By on April 17, 2015

04 - 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Chevy Cavalier sold in enormous quantities during its 23-year production run, and so most of them stay in the background for me at wrecking yards, much like Chrysler Sebrings and Ford Tempos. But the Cavalier Z24, on the other hand— that’s an interesting Junkyard Find!
07 - 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Z24 got the DOHC Quad 4 engine later on (as we see in this ’98 Cavalier Z24 Junkyard Find), but in 1990 the most potent Z24 engine was the 135-horsepower 3.1 liter V6.
01 - 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinEven though cannabis is now legal in Colorado (where I found this car), decor like this tends to raise the suspicions of members of the law enforcement community.
13 - 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThere are certain signs that let you know a car is on its final owner. Like, for example, these dashboard stickers.
10 - 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ’90 Cavalier Z24 listed at $11,505 (the out-the-door price tended to be lower, of course). The Acura Integra RS hatchback was a mere $445 more, however, and GM cannibalized a few Z24 sales with the $11,650 Geo Storm GSi.

Check out the headlight covers in the Mexican version of the ’94 Z24!

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72 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    A friend of mine still has a ’94 Z24 as his daily driver. During that time he has only accumulated 175,000km. Zero driveline issues. Lots of body rot starting to show now.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember renting one of these in Harlingen, TX back in the late 80’s. It was a 4 sp manual which was unusual for a rental unit. I remember it had some ungly wheels with large square center caps that looked like similar to a floor tile.

  • avatar

    GM’s exteriors were top notch during this era. The sedan version of this Cavalier is downright gorgeous IMO. Shame the cars under those exteriors were so eye-wateringly awful

  • avatar

    It may just be me but I’d never approach a car that’s propped up haphazardly like that, let alone close enough to get interior photos.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      This comes up every so often. Turns out those wheel stands are welded together, with one placed at each corner with some reasonable care. One should exercise due caution when tugging or leaning on anything, and one would also have to sign a liability waiver to get near the car in the first place.

  • avatar

    Being that these were built in lordstown Ohio and I’m in Cleveland these were everywhere until they weren’t. If you could fog a mirror you could have one for $8995, during their reign they were the favorite of blondes with stripper names. Andi candi Randi sandi mandi etc… I no longer like blondes with stripper names….

  • avatar

    These were popular cars at my high school. I recall helping several acquiantances repair body and suspension damage after hooning gone wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      And it’s cousin, the Pontiac Sunbird.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course. V6 engined Pontiacs were hot sh1t for teenagers back then. Busted muffler 60* V6s worbling and tires squaling.

        • 0 avatar

          Grand Ams and Grand Prix EVERYWHERE. I still love the Fifth gen (early 90s) Grand Prix GTP. I don’t know why. Make mine white or black with the gold snowflake wheels.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey, I totally believe that I was hot $h!t in my Sunturd! It was the horribly unreliable GT with the 2.0 turbo. It was fun when it worked, but what a piece of junk! It ate turbos, head gaskets, timing belts, ac compressors, you name it it ate it. For the day 165 HP for my dumb teenage self was tremendous!

          • 0 avatar

            The ladies love J-bodies.

          • 0 avatar

            Maybe, bball, but my “lady” at the time certainly didn’t like it. I almost bought a ’93 Cavalier with the V-6 and a manual, but she nixed it. Ended up with a Mazda Protege instead (the one with the twincam engine). That one lasted until 2005.

            Well, the “lady” is an ex now (thank God) but she probably got that one right.

      • 0 avatar

        I tried to think of what this car looked like in my mind (specifically the front end), before scanning through the pictures.

        I came up with a Lumina, and a Beretta, some other one – but I had forgot about this.

        Mostly this model is on my mind:

        (loved that wheel style)

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, the were everywhere. My rich friend’s mother bought him a brand new ’94 Z24 in high school. The last years, the ground effects matched the paint. Looked much more mature.

