By on May 6, 2016

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

During the late 20th century, General Motors managed to get at least a couple of decades out of most of their platforms, but GM sold the Chevrolet Celebrity for just the 1982 through 1990 model years. Its A-body platform held on just through the 1996 model year. Celebrities sold very well, but broke often, depreciated in fall-off-a-cliff fashion, and few made it into the current century.

Here’s a rare Celebrity wagon I found yesterday in a Denver self-service yard.

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, odometer - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This is one of the rare GM cars of this era with a six-digit odometer (I don’t bother to photograph 5-digit ones), so we can see that this car made it just over the magical 100,000-mile mark.

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, front seats - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The interior is your standard Detroit blue velour of the 1980s and 1990s. This stuff holds up pretty well under harsh sunlight.

92 - 3223 Driveway_w Celebrity Eurosport

A 1988 Celebrity Eurosport sedan with Iron Duke engine was the horrifically miserable and unreliable car that convinced my patriotic Midwestern parents — who had stuck with Detroit cars through the darkness of the Malaise Era, because that’s just what you did — that they would never, ever, no matter what, buy an American car again; today, they are on their third Camry and their first Mazda6. Millions like them switched to imports during the 1980s and never looked back. Here’s that Celebrity with my 1965 Impala sedan.

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, 2.8 liter V6 engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

At least this car has the way-better-than-the-Iron Duke 2.8 V6.

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, household light switch - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

It appears this household light switch controls the headlights.

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, door panel emblem - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The last time I did a Celebrity Junkyard Find, many of you objected to my characterization of this car as a turd that chased away many of the once-loyal Chevy buyers who hadn’t even felt sufficiently betrayed by the Citation and early Cavalier to give up completely on the marque. Perhaps there is a parallel mirror-world universe in which the Celebrity stood tall atop Quality Mountain, bald eagles circling proudly while an endless line of Camrys and Tauruses burned in a garbage heap below. I have not been to that universe, unfortunately.


Moving into more car doesn’t have to be expensive or boring!


Requires less than 12 horsepower to cruise at 50 mph.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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99 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity CL Station Wagon...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I have a huge soft spot for A-bodies. They’re the quintessential rural NY car. A bunch of fellow highschoolers drove grandma hand-me-downs in the mid 2000s. I love the raspy sound of a GM 60-deg V6, and the punchy low end response accompanied with the nose lifting up on that saggy suspension. Other likes: metal belt buckles, high quality velour interiors in interesting colors (red! blue!) A practical amount of ground clearance and a very basic and sturdy suspension make them a perfect car to take down an unmaintained gravel road to get to a camping spot or trail head.

    • 0 avatar
      mechimike

      Yup. Mom had one, friends had one, everyone had one. Grew up near Rochester, NY. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Everyone should experience window-down motoring in an old A-body, with the billowing, loose headliner gently brushing your head.

      • 0 avatar
        Shiv91

        I live in Buffalo NY and Celebrities were still everywhere into the mid 2000s (and horridly rusted of course). In fact to this day someone in my mom’s neighborhood still drives one and some teenager in mine had an early 2-door as late as 2014 (haven’t seen it in a while so maybe it finally bit the dust or was wrecked).

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Yep, you pretty much captured its spirit, including the raspy sound and lifting nose. Just don’t forget the steering racks that went early and often.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Ah, “morning sickness,” or a problem endemic to worn rack-&-pinion racks where the power-steering fluid wouldn’t circulate properly until the rack warmed!

        Experienced this on a 1984 J-body, a Pontiac Sunbird hatchback, at one point nearly putting my right arm through the windshield after the assist suddenly kicked-in as I was ready to have to shove the wheel left with all my might!

        Good times!

