By on January 18, 2010


If the stereotypical driver of a red Grand Am is a blond beautician who lives in a trailer with an unemployed boyfriend sporting a mullet, what is the stereotypical profession of the drivers of Sunfire and Cavalier coupes? Hint: what’s that behind the fence? stereotypes in stereo

It’s a daycare! And the daycare workers park on the side. And since we’re on the subject of Cavalier coupes, here’s a bonus from the apartment across the street from here:

don't ask why I shot this

Don’t ask why I shot these cars today; perhaps today’s lovely Camaro inspired me. And don’t think I’m shortchanging the Cavalier; it deserves its own Deadly Sin CC one of these days.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

36 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Perpetuating Stereotypes In Stereo Edition...”

  • avatar

    For a while, both of my sisters had Sunfire coupes. They both loathed them; one got replaced because it was totaled in a wreck (she’s a hairdesser; someone ran a red and hit her, she replaced it with an Ion coupe), the other because that sister got a (in her words) big girl job (she sells paint, and bought a Versa and loves it). Neither of them misses those heaps of shit. They were seriously dismal cars.
    Hilariously, slightly further in the past, my brother and I both had compact trucks: I had a 95 GMC Sonoma, and he had a 95 Ranger. Both 4-cylinder, 2wd, manual transmissions. Mine was greenish, his was reddish, just to make them slightly more likely to annihilate each other on impact, like matter and antimatter. Both of us agreed that my truck was marginally less awful and marginally more comfortable, but we never did get around to holding the Saddest Drag Race Ever. The Slownoma versus the Danger Ranger: The Battle of the Century.

  • avatar

    These cars always impressed me. GM had to work at it to make something this dismally bad. Buying an econo box because your finances dictate it is one thing. Having your nose rubbed in it is another.

  • avatar

    lol.  that is great insight!

  • avatar

    My sister had a white `98 sunfire convertible.  What a horrid, miserable drive that was.

  • avatar

    Cheap to buy and to mod. I love third gen J-bodies for that reason alone. Granted, Neons will go faster, but it takes more dollars.
    If the person who has the green one wants to sell, let me know. My 245,000 mile Cavalier is getting eaten by the tinworm and I’d like a green one.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine used to sell cars at a Kia dealership.  At one point he sold a used Pontiac Sunfire to a large upper-middle aged African-American church lady.  For whatever reason, she absolutely loved the car, and would come in at least once a month, often bringing baked good, to thank him for setting her up in (what she called) her ‘Pontiac Sunflower’.
    As the saying goes, there’s an ass for every seat…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always called those people “Get-me-dones”. If you can somehow push the financing through and make it work with little or no money down, they’re ecstatic! Some people are desperate to get any car they can, and they become your best friend if you can get it done.

    • 0 avatar

      Heh, what was she driving before?  They’re pretty hard to break and parts are cheap.  Though, they’re shitboxes for sure.

  • avatar

    Ok, so after my first real job out of college, I bought one of the first  Sunfire GT’s, in mystic teal no less.  It was a 5-speed with the moonroof.  I initially thought I’d hate the color, but when it was wet, or dark, the color shifted to blue, green, dark blue, I dunno.  I liked it.

    I also thought the overall style of the car was really cool.  The interior, compared to other domestic offerings, was pretty darn ok.  The stereo rocked, the engine was smooth, and with 150hp, was quick (again, for its time).

    The magazines were saying this was the car to finally put the imports in their place, yada yada yada.  I believed them.  If I had any criticism, it was that on a hard 1-2 upshift, the whole front of the car would jutter really bad.  But then again, maybe I shouldn’t have been beating on it like that.  The steering was overassisted and to slow to react. Also, the headroom with the moonroof was marginal, and I’m barely 6-foot.

    Overall, the car was reliable.  I put 50K on it before trading it in on a minivan (first real job was followed by first real wife, then first real home, then first real kids…so first real minivan had to follow).

    In my humble opinion, the first generation styling held up well.  And the three spoke aluminum wheels were cool.  The re-style made me want to puke.  And in typical GM fashion, they did nothing to keep the car up to date mechanically.  So it withered as did so many other GM offerings.

    Just thought I’d offer up a counterpoint…

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that the 2000-2002 models were just a lukewarm update and really nothing new. But after 2003, they did put some effort into them. My daughter has a bone stock 2004 Sunfire, with the 145 HP Ecotec albeit with the super high geared 4T40 4 speed auto tranny. Manually shifted, it is faster than my  5 speed 1995 Sunfire GT, no doubt. Her Sunfire was upgraded with a revised dash, better seating materials, and in her car’s case, standard sunroof and fog lamps. (But oddly, no cruise control) The Sunfire was updated until it stopped production in 2006.

  • avatar

    The caption for that picture could be “Misery Loves Company”.

