By on December 3, 2010


So we now know that GM’s failure to create a decent subcompact during the, oh, forty years in which doing so would have saved the company from certain ruin… well, do we really need to get into that rant right now?

No, we’ll save that rant until we feel like combining it with the one about GM’s failure to build a minivan that anybody wanted to buy, or the one about GM’s inability to stop the small-block Chevrolet from leaking oil like crazy for its first three decades of production. For now, let’s just contemplate the meaning of these two Late Malaise Era junkyard finds, which I spotted during a visit to a San Francisco Bay Area self-service junkyard earlier in the week.

Actually, this 1985 T1000— which became the Pontiac 1000 for the 1984 model year— is a post-Malaise Era car, by my standards (as the originator of the term “Malaise Era,” I have the right to define it: the 1973 through 1983 model years). Somehow, this makes it even more depressing. After building variations on the Chevette theme all over the world for nearly 10 years, GM could build the obsolete-when-introduced T Platform cars for nickels and dimes, and did so.

The ’82 Chevette Scooter was a genuinely miserable machine, though its simplicity and cheap price tag made it seem like a pretty decent investment next to, say, the Vega/Monza. How did these two cars evade The Crusher for 25 and 28 years, respectively? Have they become—dare I say it— collectible?

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55 Comments on “Chevette Scooter, T1000 Outlive Every 1st-Gen Hyundai Excel In the World...”


  • avatar
    mountainman

    I still see a few of these running the streets of Western PA.  I once saw a guy blow his apart at a dragstrip…. not sure what kind of engine he had in there, but to this day, it still makes me chuckle….

    • 0 avatar
      0menu0

      Back in the mid/late 90-s I knew a couple guys who put 4.3s in those Chevettes. Had them running 14s

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I have seen a couple of Chevette custom builds involving a transplanted turbocharged Buick V6, the T200-4R backing it up and Ford’s quite capable 8.8″ rear end. I can’t imagine anyone managing to improve its actual handling dynamics much, but I can understand the mega-sleeper mod simply for its “everything you think you know about how the universe works is wrong” attitude.
       
      I was astonished when I visited an old friend a few years ago and found him driving a red 4-door T1000 with the factory paint still looking good. He had purchased it from his mother when she grew tired of it in the early 90s and it had provided slow but reliable service since then.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Ah, memories of piling 13 high school students into a buddy’s “Vette”, and barely coaxing it halfway up a hill before the gear shifter somehow detached itself from the floor.  But honestly, if you could overlook the throwaway front-end parts, rapid-wear brakes, and build quality which resembled a Yugoslavian tractor… it was still a pretty crappy car.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    My first new car..bought in college, was a 1985 Escort, plain as jane could be.  Absolutely no options.  I cross-shopped a 1985 Chevy Chevette.  The difference between the two cars was night and really, really dark, moonless, cloudy windy COLD night….at that time, I didn’t have the sense to cross-shop a Civic or a Corolla.) I just remember getting into the Chevette after climbing out of the Escort.  The Escort seemed modern and well-thought-out for the time…the Chevette seemed….well, the phrase “lipstick and earrings on a pig” comes to mind….and driving the two was nighter and dayer….the Chevette wheezed like an asthmatic geriatric on the slightest upgrade.

