The first site of the Nova in the USA was when the 1973 issue of Car & Driver hit the newsstands. The response to this article was overwhelming, and Richard Oakes and Phil Sayers, the designers of the Nova in the UK, were inundated with letters from the USA, including over a thousand people that wanted dealerships. Several of those interested visited the UK, but the two that seemed the most adventurous were Norm Rose and Cecil Robertson. Norm operated a repair shop in northern California along with his brother, Neal. Cecil was an extremely successful salesman of, all things – tile – with connections spanning the globe. Cecil and Norm were friends and on one of his (Cecil) trips to the UK he saw the Nova and told Norm about it on the return. Oakes and Sayers really did not want to expand their business, but Cecil’s winning salesman’s technique ruled the day, and Cecil and Norm were able to bring home a single Nova. A set of plugs was sent over shortly afterwards to start the mold process, and not long after California Component Cars was born.
Production began in San Lorenzo, California in 1973. By January 1976, CCC held the license to manufacture Sterlings anywhere in the world, as well as opening a second production facility in Illinois. California Component took over existing contracts in Australia and Holland, and licensed new manufacturers in Scotland and Venezuela, while the UK continued to produce kits for the UK and overseas. A front cover photo and article in Motor Trend in November 1976 continued to keep the car in the public imagination and sales continued to soar. A total of (roughly) 875 were produced between the two manufacturing facilities owned by CCC.
The name “Sterling” derived from several factors. One, of course, was that GM already had a car named the Nova. The other was quite simple: Norm and Cecil couldn’t think of a good name for the car. As the story goes, one day early in the making of the cars, both men were cleaning up after a day of working in the shop and Cecil asks Norm “How did we pay for this car (the Nova brought over)?”
“With money, of course!”
Cecil shakes his head and says, “No, what did we pay with?”
“British Pound Sterling”…
Cecil looks the word Sterling up in the dictionary and notes that it means, among other things ” excellent, worthy, first-rate”. He mentions that to Norm and they both agree – there is the new name for the car.