By on October 8, 2018

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I have found the self-service wrecking yards of Phoenix to be among the best in the country when it comes to discovering top-shelf Junkyard Finds, so much so that I have taken a couple of trips there just for the junkyards. You’ll see everything from a Taurus MT-5 to a Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 4.5 to one of the last Toyota Coronas sold in America in these yards.

The Chevrolet Corsica isn’t so rare, but this one in Phoenix had some interesting qualities.

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, religious poem - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car’s last owner was Kenny Stanford, who used his elderly Corsica as a sacred chariot, spreading God-inspired poetry across the Phoenix metropolitan region.

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, odometer - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThousands of years ago, prophets rode donkeys through the desert to deliver their messages to the unbelievers. Today’s desert prophet racks up close to 200,000 miles in the sedan version of the Chevy Beretta.

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, gearshift - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsLike many GM cars of its era, this Corsica has a busted hood release. I wasn’t willing to shred any knuckles trying to persuade the hood to open, because — barring awesome engine swaps — there would be just a 2.0-liter four or a 2.8-liter six beneath. The transmission is the usual Corsica automatic; five-speeds were available, but I have yet to see a three-pedal Corsica.

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, radio - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou could get factory CD players in Chevrolets in 1989, and most new-car buyers opted for at least a cassette deck by then, but this car has the El Cheapo AM/FM radio. At least it has four speakers.

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, decklid badge - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Corsica is largely forgotten today, but spent some time as the mainstay of rental-car fleets during the early 1990s.

1989 Chevrolet Corsica in Arizona wrecking yard, interior - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsLet’s hope the Corsica-driving Minister in Poetry has upgraded to a newer and more luxurious Chevrolet by now.


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34 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Chevrolet Corsica, Ministry in Poetry Edition...”

  • avatar

    I had an 89 Beretta.

    My guess is that this is the four cylinder version. If it was the six – it would have a badge saying so somewhere.

    That dash cover is probably the most hideous example I’ve ever seen.

    That little lever to the right of the passenger seat allowed the whole seat to slide forward or back in an arc -providing much needed thigh support.

    Are you sure that air freshener is from the same car? Looks like the picture is from another car.

  • avatar

    Thousands of years ago, prophets rode donkeys through the desert to deliver their messages to the unbelievers.

    Well the Corsica comes close to being a pack mule, especially if it had been the rare hatchback version.

    My only experience with these was as a driver’s ed car (still offered as a high school class when I took it in the early 90s.) Ours replaced an early 80s Cavalier and we were the first class to use it but I remember that the passenger seat tracks were already broken from our rotund (but very tall) Driver’s Education Teacher who was also the Athletic Director and Varsity Boy’s Baseball Coach.

    It drove like the 1982 Celebrity that would be my first set of wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      The seat tracks on these were an issue, if memory serves.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      “Driver’s Education Teacher who was also the Athletic Director and Varsity Boy’s Baseball Coach”

      I think that is the resume of every driver’s ed instructor ever, with possible substitutions for football and/or assistant coach.

      • 0 avatar

        It was kind of sad to see him so fat and defeated.

        When we dug out old yearbooks he was the schools all-time rebounding leader for basketball, but he set that record in 1967.

        • 0 avatar

          “Don’t let this distract you from the the fact that in 1966, Al Bundy scored four touchdowns in a single game while playing for the Polk High School Panthers in the 1966 city championship game versus Andrew Johnson High School, including the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against his old nemesis, “Spare Tire” Dixon.”

  • avatar

    I can only imagine the little Angel and Devil jumping from Mr Stanford’s shoulders and pacing back and forth in front of him as they collaborate on the right choice of word for his spiritual message as the reason for so much carpet on the dash.

  • avatar

    “Let’s hope the Corsica-driving Minister in Poetry has upgraded to a newer and more luxurious Chevrolet by now.”

    pfft. what kind of preacher would he be if he didn’t spend his believers’ contributions on something much nicer?

