By on February 8, 2021

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe General built cars on the J Platform for a quarter-century, and J-based machines could be bought new with badges from just about every marque in the far-flung GM Empire. Yes, South Koreans drove Daewoo Esperos, Brits drove Vauxhall Cavaliers, Aussies drove Holden Camiras, and even the Japanese could buy Isuzu Askas and Toyota Cavaliers. In North America, nearly every marque offered J-Bodies at some point… and in the end, the very final Js were Chevy Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires. Here’s one of those end-of-the-line cars, found in a Denver yard a few months ago.

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy 2005, the J platform had attained levels of obsolescence undreamed-of even by Lee Iacocca with Chrysler’s K platform, which went into production about the same time as the GM J but got the axe in the middle 1990s. By the end, just a handful were being built and most went to thin-walleted fleet buyers; it took me many months of searching to find a 2005 J in a junkyard.

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost low-trim-level Cavaliers got the pushrod 122 engine, developed specifically for use in the J-Cars, while the factory-hot-rod Z24s received various members of the 60° V6 family or screaming DOHC Quad-4s. The 122 got dumped after 2003, with the 2.2-liter Ecotec getting bolted into all 2004 and 2005 Cavaliers. Since the Ecotec has proven to be the most reliable engine ever installed in a J-Body, ’04s and ’05s should be the most sought-after today (they aren’t).

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile a 5-speed manual transmission was standard Cavalier equipment in the early 2000s, nearly all post-mid-1980s Cavalier shoppers paid extra for the automatic transmission. This car has a not-so-futuristic-in-2005 four-speed automatic; low-end Cavalier shoppers got three-speed slushboxes as late as the 2001 model year.

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, upholstery - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI believe the trade name for this fabric was sac de jute de pommes de terre, and it was dandy for removal of car-renter bodily fluids via the water-hose and wire brush technique.

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, radio - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsStill, even cheapo mid-2010s Detroit cars came with CD players in their base-level cars (the AUX jack came later).

Fittingly enough, this car spends its last days parked next to another final-model-year GM machine, painted in a color quite similar to ’05 Chevy Victory Red (known as Bright Red in the ever-contracting 2009 Pontiac universe): a 2009 Pontiac G3. The G3 was a one-year-only version of the Daewoo-built Chevy Aveo, so it wasn’t around for the demise of Pontiac in 2010.

It’s safe to say that not everybody was talking about the Ecotec-powered Cavaliers, but at least GM paid to advertise the final version to civilian buyers.

For links to better than 2,000 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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47 Comments on “2005 Chevrolet Cavalier, Last Gasp of the J Platform Edition...”

  • avatar

    The level of wear and tear by the seek button on the radio means that the driver of this car made road trips a pure and living hell. Just pick a song already.

    2005 Cavalier vs 2005 Civic, Corolla, Protege, Sentra… But GM was getting all fat and happy off of huge SUV sales until they drove straight into the ditch in 2008 and no one wanted their POS small cars. The above is why.

  • avatar

    One of my daughters bought a green 2004 Cavalier 2-door 5-MT used with 40k miles on it in 2006 and put another 110k on it before selling it (still running strong but starting to rust with the clearcoat peeling) in 2016. The only major maintenance issue was from struts which she herself replaced in my driveway in 2013. I bought a blue 2004 2-door 5-MT used in 2007 with 42k miles on it, sold it to my son with 128k in 2014. He rolled it in a ditch a couple years later, towed it out, replaced the windshield, and continued using it until 2019 when he put a hole through the rusting frame jacking it up to rotate tires. He still has it as “yard art”. Another daughter likewise purchased a used 2004 green 2-door 5-MT used with around 40k miles and drove for 70k additional miles until selling it 7 years later to purchase a used 2010 Infiniti G37x coupe. Cavalier’s may have been cockroaches but the three ’04s that the kids and I purchased ran well, were cheap to buy and own, and pretty trouble free. YMMV

    • 0 avatar

      Any woman who can change her own struts is much to be admired!

      • 0 avatar

        She’s the daughter who tore down and rebuilt the top half of the 3.1 in her Malibu to replace the leaking gaskets. A garage quoted her $3200 for the job, she did it for the price of a few gaskets, once again in my driveway. The only question she has ever asked me was how to properly use my ancient torque wrench properly.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I know you meant well, but comments like this are sexist. Whether or not you can replace the struts on your car has nothing to do with your gender, and the idea of a woman or feminine person who can do so shouldn’t be that much of a shock in 2021.