        While completely devoid of feel, the steering on my Dad’s 1986 Century Limited Sedan was at least a more pleasant affair than the recirculating-ball units in the G-bodies in which I cut my driving teeth, with better response, and decent on-center and self-centering manners.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I’m with on the 60-deg V6 and, yes I’ll admit it, the velour.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Who had an A-body with the V6? All my high-school buddies with them had Iron Dukes, which they abused mercilessly.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I guess my cohorts were ‘blessed’ in this regard. Another redneck buddy of mine had a ragged out Shadow “Duster” with the Mitsu 3.0L. Quick little thing to be honest, at least within the context of a highschool parking lot.

      • 0 avatar
        hobo

        My ’91 Buick Century had the 3.3 liter 90 degree V6, and was a great engine…until it blew it’s head gasket. Which they tend to do…especially if you let all the coolant leak out of them.

    • 0 avatar
      wantahertzdonut

      How many of those A-bodies were left at the end of that rural road near the trail head?

  • avatar
    Chets Jalopy

    Part of me misses plush velour seats.

    • 0 avatar

      I miss interiors in electric blue and bordello red. Nowdays a beige interior is an unusual luxury over goes-with-everything grey.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      My first thought when I saw the picture of those blue seats was, “those look so comfortable.”

      Seriously, put those seats in any modern car with hard, tightly-stretch leather, and tell me that people wouldn’t prefer those seats!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You’re not allowed to be comfortable, enjoy driving, or be able to see out of any “modern” automobile.

        [Students groaning as they sit down] Ow! Ow!
        MRS. KRABAPPEL: Well, children, our new ultra-hard Posturific chairs have arrived. They’ve been designed by eminent posturologists to eliminate slouching by the year 3000.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          That household light switch  is actually factory installed to this day even in “premium” Cadillacs, and is the result of GM’s “One Global” supplier policy (aka “We don’t care about quality, just make sure your bid matches or undercuts the absolute cheapest bidder price out of China”).

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            But that’s a spec-grade switch ($6-10), not a $.50 household one – somebody should have put it into their 5-gallon junkyard bucket. Bonus points for using Romex cable to connect to it.

        • 0 avatar
          blppt

          “”MRS. KRABAPPEL: Well, children, our new ultra-hard Posturific chairs have arrived. They’ve been designed by eminent posturologists to eliminate slouching by the year 3000.”

          Milhouse: “I’ve lost all feeling in the left side of my body!”

  • avatar
    mechimike

    A friend of mine had one of these as a hand-me-down car in college. Celebrity wagon, in dark red (we called it “Menstrual Maroon”). She put over 250,000 miles on that car with no issues at all, finally bored of it, and drove it to the junkyard her senior year, “upgrading” to a baby blue Mercury Topaz. Which was nowhere near as roomy or reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      250k? Am guessing this unit featured the Iron Duke, as I can’t recall anyone limping any of the Chevy V6’s of that era much past 100k. Please confirm.

      Note that here in the Midwest, one still sees a lot of A bodies in the form of the Iron Duke-powered Olds Cutlass Ciera. But the Celebrity has been extinct here for 15+ years.

      • 0 avatar
        mechimike

        it was, in fact, a 2.8 V6. And her maintenance of said car could best be described as “apathetic”.

      • 0 avatar
        mechimike

        Some of the later cars got the 3300 V6- a destroked 3800. My mom’s ’90 Cierra 4 door had this powerplant. I recall winning many drag races with that car.

      • 0 avatar
        OliverTwist

        I can voucher that as I drove a 1986 Celebrity with 2,8-litre carburetted V6 motor to more than 200,000 miles. After rolling over to 200,000 miles, the motor decided it’s time for the early retirement and blew its gasket. That allowed the antifreeze mixture into the oil pan to create most amazing split pea soup, seizing the motor on I-25 in Denver. I sold Celebrity to a junkyard guy for $75.

        I drove Celebrity on many road trips across America West and commuted between Dallas and Denton for the university. Pretty reliable and excellent for long highway travel.

        One thing I loved about Celebrity was its low-key profile that snuck under the radar. Another thing is how ridiculously easy it is to fix Celebrity and find the cheap parts anywhere.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Probably the last year for the carbs.