  • avatar

    I lived in Michigan in the late 80s-early 90’s. As ubiquitous as were Jettas on the East Coast and Toyotas on the West, J-bodies were in the Big 3-centric Midwest.
    I think virtually every kid had one as his/her first car. Many were accessorized by Pep Boys, and not in a good way. Me being me, the only one I liked was the wagon – too bad GM forgot those.
    I bought my first (and last) new car during this period. I was likewise in the position, though, that an American car made a better choice for that time and place. I skipped the J-bodies and Escorts. I went straight for the Dodge Omni. It really felt like (and wound up being) a better car. I paid $5k for a brand new one after rebates. Four years and 100k later, it was worth $600.

  • avatar

    I don’t mean to be a meat-head, but these are cars are for girls. You would have to not care about cars to own one of these. Young or old, most Cavalier and Sunfire owners I see are female. Silver is often chosen. Silver, again is for girls. Its a colour you don’t really have to take care of, it never really looks dirty.
    I don’t often hate cars, but I absolutely HATE these two cars. They are abominable to drive, I’ve had them as rentals before.

  • avatar

    The purple evokes a strong feeling… used to drive a purple Olds Achieva company car, replaced by a purple Cavalier.  Seems the fleet buyer must’ve got a helluva deal on this color, as a) few were buying these cars, and b) fewer still wanted it in purple.   The Achieva with the V6 was bland but tolerable… a 4 on a 10-pt ‘joy’ scale.  The Cavalier was like driving a bowl of oatmeal… total dog.

  • avatar

    I needed a new car for cheap a few years ago soI test drove an 01 Cavy. The cheapness of the J-bodies emphasises why GM has been in the mess they’re in for so long. All the interior plastic is of the lowest grade. Parts were so flimsily assembled it was horrifying, just pulling the door handle on the outside felt like it would break off. The whole dashboard shook while I was driving it. And the SEATS!!!! They were made of what looked like styrofoam overlayed with cheap-ass low thread count fabric and offered ZERO lower thigh support. Sitting it it felt like it was JUST your ass in the seat. The fuel economy from the oldschool 2.2 pushrod 4 was nothing impressive and sucked compared to other compacts. Suffice to say I did not buy the cavy, I got a 94 Regal 3800 instead which has served me reliably with almost zero issues for almost 4 years now.
    GM can make reliable rides, any 3800 driver knows this well.  But at the same time their smaller rides (J and N bodies) were the shittyest of the shitty,,,, and their biggest sellers.

  • avatar

    Totally unfair Paul. The J bodies are cheap, entry level, reliable small cars. They are ,what they are.  My oldest daughter just sold her 96 Sunfire for $200 at the scrap yard. I think that works out to 14 years and nearly 300,000 klms cheap driving.

    Parts are cheap,I give my mechanic $500 to do a head gasket in 2004. My buddy and Icould do a front brake job in less than an hour.
     Hey…talk about class warfare guys. Not everybody has got the dough to buy a new Mazda 3. Working in a day care won’t buy you Jetta eh?

    Stereotypical profession? Really how about Miata drivers?  Whats thier profession?


    • 0 avatar

      They model sunglasses.

    • 0 avatar

      Have to agree with Mikey. My 99 Cavalier, purchased new, was trouble free. The best of several GM cars I have owned. [My 2005 ION only proved GM as going backward in quality].

      It did like brakes every 24,000 miles but it always started and ran reliably, and was still doing so at 50,000 miles, when it was wiped out in a rear end accident. It was an honest, simple,good looking car, especially the 2 door.

      I liked the yestertech OHV 4. I liked the fact it was, perhaps, the last “genuine” Chevrolet: designed in the US, built in the US, the 1.8 [and subsequent 2.0/2.2] designed by Chevy for the Js.

      There is and was a lot to like about them. And then GM let it rot. My 99 was essentially a brand new 1995 automobile when I bought it.

      A lot of value for the money: ABS, air, 4 speed automatic w/ traction control. I would have replaced it with another Cavalier but GM made the thing so repulsively unattractive with the 03 face mangle, even I wouldn’t be seen in one. Makes my ION look like a Cadillac CTS in comparison. [Still better looking than the new Mazda 3 though…]

    • 0 avatar

      I had a ’93 Cavalier.  Third-worst car I ever owned (behind a POS Celebrity and a God-awful Aerostar).  It was the cheapest new car I could (barely) fit in at the time.

      You ain’t kiddin’ about its appetite for barake pads and rotors.  I shed no tears when I traded it in…

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      What’s unfair? Stereotypes intrinsically are unfair; so when you see a headline warning you about reinforcing stereotypes, don’t expect it to be “fair”. Lighten up!
      Regarding the J-cars: I will be doing a CC; but here’s a one liner: not up to Japanese standards, but gave lots of folks cheap wheels, and the later ones were reasonably reliable, at least compared to the early ones.

    • 0 avatar

      Point taken Paul. I just plain don’t like stereotyping.

