Go Back   The Supercar Registry > Dealer Specific Discussion > COPO - United States


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-24-2018, 07:46 PM
9C1Beater 9C1Beater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Columbus, OH
Posts: 39
Thanks: 0
Thanked 11 Times in 4 Posts
Default 1974 Nova 9C1 COPO Brass Hat Police Car

Merry Christmas to all on here. I have lurked on here for years and have enjoyed reading about all of the interesting muscle cars...great website! My favorites are always the barn and garage finds, and I now have one of my own to post on here.

But it isn't the typical muscle car, and you have to look past its number of doors to truly understand its historical significance. It is a plain jane gold 4-door, granny-looking car that was the 2nd Nova police car ever built, and its build sheet says "COPO OPTIONS". It was ordered by an executive named Rick Mahoney who was the Fleet Sales Manager at Chevrolet's Los Angeles Zone Office. In addition to the build sheet, I also have the envelope that held the car's speedometer certification paper (which has the car's VIN typed in), and the warranty booklet which has "Zone 20 Demo" typed on the bottom (that is the number of the LA ZO). The speedo cert envelope has a return address for "Chevrolet Motor Division. Los Angeles Zone", and is addressed in the lower right corner to "R. Mahoney" and references "CFH-453", which is the car's order number from its build sheet (that is how Chevrolet kept track of its zone office cars).

I am friends with a nice gentleman named Harry Hammond, who was one of the 2 engineers that GM brass tasked with building a Nova police car prototype in Jan. '74. Harry is now retired from GM, where he ran its 9C1 and B4C police car programs from 1974-2001. He has provided a wealth of information regarding my car, as well as the 4th Gen Nova police cars which were produced from 1975-78 (approximately 15,000 were built). Harry assisted Rick Mahoney in ordering my car...they filled out its order form on the kitchen table at Rick's home in Northridge, CA, and it was ordered, built at the Van Nuys GM plant, and delivered to Rick in just 2 weeks!

The purpose of the Nova police car was to build a usable police car that could achieve good gas mileage and perform all of the necessary tasks that larger police cars could do. At that time, the US was going through the OPEC Oil Crisis, which occurred when Middle Eastern countries doubled the price of the oil they were selling to the US, and also reduced exports to the US. Police agencies were looking for an alternative to the gas hog police cars they were driving then, and a Motor Trend magazine editor named John Christie suggested to GM that they combine a Nova with a Camaro to create a police car suitable for the times. John Christie's office was located in Los Angeles, and he was a reserve deputy for the LA Sheriff Dept, which was (and is) the largest sheriff dept in the US. He knew the LASD was preparing to conduct police car tests in late April at the LA County Fairgrounds in Pomona, and that Chevy had an opportunity to get in on those tests. He also knew that those tests would provide an opportunity for him to write an interesting magazine article or two.

Harry received a mechanical engineering degree from Mich State, and went to work at the GM Tech Center on Van Dyke Blvd in Warren (north suburban Detroit) immediately after graduation. The first project he worked on was building 2 taxicab prototypes for evaluation by the NYC Taxi Commission...one was yellow, and one was white. The Nova police car prototype was his 2nd project.

A 2nd GM engineer named Jim Ingle was borrowed from the F-Body Program office to assist with the police car. Jim was an assistant to Vince Piggins, the father of the Z28, and his specialty was suspension engineering.

Harry and Jim took the white '73 Nova 4-door taxicab that was languishing in the Tech Center's parking lot and brought it into a room and yanked its 6-cylinder drivetrain. The taxi had tinted glass, A/C, a plain taxi interior with a rubber floor mat, and it was a perfect platform for the police car. Harry and Jim put together a laundry list of GM parts numbers needed for the project and obtained them from one of GM's many Detroit warehouses. The police car took about 2 weeks for the mechanics that were also on the police car team to build. Then the fine tuning began. GM's Proving Ground is located in nearby Milford, and contains a huge asphalt parking lot named "Black Lake", due to its resemblance to an actual lake. The engineers tried every combination of springs, shocks, bushings, sway bars, wheels and tires to come up with the best possible result. One of the hardest areas to address was the Nova's tendency to tip during high-speed directional transitions. That test occurred when the car was going 45 mph and was turned in a 90 degree direction. Jim suggested that the 14x7 wheels used on the '69 COPO Camaro in conjunction with wider bias-ply tires might achieve the desired results and stop the tipping, and he was right.

The rest of the prototype was standard GM fare...an L48 350 4-barrel engine, TH350 transmission (but with a special high-speed shift valve and a heavier-duty torque converter), a dual snorkel air cleaner borrowed from the Z28, a Z28 4-spoke steering wheel, dual exhaust, an HD radiator, a 3.08 posi axle, an HD alternator, power steering which utilized a Z28 steering box, and front disk brakes. The rear brakes were borrowed from a Chevelle station wagon as the drums had larger cooling fins and larger shoes to handle repetitive high-speed stops.