      I hated that that car was faster than my ’84 Trans Am. What a crappy time for American cars. Growing up in the Ohio Rust Belt though, we didn’t know any better.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yeah! Back in ’91 I had the previous gen, more boxy ’86 Z24 my senior year of high school. Man I loved that car and the sound of the 2.8L v6.

  • avatar

    Slight correction: by 1990 that V6 was making 140 hp (and 160 hp by 1993). While that may not sound like much, especially by today’s standards, its 185 lbs-ft of torque (about 35 more than the Quad 4 which later replaced it) made for healthy response for an economy-oriented car. Even in the larger W-body cars, it didn’t feel underpowered for the early 1990s, and even made a decent sound.

    • 0 avatar

      Truth. The last V6 J bodies were actually sorta fast.

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      They should’ve put the W41 Quad 4 in these things, or at least the LG0. 2.3 Liters of fury! I’d much prefer one of those angry sounding rev monsters over an under-powered 3.1 V6. Too bad emissions ruined those engines and became basically what I drive today; which still ain’t a bad engine at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep. I almost bought a ’93 Cavalier coupe with a 5-speed, and that thing felt remarkably quick compared to everything else I compared it with (primarily twin-cam four cylinder sedans). Torque will do that.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    An obviously immaculately-kept car that briefly ended up in the hands of a moron who then hyperdrove it to oblivion.

    Man, it p_sses me off everytime when this happens…

  • avatar

    The mexican version resembles a Pontiac Sunbird? with the headlight “doors” closed, or is it just my imaginacion?? (c:

  • avatar

    I had an 87. The car did fairly well considering the hell I put it through in my teenage years.

    Working on that car in my driveway did make me hate FWD vehicles though.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I had a 1990 Sunbird LE (with a 2.0). My sister bought it new in 1990 for her 16th birthday. She drove it through high school and college before moving on to a new 1996 Civic.

    At the time, I had the Land Ark for nice days and I was driving my recently acquired 1986 Sentra most of the time – when it worked. It was having some problems stalling at idle so we decided we’d trade that in toward her Civic and I would take the ‘Bird.

    I had Bri’s Brd through the last year and a half of high school and almost all the way through college. Just before my last year it blew its head gasket. At the time, I loved the car. I had spent hours and hours modifying it. But I was too poor to actually buy anything (except some 16″ Quantum Tek alloy wheels!) but I was heavy into the Super Street scene at the time – from the outside of course. I feel like I got most of my questionable taste and mods out of the way with it. I drove it to Pigeon Forge, TN for a J Body meet up. I was an active member of So, I didn’t want to part with it and I sent it back home and we put a second hand motor in it. In the meantime I inherited a 1990 Maxima SE for full time duty. So the Brd sat and my folks drove it occasionally. Eventually the second head gasket or the whole motor blew while my step dad was driving it and that was it. So in 2006, it finally went to the scrap yard as we couldn’t even give it away. It had about 140k miles on it by then. Around 120k when it blew the first head gasket.

    During my entire time owning and “modding” my Sunbird I admired and wished I could own a Z24. I nearly bought one just like the one pictured. It was sitting on the back lot of a shady dealership. I walked in with $400 cash, knowing full well it was probably in bad shape but they wouldn’t sell it to me. Probably one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time.

    So, I have a history with J Bodies and definitely a soft spot for them. It wasn’t a bad car for someone my age and it probably kept me out of a lot of trouble. It was reliable until the head gasket blew and it certainly wasn’t because I took meticulous care of it. I wouldn’t describe the J cars as blights on GM, certainly history has not been kind to them. But you just can’t compare a 1990 GM car to anything coming out of Japan at the time – J or otherwise.

    Would I buy another one? Sure, but I would also buy a well kept 1995 Grand Am GT coupe in a heartbeat, so what do I know?

    • 0 avatar

      I understand this enthusiasm. I had 3 4th gen (90-93) Accords. My last one was enough of a heap to snap me out of it. Horrible NYC roads + lowered suspension = 3 dead oil pans and engines. When the last one died, it was on the way to the airport to pick up my wife. It spent most of its time waiting to be fixed. I was glad to see it go.