  • avatar

    As stated in previous posts… my wife’s ’97 Sunfire GT is rock-solid reliable and is the car we use to drive me home after dropping my Audi A4 off at the shop.  Were I in the market for a car for a son or daughter… a GM J-body would be near the top of my list.
    Anecdotal data points regarding the cars discussed so far:
    wife’s ’97 Sunfire – occupation Defense Intelligence Analyst
    friend’s ’99 Miata – occupation Software Engineer
    brother’s ’07 Jetta – occupation Software Salesman
    friend’s ’06 Jetta – occupation Unemployed Student

  • avatar

    The Z24 actually looks nice, better than the version we got. GM didn’t assemble them here with those bigger wheels.
    The Sunfire looks like crap (both, the one in the picture and the model itself), and like it has been parked there for at least 5 years.
    Overall I think, for cars of that time, Neon>Cavalier. If given the option to have any of the 2 I’d choose the Neon. If only 2drs are need, I’d go for the Z24 with the 2.3 DOHC.
    And I don’t know either why you shot the riced out 1st gen. My eyes are still bleeding.

    Overall I think the 95+ Cavalier style didn’t age THAT bad.

  • avatar

    Around here Sunfires are run almost exclusively by College girls. Cavaliers tend to be used by various folks but almost never seen a male in a Sunfire.

    • 0 avatar

      +1  If you’re looking for a Sunfires and Cavaliers just drive through the parking lot of the local high school, or college.  My son bought a Cavalier to get around in while his Silverado was down, what a horrid little car.  He drove it for three weeks re named it the “Cadaver” in honor of its performance, and sold it preferring to walk or bum a ride with his friends. 

  • avatar

    Here in the northeast, there are also a lot of these.
    Every single one of them either has a fart can pointing downwards at a 45 degree angle, or the OEM muffler dangling (and banging into the rear beam axle) from the piping as the hangers have long since rusted off.
    Another car in a long line of junk from GM.

  • avatar

    I think the J cars are one of those situations where you’re better off buying a used Honda or Toyota for the same price as the new J. They were awful

  • avatar

    They’re nicknamed “Crapaliers” nation wide. The only reason they sold so well was because for the last 7 years of production GM discounted them to the hilt to move inventory. You could get one brand new with ABS for less than 10 grand.

    And Krazykarguy is right, here in MA the crapaliers are as riced up as the civics these days. High school kids love them because they can get a less than 10 year old ride for 2-3 grand.

  • avatar

    If you have to live on daycare worker wages, you could do a lot worse than a used Cavalier or Sunfire and it’s not easy to do much better.

  • avatar

    Aunt and Uncle’s mid-90s Cavalier bought used at around 90,000 miles on the odo was recently traded-in on a Vue.
    Over 200,000 miles when traded and was sold to another within three days.
    The Cavalier was reliable for them, got them 30 mpg on the freeway and pert-near always commenced the internal combustion process when called upon….  bad battery once and some minor problem another time.
    They loved the contraption.
    I hated the rear seat when I rode along for a free eat-out meal.
    Suitable for kids only in that back seatlet but…..
    The kin were mightily pleased with their minimal cost to buy and maintain Cavalier.
    Sure see a lot of the Cavs in apartment building parking lots.
    Betcha’ parts are cheap in the wrecking yards, especially the U-pull-it places.
    I wouldn’t own one… not big enuff to live in as we steadily descend into a 2nd-world status minus a minority who can avoid/evade that fate for whatever reason.
    When will that H-1B visa holder take your job/career?

  • avatar

    +1  obbop  Its clear to me, that you sir are connected the real world.

  • avatar

    My friend had a Z24 with a manual and the 3.1.  That thing _moved_.  He traded it in on a newer Prelude fifth-gen after it developed a rod knock after about 100,000+ hard miles.  I have a Skylark with the same 3.1, and it has a lot of balls too.  Yeah, they’re terrible cars, and I’m reminded of this every time I climb into my fifth-gen Honda Prelude project, but they’re also pretty damn reliable and cheap to fix.  When either one breaks and my budget is tight, the Buick always gets fixed first.

  • avatar

    I think that 2 types of people in this discussion. Those that think Cavaliers/Sunbirds are less visually appealing, have worse interiors and inferior driving characteristics to other compact cars available.
    Then their are those that figure that $/mile ratio is good (and maybe it is) for the Cavalier/Sunbird and that if you can ignore the crap styling, crap interior and crap driving dynamics – then you have a good car (for the money).

  • avatar

    The 95-up Cavaliers were great cars.  Eerily reliable, quiet, comfortable, good riding, good handling, cheap to fix. Excellent visibility.  Not a lot of power, but enough to get moving.  Good acceleration from 40-90.  Decent fuel economy.  Old tech, but who cares.  An OHV engine is proven, reliable, and easy and cheap to fix.  I have 170K on mine and I haven’t exactly babied it.  Brake shoes are cheap and easy to change.  And there’s plenty of room for my over 6′ frame.  What’s not to love?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • mcs: The closest I got to a trip Russia was a visit to the KAMAZ plant in Tatarstan. The invitation was withdrawn at...
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin: Hey! Here’s a wacky idea: let’s all drive our own f-ing cars and then focus billions of...
  • el scotto: “The Preppy Handbook” came out in 1980. “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” came out...
  • el scotto: Mr. Daily Sir, every farm boy from Kokomo to Muncie can see the bright lights of Indianapolis -Heywood...
  • el scotto: @DungBeetle 62, Sir, the SL-class, E-class, Miata, or AMG were better than most of those GM products. A...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber