Junkyard Find: 1984 Chevrolet Chevette CS Diesel

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Did you know that the Chevrolet Chevette was manufactured in the United States through the 1987 model year? It’s true! Serious fans of Chevette trivia also know that American car shoppers could buy a new Chevette with an Isuzu diesel engine; Chevette Diesel owners could eke out tremendous range in their oil-stinking, cramped, rear-drive econoboxes, and isn’t that really what car ownership was all about in the middle 1980s? I see the occasional Chevette in my travels (not to mention on the race track), but this California find is the first diesel Chevette in this series.

With all the San Francisco Bay Area veggie-oil-diesel freaks snapping up Peugeot 504 and Mercedes-Benz W123 diesels for conversion to never-to-be-finished french-fry-grease-burners to take to Nevada, you’d think that this Chevette would have been worth enough to evade The Crusher. Guess not.

At least it has a manual transmission, so the 51-horse engine would have been just miserable instead of completely intolerable.

Don’t use starting fluid!

The Isuzu engine in these things was a very reliable, if gutless, powerplant.

How many GM products got this exact HVAC-control panel?

The most famous Chevette Diesel in the world is, of course, the Zero Budget Racing car, which has done very well in 24 Hours of LeMons racing.

OK, let’s watch some Chevette ads from around the world! Here’s Brazil.

The Chevette Amigo was just the car for picking up streetwalkers in Venezuela.

The Daewoo Maepsy was the Korean Chevette.

In Canada, they ice-race Chevettes aka Pontiac Acadians.

Canadian Chevettes were badged as Chevrolets, too.

To get a sense of the incredible slowness of the Chevette Diesel, here’s some rear-facing video from the Zero Budget Chevette Diesel at Gingerman earlier this year.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

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.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
3 of 152 comments
  • Guy922 Guy922 on Feb 04, 2014

    In Salt Lake 2 nights ago I saw a 5 door Chevette hatchback rolling down the road. It was brown. Mid 80s. The car and it's driver looked miserable....But I guess theres something to be said about a 2nd gen Chevette still running for daily use some 34-27 years after manufacture.....

  • SydnisDieselChevette SydnisDieselChevette on Oct 29, 2014

    I own a 1983 Chevette 5speed 1.8 Diesel. Black with a red pin stripe and badged "SS" brilliantly all over it (yeah I know it's not lol), interior is perfect including seats. I'm 22 years old and I'm obsessively in love with it! I've had her for 2+ years now and still fall in love every time I see her. Just thought it was really nice to see others appreciate my car and understand the love I have for it.

    • Rjackson Rjackson on May 26, 2015

      Hi all (all still looking over this string). SydnisDieselChevette...you may like to hear that in 1984 i bought a NEW diesel SS like the one you have. i didn't want the black one that they had on the lot, so i ordered mine with the dark blue metal flake paint option. like yours, it had the dark red pin stripe and the "SS" on the hatch. The day i picked it up, i drove it right to work at my pizza delivery job. Now this brings me to a question (if you ever follow this that is. What kind of mileage are you getting out of your '83 ? If it's as good as i had, you shpould be getting around 50ish in town & upper 80's highway. AND, like me, you were probably making faces at all the comments above knocking OUR favorite 'lil cars. My 'lil Chevette was no under powered terror to drive. I actually lit up the tires in 1st & 2ed, then barked them in 3rd, then going for broke, tried for 4th gear(don't remember about 4th). Thoes of us that owned themknow that the 5speeds in them were spaced out pretty good. ALL Chevette's came with a 85mph speedometer, most with that 'lil peg at 85. Mine didn't have the peg. One night out on the interstate, i nearly found out just how fast it could go. My speedo was back around PAST the zero again. I always guesstamated i was doing a 'lil over 135(plz...DO NOT TRY THAT...lol). SydnisDieselChevette... I do hope you see this. It would be nice to know how your '83 is doing now!

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Once e-mail was adopted by my former employer, we were coached about malice software as early as the 90's. We called it "worms" back then.They were separating the computers that ran the power plants from the rest of the system in the early 00's. One plant supervisor loaded vacation pictures from a thumb drive on his work PC. His PC was immediately isolated and the supervisor in question was made an example of via a disciplinary notice. Word spread quickly!!Last I heard, they still had their own data center!! Cloud Computing, what's that?!?! 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3SpeedAutomatic At this time, GM had a "Me Too" attitude towards engine development:[list][*]the Euro luxury brands have diesels, so can we via an Olds V8[/*][*]variable value timing, welcome to the brave new world of Cadillac V8-6-4[/*][*]an aluminum block V8 engine via the HT4100, the go-go 80's[/*][*]double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, no sweat, just like the Asian brands via NorthStar. [/*][/list]When you mindset is iron block and cast iron heads, life if easy. However, each time, GM failed to understand the nuances; intricate differences; and technical difficulty in each new engine program. Each time, GM came away with egg on its face and its reputation in ruin.If you look today, the engines in most Cadillacs are the same as in many Chevrolets. 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