  • avatar
    NN

    My roommates and I in college back in 1998 collected $250 between us and found an 83 ‘vette in a trailer park deep in Appalachia that we purchased.  This thing had been painted white with latex paint and a brush, had rolled the odo over 100k, leaked every fluid, and the windows fell into the door panels where we left them (made for cold winter driving).  RWD, 3 speed automatic.  We didn’t properly register the car, so we would park right up front at our dorm building and just swipe all the parking tickets off the car and drive away whenever we chose.  We covered the latex paint job over with duct tape–the entire car.  It didn’t always start right up, and it had the worst assembly quality of anything I’ve ever seen, but it could always be fixed very easily with no skills and simple tools.  For the next four years we had a lot of fun with that car, it being RWD was especially fun.  I pissed in the radiator once to keep the car from leaking out all it’s fluid prior to arriving at our destination.  The brakes leaked so bad that they went out on us from time to time, resulting in death-defying feats to get the car safely home. The hood latch broke one frozen winter day, and while driving down the road, the hood flipped right up, bent in half and smashed the windshield.  That car would literally shed parts when you hit big potholes.  I guess they were useless parts–it kept running.
    Our senior year we threw a party, got a little wild, and woke up the next morning with the car flipped over and smashed to bits in our yard (it only takes a couple of guys to pick these cars up, and taking baseball bats to it was a great idea at the time).  Our landlord had us remove it upon threats of eviction–after he had already evicted us out of a previous property of his we had inhabited a few months prior.
    That car was a lot of fun.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      The hood latch froze?….Okay and the secondary latch did it also freeze? The hood bent in half? ….Sooooo instead of folding on the crumple creases it bent the other way? ….Right, and it shed parts and kept running……what parts? The windows fell into the door panel. Yeah I guess they must of came off the track and fell? away from the window regulater. Both windows? The cooling system leaked and you peeed in it ? You got one big bladder dude. Odd that the Vette didn’t overheat.

      Now these leaky brakes……went out on you from time to time? But you fixed them with no skills and simple tools……Remarkable!

      BTW I live in a cold climate and have LOTS of experiences with Chevettes.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    My sister had a Chevette with the 3 speed automatic. The transmission was huge, cutting into the leg-room of both driver and passenger. Oh, and it was HOT — maybe not hot enough to burn you, but hot enough to be unpleasant if you were to rest your leg on it.
    What an incredible piece of crap.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    I have an acquaintance who has an all original Chevette Scooter.  Runs like a freakin’ top and no rot.  Interior seat material is pretty much destroyed, some cracks in the dashboard.  Darn close to 300K miles on the clock.  He is apparently the umpteenth owner.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    “So we now know that GM’s failure to create a decent subcompact during the, oh, forty years in which doing so would have saved the company from certain ruin…”
    No…!! GM should instead have created, in high-wage America, a decent Caddilac brand that can outsell Lexus, Mercedes, Audi and BMW.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I’ve driven several Chevettes – they’re pretty tough and hard to kill. But so are cockroaches.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      My dad was once given an 82 diesel Chevette with 40k miles whose oil had never been changed.  It ran for several years more, and it was indestructible, but a dog on the road.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Had a ’79 4-speed with 2 barrel carbs. Throw a pair of snow tires on it guess who was driving on the snowy nights out. We used to pop drifts in our driveway at speed. But the rear vented windows served well on AC-less hot days as it toast leg in the summer and freeze your clutch leg in the winter so much I would cross my left foot under right leg to get some heat on it.

  • avatar
    DougD

    The Chevette is the one “collector” car my Wife actually WANTS me to buy.  Not only did she drive one as a teen, but my FIL ran a garage in the 80s and her Saturday job was bead blasting corroded Chevette calipers for rebuild.

    Times sure have changed, not a RWD small car in sight and when was the last time a mechanic actually rebuilt a component??

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    I was in Florida a couple of years ago and couldn’t stop laughing when I saw a Chevette Scooter with a FL “collectors” license plate on it.  Only qualification is that it was old enough to qualify for the plate.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    My Dad had a ’79 that had over 130,000 miles before the second owner wrecked it.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    Apparently, they like them in Canada.  I think I was actually turned onto these videos by TTAC a year or so ago…
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiSJkyFRRe4

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I can’t believe how good the paint looks on those old POSs.  Was it only metallic paint that GM was having problems with in the early 80s?  They repainted my friend’s Chevette for  free, and weaseled out of painting my parents’ Citation.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I am no GM fanboy, but if everything else GM built since the 70s were as durable as the Vette, they would not be where they are now.  Sure it was a Super Cost Cutter dogpile of a car, but they were simple and durable.  They were a lot better than the Vega or many of the fwd replacements that have come since, that have been all the Chevette was but without the durability.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    A friend in college bought a new T1000, with a 4-speed manual transmission and air conditioning.  We got 41 mpg on a road trip with the A/C on.  It was good, simple, basic transportation, and as I recall, the engine had TBI whereas the same-year Civic had the most unbelievably complicated carburetor and 477 vacuum hoses going to two different control boxes, each containing dozens of solenoid valves and other goodies.  Nobody knows how to work on those Honda CVCC carb systems any more (I used to but gave up before my head exploded).