      Couldn’t shake the bug though, even after a motorcycle and a 350Z, so now I’m back in a Civic (which is about the size and speed of those old Accords). With some suspension and brake work, and maybe some really mild go fast goodies, it should be a fun enough daily. I do miss the sheer speed of the Z but the Civic gets up OK and is so much less of a hassle to live with.

      I think the only car from that era I would buy again would be a Prelude. It’s amazing what ~8″ off the wheelbase and a significant lowering of the CoG can do for dynamics. Ultimately though there are better buys for the money (i.e. MR2).

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        When my sister was shopping for cars before ending up with the Sunbird we looked at a Civic. If she had gone with that, I would have probably been sucked in by Hondas instead.
        I definitely was into Hondas when I was reading Super Street. I just had no money to actually buy one. But if I could have, boy, would I have ruined one.

        Here’s a shot of Bri’s Brd:
        Hopefully it works.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha-my brother in law has a 95 G-AM GT coupe in close to mint condition, with a few tasteful mods. He only drives it in the summer (we are in New England), and not even in the rain.

      Funny story, since my father in law has an immaculate old muscle car I assumed my BIL must have something cool under that car cover when my wife and I first met. I asked my now wife what it was for a car. She said Grand Am. I said no way, you must mean Trans Am! She insisted it was a Grand Am, but I just didn’t believe her. Who covers up/stores a Grand Am??? I was, of course, wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        Oh lord, do you know what color it is? I was particularly fond of the white with the red accent strips and white wheels. But the bright blue and OMG the TEAL! I love teal! Ugh, what’s wrong with me?

        • 0 avatar

          Its maroon, he put silver stripes on it, some ground effects, and some nice wheels.

          Its a nice looking car. He says its a rare color. I’m like dude its a rare car period-not many Grand Ams that vintage left on the road.

  • avatar

    Land Ark, you and me both. Now I am off to AutoTrader to see if I can find a 90 z24 for sale

  • avatar

    I would go 3k

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      People need to learn how to take pictures.
      I prefer that body kit to the 88-91.
      Unless it’s in black with the silver bottom. Then I can pretend I’m Earnhardt!
      Those stock square wheels though would have to go immediately.

  • avatar

    Lisa Ann was a walking contradiction.

    Lisa became annoyed at the traffic snarl. “This bs happens every time I go to Denver. I cannot believe this!”, she yelled inside the Chevy. The 3100 moaned lightly as Lisa dipped her right foot in to take up the 15ft of slack ahead of her, so as to not permit the entry of the pickup truck signalling it’s intentions. The wreck choked I-70 down to a single lane. “Come on you rubberneckers!”, she screamed at the windshield. She was now upon the incident. Strobing emergency equipment hid much of the scene from view. Lisa craned her permed head down to the passenger side to try to catch a glimpse of the carnage through the gap. It was enough to see the frazzled passengers of the thoroughly smashed Sedona sitting on the front bumper of a firetruck, getting a once-over by EMT’s. Lisa was startled by the pickup from behind, putting her in her place with his horn, no doubt still upset from her road manners a moment ago.

    “Let me in dumbass!”, she screamed, attempting to make a swift lane change to take the exit to 470 into Golden. The 470 sign made her want to 420. She wondered if there was an I-420, and pondered immaturely how AWESOME it would be if a tagger reached up with his rattle-can to make a quick slight adjustment to the sign. She parked the Cavalier in front of the Molson-Coors office, and glanced at the time on the Delco. “Forty minutes late.”, she noted, taking a deep breath to prepare herself for the meeting ahead. She grabbed the binder on the passenger seat to arm herself with the tools necessary to tell a company what KREX TV in Grand Junction could do for them. She formed a game plan to explain her tardiness. Lisa would kick up her energy level, run the mouth at 90mph, and intentionally appear apologetically rushed.

