Junkyard Find: 1986 Chevrolet Sprint

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1986 chevrolet sprint

Before there was the Geo Metro (a rebadged Suzuki Cultus, there was the Chevrolet Sprint (also a rebadged Suzuki Cultus). U.S. gas prices dropped below a buck per gallon during the middle 1980s, which had the effect of forcing the oil-income-dependent Soviet Union into bankruptcy even faster than predicted, with end-of-Cold-War results. On top of that, cheap gas prices meant that only the most tight-fisted of cheapskates felt that buying a tiny three-cylinder car built by a motorcycle company made any sense at all. Still, enough Sprints were sold that I see them in junkyards every now and then.

This is about as basic as basic transportation could get in 1986. Even the wretched Yugo was more luxurious than the Sprint (though most Sprints lasted about five times as many miles as most Yugos).

A lot of more expensive Japanese subcompacts (e.g. the Nissan Sentra) came with 4-speeds as standard equipment in 1986, so this 5-speed was a nice touch.

Not much to go wrong here.

I’ve driven a few 3-banger Sprints, and I’d like to say they were actually peppier than one would expect. Unfortunately, they were even slower than you’d expect. We’re talking Diesel Rabbit slow. Still, the Sprint would haul four adults at highway speed, if you weren’t fussy about how long it took to get to highway speed.

In the United States, the Sprint had two selling points: price and fuel economy. The first item went out the window in 1986 with the appearance of the even cheaper Hyundai Excel and Yugo GV, but the Sprint still owned the fuel-economy crown.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the Cultus GTI was available with a screaming twin cam engine and “The Final Countdown” playing in the background.

Back in the United States, Suzuki was also selling the Cultus as the Forsa, under its own marque. Thanks to this very long and utterly incomprehensible advertisement— in fact, it’s so incomprehensible that I have a hard time believing it isn’t a spoof created six months ago— nobody bought these things. Later on, Suzuki changed the name from Forsa to Swift and sold… several.

Join the conversation
2 of 32 comments
  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Oct 10, 2012

    I also get good mileage from my riding mower, I still wouldn't want to use it as everyday transportation though.

  • Titiduru Titiduru on Dec 25, 2013

    I remember my brother going from LA to Vegas and back on one tank of gas.Not on windy days anyways :=)

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.