    • 0 avatar
      zenith

      At one point in time, I had both a 1987 Pontiac 6000 and a  1987 Nissan Sentra.
      The Iron Duke in the 6000 had TBI. The Nissan had this godawful carb with 4 or 5 electro-vacuum addons–all of which had leaky diaphragms and thus had to have its line disconnected and plugged.

      I couldn’t buy any of these bits; just a complete carb for far more than the car was worth.

      My sister’s 1988 Accord had the same bunch of crap under its hood as this Nissan did, but all of it worked. Or at least none of it leaked vacuum and screwed-up the idle/caused violent detoation under all but the gentlest acceleration.

      I still think that Detroit missed the boat in the mid-to-late-80s by not embarassing Japan with ads depicting the contrast between the clean underhood look of their cars with the bloody abortions under Japanese hoods.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I owned an ’80 Chevette and suffered with it for three long years. I don’t know how to refer to it other than saying it was, hands down, the biggest hunk of $hi! that I ever drove.

    Saying that one of these outlasts every 1st generation Hyundai Excel is saying something monumental about the quality of the Hyundai.

  • avatar
    texan01

    My grandmother had a ’79 Chevette 5 door. Siver with grey interior, with a 4 speed manual. I remember it in the 5 years she had it, being pretty reliable except for the temperature control lever breaking, and Dad having to adjust it from hot to cold in the spring and fall. It had an AM radio that only I ever turned on when riding with her.
     
    She had promised the car to me when I turned 16, but I’d rather have had her ’69 V8 Falcon instead of a 4 banger Shovette.
     
    She passed away in ’89 and we sold it before I was of age. I still see it tooling around town every so often.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    only nice thing I can say about the shovettes are the diesels have became the collectors status, many blokes try to find them, they’re kind of poor mans’ VW Wabbit diesels.
     
    I dont think they were much cheaper than the vee dub dsl in their hey days.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Everyone likes to pile on these cars, but let’s get perspective.  They were routinely some of the cheapest cars you could buy during the first half of the 1980s.  Tercels and Civics were far more expensive cars partially because of the Voluntary Import Quotas Reagan put in place.  If the Chevette was really as bad for the times as everyone seems to remember it wouldn’t have sold as well as it did over its 11 years of production.

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    Suppose that’s an aftermarket replacement fender that’s rusted so much worse than the rest of the car?

  • avatar
    Kelster

    Hey, don’t knock them, they’re rear drive. Which makes them great candidates for either a locost se7en transformation or LeMons. Either way, the T-series can be a fount of hidden motoring goodness.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    I have a soft spot for the little cockroaches, but it’s because they’re the last gasp of the old, do-it-yourself, V8 hotrod designed for nothing other than going down the 1320. It’s low buck, inefficient RWD design meant it wasn’t all that difficult to stuff a small-block V8 into a 2-door Chevette (the ultra-cheap, cardboard interior door panel Scooter was the best). Even the aforementioned 4.3 V6 transplant made it plenty speedy.

  • avatar
    musicalmcs8706

    My parents bought one in either 1980 or 1981 brand new.  A blue five door diesel stick.  That thing continued to run until we got in an accident because of some idiot in 1995.  It may have been cheap, but it ran and ran with the diesel.  My parents said the diesel motor would have run long after the car rusted away, which even in Michigan it seemed to be surviving.  But the 1985 S-10 my dad replaced it with was much better.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Chevette/Acadian more Hyundai Pony bashers or vice versa? Mine was a scooter with 3sp auto. Everything was an option on the Chevette – PS PB defogger radio etc etc. Only useless things were standard like whitewall. When I got my mitts on the Scoot she still had the blank out panel in the dash where the radio was to be. The RWD was a bugger in the snow. Twice I span round on the on ramp. What to say – noisy, slow POS that turned out hard to kill. A true masochist’s delight?

    Chevette THERMAC you know reroutes heat from the exhaust stove into the carb – well known problem spot.

    Today I drive Versa - nothing special but legions ahead of the Chevette. FWD & CVT gives 2200rpm @ 70 for a quiet ride. Plus Versa has legions of interior room in comparison.