    “Thank you for your time. I’m looking forward to your call.”, Lisa said, shaking the “grey hair’s” hand. She noted that he followed her out to the parking lot. Lisa watched from the Z24 as this “pompous, rich prick” left in his BMW. “Probably off to the golf course for the rest of the day while us 99%ers pick up the slack.”, she mentally scoffed. She started up the Z24, not sure where to head next. She could do some cold calls…maybe. One glance at the dashboard put her on track. Today’s plans would be:
    A.Get hotel room for tonight on the company card.
    B.Get stoned.
    C.Get laid.

    At Kindman Cannabis, she witnessed a slew of “scum” that obviously had no job. “They should be working right now. These are the bums that give us tokers a bad name,…and take a bath!”, Lisa thought to herself. Back at the Ramada, she laid across the bed, and toyed with the bag of premium smoke as she waited for xChristoff420x from AdultFriendFinder to text her back. She had enjoyed his company previously, and hoped that he felt the same. Her phone chimed Samsungly that he had responded. “I’m off at 4” Lisa looked at the clock on the nightstand, it was still a little after noon. “Ugh!”, she gasped. Lisa then sexted xChristoff420x, making sure to include her colorful bong in the pic.
    “I suppose I can get off early. :)”, he replied.

    The couple found a bit of privacy at Sloan Lake Park behind a row of trees. They marveled at the first nice day of the year as they exchanged hits from the bong. Christoff became mad with passion as they kissed, the plumber pulling at Lisa’s businesswoman attire. “Not here.”, she said wryly. In short order, it was necessary to retreat to the Ramada. The Z24 suddenly became embroiled in a lust-fueled street race with the plumbing van. Lisa laughed at the effect she had on the man as she watched Christoff speed through a red signal, leaving her behind. Driven, and stoned out of her mind, Lisa floored the Z24 at the instance of green. She was held back by traffic moving at a reasonable pace. The Cavalier paced back and forth impatiently on a Lincoln LS’s bumper. “Come on!”, Lisa screamed. The light ahead turned yellow, and the Lincoln panic braked, a situation Lisa was not prepared for. There was the slightest tap between the two cars. The V6 droned at an idle as Lisa sat in shock. “Maybe he didn’t feel that.”, she thought. The Lincoln’s reverse lamps lit briefly, and then the driver’s door opened. “Oh FU&K.”

    Lisa’s heart sank, watching from the cramped back seat of the police cruiser as the officer moved her Z24 to the curb. A tow truck quickly arrived on the scene while passing motorists gawked. “Your car will be impounded until you are able to retrieve it.”, the officer informed her.

    Lisa’s mascara smeared face resembled that of a racoon.
    The officer started off for the station, commenting, “This is why they didn’t want to legalize pot. You guys are ruining it for everybody.”

  • avatar

    I remember in college, a ‘rich’ friend of mine had one of these with a manual transmission and the V6. That car felt so fast, especially compared to my Toyota Van. I drove it regularly since I didn’t drink as much as the owner, and his blue Cavalier was much cooler. I really enjoyed that car and didn’t realize they were really junk until later in life. Now that I think about it, I had two friends in college with matching blue Cavaliers w/ 5MT and V6. One of them also had a Honda CBR600F2 which was even better than his cavalier.

    • 0 avatar

      We had a family friend growing up, a professor in astrophysics in Cornell no less, that drove a very rare Corsica: a late 80s 4 door with a 2.8L V6 with a 5spd manual. As a kid who’s family drove a progression of little Honda Civics, the Corsica stood out as a solid, torquey beast. Red velour interior with those awesome metal seat belt buckles. As odd as it sounds, I’d LOVE to have a Corsica just like that for beater/commuter duty. Park anywhere downtown, leave it at the airport for a week and not give a damn, etc.

