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 :=)

  • Redapple2 Why does anyone have to get permission to join? Shouldnt the rules to race in a league be straight forward like. Build the car to the specs. Pay the race entry fee. Set the starting grid base on time trials.?Why all the BS?I cant watch F1 any more. No refuel. Must use 2 different types of tires. Rare passing. Same team wins every week. DRS only is you are this close and on and on with more BS. Add in the skysports announcer that sounds he is yelling for the whole 90 minutes at super fast speed. I m done. IMSA only for me.
  • Redapple2 Barra at evil GM is not worth 20 mill/ yr but dozens (hundreds) of sports players are. Got it. OK.
  • Dusterdude @SCE to AUX , agree CEO pay would equate to a nominal amount if split amongst all UAW members . My point was optics are bad , both total compensation and % increases . IE for example if Mary Barra was paid $10 million including merit bonuses , is that really underpaid ?
  • ToolGuy "At risk of oversimplification, a heat pump takes ambient air, compresses it, and then uses the condenser’s heat to warm up the air it just grabbed from outside."• This description seems fairly dramatically wrong to me.
  • SCE to AUX The UAW may win the battle, but it will lose the war.The mfrs will never agree to job protections, and production outsourcing will match any pay increases won by the union.With most US market cars not produced by Detroit, how many people really care about this strike?