By on January 24, 2010

It’s time to use up some of the leftover shots from the recent trip to the Bay Area (not that I’m running low; no worries). I admit that the ’68 Chevy truck caught my attention first, although I have several of that vintage and they’ll be coming soon to TTAT. But then I noticed the white coupe hiding behind the truck wasn’t just any old boring Beretta, but a pretty hot little piece…

The Beretta is one of the many GM cars of that vintage that is quite forgettable. Built from 1987 through 1996, it was of course a course coupe version of the equally forgettable Corsica. Built on the L-platform, the Corsica, Baretta and Canadian Tempest were a slight variation of the N-Bodies; the difference being that Chevy did the lead work on these, and Olds on the N. Wonderful stuff, all of them, and a subject we’ll plumb in greater depths when we’re up to it. Most Berettas packed either the Cavalier’s dreadful little whiny 2.0 OHV four, or the Citation’s 2.8 or 3.1 V6s with their unmistakable roarty drone that suggested performance but rarely delivered.  But this is a Beretta of a different stripe.

The GTZ was only built from ’90 through ’93, and was Chevy’s designated player to mix it up with the hot coupes of the day. Drop in Olds’ Quadraphonic-thrashy 2.3 liter 16 valve four packing 180 ponies and a Getrag 5 speed, and shod it with beefy tires and the FE7 suspension, and you have a…slightly cheaper Camaro. Zero to sixty in 7.6 seconds. According to a contemporary MT test, it was supposedly the fastest FWD car in the slalom in its time, besting even the Camaro’s time. Only one problem with that: like so many of GM’s skid pad/slalom time wonder cars (think C4 Corvette), those results were accomplished through very stiff springs and a punishing ride. Hustle one down a rough and broken-up road quickly, and between the coffee-grinder engine sounds and the punishing ride, this is a Beretta that you might be happy to drop off at the next gun turn-in program.

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39 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Packing A Hot Beretta Edition...”

  • avatar

    Paul, why are you calling it bAretta if it says bEretta on the back?

  • avatar

    I recall a rumor of the day being that the Beretta was developed as a back-burner replacement for the Camaro, in the event that fuel prices ever skyrocketed.

  • avatar

    The front and the side, though the back is completely different, look like an Opel Calibra. That car wes supposed to have the lowest Cx ever in a production car, and this was only beat recently by some Merceds-of-which-I-can’t-recall-the-letters-and-numbers.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford was absolutely paranoid about the Cd of the Calibra … I used to have a Ford Internal benchmarking report on this topic … the Company were fascinated with all the gap sealers (around the headlights, at the hood grille/header interface, etc.) on the Opel. Ford had been trumpeting the super low Cd of the Probe IV, “as low as an F-16”, they said (IIRC), and then, just a few years later, Opel was at the top (or bottom) of the Cd race!

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Mr Robert Walter for that information. I guess styling just flew in another direction just after that, with all modern cars having huge grills and whatnot. So this coeficient just took a big hit and suddenly became much less important.

      I definetely like the look of theses cars w/ small grills. The new Peugeot show car shows that maybe, just maybe, manufactirers are finding their way back to this formula. One can only dream

      Anyway some new European cars are showing the way foward I guess. W/ smaller grills up in the hod area and big ones down low in the bumper (where they can more effectively be ‘hidden”). Like the looks of these new generation cars.

      Sadly though it seems GM and Ford are betting on the huge grills now that most European manufacturers (undeniably world leaders in design) are going the opposite way. I mean even the lowly Fiat Uno, which will have a radical redesign and be FWIW a real brand new car (new platform and all) is carrying this new design language in Brazil. It somewhat (or very) controversial, but it will be sporting that half closed grill so common in 70 era French cars (especially Renault) and to a lesser degree the Italian cars (mainly Fiat).

  • avatar

    Was there not a GTU version as well, maybe before this one? I remember being slightly tempted by these, but ultimately I opted for a 1991 Lumina Z34 instead………oy! I can give you some material on that Paul, perhaps for Halloween.

  • avatar

    I recall the large amount of advertising, essays, articles, etc. in car magazines etc. touting the wonders of the Quad-4.

    Appears to have been yet another instance of puffery in action.