    • 0 avatar

      Lived in Southfield, MI and taught in Detroit from 2000 to 2002. Danged if I didn’t pass a church on a weekday and there was a big BENZ sitting out front often with some sort of personalized plate like: PRCHRMN

      • 0 avatar

        it bogggles my mind that “prosperity gospel” works so well. I mean, it boils down to:

        1) Give me all of your money (because God said so)
        2) ???????
        3) Heaven!

        • 0 avatar

          Preacher preaching love like vengeance
          Preaching love like hate
          Calling for large donations
          Promising estates
          Rolling lawns and angel bands
          Behind the pearly gates
          You know, he will have his in this life
          But yours will have to wait
          He’s immaculately tax free

          – Joni Mitchell

          • 0 avatar

            I found a preacher who spoke of the light
            But there was brimstone in his throat
            He’d show me the way according to him
            In return for my personal check
            I flipped my channel back to CNN
            And I lit another cigarette
            – Mary Chapin Carpenter

  • avatar

    Every morning going to work I heard the endless commercials for these. “$99.00 A MONTH!!! NO MONEY DOWN!!! OF CORSICA!!!” The Chevy dealer had boatloads of these advertised as “program cars”.

  • avatar

    The south and southwest have the best junkyards, because no rust. Corsicas were born to spend most of eternity in a junk yard

  • avatar

    My only Corsica exposure was with arguably the rarest and most desirable one: a family friend owned a maroon ’87(?) with the 2.8L hooked up to a Getrag manual. Astrophysics professor of all people. Riding in the back seat, it felt like the car had some serious shove compared to the tiny Civics I was used to.

    • 0 avatar

      it’s all relative. when I was a kid, the next door neighbor’s son had an ’84 Camaro with the 145hp 305. That felt like the fastest car in the world compared to the malaise-era junk and K-cars I was used to.

  • avatar
    Leon Hall

    Looks more like a misery in progress edition.

  • avatar

    I’m impressed, but not totally surpised this Corsica made it to 190k.

    If you got a ‘good one’ of these cars (or a Grand Am), they could last a long time. A pal of mine had an 86 Olds Calais. 10 years later, it was rusty, but he got 170k out of it, and it ran fine when he sold it.

    It’s just that the odds of a good one were not so good.

    My first commanding officer (boss) was one of the VERY first to get a new Corsica in 87 (or 88, whenever it was they came out).

    It was ‘loaded’ in that it had the V6, power windows/locks, and was the highest trim level.

    He was sooo proud of it! “Great car AND American made!” Yes sir!

    So later that summer, he took his family (wife + 2 girls) from Norfolk to Nashville, and..the A/C didn’t work. It wouldn’t get fixed until well after he returned to Norfolk, even though it was under warranty. Then I think the car had some other issues. He now criticized GM with the same fervor in which he had praised it. (It was a metaphor for his job-related leadership too, I would learn…)

    About 1-2 years later, an E-9 bought a new “new Lumina APV” minivan (dustbuster). He brought it to work and was soooo proud of it…what a clever vehicle. Less than two months in, the problems started. He also went from praise to criticism…

    Anecdotes like these really undermined my faith in GM products. While the 1980s saw the Mark of Excellence trend into the Mark of Mediocrity as far as performance compared to the competition (ride, handling, economy, roominess, acceleration) was concerned, the episodes like my boss’ Corsica, and the Lumina APV reinforced what I was reading (Consumer Reports, long-term road tests) that GM products (at least the cars) were not so good anymore, not as good as Ford, and barely better than Chrysler. How sad.

    That said, I think in the past 10 years, GM has redeemed itself. The most reliable car I have ever owned was a 2011 Malibu I kept for 6 years and 102k miles. And, other than the weak A/C (which has been fixed in my 2014 Regal), it was an excellent sedan. I had a Cobalt SS before that, and at least for the first 40k miles, it was trouble-free, other than a worn trim plate on the door (which the dealer changed, even though it was past warranty). It was a GREAT sporty car. So that’s two GM cars that I would buy again–both GOOD and reliable.

