a small handful of bodies. The second operation was fronted by Don Law who, by all accounts, was a sincere fan of the car who just wanted to see it stay in production. Later, both the pirate companies combined as "The Nova Shop." In all 3 instances, companies had a very difficult time supplying the ever-so-rare windshield that is crucial for the Nova. And everyone involved learned that producing these cars, in quantity, with impeccable 'glass work was perhaps harder than it looked. The end result was production of a few additional bodies that reportedly were not of the same unusually high quality that Oakes and Sayers' company had established.


(Nova "SDD", continued...) The name "SDD" given to the prevailing pirate Nova stood for Second Series Design, which is perhaps the most ironic of all of the Nova designations. Why? Because there was absolutely nothing which differentiated it from the original Nova. The SDD had the same classic hood scoops, side scoops, rear louvers, pod dash, and tail light section as a Nova MK1, none of which is surprising considering that the molds were taken from an existing Mk1. ••• As mentioned, the existence of the SDD was controversial because it did not have the blessing of the original owners/fabricators and because the quality of the fiberglass work was rumored to be inferior to the originals. The body of the original Nova -- and subsequently all of the official Mk1's and Mk2's of Vic Elam and Mk4's of Sam Colbey -- were famous for being thick, strong, and smoooooth. The bodies of the SDD's were rumored to be thinner and wavy. In total, probably less than 10 units of the SDD body were produced before Vic Elam resurrected the official molds and re-started production of the real thing. But the SDD hinted at growing precedent: Nova enthusiasts will fight to not let their breed die.


The Vic Elam Years: Launch of the Nova Mk 2 -- In 1978, the official molds for the Nova came into the possession of Vic Elam, a successful small business owner who parlayed his resources and experience to nurture the venture into a full time family business. As the story goes, Elam was methodical, persistent, and had a penchant for preserving the reputation for high quality fabrication. Elam slowly, steadily breathed a much-deserved new life into the marquee and he began to put the Nova back into people's hearts and imaginations. ••• Initial production used the original molds, making the very same Nova Mk1 that Oakes and Sayers had produced. As enthusiasm and new demand for the Nova grew, the company was able to move from a fairly humble repair garage to an undeniably impressive facility once used by a large Datsun dealership. 1981 saw introduction of the Mk 2 with production numbers that at one point topped 15 cars per month. In total, sales of the Mk1 and Mk2 under Elam's direction would amount to the golden era of the Nova with an astonishing 800+ cars produced. The Nova had lived a second life.


(Nova Mk 2, 1981 -- The original Nova retrospectively became the "Mk1" in 1981 when Elam's company introduced the "Series Two" Nova (or Nova Mk2.) The Mk2 was extremely similar to its predecessor; the basic lines of the car were graciously unperturbed. New for the Mk 2 were 1) a new dash layout which had a kind of "winged" appearance like a seagull (which offered more flexibility for gauges compared to the 'pod' dash), 2) a smooth hood which did away with the "nostrils", 3) a revised belly pan in which the front air intakes were eliminated, 4) the option for a new, visor-like rear "bumper" which also allowed several new taillight options, and 5) a subtly reworked canopy that provided a very much appreciated smidgen more of headroom. Another new option was the "Bermuda top," a targa version of the canopy that could be fit to new or existing cars. Although nothing about the Mk2 was profoundly new, it aptly continued the Nova's reputation for exotic styling and quality manufacturing. Eventually the fickle nature of the kit business led to dissolution of Elam's company in 1989. But an important chapter had been added to the Nova's history.


The Nova Mk 3 -- "Mk 3" is actually a misnomer, but it should be mentioned in the history of the Nova because reference is sometimes made to it. To clear any confusion, no one ever "produced" a Nova Mk 3. Rather, the reference is to a set of custom body panels produced by a Nova owner who just happened to be in the fiberglass business. He had produced a nice, relatively modern-looking new dash and also a new rear panel (as well as some side moldings/spacers which were fitted in between the upper and lower body panels). The panels were made for his own needs and weren't intended for production. But they were popular at the shows, and he eventualIy sold the molds to another enthusiast (Keith Stringer) who offered the dash & rear panels through ClubNova. As such, there are no "Mk 3" cars per se, but one occasionally sees an Mk 1 or Mk 2 Nova that have been retrofitted with this builder's panels. ••• Notably...although the rear panels and the spacers were never officially adopted, the dash was such a hit that Sam Colbey eventually got permission to use it in the Mk 4. Thus the Mk 4 dash IS an "Mk 3" dash.(Info. thanks to Steve Cook.)