    We’ve come a long way. Some of us with no more GM.

  • avatar

    It just kills me to see all those fairly rust free cars destined for the crusher. Somewhere a drag racer wants that red Chevette.
     
    I had a friend who bought a Chevette, blew it up, and she replaced it with a Gremlin. The Gremlin was clearly the better car.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My family owned a metallic red ’79 Chevette from new, until about 1984.  Aside from not having the greatest paintjob (it didn’t peel or fade, but developed some weird swirl marks on the hood finish), and a speedometer that crapped out during its warranty period, it was reliable.  Yeah, it wasn’t exciting and definitely not a chick magnet, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think it was a bad car.

    That ketchup red Chevette Scooter looks like it was in pretty damn good shape when it was turned in to the junkyard.  Someone should have saved it, just for the curiosity value…

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I’ve always had a soft spot for these cars, flaws and all. They were, BTW, based on the Vauxhall Chevette/Opel Kadette, just redesigned for the US market, much like Chrysler did w/ the Omni/Horizon twins, based them on a similar Simca.
     
    That said, I test drove a blue 79 Chevette in the early 80′s to replace a ’68 Chrysler Newport, but it was more money than I could afford. In the end, I ended up buying my sister and her first  husband’s ’74 Nova 4 door sedan for $300 in 1983. I actually liked the car despite it being rude and crude in the mechanical department.

    Too bad Chevy let it sit on the vine without any major updates even when Opal/Vauxhall went FWD in the early 80′s and as such, by the mid 80′s, it was hopelessly out of date, heck, even the Hyundai Excel was more up to date than the Chevette by then, but they could not stay together well in comparison to the Chevy.
     
    I also drove a little bit my oldest sister’s bright red 82 Chevette 2 door once in the late 80′s and rode with her and her 2 young daughters from Georgia to Ft Walton Beach Fl one hot summer day and my sister took the back roads instead of the main interstate. What I remember was despite being from FL, it had no AC a 4 spd manual and an AM radio where the previous owner had added 2 cheap tiny speakers way in the back of the cargo area, just under the liftgate and we had the windows rolled down and it was noisy and could barely hear the radio over the wind noise. The ride wasn’t bad if I recall though.
     
    Even so, I found that if you optioned then right w/ the right color combo, they were downright stylish little cars for the day. That T1000 w/ the red interior looks smashing IMO even though I despise white cars.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    WOW, what a blast from the past.  I know two people that had these cars, one was a T1000 (not sure of the year) with manual trans… kind of indestructable, if simple… the other was a complete dog but interesting:  the Chevette Diesel (automatic no less)… the car ended life with over 250K on it.  At one time he traded it in for another car, and ended up going back to the dealer and buying the old car back because he missed it so much… but if memory recalls, this was a $250 type transaction we’re talking about.
    The funny thing is that the T1000 owner got rid of the Pontiac for a Renault Alliance 1.4L OHV 4-speed manual… a car with inspired me to buy one just like it with the 1.7L OHC 5-speed manual.  I know they were all crap cars, but hey at 17 it got me around just fine and was amazing (I mean AMAZING) in the snow…  (unlike any Chevette)

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Back in the day I briefly considered a Chevette between the purchase of my POS Mercury Capri and my POS Pontiac Trans Am. I forget what they went for, something like $4000, which was about 1/3 of what I paid for my other cars. I was never sorry that I didn’t buy one, but they turned out to be tough little cockroaches of the road. Even here in Western Michigan I see one every so often, still plying the roads. Frakin’ amazing…

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    My grandmother had one but since she lived in Florida (1000s of miles from my family) that isn’t much of a story.
     
    Now while I was going to college (1995-1999) there was a girl (one year younger than I) in my circle of friends who had a Chevette Scooter in that same red color, manual trans, and to which someone had applied 1in wide yellow and blue pinstripes to.  Total pos, got her around campus but not much else.  I was walking through the dormitory parking lot one day on my way to the “maintenance shack” where my student worker job was, I saw her parked with the car running, unable to get the wipers to shut off.  I ambled over to see what was amiss and got her to pop the hood.  I unplugged the wiper motor from the wiring harness at that exact moment when the wipers reached the bottom of their travel.  For the rest of her time in college, whenever it rained she would get out and plug the wiper motor to turn them on.  Not that it disappointed me to see that happen, she was a tiny thing (4’9″) and (hand to God) wore size 0 tops and size 2 pants, that’s how she was stacked.
     