    Of course, GM is but a fraction of what it was (in the 80s it had over 30% of the market–as late as 1995 it was 29%), but IMO they’ve redeemed themselves (with a little help from Uncle Sam…)

  • avatar

    I rented a four cylinder Corsica around 1990. It was one of those cars where if you put your right foot deep in the throttle, the engine would get much louder but you wouldn’t go noticeably faster. Also, I think it had those passive seat belts that were mounted to the doors. What a POS.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I must have washed the clone of this car a thousand time during HS at the Chevy dealer I worked at.This was a very common build combo.I have to admit the Beretta GT was aspirational for me at the time. In metallic blue with 5speed and 2.8 FI motor.
    The Lumina was a better car, especially with the 3.4 DOHC motor of later years was fairly quick, Days of Thunder not withstanding

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I had two of these with the 3.1 motor. They were extremely reliable….at least for me. Drove them for my outside sales job….30,000 miles a year.

  • avatar

    I just realized that the Corsica used the “hide the dash air vents in a housing that looks like one huge that vent stretches across the entire dash” design trick.

    I’ll have to point that out to drivers of new Audis (and the Tesla 3) just to be annoying: “Wow cool vent! Just like an ’89 Corsica!”

  • avatar
    RonG 1986

    My dad made me trade my ‘85 S10 that I absolutely loved, despite it having major rust issues and a cracked oil pan, for a ‘90 Corsica LT with the new for that model year 2.2 I-4, my Sophomore year of High School. His excuse was I needed a safe front drive car for Ohio winters. I didn’t argue and it was an even trade, he had a friend that owned the used car lot I got it from. I hated the car immediately. It was light blue with a dark blue interior. It was 13 years old at the time and only had 90k at that point, but felt like it had 190k. I cleaned it up as good as I could and dealt with it though. I learned immediately that it didn’t have low beam headlights, only high beams. My dads solution was to move the high beams into the low beam sockets, it worked, but there were other issues. I had constant throttle body issues, had to replace the coil packs twice, the brakes went out on me twice, the power steering pump was starting to fail, smoke would start coming out of the steering column when you used the turn signals and the radiator was starting to fail. After 3 months and all of these issues, I went back to my Dad’s friend and used the Corsica as a down payment on a ‘94 Plymouth Duster with the 3.0 liter V6. Much better car and was fun to drive too.

  • avatar

    I’ll be darned.. the earliest example of the inability to switch to an aftermarket radio! Looks like a normal DIN 1.5 Delco with the climate controls as an appendage!

    Who! Knew?!

    • 0 avatar

      I remember back in the day you could buy a face plate with the HVAC info/cutouts sized for a replacement radio for Corsicas/Berettas. I remember seeing them in the aftermarket radio sections of stores such as Wal-Mart with the other kits to allow installation of an aftermarket radio in a GM car.

    • 0 avatar

      First of those I remember were the ones for 3rd-generation (ovoid) Tauruses.

  • avatar

    Just down the street from my work is a bright red Corsica with _absolutely_no_ rust save for a dribble under the (missing) fuel door. Practically a unicorn in MN. It’s on black steelies, so it’ll probably be a winter beater for the next x years until the rocker panels give out. It’s almost sad to think about.

  • avatar

    Had one of those rare V6 ones. very powerful. But footwell had water leaking into it when it rained.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Wow. The MT-5 in the link looks to be “Signal Red” as well. I havent seen one of those in 20 years.

  • avatar

    My parents bought a 1988 Corsica in 1989, just like this one with the 90hp 2.0 4 cylinder and 3 speed auto trans, but with blue paint and interior. Same radio and instrument cluster as this one. As a 10 year old boy who had to that point grown up riding in a beat to death old Rambler and Sunbird, the Corsica was exciting. The paint peeled and it leaked oil (both fixed under warranty) but overall it was just a meh car. I took my drivers test in it, and as a teenager was very disappointed with the complete lack of power. It had the usual TCC solenoid issue causing the engine to stall once it had warmed up. My parents ended up giving to my sister so she could trade it in towards her first car around 2000-01.

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