    For the curious;

    Unsure of article’s accuracy and do not care enough to validate.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Do any of the B&B remember when the Corsica/Beretta was launched? At that time, I remember some GM Chevy head or PR talking head spewing out that they fully believed these two cars were going to be as big and influential to the brand and the public as the ’55 was. Hmmm. Imagine that, GM over promising.

    My Dad managed to snag a very early loaded up “brass hat” Beretta out of the GM auction in 87 with the aid of his buddy Chevy dealer. I do remember that car having the top shelf stereo in it at that time. I found myself most impressed with that stereo system. Not much else jumps out now as any “wow’ memories of it.

    A buddy of mine years ago had the ultra rare Corsica hatchback with a 4 cyl /5-speed. The one thing that was impressive was the cavernous interior with the aid of that hatch.

    After the years have passed, the talking head prediction surely didn’t come true. These cars did manage to further reinforce how shoddy some of the product quality was. Reminder, remember how the dashboards on these cars would bubble and curl up? What a nice every-minute-you-drive-one reminder of how truly great they were.

    Finally, if I were driving down the road where this car was found, I’d find myself fixated on the ’68 Chevy C10 long before bothering to notice the Beretta.

    • 0 avatar

      While I can’t remember the exact date, my father was working for GM when the Beretta came out and one evening he brought home a late pre-production model for us to check out. Through the 20-20 vision of hindsight the Beretta wasn’t the crowning achievement Chevrolet was hoping for but I remember thinking that it was a neat little car at the time.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember the first Corsica I ever saw was at the intersection of Men’s Clothing and Jewelry inside a JCPenney and accompanied by a player piano.

      While working my first job in high school at a pizza joint the assistant manager would go out back and smoke with his friends…all of them drove new Berettas. Boy, did they think they were cool. Heh, heh.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember the debut well … I remember that GM got itself into a IP-infringement dust-up over the name of the vehicle with the famous italian maker of handguns bearing the same name (F.d’A.P. Beretta S.p.A.)… (Probably did not want to be associated with the “Mark of Excellence”.)

      (Just went to Wikipedia, this is what they say on the IP issue:) “General Motors was sued by Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta for trademark infringement over the naming of the Beretta. The suit was settled out-of-court in 1989; GM and Beretta exchanged symbolic gifts: a Beretta GTU coupe and a pair of Beretta shotguns. GM donated US$500,000 to a Beretta-sponsored charity which was also affiliated with the GM Cancer Research Foundation.”

      I also thought the door handles were cool, until I tried one in the winter and found it frozen to the door, and tried one in the summer and had it pinch my fingers … afterward, I added this to my list of “good ideas poorly executed.)

      Oh, and the GM sporty cars of this era had the most annoying exhaust note … what might charitibly be described as “buzzing pebbles in a can.”

    • 0 avatar

      Despite the tiny buttons on the head units, GM sound systems from the late 80’s through early 90’s were some of the best sounding ones available, to me only the Chrysler Infinity systems from that era were a match for them.

    • 0 avatar

      That was the Chevy Celebrity. And in an article from Motor Trend pre-into of the A Bodies.Included an outline of both cars. The only big difference was in the height of the 55.

      Corsica was first sent to the fleets so that Chevrolet could iron the bugs out before the cars went to the consumer.[Yet another MT article, pre launch of the Corsica/Beretta].

      Think of the irony: the fleets got the cars first, not the other way around….

      BTW: ever notice how much the Corsica 5 door looks like a small scale Cadillac STS?

    • 0 avatar


      I have seen a few.. and have camera pics also.

  • avatar

    I drove an ’88 Beretta GT for 100k miles. It had the 2.8 V6 and 5 speed Getrag manual tranny. It was a much better GM product than (any prevous) GM 80’s product. The tranny finally failed and it cost $1.5k to rebuild.
    I had one strange problem with it. The engine would not idle from time to time. Several dealers were not able to fix. Finally, I took it to another dealer and it was diagnosed as the engine computer with the auto-tranny program. Changing the program to manual tranny version fixed the problem.
    The other expensive problem was the digital dashboard. It was illuminated all the time and the bulbs had a 4 or 5 year life. Replacement of the bulbs cost something like $300. I did that once.

    One very nice do-it-yourself item was that the oil filter was very near the front of the car and mounted vertically – made for cleaner easier oil filter changes.