          My Dad’s ’86 Century was equipped thus, bought off the lot at M/Y-end, despite my then 16 year-old pleas to look around to see if there were any with the port-injected 3.8L Buick V6, the progenitor of the 3800-series.

          Unfortunately, a dangerous cold-hesitation from the “Computer Command Control” carb (repairable later via a TSB, but which at the time, the dealer simply threw expensive parts, then only reimbursed my Dad a pittance after a phone call straight to the Buick president’s office), plus a head-gasket replacement for my Sunbird on my then college-student’s budget, turned my Oldsmobuick family into a Honda family for life!

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        If you couldn’t get more than 100k out of a generation II 2.8/3.1 Chevy V6 then something was seriously wrong as these were quite rugged mills as long as you didn’t keep overheating them with the aluminum heads, something that was common to any engine with that material. 150-200k examples were all over the auctions and used car network back in the 90’s and early 00’s while selling cars.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t really care much about the Celebrity but the 6000 was well-regarded enough that it actually won some magazine comparison tests. For a GM product, that basically never happened between 1981 and 2005 unless it was a Corvette or an F-body vs Mustang duel.

    The 3.3L (basically an LN3/3800 made even *more* simple) Century and Ciera are runners too. For a long time they were my go-to sub $1000 recommendation. They are drying up now though.

    • 0 avatar

      The 3.3 was a real sleeper in that car. It was fast enough to catch people off guard and could cruise all day at 80 MPH while getting around 30 MPG because of a ridiculous overdrive ratio.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        The 3300 was one of GM’s hidden gems – I’d take that engine any time over the 2.8l.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Or even the bored-and-stroked 3.1 Chevy V6 which followed!

          The noise from those wasn’t too objectionable in the Celebrity or Century, but they fooled nobody when used in a higher-performance application such as a Beretta GTZ or the like! Sounded to me like a bucket of bolts!

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I rented a black Eurosport wagon for a couple of months while on assignment in New Jersey in 1986. While I wasn’t expecting much being a Honda owner, I found myself to be quite impressed by the handling and cruising ability. Not a bad car at all, though mine might have been one of the good ones given GM’s spotty quality control.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Recipe:
    -Take one X-body
    -Elongate and add traditional sedan form
    -Improve quality to mediocre levels
    -Rename
    -Sell like crazy.

  • avatar
    madman2k

    My mom drove one of these when I was little, we had it for a good while. It was the first car my folks let me “drive” with careful supervision.

    I recall it making the trip from Aztec, NM to Cheyenne, WY in one tank of gas once. It made it over a quarter million miles before it died.

    It was replaced by a similar year Buick Skylark. The Celebrity sat in the driveway for years until my dad decided to have it hauled away for scrap value.

    All of my parents’ vehicles I can remember have met with the same fate. Two cars and one truck sit in their drive awaiting the decision now. I hope my dad doesn’t decide to scrap his 87 F150 – it’s probably going to need its third engine if it will run again, but I think it would make a cool restoration and EV drivetrain swap in about a decade if the kits get any cheaper.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Late ’86. One of my business partners and I both looking for a new vehicle to use for business.

    I get a Honda Accord Sedan with a stick.
    He gets a Celebrity Eurosport. ‘Look it has European flags on the side!’.

    The Accord remained in the family for a dozen years, with only the A/C requiring replacement. A standard fault among Hondas of that generation as in Canada they had to be a dealer installed option, you could not get them as a factory install.

    He traded the Celebrity in a couple of years later for a Pontiac 6000 STE. Which considering the options (AWD) was actually a decent ‘lease’ vehicle.

