Bad gas/wrong octane - wow

hot rodding experience,
Does a 1976 Chevrolet Nova with the 250 cid six 1 bbl. mated to a TH200 count?
The car ran like a watch on regular. In Canada it didn't ping but ran poorly. I had to use premium.
'Twas a good long trip to and around Maine and Nova Scotia. All performance returned once home. Odd.
This would've been around 1990.
My parents previous vehicle was a 2005 Chevy Uplander minivan (3.5 V6). That thing would ping even with premium though 87 was the requirement. It did so for as many years as they owned it and was still trucking along with 175K when they traded. Just goes to show "don't worry the ECM will retard the timing" is not always correct.