Look, despite our best efforts, we don’t know every tiny tidbit of automobile trivia around here…

…So we were today years old when we discovered that GM’s naming convention for its expanded 1973 X-body line spelled out N-O-V-A.

  • Nova (Chevy)
  • Omega (Oldsmobile)
  • Ventura (Pontiac)
  • Apollo (Buick)

In this context, “Easter Egg” refers to a secret message hidden in plain sight—and clearly, GM’s marketing folks deserve a slow clap for that clever little detail. Even a half-century later, that subtle Easter Egg is still working its magic, because it encouraged us to dig into these oft-overlooked classics from the mid 1970s.

And we figured you might want to learn a bit more about them too, because, unlike a lot of GM’s platform-sharing efforts, there’s a weird bit of overlap and drivetrain mishmash in these X-body corporate cousins. That’s particularly evident when you hear the origin stories.

So let’s begin—logically—at the middle of the X-body timeline.

Welcome to 1973!

yellow Pontiac Ventura
Though often overshadowed by the Nova’s massive footprint, the “other” GM X-bodies of the 1970s are still a delightful sight at car shows. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Agree or not, for a lot of gearheads 1973 marks the end of the muscle car’s original golden era. Compounding factors like rising insurance rates, evolving federal safety regulations, and the nascent fuel crisis put an end to the big cube, big power V8 party.

Perhaps more importantly, the North American automobile market was changing significantly with the growing presence of European and Japanese imports encroaching on domestic sales.

As a result, American automakers changed tactics, and began aggressively addressing the need for entry-level compact cars—specifically ones with miserly fuel economy. Some brands already had a head start with some budget-friendly options already on showroom floors, others however, had to pivot quickly and adapt to the changing automotive landscape.

And since General Motors already had a compact X-body chassis that had been on the roads since the early 1960s, it knew exactly what to do with it.

Chevy Nova

vintage chevy ii nova station wagon
Since the early 1960s, the X-body Chevy II/Nova was Chevy’s entry level model and came as a coupe, sedan, and a wagon. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

It shouldn’t be a secret to anyone that the Nova had been Chevy’s entry-level compact for over a decade at this point, and it was already in its third generation when the 1970s hit.

Yet, the facelifted 1973 and 1974 models are particularly noteworthy, because they’re a good example of how General Motors tweaked the Nova in response to those changing federal safety standards and MPG-minded buyers. Under the hood was a base 250ci inline six which, relatively speaking, was easier on the gas budget than a contemporary V8.

For an earlier article, John W. shared this pic of his 1973 Nova. You can see the safety bumpers fore and aft—both are significantly larger than their predecessors in 1972. (Image/John W. via Summit Racing)

The 1974 arrival of a Turbo-Hydramatic transmission to the X-body family is an important footnote too. A cousin to the familiar TH350, the three-speed TH250 replaced the venerable two-speed Powerglide and helped further improve the Nova’s fuel economy. You’ll see the three-speed automatic appear in the Omega, Ventura, and Apollo siblings too.

Chevy Nova Hatchback Hutch
Introduced in 1973, the rear hatchback added some versatility to the X-Body coupes—as an added bonus there was an optional “Hatchback Hutch” tent accessory. Far out, man. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

It’s also worth pointing out that 1973 also marked the debut of the slick hatchback Nova, where the entire rear glass and decklid of the Nova opened up for unfettered access to the rear cargo area—other X-bodies would adopt it soon.

You can see the Nova’s visual evolution from 1969 to 1974 in this handy Ride Guide.

red chevy nova 1970s
The rear-wheel drive, V8-powered Nova enjoyed a redesign in 1975 and these 1975-79 Novas are popular with quarter-mile crowd. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

From the onset, Chevy offered the Nova as a coupe, sedan, and a wagon, and it became a solid seller in the Bowtie portfolio.

As a result, the Nova nameplate continued through the 1970s, earning a redesign in 1975 with production running through 1979. The Nova badge would vanish for a few years before returning on a front-wheel drive econobox built in partnership with Toyota. The Nova disappeared for good as the 1980s came to a close.