    Have to echo the many comments regarding D3 interiors of this era. They do hold up really well.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The City bought a large fleet of these and they were gone faster that any other vehicle I can remember in 32 years , I never drove one .
    .
    In 1965 +/- I lived in Rochester , New York @ 390 Wellington Av. in case anyone is still in that area .
    .
    At the time it was called ” The Golden Ghetto ‘ because of all the manufacturing jobs .
    .
    I liked it just fine , my big sister wasn’t pleased to be the only White Girl in the High School and one of maybe 10 White Students but as it turned out , it wasn’t an issue .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    “All that’s left of me is my Celebrity”…

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    I remember well that cut-out headliner look, after putting on over 225k miles on my 89 sedan with the Iron Duke 4 cylinder. Every time you sat down and shut the door, you’d get a dusting of foam particles floating down on you. No amount of vacuuming the headliner’s foam remnants would stop that.

    It also started out as a fleet car, purchased at government auction. Had heavy duty everything which substantially changed it’s feel from the floaty Ciera and Century models.

    The seats did hold up very well, never ripping or wearing through. What killed that car was the weatherstripping. Water got into it, and the mildew was so bad your eyes were watering after you drove it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If you grew up in a GM family, or had extended family that were GM loyalists, it is likely that you have some sort of experience with a GM A-body of some stripe.

    At one point my Dad and his Brother each owned one – Dad the Iron Duke Celebrity and Uncle Tim had the Pontiac 6000. My wife’s parents owned a Celebrity wagon like this after their third child arrived in 1983. My mother-in-law thought she had gone to heaven when it was replaced by an H-body LeSabre in the early 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      Shiv91

      Grandpa had an ’87 Century and, once that rusted out, a ’93 Ciera. He loved them. I think my uncle very briefly had an A-body Century too.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        We still have regular customers at my buddies used dealership coming in asking for these A-body cars. If it’s a wagon there is most often a sold sign in the window by the next day or two.

  • avatar
    Sloomis

    I have the same story as your parents. An A-body wagon (in my case a ’96 Cierra) was the straw that broke the camel’s back and changed me from a Buy American diehard to a Honda and Toyota owner. Haven’t bought an American car since.

  • avatar
    Lack Thereof

    Chevrolet dropped the A-body in 1990, but you could still get one from your Buick or Olds dealer through ’96 as a Cutlass Ciera or Century.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I wish I’d bought one of these instead of the 97 Volvo wagon I did. This Chevy would have been far more reliable.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I seem to recall that the window winders work the reverse of what you would expect…good old GM engineering!

    I owned an 88??? Century with a V6 of some sort, and a 3 speed auto, which was good when I blew up the transmission…it was a lot cheaper to rebuild than the 4 speed would have been.

    These were tough old cars, and if you got a good one, it would just keep chugging along.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I think the reverse windows started in the X-cars which preceded the As.

      Ironically, now that I remember, the J-cars, like my Sunbird, wound the windows in the “expected direction on each side: forward to open, backward to close.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The Heartbeat of America, baby…

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    A green 85 Celebrity V^ wagon was the first car coming off a business lease that I bought directly from GE Capital. My wife drove it for about three years with the only issues being the infamous power steering morning sickness. I had that fixed for free on the secret GM warranty just before the odometer turned 50K miles. The only other problem was a failed AC compressor that I replaced with a rebuilt one for under $100.
    I thought it handled well enough for a wagon, and the light green interior was comfortable and almost cheery.
    It went to the crusher after being totaled in an accident in late 91. That was the last accident that I was involved in.

  • avatar
    priapism

    Mom had the Buick version growing up. My main memory of it is on a road trip to Maine, she pulled out to pass a slower moving truck on an uphill grade on a relatively fast freeway. Free from the slipstream of that truck, the Buick then proceeded to slow down, despite repeated prods of the throttle, until we had to settle back into the right lane, one car behind that truck. The line of traffic that built up behind us during our short stint in the left lane graciously moved past at a more reasonable pace than our turdwagon could muster.

    That and doing burnouts in the snow while my mom was gone, and using a hair dryer to try to melt the built-up snow off the car to hide the evidence.

