Car Culture & Entertainment

Ever Hear About Chevy’s 1974 “Spirit of America” Special Edition Cars?

Folks were really getting excited about America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976, and GM wanted to join the party too. (Image/Chevy)

Picture this: The year is 1973, Skylab has just been launched into space, Elvis’ “Aloha from Hawaii” is on TV, and “Dark Side of the Moon” is blaring out of your quadraphonic Marantz 4415.

Can things get any better?

Well friend, wait until you see what Chevy’s got for you in 1974.

A lot of Chevy’s other marketing around that time embraced patriotic color schemes too. (Image/Summit Racing)

Introducing the “Spirit of America” Special Edition Lineup

To capitalize on the popularity surrounding the upcoming American Bicentennial in 1976, Chevrolet announced special editions for a trio of cars in the 1974 Chevy lineup: Impala, Nova, and Vega.

There may have been an El Camino version too, but we’ll get to that in a sec.

While options differed depending on each specific model, patriotic buyers were treated to things like custom interior accents, red-white-blue stripe packages, color-keyed wheels, and special “Spirit of America’ badging inside and out.

The 1974 Spirit of America Chevy Models

The 1974 Spirit of America Vega got an all-white interior, white wheels, and patriotic striping. We’ll give you a closeup of that groovy fender emblem in a sec. (Image/Chevy)

The Vega was still relatively new on the scene, being introduced only a few years prior as a 1971 model. Perhaps Chevy wanted to highlight it to prospective buyers by including a special edition? Regardless, the Spirit of America Vega was available as a white-on-white hatchback coupe—complete with a white vinyl top and white GT wheels.

Like the Vega, the 1974 Spirit of America Nova was hatchback, in which the entire back decklid could be lifted for better access to the rear storage compartment. (Image/Chevy)

In addition to white, the Spirit of America Chevy Nova could be had with a black vinyl top. Black side mirrors and a blacked out grille complemented the contrasting roof. Like the Vega, it had an all white paint scheme with red-white-blue striping. White rally wheels with special hubs completed the exterior. Inside, the white upholstery was offset by red carpeting.

In addition to white, the 1974 Spirit of America Impala could be ordered in a striking blue with more subtle badges and striping. (Image/Greg Gjerdingen, Creative Commons)

A tad more restrained that the other two, the 1974 Spirit of America Impala featured subdued accents. It too wore a white vinyl roof, and came equipped with rear fender skirts to cover its special wheels. Inside were white vinyl seats, while red-white-blue striping adorned the door cards, steering wheel, and other interior bits.

While they all had white seats, the 1974 Spirit of America Impala could be optioned with a choice of dash colors, including (duh) red and blue. Note the special “Spirit of America” badge scroll on the steering wheel. (Image/Greg Gjerdingen, Creative Commons)

A Spirit of America El Camino?

A secret model in the lineup may be the Spirit of America El Camino. We say “may” here because an El Camino is not listed in Chevy’s original Spirit of America literature, yet a few El Caminos have been spotted in the wild wearing the familiar patriotic livery. That makes the Elky a bit of an anomaly.

The folks at Curbside Classics delve into the mysteries behind the Spirit of America El Camino, but their research doesn’t end in a decisive verdict on whether it was a bonafide factory issue. It’s entirely possible that a savvy dealership ordered an El Camino in the similar trim/color of a Spirit of America Nova/Vega, and then applied a modified stripe package to make it look the part.

The Chevy Spirit of America Model Legacy

Don’t question your gearhead credentials if you’ve never heard of these special editions. They only appeared in limited numbers for the 1974 model year. Still though, they’re not rare enough to be unobtanium. Well, maybe the Vega is—but then again, spotting any Vega is a feat to begin with, let alone a special one.

Here’s a closeup of the Spirit of America badge that adorned the special edition Chevy Impalas. Classy, huh? (Image/Greg Gjerdingen, Creative Commons)

But the real task beyond spotting a Spirit of America Vega, Nova, or Impala, is finding one with all its special edition accoutrement. Wheels are often swapped out, badges fall off, and vinyl graphics fade, and given their rarity, OE replacements can be difficult to source. If you come across a Spirit of America model with all of its parts intact, it’s definitely a rare bird…err…eagle.

So next time you’re at a car show or cruise-in, be on the lookout for these Spirit of America Chevys. They’re an often-overlooked highlight of the Malaise era.

The Nova and Vega exterior emblems were similar, save for the name above the eagle’s head. (Image/Chevy)

Got one of these Spirit of America models in your garage? Are you an owner of one of the mysterious El Caminos?

Tell us about it in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Behold the Cosworth Vega: A Chevy Subcompact with a Formula 1 Pedigree

  2. I have a SOA Nova, I shared this article with the “Spirit of America Chevrolet “ Facebook page, check out the Facebook page when you have the time.

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