Time Machine Dilemma: It's 1986 and You Have Enough Money For a New Chevette. What Do You Buy?
After last week’s Time Machine Dilemma (in which you emerged from your time machine in 1973, on Auto Row and with enough cash to buy a new Ford LTD), I thought of doing a 1974 Oil Crisis Diminished Expectations Economy Car Time Machine Dilemma. However, the really challenging econobox-shopping decisions came a bit more than a decade later, when the Hyundai Excel and Yugo GV arrived in a marketplace full of Japanese subcompacts duking it out for supremacy and Detroit trying to stay relevant. Yes, 1986! So, you exit your time machine in front of the Chevrolet dealership with $5,645 in your pocket. That’s enough to buy a new Chevette at full list price (the out-the-door-price would almost certainly be lower, but we’ll go with MSRP for this exercise). Do you get the antiquated-but-simple rear-drive Chevy for your penny-pinching commuter… or something else? Let’s look at your choices.
It turns out that the Chevette (which was on its second-to-last model year in 1986) was priced higher than much of its competition. How much higher? Let’s take a look at some prices for ’86 Chevette competitors, according to the prices in the Standard Catalogs or the NADA Classic Cars site.
But first, we’ll look at an example of Chevette pricing in action. Here’s an ad for the ’85 Chevette, which listed at $5,340. Yep, $4,993. Just keep that in mind when you start looking for a place to spend your $5,645 in 1986.
Chevrolet Sprint: $5,380
Dodge/Plymouth Colt E: $5,372
Honda Civic hatchback: $5,479
Hyundai Excel: $4,995
Mazda 323: $5,645
Nissan Sentra: $5,499
Pontiac 1000: $5,749
Subaru Justy STD: $4,989
Toyota Tercel hatchback: $5,448
Yugo GV: $3,990
Having owned quite a few ’86 Tercels and Civics, I think I’d buy… the Mazda 323. The Tercel would last forever, regardless of abuse, and the Civic would get 45 MPG, but the 323s of this era were more fun to drive and held together pretty well.
Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.
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