  • avatar

    I had a V6 Sunbird sedan and it was a pretty good car actually. I put 300,000km on it with few troubles. When it became my ‘spare’ car it would sit for weeks at a time and fire up instantly. Only 135hp, but good torque. I beat quite a few Fast and Furious type Civics back in the day.

  • avatar

    1999 Olds, one owner. Dealer maintained exactly every 3000 miles. At the same dealer. For the last 15 years. Now for sale. At the same dealer.

  • avatar

    I considered buying one fresh in ’89. Test drove this and the Shadow ES and Escort GT. It felt like a better car but it was very pricey compared to those others, and not far below an LX 5.0. Despite that, they sold a ton of these things between ’88-90.

    I still see convertible versions knocking around on occasion. I haven’t seen a hardtop in years. This one was sullied with a few stickers but actually looks pretty good for the most part.

  • avatar

    My aunt had one of these when I was just starting to get into cars. I believe she had one of the first Fiero’s before this (4-cylinder) so this solidified her in my mind as being the aunt that drove cool cars.
    As my knowledge of cars continued to grow, I remember the somewhat depressing realization that these cool cars were generally more show than go.
    That said, GM was offering real choice at this time, V-6 (and the associated torque) for the price of an import 4. Hard to find that extent of choice in the market today, especially at the lower price levels.

  • avatar

    Riley gave a modern definition to the term, slacker.

    She took a hit from her marijuana joint and blew the smoke out of the driver’s side window. The stop-light ahead flicked from yellow to red as the car slowed to a stop. Riley took the opportunity to suck in a deep drag from the lit cigarette in the ashtray as she smiled and two fisted smokes. A small bit of ash fell over the bosom of her black “Spencer’s” uniform but the wind from the open window blew it off as she slowly accelerated. She took another hit of the joint before reaching over and setting it into the ashtray. Steering the wheel while also holding the cigarette in her right hand, she switched into the left lane and blew past a Chevrolet Cruze and Dodge Caravan while Pennywise played on the Delco radio. The “Heisenberg” decal along with her long brunette hair flung around in the wind while she accelerated the tired 60V6 to well above seventy miles per hour. She switched the cigarette into her left hand and took a final drag before flicking it out of the window as smoke danced throughout the cabin.

    “F*** yeah” she said aloud as she continued to pass traffic on the right.

    The Cavalier quickly approached her exit on I-87, she panic braked and pulled into the right lane, cutting off a Hyundai, just before she missed the ramp. Making the right off the exit, she drove the car much slower through suburbia feeling slightly paranoid and wondering if the joint Jason gave her had been laced with something. Getting chills, the Cavalier pulled along twenty miles per hour as she made a left off of Russell Blvd to pull into the Sunset Peak Apartment complex. Riley parked the Cavalier and began to text when José knocked on the passenger side window. Startled she looked up and then smiled as she reached over to unlock the door.

    “Hey Riley” José said as he sat in the passenger side.
    “Sup José, ready to get baked in a bit?” She exclaimed.
    “Yeah, where is Jason’s party?” he asked as he reached for the joint in the ashtray.
    “Um, its not too far from here”.

    José produced a neon yellow Bic lighter from his pocket and puffed on the joint. Riley threw the car in reverse and backed into a faded blue Sunbird before stopping and they both laughed. She pulled out of the apartment complex and back onto Russell Blvd heading east. Eventually reaching their destination at Elm Place, Riley parked the car close to a fire hydrant and took the joint from José for one last hit. The two passed a row of dilapidated cars and headed for the house where the loud Bob Marley music was emanating. José and Riley slapped hands with several of their friends and José asked who the pretty redheaded girl with freckles was coming toward them after leaving the house.

    “Oh her, that’s Jason’s sister Kaleigh” Riley said smugly.
    “She’s cute” José said with a smile.
    “Ha. She’s a real straightedge bitch” Riley replied as Kaleigh approached.

