1976 was a year of great celebration in the United States. It was the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and also a year of both Summer and Winter Olympic games. It was also the year of the birth of both the Nova Medalist and the Nova Gold Medalist. No official printed GM literature exists but I dug into the history of the Nova Medalist and Nova Gold Medalist through some independent research.
The 1976 Nova Medalist
This model was not listed as an option in any GM showroom literature or any dealer sales catalogs. The Medalist model consisted of a few decals and pin-striping. It was available in any standard Nova color, in either a two-door or four-door model. Engine options were the same as listed in all of the standard literature. Not too many original models with the Medalist option still exist.
The 1976 Nova Gold Medalist
This model was also not listed as an option in any GM showroom literature or dealer sales catalogs. I’m not sure exactly how the Gold Medalist was born, but it had to overcome many obstacles.
First, the gold color (paint code 53) was not listed as an optional Nova color. Strings were pulled at GM and a paint code 53 Medalist was born. It has been reported from various sources that each Chevrolet dealer was limited to the purchase of only one Gold Medalist. Like the Medalist, the Gold Medalist had the addition of a few decals and pin-striping. The Gold Medalist was also available in both a two-door and a four-door model, with all of the regular Nova options available.
Some sources say the Gold medalist came “standard” with certain additional options, but my findings do not prove that to be true. Again, the Gold Medalist option only included a few decals and pin-striping, along with the gold paint. My research, although somewhat limited, indicates that a two-door, V-8, with factory air conditioning was most likely the rarest Gold Medalist ordered.
Finding my 1976 Nova Gold Medalist
About two years ago, I was reading a post on Steve’s Nova Site about a person an hour away who owned a Gold Medalist that was originally purchased new by his grandmother. It was an all-original Gold Medalist, with just over 36,000 miles. It was also a two door, V-8, with factory air conditioning, that presently, recharged, still works. It retains the original R-12 refrigerant, and had not been converted to R-134a.
Being a person always intrigued by rare, limited production Novas, I contacted the gentleman who owned the car. We talked on the phone, met in person, and he showed me the car. I ended up purchasing it, along with a motorcycle he had.
I drove the car home, partially on the interstate, at speeds up to 60 miles-per-hour. My brother-in-law followed me home. I didn’t want to push the car too hard, yet the car drove as smooth as it probably did new in 1976.
When I got it home, I had intended to restore the car, but the car maintained so much of it’s original features that I decided to keep it as a survivor. The paint is probably 98% original, with no sign or any history of body damage/repair. There is an old saying that a car can be restored 100 times, but it is only original once.
Preserving a surviving Nova Gold Medalist
To insure the car, I contacted a friend of mine, Ken Schoenthaler (Schoenthaler Restorations) to do an appraisal of the car. Ken specializes in the restoration of very rare models of the Chevrolet Nova. Ken is probably the most knowledgeable person in the country when it comes to Yenkos and Fred Gibb COPO cars – he still owns a Yenko he purchased new!
Anyway, Ken took numerous pictures and began researching my Gold Medalist. To fairly document a value, you have to find similar models that have either been sold recently or are currently for sale. Ken checked every website he knew, and could not find another Gold Medalist anywhere in the country, that had been sold in the last year, or was currently for sale. How do you put a value on a vehicle when there are no other cars to compare it to? Ken came up with a number, the insurance company agreed, and the insurance was issued.
My next step was to decide what to do with the car. I knew that properly buffed, the original paint would come alive. I also knew that I did not have the expertise to properly buff the original paint. 1976 was well before the two stage base-coat, clear-coat paints of today. The only step below the original paint was the primer, then the bare metal. I knew if I buffed through the paint, the car would have to be spot painted, diminishing the originality of the car.
Very carefully, I used the mildest paint cleaner liquid available on the right front headlight surround. Cleaning it by hand, I then waxed the surround to show what the properly buffed and waxed paint could look like. I have a few friends who offered to buff and wax the car, but none could guarantee to me that they wouldn’t buff through the original paint. At that point, I decided to leave the paint alone, and keep the car as a true survivor.
One unique factory-ordered option my 1976 Nova Gold Medalist has are the urethane/steel wheels. These wheels have a honeycomb appearance, but the area between the hub and the outer rim is urethane. You can literally push on this honeycomb area and it will bend, like rubber, beneath your thumb. These wheels are listed as optional in the showroom literature. I have been told that these wheels were also offered as an option on the Camaro.
I’m not going to suggest that this car belongs in a museum, but I personally believe it to be the lowest mileage, original example of a 1976 Gold Medalist in existence. Is this car rare? Absolutely! Is it valuable? I don’t know. Either way, I have decided that someone who truly appreciates the originality and rareness of this car should own it.
For this reason, I have decided to sell the car. The pictures pretty well speak for themselves. Although I did drive it home, I would not advise driving this car across the country. You never know when a 42-year-old radiator hose or fan belt might decide to quit. I believe this car has a fair market value of $13,000 – and that is my asking price.
If you’re interested in purchasing this true survivor 1976 Nova Gold Medalist, contact me (Dale Gilmour) weekdays from 4:00pm to 8:00 pm central time or weekends noon to 8:00pm at either my cell number (563) 340-5957 or my home number (563) 355-6764.