Junkyard Find: 1980 Chevrolet Chevette
We give GM a hard time over the Citation, but at least the Citation was a big leap into the future compared to the primitive, rear-drive, Opel-designed Chevette. However, it tells us something that more Chevettes than Citations have survived long enough to make it into junkyards in 2011.
GM sold Chevettes in the United States through the 1987 model year— no, that’s not a typo— and in South America into the late 1990s. Chevette siblings and cousins roamed the world, with legions of Daewoo Maepsys and Aymesa Cóndors on just every gravel goat path and ring-road superhighway on the planet.
The Chevette was cramped, noisy, and slow, but it sipped fuel and didn’t have much to go wrong. Had GM released it in 1963, it would have been a stunning breakthrough on the order of the Hydramatic or small-block Chevrolet V8. As it was, the Chevette was just a retrograde profit-generator for a company under attack on many fronts.
The historical significance of such Malaise machinery is the reason I’m always glad to find a Chevette to contemplate at the junkyard; I spotted this ’80 at a Denver self-serve yard a few weeks back.
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I am still of the opinion that around half of them quit at 50k, and the other half at 150k. As I recall my rental- super-clunky, truck-like controls, even for the time. Honest machine- yes, automobile- not!
My mom had an '80 Chevette 4 dr-it was tan/"butterscotch" colored, same trim. AM radio later replaced with a cheap Western Auto tape deck, A/C didn't work, no rear defog, no tachometer. Pretty clean, though. There was always a problem with a vibration above 45 m.p.h-mom said it must've been the U-joint. That was never fixed. One day, on our way home from a video rental place, the Chevette's oil/choke light came on. The engine started to overheat and stall. It was as if the End of Times was upon us-my mom was freaking out, even though she had been a mechanic for Sears while she was in her 20s. Turned out to be the Chevette's water pump. After that, the car remained solid if lackluster transportation until it was replaced by a '78 Chevy Scottsdale-which itself was wrecked by a douchebag friend of my mother's then douchebag ex-boyfriend.