    Like many Celebrity owners of that era, this was our last US-built car. She moved on to Volvo wagons after that and never looked back.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      With my Iron Duke Celebrity, whenever I wanted to pass I would inform passengers that I needed to file a: “Permission to pass’ form with the engine room.” :-P

  • avatar
    SC5door

    A family friend had one….all the air vents were broken so while sitting at idle they would rattle rather loudly. She named the car “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    My Dad got an 83 Olds Ciera 2.8 V6 new as a company car. Bought it out when it was replaced and they kept it for many years. Finally sold it with 250,000 km on it. I don’t remember it giving any trouble, it was a reliable car. Toward the end the steering rack did have “morning sickness” and wouldn’t always give power assist.

    Here’s a question then: If was “unreliable junk” what else would you have bought in the fall of 1982 that was better? Assuming the same sort of footprint, as my parents already had a Ford LTD wagon (Ya Panthers!) and wanted a smaller car for the city. A twist was the company had a policy at the time of no imports, so we are restricted to domestic cars.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Lol as if K-cars or Tempos are so much better. We sold all of these types of cars. Each had there own unique issues but to say the Celebrity was a horrible unreliable bad car is just more of the usual GM hate that is common on this site and doesn’t pan out in reality.

      • 0 avatar
        Geekcarlover

        GM cars of the 80’s and 90’s were hit or miss. For example, I’ve read comments from people who got huge mileage and years of dependable service from Omegas. Mine was trouble almost from day one. Some people blame a particular design, others blame the whole company that created the design. GM sold a lot of cars, a lot of those were horrible, especially after 4-5 years, so they got the blame.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Apparently Omegas and Skylarks were miles ahead of Citations and Phoenixes. I’ve never seen an ’80-’84 Omega in the metal, but I’ve spotted a few X-body Skylark sedans. No coupes yet, though. What were the take rates on X-body two-doors?

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I wonder why, as I would guess all four of the variants were built on the same assembly lines. Different suppliers maybe, or just built-in “Sloanian” expectations?

            I rode in and drove all manner of these As during my college and early working years, and my friend’s Mom’s 2.8 injected Celebrity Eurosport wagon drove a bit better than my Dad’s ’86 Century Limited, mostly due to its F-41 suspension. (I got to drive the ultimate prize, a friend’s Century Estate Wagon, equipped with the port-injected 3.8 V6, several years later, and gave my Dad hell for that, since as I stated above, he bought his Century off the lot, equipped with the carburated 2.8 V6; that wagon was a sleeper, even loaded down!)

            In general, they were all nice cars; never even experienced the classic headliner droop until years later in a buddy’s Olds Calais. Never heard complaints about “morning sickness” either, until my J’s rack showed the symptoms. The Chevys were as nice as the Buicks. But they should have been leaps and bounds over the G-bodies, and they weren’t. After throwing almost a thousand dollars worth of repairs at a hesitation which sometimes left my Dad a sitting duck in oncoming traffic, and not being able to make it right, my Dad was correct in saying that “something has changed” about GM! Then my ’84 Sunbird, with the Brazilian TBI 1.8L OHC four-pot, blew a head-gasket, a major hit to my college-commuting, McBurger-flipping pocketbook! When a family friend insisted on having my Dad test-drive his Honda Accord LX, it was all over! (My Dad having been an Oldsmobuick man for over two decades prior; I would have likely had an Olds Intrigue for my first car, had things been different with that Century and Sunbird.)

      • 0 avatar
        burnbomber

        I had an 89 Celebrity and at the same time, an 87 Toyota second generation Camry. The Celebrity was more reliable and less trouble than the Camry, although the Camry was a little nicer inside.

        However, considering the leaps and bounds made by the auto manufacturers in today’s cars, they’d both be considered much worse than average–real dark ages stuff. My 2010 Chevy Equinox has had only one failure, repaired under warranty.

        It’s had more recalls (2 software fixes for oil wear monitor and emissions) than parts failures.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I guess I must have had a good one. Mine was a comfy V6 wagon that made it to 238K miles. The wagon had a tougher suspension and drove well. It also held an amazing amount of stuff (including a motorcycle on one occasion). I still miss it.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    I knew a family that had a 2.5 Iron Duke Ciera wagon as their family truckster for several years..

    They found out the hard way about GM’s cost cutting when on a trip to LA in Interstate 5, it lost most of its oil at freeway speed..turns out there was no oil pan gasket from the factory, only a bead of goo that failed.
    The engine survived, just barely.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Yes GM jumped on the robot applied silicone sealer in lieu of gaskets in the early 80s. Didn’t turn out well. One of the problems on the Duke was rocker cover leaks that pooled oil in the head near the exhaust manifold. No problema on the fwd cars, the airflow through the compartment (exhaust was on the front side of the transverse engine) kept them cool enough to not catch on fire. The Fiero wasn’t as lucky.

      But none of these leaks were immediate catastrophe, more like long term nuisance (unless you failed to top up the sump occasionally). I remember when Ross Perot came on board, one of his famous lines was “I don’t know much about GM cars, but I do know they all leak oil”

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Not to get too far off topic here, but not far from where I live (but far enough at this point to no bother looking again) there appears what has to be an abandoned used car lot featuring some interesting mid to late 80’s GM models, including a surprising clean Cavalier wagon. I’m always on my way to do something when I go past this place, but the cars don’t seem to be going anywhere so one of these days I’ll have to stop.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I haven’t seen a Celebrity on the road in years, yet still see enough old Centuries and Cutlass Cieras to barely notice when they pass by. Why is this?

    I know Celebrities weren’t offered past the ’90 model year unlike the Buick and Olds which made it through MY’96, but still…were the Chevys somehow less reliable in spite of the fact that they were made on the same line with the same engines? Hmmmm.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      There were less of the Chevy and Pontiac made overall versus the Oldsmobuicks; I thought that the Ciera topped the sales charts (along with the rest of the Olds Cutlass juggernaut) for a while, and kept selling even after the Ford Taurus started taking-off.

      That said, I do believe the 3.3 V6, which ultimately became the sole V6 in the As, was regarded as more reliable than the 2.8-3.1 V6s from Chevrolet.

  • avatar

    Ahhhh…. the Chevy Celebrity. This car will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my high school’s student driver car, and what got me prepared to go out onto the road.

    By the time I learned to drive in 1998, it had 116k miles, but still kept chugging along being handed over from new driver to new driver. The driving instructor loved it, and said it never had any issues.

    I recall the horizontal speedometer being hard to gauge speed limits with, and the big, flat bench seat.

    While a Grandma car, I kinda liked it

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Crapola.

    But… Eurosport FTW. I guess :/

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    We sold a boatload of these cars during the 90’s. The first year 1982’s weren’t as well built but as time went on they got much better- a norm with any of the Big 3 vehicles at the time. Issues with these cars revolved around the steering racks up to around 1987, certain early build 1984-86 examples with the 440 overdrive trans axle weren’t known for there longevity, the THM 125C trans axle had the famous lockup torque converter solenoid issue that either folks replaced or simply disconnected, some A/C compressors bit the dust with higher miles and as with most cars of this era rust got the better of them. The 2.8 Chevy 2BBL V6 had the infamous Vara-jet carburetor that some couldn’t wrap there heads around but any competent mechanic could re-build with the proper tools and certain early build examples came with undersized 13″ tires with resulting under-sized brakes. Base suspensions were on the soft side but GM offered many ways to cheaply upgrade that with a HD 27.00 upgrade and of course the 49.00 F41 which came automatically on the Eurosport option.
    The rack was an easy work around on the earlier examples with morning sickness, we had a great mechanic that could re-build any carburetor, the Iron Duke engines were tough if noisy little buggers that seldom gave us any troubles also with the benefit of fuel injection where many still had carbs, the 125C 3 speed transmissions were virtually indestructible if taken any kind of care of and generally these cars weren’t nearly as bad as what is printed here. I do think that Olds and Buick had better finished interiors and maybe better exterior paint over the long haul and the Buick 3.8 and 3300’s are very long lasting beasts but the Chevy 2.8’s were hardly a bad motor. The best versions of these cars to get was a Eurosport or one with the suspension upgrade, the 2.8 Gen II and the 3 speed automatic(3.1/4 speed for 1990). My best friend still has a 1990 wagon in silver blue in Eurosport trim with the 3.1/4 speed automatic with no rust that has over 151K miles and it’s never had the drive-train touched save a water pump and tuneup. he plans on keeping it for many years to come.