Nova Mk 3, continued -- Shown are more views of an "Mk 3" Nova. This particular Novas apparently started out as an Mk 1 to which the builder had added the rear light panels, body spacers, and dash (not visible here) ...thus becomming an "Mk 3" Nova. It is not known how many of these panels were made. Production numbers were probably less than a half dozen.


The Sam Colbey years: Nova Mk 4, 1993-97 -- Between 1978 and 1989, the Nova had been produced by the Elam family. Soon after dissolution of the family's company, rights were sold to and enthusiast named Graham Sleighford who had hoped to pick up production where the Elams had left off. Unfortunately, Sleighford's efforts seemed doomed from the start. The subcontractor he planned to use fabricate the parts had gone bankrupt, and the molds for the Nova had gotten horribly mixed up in the liquidation proceedings. Graham eventually reclaimed the molds, but only to have them eventually legally assigned to a SECOND subcontractor in liquidation proceedings for Graham's own company in lieu of unpaid debts(!) ••• At some point not long after this mess, along came Sam Colbey, another Nova enthusiast who initially had contacted that second subcontractor in hopes of simply purchasing one single new dash from them. The subcontractor had no interest in the Nova or its production but asked if Colbey wanted to purchase the entire molds. Sam made them the ridiculously low offer of 1500 pounds cash...and they accepted!


(Nova Mk 4, continued -- Never having planned to put the Nova back into production, Colbey found himself in an odd position. He and his wife decided to start a company geared towards simply providing replacement parts for the Novas already in existence. But the Nova is a car that just doesn't want to die, and there was soon enough of a demand that Colbey decided to offer the car once more in limited production, adding his own unique touches to the design like those before him. The Colbey / Mk4 Nova featured a tasteful new rear panel that artfully hid the potential engine bulge that haunted older Novas. For a dash, he adopted the owner-designed "Mk 3" dash that had generated its own demand a few years earlier. For hood styling, he essentially offered a menu of all options that had been offered before, and his demo sported a beautifully styled set of pop-up headlights paired with nicely integrated turn signals. In many ways, Sam might have produced the most modern, highly refined Novas around. However, he faced the same industry competition as the Elams, and total production ended at approximately 15 cars.


(Aerotec Nova, 1997 to ? -- At present, the 'final' chapter of the Nova saga is a bit of an unresolved mystery. Sam Colbey had owned the production rights for four years from 1993 to '97. When Sam decided it was time to retire from the project, he advertized the molds in a UK kit car magazine. Before long, the Nova's aging-but-proud marque was aquired by two entrepreneurs (Shashi Dvyas and Martin Brown) who, by all accounts, had sincerely planned on continuing to produce the car as their predecessors had. Much effort was spent on promotional materials for the car, but it is unclear whether any cars were produced.. not even a demo car of their own. (The car featured in their sales material was actually Sam Colbey's Mk 4). ••• In 1999, Aerotec announced that 1) it was developing a high performance space-frame chassis that could accept big, modern power plants and that 2) it would focus efforts on this high-end, high performance car geared more towards racing. The published (theoretical) stats on the car were impressive. But no record exists of one being produced, and the company just quietly vanished. Nothing more was seen or heard.


(The Nova family tree -- Over the years, in parallel to the evolution of the Nova itself, was the constantly unfolding saga of the derivative cars. Licensed clones of the Nova included the Sterling (USA), the Eureka (Australia), the Eagle (South Africa), and later the Puma GTV (Italy). Later derivatives, some of them clones, some significant redesigns of the same basic body lines of the Nova, included the Sebring (USA), Cimbria (and later the Nereia and Bernardi), the Eagle SS (UK), Tarantula, Scorpion, Defi, Ledl, Gryph, and others. ••• Consider this: As I write this (2008), the Nova and its kin have been successfully sold in some way-shape-or-form in more than 14 countries for over 37 years. Yet even with a design that's nearing its fourth decade of life, the Nova and its kin are still often heralded as being among the most sleek, exotic, and ironically 'futuristic' cars that exist. Admittedly, the golden era for the Nova has passed. But this quirky family of cars still draws crowds and generates smiles wherever they go like precious few cars can. The whole legendary family still captures imaginations, even among the world's other exotics.