Harry and Jim left Detroit on Thursday April 25th and drove their little white sleeper to LA, utilizing as many back highways as possible to evaluate their creation. They spent the first night at a motel in Joplin, MO, their 2nd night in Tucumcari, NM, and their 3rd at a hotel in Santa Monica.

The prototype surprised and pleased the LASD officials, and easily bested the Plymouth Satellite, Dodge Coronet, and AMC Matador that it was designed to beat. It also beat Mopar's smaller entry, a Dodge Dart with a 360 4-barrel, and a Pontiac Ventura with a 350 4-barrel Pontiac engine (none of the competitors got better that 13 mpg...the Nova got 16.1 mpg on the 72 mile urban test-loop that involved both freeway and city streets).

Also present for all 3 days of tests (April 29th-May 1) was Rick Mahoney, and he knew he needed a demonstrator Nova of his own. The day after the tests, Harry, Jim, and Rick held a meeting at the LA Zone Office with LASD officials to discuss ordering Nova police cars. Harry suggested that the LASD should wait until August to order the new 4th Gen Nova police car, as it had a larger interior (the 3rd Gen Nova's biggest drawback...lack of backseat room for prisoners), and was a better-engineered car (the 3rd Gen police car was a rush job, and Harry knew it). The LASD decided to order 11 '74s for further evaluation, and the City of Fountain Valley PD ordered 4 more (the chief of police in FV was a close personal friend of Pete Pitchess, the commander of the LASD, and he had heard about the great new Nova police car and wanted in on the action). Rick invited Harry and Jim to his house in Northridge for a BBQ on Friday evening, and the gold Nova police car demonstrator (my car) was ordered while the men shared drinks at the kitchen table.

Rick kept the car until Nov. 4, 1974, which I can verify by its original warranty booklet, which miraculously stayed with the car (along with its speedometer cert paper). The warranty book is actually for a '75 Chevrolet, and Harry believes this was because zone offices typically got rid of all of the previous year's papers upon the start of a new model year. The buyer of the car was the "County of Los Angeles, Fleet Management Division", and the car was assigned the number "46892", which is painted into the driver's door jamb area. The car's keys are stamped "LASD 46892", and also "STA 9", which was the West Hollywood station back then. The mileage at the time the zone office got rid of it was 2,169. The car also has a shotgun rack still riveted to the right side of the trunk...it contains a locking mechanism which releases the gun when a toggle switch hidden under the dash applies 12 volts. Inside the glovebox is a yellowed sticker which identifies the 4 radio channels that the car communicated with...the first is "WHD Disp" (West Hollywood Dispatch).

I found out about the car in June 2017 when a woman named Nancy Smith sent me an email that her 86 yr-old father, Woodward "Woody" Smith had Alzheimer's Disease, and she needed to sell his house in the Hollywood Hills (his house was on Holly Drive, right behind and up the hill from the historic Hollywood Bowl amphitheater). Inside his garage was a gold Nova that he had always told his kids was an actual police car. Nancy had tossed around the idea of having the car hauled off for junk, but thought it might be worth more than the $200 she had been offered for it. I told her to have a mechanic pull out the back seat or lower the gas tank to see if the car's build sheet could be found (it was on top of the gas tank). As soon as I saw "COPO OPTIONS" on the sheet, I told her I wanted to buy it. We settled on a price for the non-running car, and I told her I would be in LA within 30 days to buy it.

The car was absolutely pristine, just dirty from sitting inside a garage for 31 years. Woody was a compulsive pack rat and had saved every piece of paperwork that had come with the car, as well as all of the papers and receipts for the 4 other '75-78 Nova police cars that he had purchased at LA County auctions (he gave one to each of his kids for use at nearby Hollywood High School...yes, the same Hollywood High from countless movies and TV shows). It was while going through the papers that I discovered the speedometer cert and warranty booklet that confirmed the history of this unusual and historic car. Also with the documents was the LA County auction receipt from April 24, 1982 where Woody bought the car for $875. The sales receipt shows that the LA Co. agency getting rid of the car was the LASD, and that its county vehicle number was "46892".

After 8 wonderful days visiting LA with my best friend, Dave Blumberg (we had both been stationed on ships at the Long Beach CA Naval Station in the early '80s), we headed back to my house in Columbus, OH with the cop car.