Oldsmobile Omega

blue 1973 oldsmobile omega coupe
Though you can see the familial resemblance to the Nova, the signature split grille is distinctively Oldsmobile here. (Image/1973 Olds Omega by dave_7 | CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

In the General Motors portfolio, Oldsmobile was a rung or two above Chevy and Pontiac on the prestige ladder, which meant Olds didn’t have a much to offer a budget-minded consumer. So, GM handed the X-body platform to Oldsmobile in 1973, where it got a handsome re-skin and a new name: the Omega.

The Oldsmobile magic was more than skin deep here too. While the Chevy-sourced 250ci six was the base engine, you could opt for the trusty Olds Rocket 350 V8 as well.

red 1975 Oldsmobile omega x-body coupe
You can see the distinctive hatchback on this 1975 Omega—a practical design tweak that offered better access to the rear cargo space. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Just like its Nova counterpart, the Omega got a similar redesign in 1975. More engine options would soon arrive too, notably the Olds-sourced 260ci V8 and the soon-to-be-legendary Buick 3.8L V6. Ultimately the Omega would transition to the front-wheel drive X-body platform in 1980. After that, the Omega name disappeared for good after 1985 with the arrival of the new Oldsmobile Calais.

Pontiac Ventura II

1971 Pontiac Ventura Coupe
This Ventura II beat its Omega and Apollo cousins to the X-body party in 1971. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Pontiac got its own X-body variant prior to 1973, when the Ventura was introduced in 1971.

Initially, these cars were called a “Ventura II” similar to contemporary Mustangs and Scouts, because the Ventura name itself was a throwback to the full size Venturas of the early 1960s. But Pontiac quickly switched to calling them simply Ventura.

Early on, you could get a Ventura with the 250ci Chevy six or the 307ci Chevy V8. Pretty soon after that, Venturas could be had with the Pontiac-sourced 350 V8.

1974 pontiac Ventura gto at a car show
Fun Fact! Pontiac’s first go-around with the legendary GTO nameplate ended on the 1974 X-body Ventura. It would be 30 years before the GTO would return as a rebadged Holden Monaro. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Nicole Courey)

Like its Omega and Nova stablemates, the Ventura got a redesign in 1975 and it would share similar engine options to the Omega.

Curiously, Pontiac would kill-off the Ventura name 1978, updating its entire X-body line with the Phoenix moniker. Mimicking the Omega’s career, the Phoenix moved to the front-wheel drive X-body platform in 1980 and would eventually disappear for good after 1984.

Buick Apollo

1973 buick apollo x-body parked at Summit Racing
Buick made sure to include its signature “Ventiports” on the fenders of the Apollo. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Matt Griswold)

From purely a naming standpoint, the Apollo is a very short chapter in the the X-body lineage. Much like Oldsmobile, Buick was positioned upmarket in the General Motors lineup, which meant that it too, had to quickly adopt an entry-level X-body sibling.

Only produced from 1973 to 1975, you could get an Apollo as a sedan, coupe, or two-door hatchback. Under the hood was, again, the venerable 250ci Chevy six, or your could tick the box for an optional Buick 350 V8. In the Apollo’s final year, the Olds-sourced 250ci V8 was available too.

Vintage Brown Buick Skylark Coupe
For 1975 the Apollo name all but disappeared, replaced by the beloved Skylark badge. (Image/Public Domain)

But when GM redesigned the X-body in 1975, Buick dropped the Apollo name on the coupes, opting to rechristen them as Skylarks. After 1976, all Apollo coupes and sedans got the Skylark badge. The Skylark followed the path of the Omega and Ventura twins, carrying similar engine options—albeit with the Buick 350 and, interestingly, the Pontiac 301ci V8.

Just like the Omega and Phoenix, the Skylark would move to the front-wheel drive X-body in 1980, then to the N-body in 1986 where it soldiered onto a sixth-gen. redesign before the sun set in 1998.


Nova, Omega, Ventura, Apollo…NOVA…a neat little Easter Egg hidden in plain sight. And it’s a nice reminder that there’s always new trivia to discover in the ever-expanding automotive universe.

Pontiac Ventura 2 surrounded by Easter eggs
(Image/OnAllCylinders & Romolo Tavani – stock.adobe.com)

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.