        • 0 avatar

          Give it a freakin rest will ya? You can’t say something nice without a do-gooder “woke” person jumping down your throat.

          The gal’s got impressive wrenching skills and could probably embarrass most guys on here (you included)

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I didn’t jump down anyone’s throat; I thought I was very polite, as compared to your unnecessarily irate comment.

            The fact that you think it’s worthwhile to compliment women just because they know cars…is weird. It’s 2021. Lots of women know how to work on cars, more so than the men around them. That shouldn’t be worthy of a compliment. It insinuates that they are ordinarily incapable of it, and it’s condescending and bad form.

            The fact that you felt I would be threatened if you said she knew more than me…is even more hilarious, and indicates that you didn’t comprehend a word I wrote. She probably *does* know more about cars than me. I don’t see that as a threat. Why? Because I’m not insecure and there’s no reason to. Like I said, there’s nothing remarkable about a woman that knows more about cars than a man.

            Just stop.

            There’s no PC/woke police, and It takes away nothing for you to keep these sorts of comments to yourself. Women don’t need your approval.

          • 0 avatar

            No, the fact that any younger person in 2021 is wrenching on their car is already a remarkable thing, but the fact that it’s a female IS even more remarkable.

            Am I going to have to beat you over the head (proverbially) with actual statistics of the gender of people in the automotive repair trade, or if they even exist, the number of DIY car enthusiasts by gender?


            98% of mechanics are men. Did I blow your mind yet?

            “But, But, it’s [CURRENT YEAR]!!!”

            Finally “Women don’t need your approval.”

            Women don’t need some random guy white-knighting (over nothing) for them either

            Take a hike dude

          • 0 avatar
            C5 is Alive

            By definition, left-leaning types are hardwired to assume victimization where none exists. Good on you for calling it out, gtem.

        • 0 avatar

          I can see both sides of this. I’m older than I wish I was, and in my generation a woman having and using these skills (which I don’t have either, for the record) was frankly quite uncommon. I think you’re right that 500fan was sincerely trying to commend her, but I also think that where/when he comes from, he sincerely saw his comment as having a factual basis.

        • 0 avatar

          Relax bro, there’s no upvotes to be had here.

        • 0 avatar

          Kyree… don’t bother. “The coalition of reason,” as Oscar famously said when Jim and Pam were in their honeymoon, has exited this sad detritus of a commentariat.

          • 0 avatar

            Coalition of reason = nagging social justice talking points at some guy for a harmless compliment/comment?

            You’re right, most people have left this sad hulk of an automotive site, I just popped in to check in and confirm things are continuing to go down the tubes

          • 0 avatar

            “The coalition of reason” left as soon as he decided to virtue signal. gtem is the only voice of reason here. Women statistically do not, and have never wrenched on their cars.

            “its 2021” isn’t an excuse to ignore reality.

          • 0 avatar

            Definition of “virtue signal”:

            Anything that someone says that runs counter to my political opinions…or just rubs me the wrong way.

            Kyree’s right. We shouldn’t assume a person equipped with a vagina isn’t mechanically inclined.

            If people want to leave because they don’t hear their political views clapped back at them, then I suppose that’s their call. Breitbart awaits your clicks.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve worked in garages, gas stations, have daughters, and know many women. In general, they are uninterested in car mechanicals and repair. I know a few women who change their own oil and do extremely basic maintenance, but I am acquainted with no women who can rebuild an engine or pull a transmission, or who perform tasks like changing struts.

        I’m teaching my daughters how to maintain their cars, rotate tires, change oil, etc, but unlike my son they have shown exactly zero interest in in-depth car repair.

        Women are different than men, as countless studies and thousands of years of observations show, in spite of the woke brigade insisting otherwise.

        It’s perfectly reasonable to commend a woman for changing struts. If my wife or daughters showed the willingness and proclivity to do such tasks, I’d be thrilled and shocked.

      • 0 avatar

        I dated an RN for a while, who asked to watch me do an oil change/filters/plugs on my car at the time. She got right in there and I talked her through it, she said “that’s it ?…this isn’t tough at all”….which for a Labor and Delivery nurse wasn’t a surprise.

        As a kid, we had a babysitter who wrenched and drove her own very fast Chevelle, and enjoyed the boys underestimating her….

    • 0 avatar

      It’s obvious you imparted to your children the importance of maintaining and fixing vehicles. Having this mindset and skill is less common than you would think.
      J cars I’d agree were good value transportation purchased used then maintained well.
      Quality of materials, fit and finish, NVH, ergonomics are all subpar.