    If I’d have only had a little more self confidence in those days… what might have been.  She married an IT major with a foot fetish.  (True story.)

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The Chevette had its purpose. In its time, it was sort of a latter-day Model T or Valiant (or, probably more accurately, American Trabant). It was crude, rudimentary, basic transportation that was relatively reliable, designed for nothing more than keeping its owner from having to walk to/from K-Mart in the cheapest possible manner, short of riding the bus.

    Consider that, in 1988, the cheapest Honda Civic was still $1200 more than a Chevette, and the cheapest Corolla was a whopping $2000 more (and they weren’t dealing, either).

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      Which shows there are plenty of folks who will buy the cheapest car out there. Which goes to my point of why folks buy Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      True. For reference, I did a little research from the NADA website on MSRP of the lowest priced 1986 ‘sh!tboxes’:

      Chevrolet Chevette 3-door CS: $5645 (Scooter no longer available)
      Honda Civic 3-door 1.3L: $5479
      Toyota Tercel 3-door liftback: $5448
      Dodge (Mitsubishi) Colt E 3-door: $5431
      Hyundai Excel 3-door: $4995
      Yugo 3-door GV: $3990 (not listed)

      Has a CC been done on the Yugo or Colt yet? I can understand not finding a running Yugo (timing belt failure on those interference engines at 40k miles surely took most of them out) but there should still be a Colt or two from the era on the street, somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      erik_t

      I saw a running Yugo in Dayton OH last summer. Red, in seemingly great shape. The dude had exactly the beard you would expect of a 2010 Yugo owner.

  • avatar
    K5ING

    Back in the early 80′s, a coworker bought a new Pontiac T1000.  I asked him why he just didn’t buy the Chevette instead because it would have been cheaper.  He told me “I looked carefully at both of them, but the T1000 is larger inside and I wanted the extra room”.  I tried to explain to him that they were the exact same car, but he insisted that the T1000 was a bigger car.  “After all, it’s a Pontiac, not a Chevy”.
     
    All I could do was to hang my head.
     

  • avatar

    The first car I have driven was my father’s 1984 Chevette.
    It was a 2 door with a two tone metallic blue paint. 

     I didn’t like how noisy it was and the cheap interior (ours was not a Chevetter Scooter, it had the body-colored sport mirrors with a remote for the driver and a standard cigarette lighter which the Scooter lacked!) but it was still remarkably cheap. The plastic door panels and the heater controls which weren’t backlit were the worst! His previous 1982 Tercel looked like a luxury car compared to it!

    But I liked it’s looks, it’s nice rims with center caps. Color coordinated bumpers and the fact that it was RWD!

  • avatar

    Back in 1980, I test drove a Chevette and I literally couldn’t get it to track in a straight line on the highway.
    Bought a 4 cylinder Fairmont Futura with absolutely no options and drove that for 9 years and 100,000 miles with only oil changes every 5000 miles.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    Ice racers-they make (or made) great ice racing cars.

  • avatar

    My dad was looking for a new subcompact in 1980 and looked at the Chevette. With its rear drive (we’re in MN) and crudeness (some didn’t have carpetting), he went with a Plymouth Champ instead. The Champ was the sister to the Dodge Colt, and both were made by Mitsubishi. He drove that car for about 200k without major problems. One thing the domestics used to do back then was to decontent to compete on price. You might be able to get the domestic model for the same price as the Japanese model, but the domestic had no radio, no carpeting, no right mirror, etc. The Japanese would throw it all in as standard. Now the situation has reversed in many cases with the domestic makers piling on the standard equipment to try to present a better value than the foreign makes.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Mark Burmeister,
       
      That was not entirely correct, virtually ALL lower priced cars up through at least the mid 1990′s never had a passenger mirror as standard, they were ALWAYS optional and most people didn’t bother to purchase them.
       