    @Gary Numan,
    I believe it was introduced in early 1987. I bought one of the first ones that my Chevy dealer received. (red exterior/sandalwood interior)

  • avatar

    My parents bought a new Corsica in 1990 with the 3.1 V6. I remember being impressed by its acceleration and tire-smoking burnouts at the lights (I was in high school). It seemed fast at the time and the car was quite reliable (except for the peeling paint). But the squeaks and rattles, oy…

    • 0 avatar

      re: peeling paint
      GM had an (in)famous problem with “over baked’ primer and it eventually came off. Many cars got re-painted in and out of warranty.
      It is also my understanding this was also a time when all the manufacturers were switching to water-based paint and they were just learning proper application methods.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      If you look carefully, you’ll see the rust from this problem on the roof just behind the windshield; the exact same place the similar-vintage Camaro CC has the same issue.

    • 0 avatar

      The most egregious and profound examples of this paint issue (Ford also had it bad on the F-Series) were found on the horizontal surfaces of vehicles with silver or silver-blue metallic paint … the UV of the sun would penetrate the pigment coat and destroy the interface between the pigment and the primer and the pigment would delaminate in a most delightful way … (IIRC, this topic came up in another post on TTAC, and people were comparing how and when their paint peeled away … IMHO the winner was the guy who, IIRC, had it peel off and cover his windscreen at expressway speed.)

      Just think if Maguire’s had had the creativity to market Car Sunscreen at the time!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I financed one of these last year. Bought it for a little less than $700 with 81k original miles and a nice sized dent on the passenger side.

    The fellow crashed it six months later and the car was paid off by the insurance company. $2200 in insurance, $1300 from the customer. I also had to spot the fellow an oil change (the only one in 13k miles) before the accident… it was money well spent.

  • avatar

    Oh man a Beretta! As a product of the 80’s I think you, Paul, have a bias against the era, as fair as you are trying to be. I find most people of a similar vintage do, not sure if it is a real perspective or a romaticizing of the 60’s. You know a slushbox 2.8 Corsica with the mid grade (but capable) f41 suspension would destroy your precious Speedster at everything that doesn’t involve emotions ;-)

    The Beretta/Corsica of course suffered from classic GM half-assedness, but they did fix the interior in 1992. The suspension was tough, GM pulled a ’84 ‘Vette again in ’87 and made the first year Z51 suspension too harsh for most. My dad had this first year Z51.

    I can say with a straight face nothing felt like that car until driving a Lancer Evo years later. Something about sitting upright like a sedan, super quick 2.? turns lock-to-lock steering, and that all out suspension. The hollow front sway bar was a thick as my wrist!

    The whole package was much more refined by the time the GTZ, which rode and handled better, came around. The Quad 4 was everything the Beretta needed, more power for a great handling platform.

    Amazing this platform was just an offshoot of the good ‘ol J-body.

    • 0 avatar

      “2.? turns lock-to-lock steering” … with a question mark? Perhaps you are remembering the 36k-odd units from MY1991 which were recalled because the steering wheel was not properly bolted onto the column shaft?

    • 0 avatar

      Ha! No actually I didn’t recall how many turns, just that it was stupid quick. I figure if I say 2.2 someone will turn up and tell me that I am all wrong because it was 2.3 turns.

  • avatar

    Funny, I always thought the Beretta/Corsica were two of GMs more attractive designs, at least from an exterior POV. The interiors were godawful, even after the mid-cycle redesign which gave them that overwrought swoop of a dashboard. The bodies were way flexy. I rented one while I was home on leave from the Navy and drove it up Allegheny Avenue in Philly – not pleasant AT ALL!!!

  • avatar

    I recall shopping for a new car in March or April of 1997 and seeing a left-over 1995 Beretta on the showroom floor of a local Chevy dealer. I still remember thinking it was a decent looking car then taking one look at the interior (straight out of the 80’s if I remember correctly) and walking away.

  • avatar

    I recall that either these or the GTUs were marketed as BMW 3-series competitors. But what hasn’t been?