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      I’ve had a few A-body wagons, as you say they became very good a few years into the model run. A difference I noticed between the Chevies and the Olds versions (other than the paint)`is that the sheet metal on the Chevies seemed to be lighter gauge, is that possible? The non-Chevies seemed more substantial and heavier for some reason.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Good point regarding the F41 suspension, as a GM basher occasionally will opine that the Eurosport option was a pointless appearance package. My recollection is that US cars of the era skewed too floaty–as opposed to today, when most cars regardless of origin skew too harsh–so the F41 switch would’ve been a welcome and legitimate upgrade for many buyers.

      I knew one family each with, respectively, a Celebrity (2.8), 6000 (Iron Duke), Ciera (Iron Duke), and a Century wagon (Buick 3.0? not sure). The Century seemed to kill its alternator every two years or so; other than that, all four were very reliable. And the 6000 was a horribly neglected 3+ owner example.

      • 0 avatar
        burnbomber

        Mine was an ex-government model with HD everything–brakes, cooling and suspension. It had the F40 heavy duty suspension option that significantly upgraded the feel from the floaties (as in the Olds Ciera wagon I regularly carpooled in) to a very normal, tighter feel as in an import (owned a VW Rabbit prior to).

        It also suffered from the torque converter lockup problem. That was a major fix–not easily accessible (in other GM models they were behind a removable panel, but the A bodies required an engine unbolt then shift for access), so it was simply unhooked. Mileage did suffer.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Had that T/C problem on my Sunbird before I gave it to my brother, who had it unhooked; mileage didn’t take a hit, IIRC.

      True to form, the transmission (125C) in that ‘Bird was flawless otherwise. The 425C in my Dad’s Century never hiccuped, either! I will NEVER bash a Turbo Hydra-Matic! (Well, with the exception of the 200 in the As and Bs of the late ’70s, which sometimes make ’90s Honda V6 transmissions look stout! ;-) )

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Once these got the 3300 and a few years of quality improvements, they turned into the cars that should have been sold in 1982 to start with, and were very good by early ’80s standards. Unfortunately they never caught up with the standards of later years.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    A cousin had the Pontiac version of this thing and it was quite nice, so much better than my crappy Skylark, I felt then that I was screwed by GM, since this was so much better.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I wonder how they managed to make an interior that could outlast anything short of a nuclear blast, yet still never figured out how to attach a roof liner?

  • avatar
    montecarl

    The 83-89 6000 Ste wasn’t a bad looking car….

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    Was that 2.8L engine the same 2.8 they put in the Fiero’s? I know absolutely nothing of cars from before like 2003, but I remember seeing somewhere that Fiero’s could be had with a 2.8 v6 I believe.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Yes and no. The Celebrity had three 2.8L V6s at various points. The first was the 115-hp LE2 from 1982-86, which was replaced in 1987(?) with the 130-hp LB6. The 140-hp L44 was the shared Fiero engine, used from 1985-86, and was the HO option used mostly (or entirely?) in the Eurosport models, as well as the 6000 STE and the ’85 Citation X-11.