      I had a 1983 Honda Civic DX 3 door hatch and it didn’t have the passenger mirror, to get that standard, you had to buy the S/SI variant (3 door) or the LX grade 4 door, the same with the Honda Accord, you had to get at least the LX or later the LX-I trim to get the passenger mirror as standard (otherwise you had it installed at the dealer at extra cost). Some companies charged you extra for the basic radio (AM only in most cases) anything other than AM was considered an option (if offered and many US makes had a delete option for the radio so you could go without if you choose), even by the imports. I know the Civic could come sans radio in the base version and it was an extra cost option, the original Accord came with an am/fm radio standard, my Civic had the factory mono AM/FM radio when I bought it second hand in 1992, later replacing it with a decent aftermarket cassette deck and speakers. In fact, most cars didn’t have any form of tape player (8-track or cassette back in the day) as standard, you had to upgrade to one at extra cost, it wasn’t until the 1980′s that the cassette deck began to come as standard in many cars, later the CD head unit became standard and now you almost never see just an AM/FM radio in cars as I doubt most even ofter such an animal anymore but will often throw in a basic CD head unit as standard and call it good.
       
      AC as standard equipment still wasn’t a common site in many cars until the 1980′s when even the better compacts began to offer them as standard equipment and now, virtually all cars come with AC as part of the standard list of features on a car, my parents bought a brand new Buick Skylark in 1983, it was the limited 4 door sedan and it had AC, cruise and a tape deck along with intermittent wipers and power windows, locks standard – had a cable remote actuated passenger mirror if I recall and most if not all of that was standard at the time, my Dad’s 83 Citation had AC and an AM radio and little else as it was the base 5 door model and it only had the driver’s side mirror as well although it had full wheel covers.
      Most, if not all cars had power brakes by the 80′s as a requirement but not all had power steering (most subcompacts still didn’t get it until at least the mid to late 80′s before even it became standard), my Civic had PB, but not PS, although it had intermittent wipers, still not common on many cars at that time either, but it didn’t have cruise, now virtually standard on all cars as is intermittent wipers.
       
      Power mirrors, windows and locks didn’t become standard like they are now until more recent years, my Civic didn’t have power windows or locks, the 88 Honda Accord I had had all the power accessories outside of the power driver’s seat, including moonroof as it was the top of the line LX-I 4 door and included aluminum wheels and fuel injection, the only Accord trim to get them at that time before FI became a federal requirement in the early 1990′s.
       
      Today, you pretty much can’t even buy a car without it already having, as standard equipment, power driver/passenger mirrors, power windows, locks keyless entry, AC, AM/FM CD often with a mini jack and/or USB port standard, PB, PS, ABS etc, etc, etc so even the base model isn’t exactly stripped out although a very few base model Yaris are sold at $10K ($9995 but without most of these and is a true stripper in many ways but even then, the base car has all I just mentioned for around $12K or so).
       
      Where decontenting is happening is in materials used, fit and/or finish, overall build quality and a lot of the little things that aren’t as critical, but help make the car more enjoyable by most, ie, letting the bean counters take precedence and what you get is a car that’s clearly less than its predecessor (the current base Jetta is a fine example of decontenting)

    • 0 avatar

      @ciddyguy

      ” my parents bought a brand new Buick Skylark in 1983, it was the limited 4 door sedan and it had AC, cruise and a tape deck along with intermittent wipers and power windows, locks standard – had a cable remote actuated passenger mirror if I recall and most if not all of that was standard at the time”