  • avatar

    I had an ’88 Corsica from ’98-’03, it was my great-aunt’s car and when I got it, it had about 40k miles on it, she barely drove. Unfortunately it was that horrible light blue and was peeling, but my brother got rear-ended in it while I was in Maine and as part of fixing we repainted the whole car a metallic dark blue. Combined with white walls and blacked out taillights, it wasn’t a horrible looking car, had ice cold a/c, reaonably quick, I updated with a CD player and better speakers and drove back and forth from MI to MA for 5 years. Learned how to do brakes, suspension f/r, belts, oil changes, headliner, etc etc on that car. Simple and cheap to work on, nary a rust spot when I sold it. There’s a chance she still soldiers on in north Rhode Island. Viva la Sportsica!

  • avatar

    I wish GM, or somebody, still made a car this size. Now that the Alero/Grand Am type cars are done, it’s either midsize or subcompact. For me this was the perfect sized car, small enough to be nimble and efficient, yet large enough to be comfortable and somewhat more substantial in feel. In a way I think the Fusion comes the closest to being in this class, but I still wish they made a coupe this size.

  • avatar

    I have never been a Chevy fan, but the Beretta was a nice-looking car. A friend owned a black one with the peeling-paint feature and short-lived brake pads. Eeks.

  • avatar

    I had a 1983 Jetta and in 1988 I started to get the bug to replace it with something more cool to attract the chicks (yes, I was young and foolish) so I went a drivin’ cars. The Beretta had nice styling and it was a two door, which made my four door Jetta seem positively frumpy.

    The Beretta was inferior to the VW in every way, shape and form. The motor droned (it was a V-6) and the car wandered all over the road, especially when compared to the taught little VW. It was horribly inferior to my little Krautwagen, as a I called it. I am glad I didn’t but it.

    But 1990 the Jetta was starting to do what VWs do when they get old, cost tons of money. I finally drove a car that I liked better than my Jetta, a 1990 Honda Accord, which is still in my family. My niece drives it and it has 400,000 + km on it! The Jetta was ready for the scrap heap in seven years and I am sure most Berettas didn’t make it much longer!

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I have seen result of several Berettas/Corsicas turned into trikes. Yes, that’s right, trikes. The, uh, craftsmen would take the front clip, graft the trunk and taillights onto it, along with a motorcycle front end. The rider would sit on the hood. I’ve seen several of them at Daytona Beach during bike week in late February/early March.

  • avatar

    I had a dark red 90 GTZ from new. I do remember it fondly. It was a very sophisticated product for GM at the time. I’m not surprised it’s so forgotten now as it was quickly dropped in favor of the GTU V6 after only a few years. If I remember correctly, it was a manual only option and even back then that was enough to be the kiss of death to a sports package from the General.

    My take on the ride quality was quite the opposite. Back in the day I also had a 86 Dodge Shelby Charger Turbo that the wife and I traded between us. I distinctly remember the Beretta feeling like riding in a cloud after a week in rough riding Shelby. I did miss that fun yet manic midrange turbo kick of the Shelby though.

  • avatar


    I remember LUSTING after one of those wayyy back in the day.

    Then I started doing research and THOUGHT I remembered that the Cavalier and the Beretta were one in the same.

    I stayed away from them after that.

  • avatar

    Hey, you found my car! I owned a 1990 white GTZ just like in the picture. It was my first new car out of college and it brings back many fond memories. The Quad 4 had great power, with a very good Getrag 5 speed manual and excellent balance of handling and ride. I did SCCA autocross and several track days at venues such as Mid-Ohio. I got lots of comments from onlookers that the throaty wail of a Quad 4 at full throttle was a very sweet sound. The car held up really well over the years. I came to appreciate its excellent seats (best seats ever in a GM vehicle, and I’ve owned lots of them over the years) but cursed its lack of a cupholder. I loved the coupe styling but hated the long, heavy doors. And so it went, an ongoing love-hate relationship with the car over 6 years and 75,000 miles.

    Despite its many flaws, the GTZ was one of the favorite cars I’ve owned. It was one of the few GM cars that had real spirit.

  • avatar

    My first new car was a 1990 Beretta GT with a 3.1 V6. I absolutely loved that car. One of the most reliable cars I have ever owned. I had it for 14 years and 358,000 KM (220,000 miles) before the engine gave out on it. I had none of the problems others have talked about. The biggest problem for me was that I had to replace the alternator about every 3 years.

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