Once I started looking the car over, I realized what a little gem it was. I has one minor rust area on the right front door, and a couple of dents, but nothing major. I cleaned the car out by removing both seats and discovered many matchbooks which included one for a Hollywood strip club (cops!), a Hollywood liquor store (cops again!), and a couple of diners (Bob's Big Boy and Norm's...both well-known LA institutions). Also found were many cigarette butts, a couple of .38 caliber shell casings, a couple of crumpled cigarette packs, a Moon Pie wrapper, an orange plastic key fob for the LA Zone Office, and a money clip for the LA Zone Office with the initials "RM" engraved on it.

I found Rick Mahoney's sons once Harry told me that Rick's actual name was Wilbur B. Mahoney...he was the only man by that name in the state of California. Rick's son Bill lives in beautiful Cambria, CA, just south of the Hearst Castle along scenic California highway 1. He was 16 when his dad brought the gold Nova home, and he said it was a very fast car that his dad was very proud of. His dad liked to race people at stoplights...it was the perfect sleeper. I am having the money clip duplicated by a guy in Florida and will give copies to Bill and his brother Scott...the original will stay with the car.

I got the car running by replacing its varnish-filled gas tank, replacing its fuel pump, cleaning out its clogged fuel lines, and having its original Q-jet carb rebuilt. I towed it up to Fenton, MI so Harry could see the car he designed and ordered. We shared a burger and a couple of drinks at his country club, and he gave me several police car books and GM documents that related to the design and building of the police car prototype. He also signed the inside of the trunk lid...I am deeply honored.

I towed the car to the Nova and GM Nationals in July 2018, and it rained nearly the entire weekend. There were many spaces available under the Nova pavilion, but I was told "No" when I requested a dry place to park (guess what...I won't return). Next to the Nova pavilion was a bldg. and tent that the Super Car Workshop from Latrobe, PA had rented to display the LS6 Chevelles, Corvettes, COPO and Yenko Camaros, and Yenko Novas it had restored. One of the guys standing at the doorway of the SCW bldg. was well-known author and Chevy muscle car expert Phil Borris. He noticed my soaked Nova with its 3 large display boards, dog-dish hubcaps, and wide steel wheels and came over to see the car. He immediately invited my car into the SCW tent to sit alongside the expensive Chevy muscle cars. Many guys came over to look at it, and it received favorable comments. Phil noticed its Z28 dual snorkel air cleaner (which is shown on the build sheet), and also noted its 8" harmonic balancer and that the engine had a non-L48 camshaft (he thinks it has an L82 cam as it has a somewhat lumpy idle...not as smooth as an L48's).

He invited noted muscle car expert and writer, Drew Hardin from Muscle car review magazine to look at the car. Drew spent 30 minutes photographing it and taking notes on it. Drew said he had never seen anything quite like the Nova, and was especially impressed with the envelope which showed it was a Brass Hat car. He put a sidebar on the car on p37 of the Oct 2018 issue of Muscle Car review, and indicated he would like to do a feature on it at some point in the future.

I took the car to a large, nationally-recognized show in Columbus, the Len Immke Memorial Classic Car Show in August, and one of the judges saw its paperwork. He asked if I would take him for a ride, and he was very impressed by its acceleration (in spite of its smoking engine and poor compression numbers, it still has great acceleration). He classified it as an unrestored muscle car, and it won 1st place at the show, beating 15 competitors.

For the time being, I plan to keep it unrestored. Its body is pretty beat-up, and there is no saving the roached paint. I had the left valve cover off 4 months ago to replace a very leaky gasket and discovered that it has Z28 heads (numbered "330545") with screw-in rocker studs and high RPM push rod guides, which are definitely not stock L48 heads. Harry Hammond thought that Rick may have had some mods done to the engine to make it faster for demonstrations for police officials, but he couldn't confirm this. It will be rebuilt this winter, and I'll be taking it to the Heartland Nova Show in the Quad Cities in June. The club president, Jeff Grady said it would be allowed in their pavilion in case it rains. ;-)
Attached Images
         

Last edited by 9C1Beater; 12-24-2018 at 11:13 PM. Reason: typos
Reply With Quote
The Following 6 Users Say Thank You to 9C1Beater For This Useful Post:
al8apex (12-25-2018), big gear head (12-25-2018), HudsonMotorsports (01-22-2019), John (12-25-2018), PeteLeathersac (12-26-2018), YENKO DEUCE REGISTRY (12-27-2018)
Attachments - The Supercar Registry Nova-9.jpg Nova-8.jpg Nova-7.jpg Nova-7.jpg
Click here to view all the pictures posted in this thread...
  #2  
Old 12-24-2018, 08:03 PM
Charley Lillard Charley Lillard is offline
Administrator
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Woodland, ca. US
Posts: 14,772
Thanks: 88
Thanked 1,061 Times in 460 Posts
Default

Great story.
__________________
......
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-24-2018, 08:04 PM
mockingbird812's Avatar
mockingbird812 mockingbird812 is offline
Yenko Paid Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Dayton
Posts: 14,248
Thanks: 725
Thanked 558 Times in 382 Posts
Default

Cool story - great research. Love hearing all of these back stories on unique cars. Thanks for posting!
__________________
Sam...

Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-24-2018, 10:00 PM
69LM1's Avatar
69LM1 69LM1 is offline
Yenko Paid Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: New Orleans, LA
Posts: 2,454
Thanks: 294
Thanked 230 Times in 123 Posts
Default

That's cool history right there!

Thanks for sharing.

/Rich
__________________
Rich Pern
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-24-2018, 10:10 PM
BOWTIE67327's Avatar
BOWTIE67327 BOWTIE67327 is offline
Yenko Paid Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: minnesota
Posts: 208
Thanks: 1
Thanked 31 Times in 26 Posts
Default

was that air cleaner on it?
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-24-2018, 10:31 PM
Xplantdad's Avatar
Xplantdad Xplantdad is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: AZ
Posts: 30,841
Thanks: 2,839
Thanked 1,478 Times in 787 Posts
Default

Neat stuff!
__________________
Bruce
Choose Life-Donate!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-24-2018, 11:21 PM
9C1Beater 9C1Beater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Columbus, OH
Posts: 39
Thanks: 0
Thanked 11 Times in 4 Posts
Default

Thanks to all. Yes, that is the original air cleaner. It has a painted top instead of a Z28's chrome top, but is otherwise identical. The build sheet's air cleaner box has a "DY" code, but the sticker on the side of the air cleaner is "DW" (it's the very faded original sticker...not a reproduction). One of the guys at the Super Car Workshop bldg. in Carlisle said there were 2 versions of the dual snorkel air cleaner in '74...one for a points-type distributor (DW code), and one for an HEI distributor (DY code). My car was probably one of the last to get the points distributor, hence the switch to the points-style air cleaner which had a smaller indentation in the back than the HEI air cleaner. Harry Hammond said the L48 Nova's single snorkel air cleaner was starving the carburetor for air at maximum throttle, so he used the Z28's dual snorkel air cleaner to solve the problem. The right exhaust manifold on the engine has a provision for a heat tube to an L48 air cleaner, but since the Z28 air cleaner did not use a heat tube the heat stove sits on the manifold without a purpose.

The last photo in the first group of photos is Rick Mahoney presenting the first Nova police car to Lt. Bill Kirtley at the LASD headquarters in mid-June 1974. It's hard to see, but the car wears Goodyear Polyglas E70-14 raised white-letter tires. My car still has its original Polyglas RWL spare...the same tire as delivered on all 17 '74 Nova police cars. The 15 police cars ordered by the LASD and the City of Fountain Valley did not have 350 engine badges like the white prototype and the gold demonstrator because the police didn't want them.

The top 3 photos in the second group of photos are of Harry Hammond seeing the car at his country club in Fenton, MI in July 2018. The next 2 are Drew Hardin of Muscle Car Review magazine photographing the car, and the last 2 show the car car wearing its new reproduction Goodyear Polyglas RWL tires. The gas station in the next-to-last photo dates back to 1929 and is still owned by the same family that built it on a small state highway about 25 miles north of Columbus, OH.
Attached Images
       

Last edited by 9C1Beater; 12-25-2018 at 09:06 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-25-2018, 01:21 AM
1967Z28's Avatar
1967Z28 1967Z28 is offline
Yenko Paid Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Golden Bear State, USA
Posts: 1,458
Thanks: 71
Thanked 230 Times in 134 Posts
Default

Very cool. Nice that you saved it and have documented it so thoroughly.

I drove a 6-cylinder 4-door Nova in high school driver's ed back in 1974. I sure wish it had been this car instead but I would have probably gotten myself in trouble.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-25-2018, 01:55 AM
9C1Beater 9C1Beater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Columbus, OH
Posts: 39
Thanks: 0
Thanked 11 Times in 4 Posts
Default

67Z28, I also went through driver's ed in '74, so we are probably the same age (I just turned 61). My driver's ed car was a white '74 LTD that was a real land barge to learn in. It had signs on the sides advertising Charles Gabus Ford in Des Moines, IA...the good old days.

The only reason that I know what this car is, is due to its documents staying with it (and my friendship with Harry Hammond...he has been a great source of info on the prototype and this car).
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-25-2018, 11:48 PM
1967Z28's Avatar
1967Z28 1967Z28 is offline
Yenko Paid Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Golden Bear State, USA
Posts: 1,458
Thanks: 71
Thanked 230 Times in 134 Posts
Default

I am 60 and started driver's ed in fall of '74 and you probably were in the spring. I started in the Nova and later had to switch to a 4-door Malibu which I also felt was a land barge. Definitely preferred the Nova.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 10:49 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions Inc.