    “Jason said he didn’t think you were coming. Didn’t you guys break up yesterday?” Kaleigh asked.
    “He loves me, he knows it.” Riley said while raising her voice slightly.
    “Ummm, ok” Kaleigh replied.
    “Heyyy I’m José” José interjected while smiling with slightly yellowed teeth.
    “Yeah, hi” Kaleigh said as she clutched her purse and began to walk toward her blue Chevy Blazer coupe parked in the driveway.
    “B*tch” Riley muffled to herself as she turned to look at the porch and saw Jason. He was tall with a goatee, he was wearing a black t-shirt and checkered shorts and took a hit from a neon green bong as the small crowd cheered. Riley stared at him with glassy eyes and purred inside, that is until she noticed the short black haired girl come up behind him and wrap her arms around his waist.

    “That SLUT” Riley thought of her best friend Maria.
    “Be chill, be chill” José said as he put his hands on her shoulders to relax her, but also hold her back.
    “Oh I’m gonna cut a b*tch” she said aloud.

    * * *

    Riley left the party with her shirt inside out and unfurled, bra missing, and lips stained, but feeling very good. She looked left and saw José sitting on the house steps, his arm around a younger girl.

    “José, c’mon I have to be at work tommorow I’ll drop you off at home”
    “I’m cool Riley” he said while still staring at the young seniorita.

    Riley plopped down the concrete walk trying to maintain her balance but she fell into a parked Camry. José jumped up from the step and picked her up off the car while copping a feel. She in her dazed and drunken stupor pulled him in and kissed him. José pulled his face away after a second and slightly scolded her.

    “Look, lets get you to your car” he said as he pushed her down the sidewalk and the row of dilapidated cars. They arrived near the fire hydrant but the white Cavalier was gone

    “What the f***” Riley loudly exclaimed. José asked some passer-by stoners what happened to the car.
    “Oh yeah like dude, tow truck came and took it away” was the reply of a random stoner.
    “Damnnn” José said in response. Riley stumbled over to the curb and sat.

    “F*** authority” she said sobbing to herself.

  • avatar

    my first manual trans car was an 89 z24. dark red, w the 2.8 v6. the exhaust was noisy! made for a challenge coming home at 2am when i was 18. the amusing part was we had a Celebrity Eurosport wagon w the same engine

    it was a decent car. not the camaro or LX 5.0 hatchback I desperately wanted, but it had its appeal back then.

    • 0 avatar

      I inherited an ’89 2.8L Z-24 convertible.
      Considering I paid nothing for it, it was an excellent car. Rode and handled well, had fair pick-up, sounded quite nice and was loads of fun, even considering it followed a modded ’86 GTI I had driven for years (but could not register in a new state because the cat was removed).

      As a poor working musician, I found it was even good for hauling a bass rig–but the top had to come down to load/unload.

      On the Eastern Seaboard, these things were magnets for theivery. When the car was only a few months old it was stolen in Annandale, VA and then when I owned it in West Chester, PA, another theft was attempted. The police told me this was common. Nuisance.

      My wife and I were trying to sell it ca. 1997 when it got hit and the ins. co totalled it. Prior to that my asking price had been $5400 and the best offer to date was a mere $4500. State Farm paid me $5700. Yeehaa!

  • avatar

    What a gross collection of words on the dash. This one needs a Crabspirits treatment.

    I bet her name was Mandy.

  • avatar

    These cars (Z24) quite possibly had the worst ride quality/performance combination of any “sports” vehicle I’ve ever experienced.

    It was so bad, and the ride so punishing, and the chassis so awful, that one could be forgiven for thinking they were riding in a salvage title car even when new.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I’m kinda shocked someone bought the complete set of “grid” wheels.

    I love those wheels, that guy up at the top who called them ugly can suck it. :P

  • avatar

    Ahhh the days when you could buy a V6 compact car. Can barely buy a V6 midsize car now.

  • avatar

    This was among tha last of the top selling GM junk cars. The upcoming 1995 cavalier was to change everything. It didn’t………….

    Despite selling a lot of junk GM was a relatively healthy company in those days.

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