      In fact, all these things you mention were still an extra cost option on the 1983 Skylark Limited. The only Buicks with standard A/C in 1983 were the Electra/Park Avenue and Riviera. And before 1979, it was an option in all models! I know someone who had a 1983 LeSabre Limited and it didn’t have a/c and someone else who had a 1984 Regal Limited without A/C.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    My first wife owned 2 chevettes. These were probably the most reliable cars overall that gm ever made. They were the best small car you could get during the 70′s-80′s. It was the only 4 banger besides the 2.5 that was still made with a cast iron head, which is why the chevettes were about the only subcompacts in the 80′s that didn’t have head gasket problems.
    Damn near everything was easy to get at on them, and parts were cheap. Just about anyone but a dweeb that reads consumer reports could work on one easily.
    The biggest problem with them was they wore out brake pads pretty quickly, but they cost about 10-15 bucks per set back then, and took about 10 minutes per side to change.
    They even went pretty well in the snow with a bit of weight in the back and decent tires, if you knew how to drive. The biggest thing about them was that they were incredibly rust resistant, most would go at least 10 years before starting to rust, there were still plenty around some 15 yrs or so after they stopped making them, long after most other small cars from the era rusted away. So, not only did they outlast every hundai, but every other small car from back then.  The only problems they had with rust was the front floorboards would hold water and rot out, but they were easily replaced with a mig welder.

  • avatar
    artvandelay

     I have a real soft spot for Chevettes. I had one for a couple of years in college. It was a great car to learn how to enjoy driving. No power steering, no power brakes, RWD. The gearbox wasn’t awful. The car had two throttle positions; car is floors or foot off the accelerator. Because of the lack of power you really learned how to plan your passes on country roads. Brings to mind a good motorcycle saying; ‘It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow.’
     
     Used to drive it back and forth to college up and down I-95 for 800 miles. I cannot believe it never blew up on me. Used to just keep it floored for hours on end, maxxing out at 82 drafting a Nascar train headed to/fro Florida otherwise top speed was 79. After getting to my location I’d feel like I had spent the whole time at an AC/DC concert. It would take a day or two to get my hearing back, the tinnitus would last another 3 more days.
     
     My friends got to calling the car ‘The Vette’ quite original, but I had stupid friends. Once back from college I went to a New Years party not on New Years eve. My friends asked how ‘The Vette’ was doing. I said it was doing good. A cute lass attached herself to me after that. Said she loved Vettes. Asked me a bunch of questions while I tried to ignore her. What year is it? Urgh an 84. Isn’t that the first year of the new body style? Urrr I’m not sure. What color is it? Red, can you get me a Bud. Is it a stick or automatic, cause I’ve always wanted to learn to drive stick. It’s a manual and are there any bottle of Bud left? Seems that the party was quite a hit and the beer supply was running low. The state I lived in had moronic blue laws prevent sales of beer after midnight and since I had shown up late and not indulged in any liquid refreshment I offered up to go to 7-11 for the beer/Doritos run. My remora quickly asked if she could go with me. I said no problem. We headed to the car. When I went to open up the door for her (in three years of ownership I never locked it) she said, ‘Ohhhh its a Shitvette.’ She still went with me to the 7-11, but it was a pretty frigid ride. The rest of the party had been clued in the joke so once we arrived to a bunch of laughs at the party she stayed away from me as if I was a leper. Ah good times.
     
     One other time late at night I went out for a nice ride on my bike. I came to a red light next to a Chevette that had a lumpy idle. I couldn’t make out the exhaust note, but it wasn’t stock. The light turn green and that car rocketed away. It took me a second to realize what had happened. Don’t know what was under the hood, but that was the ultimate Q-ship.
     

  • avatar

    Here in Brazil the Chevy version (in sedan guise) still “grace” our streets. You’ll probably see one (in various stages of decay) everytime you go out. GM only stopped making them here in 1995 or there abouts. Terrible car. Hopelessly outdated.

    However, like others have said above, very difficlut to kill. Though some of them are reaching collecting age, I find that no one considers them collectibles…

  • avatar
    Nick

    It had been a long time since I had seen one of these on the road, and at some point within the last month I saw a battered looking example trundling along the 401.  I was astonished.
    Many years ago I borrowed one with an auto transmission (I hope it was a 3 speed by then).  Slowest car ever.
    In terms of engine transplants, if you look online there is a 454 powered Chevette out there somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2010/12/09/didnt-expect-that-from-a-vette-chevette-that-is/
       
      I like this little number in particular.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Phil, your dad may very well have had to replace the head gasket on his chevette. It certainly was not a common problem with them, though.

  • avatar
    zenith

    I had a neighbor with a Chevette who was always wanting to “borrow” my 250-lb bulk to help her get underway in the winter. Chevettes had really sturdy rear bumpers that made excellent seats.


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