Richard Oakes made his design debut in 1970 with the Tramp beach buggy, one of the few originally styled buggies of the British boom. In its year-and-a-half, production life, 75 were made.
It was Oakes' next project which put him on the map. The Nova, conceived and styled by Oakes and engineered by Phil Sayers, was completed in December 1971. When launched early the following year, it caused a storm. Nothing quite like it, with the exception of the Lamborghini Miura, had ever been seen before. Motor magazine called it `one of the prettiest cars ever made'. It was available in kit form forjust 750 pounds, high by kit car standards but still very low by comparison with sports cars of the time.
The centrepiece of the dramatically styled Nova was the lifting canopy which allowed entry to its two occupants. The fact that it was based on the humblest of floorpans, that of the VW Beetle, did not dissuade a healthy line of customers for the car.
Licensed production began in the USA in 1973 with the Sterling. This was the tip of a future iceberg, with modifed Nova production starting in France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, South Africa, and elsewhere.
In Britain, however, the Nova's price told against it during the oil crisis, when car sales slumped overall. In 1975, Automotive Design & Development, the makers of the Nova, went bust, having sold 180 cars. Oakes' fully redesigned Nova replacement never even reached the prototype stage.
Reaction to the Nova had been such that it could not be allowed to die - though the tangled-spaghetti story which followed made some people wish that it had. From 1977, three separate moulds for the Nova began churning out bodyshells from different enterprises, often to a questionable standard of finish. The `official' version ended up in the hands of Vic Elam in 1978 and the two others joined forces to produce the Nova SSD, which lasted until 1979.
Elam's Nova Cars re-established the exotic, im- proving it with body mods in 1981 and even mooting a tubular chassis the next year. By 1984, production was running at 12 per month and a Bermuda targa roof version was available.
From this time on, the Nova became more and more of a part-time project and in 1996 it was finally abandoned.

© and Copy, 1996-1998:

Paul Negyesi