  • avatar
    Zelgadis

    That last paragraph makes me think that an interesting reader comment post would be “If you or your family gave up on domestic cars, what car was your last domestic?”

    In my family, the 1981 Buick Century was the end. It was horrendously slow, stalled out often, and the paint started cracking before it was even a few months old.

    Five years later, our family got our first import, a 1986 Nissan Maxima. It has been imports ever since. My father is now on his third Subaru and my mother is on her first Audi.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I was always a fan of the 6000STE or SE especially with the optional AWD. A shame the other divisions A-Bodies did not offer the AWD option since it might have pried some folks away from Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      TIL the 6000 had optional AWD. Wow!

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Naah, in those days Subaru was still using part-time 4WD like the other Japanese wagons that made their way over here in the ’80s. The whole “symmetrical AWD” thing was something Subaru’s US marketing department latched onto in the ’90s.

  • avatar
    davew833

    In 1985 the architect I worked for in high school bought one of these new for his company car in the blandest shade of beige I’d ever seen. I don’t remember the specs, but I do remember the interest rate he financed it at– 14%! A few months later an identical one showed up at the office in a more palatable black cherry metallic color which he managed to finance for *only* 8% interest. He sold the beige one shortly after that.

  • avatar
    cgw1978

    My first car!, Amazing how the 89 is almost identical to my poop brown 84.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Looks like a light front end hit was the end, and this one was a runner.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I noticed the gauge bezels look about brand-new; most of the time, they’re dirty, hazy, scratched or even broken (like the ones in that white-over-blue Skylark X-body from a couple weeks ago).

  • avatar
    zipper69

    Front end damage aside this is in surprisingly good condition. The rest of the panels seem straight, the interior is better than some five year old cars on the lots.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Gauge package and console shifter this is a highly optioned celeb right there.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Celebrity Wagon- the worst car we ever owned. Barely made it to 100K, then bought Japanese and never looked back.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I have never seen those taillights with the clear middle section on an A-body wagon–are those additional reverse lights, with the ones on either side of the license plate recess? Turn signals?

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    The Brand X Celebrity was one of the worst products ever made. They disintegrated the moment you left the dealer’s lot on the drive home when they were new and never stopped falling apart. I’d like to say the Cavalier, Citation, and their derivatives killed the company, but the Celebrity was a multi-nail model in the coffin.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    My Dad’s last American car was a Pontiac 6000. I was living far from home so I don’t remember any details of the 6000. He had never owned an import. But after that he bought a brand new Camry which was the last car he ever bought. My kid sister drove it for awhile till the rust made it un-drivable.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I was supposed to have an ’88 Celebrity Eurosport sedan. My grandfather bought it from an auction in 2004 with 28,000 miles. It was a nice car. Had every option. He detailed it, had some paint work done, and of course refreshed/replaced hoses, tires, and other parts worn out by sitting over the years. It was a nice car.

    He sold it shortly before I got my license, though. I still see it around town occasionally.

  • avatar
    deafvet

    I currently own a ‘fleet’ of original survivor 1987 Celebrity v6 sedans, all under 100k. Light blue 2.8 w/ 4 speeed and gauge pkg & trunk release button, w/crank windows,
    an 87 light brown Eurosport 2.8 w/3 speed–power windows, both are running and registered here in Hawaii.
    Also a light green 2.8 w/3 speed–crank windows, currently being used as a functional yard vehicle for spare parts/assemblies. I much prefer the manual crank windows. Very little rust on these, the blue one spent most of its life in a garage so the paint is (mostly) excellent, seats and headliner are fine and not faded.

    See:
    https://www.hagerty.com/yourstories/2014/11/18/Survivor-Brothers20141118013658 , these are mine.

    86-89 Celebrity taillights are the best!!
    These cars have nice size and styling, comfortable, steel chrome bumpers, disk brakes, fuel injection, and distributorless electronic ignition, which sets them above earlier classics with drum brakes, carbs, and points/distributors.
    Parts are cheap and available.


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