      • 0 avatar

        “Old” GM in a nutshell.

        • 0 avatar

          Runs poorly longer than most cars run?

          • 0 avatar

            It doesn’t take much to keep the J cars running fairly well. The third, fourth, and fifth owners don’t put much “much” into them because they still run, however badly.

            Funny how the Dart/Valiant are celebrated for their durability when their knobs and door handles break off and interior bits disintegrate, but the J cars get slammed for still running with minimal maintenance.

    • 0 avatar

      What is a woman? (I think I saw one once on this site, but it has been several years.)

  • avatar

    When I met my wife she had a 1998 with 25k miles on it that she had just purchased used. The only issue we had was an alternator at 85k miles and was still running strong when we moved out of CA and sold it here with almost 140k miles. Seats were comfy and it was a fine commuter car.

    It was nothing special but not a bad car either. Like a generic hamburger.

  • avatar

    I always had a weird affinity for these cars, and contemporary Escorts. They were still everywhere when I started driving and I knew intrinsically that there were probably what I’d be able to afford, at least the older models. For whatever reason my family had it in their heads that these two cars were super reliable and cheap to run.

    My brother had an 05 briefly with the manual. An oil sludged engine led to a snapped timing chain and it was off to the junkyard. Same thing happened to a Sunfire of the same vintage he had a year later (this was previously driven by a former family friend who didn’t give two dogs for maintenance).

  • avatar

    A buddy of mine found a low mile 1998 coupe off another friend and used it as a commuter car in 2011-2013. Wasn’t a short commute either, 120km each way. I think his was the last cavalier on the road, it was like retro when you’d go for a ride in it.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This about the other choices you had in 2005 instead of a Cavalier coupe:
    Scion tC, Acura RSX, Civic, Eclipse, base Accord, Sunfire, Focus, Saturn Ion, base Mustang, base Solara, base Monte Carlo

    Though I suspect the Cavalier had them all beat on a true out the door price.

    Sadly, everything on that list but the Mustang are gone. RIP low cost coupe.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The last great $#!+box!

  • avatar

    I can’t believe they were still making these shvtboxes all the way to 2005. By 2005, they were completely obsolete. My friends in the 90s had a seemingly endless parade of these from about 1988 to 2000.

    Every last one of them had cramped back seats, no power at all, and very little in the way of creature comforts. They all had high levels of NVH. One friend sank his Cavalier in a Florida canal, then later smashed it’s replacement (also a cavalier) against the wall of a house. Another one rode hers until the Chicago winters ate it from the inside. I’m amazed any of these still roam the earth.

    • 0 avatar

      I loved “One friend sank his Cavalier in a Florida canal, then later smashed its replacement (also a Cavalier) against the wall of a house.” I assume both were intentional acts to improve the breed.

  • avatar

    I had bought my youngest son his 1st car, an early 2000 coupe, 5 speed, he never drove a stick but learned real quick, 2 years later I junked it, it wasn’t worth fixing!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    When this was new on the showroom floor you could have purchased the all new and somewhat better Cobalt or gone to your Pontiac dealer for the Cavalier cousin the Sunfire. Saturn offered the new Ion which was a plastic paneled Cobalt. All had the quite good Ecotec engine. It’s too bad the rest of the car was meh.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My wife had a “Chevalier” when we met. Her dad bought it new when she was in HS and she drove it for 6yrs w/out major issues and sold it to her cousin who drove it up to 160 or 170k miles(can’t remember).It was still running.
    Speaking of stereos she had aftermarket single DIN kit with the cheapest adapter I’ve ever seen. Must’ve been a Circuit City install…

  • avatar

    Seems to be a lot of hate on GM 60 degree V6 engines…why? We still have one – 3.1L – it has good power, decent mileage, has a nice snarl under heavy throttle, and no seemingly inherent design defects. Yes, we replaced the intake gasket but that was an issue with the DexDeath – not a fault of the engine design. Plenty of other engines had the same failure. Maybe because the miles are only 120K? While the design may have lived too long, I can’t say that this was a bad engine – not at all. I’d take this over any Quad 4 engine from a reliability perspective – how many people junked their cars early because of the Quad’s unlimited appetite for head gaskets…not to mention its coarse, unrefined behavior…

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The problem with these vehicles was that its reliability was a hit or miss proposition.
    I do believe that the previous posters above enjoyed a low cost, no-frills vehicle which exceeded their wildest reliability expectations.
    But there are scores of others for which ownership was a frightful experience, just like my brother.

  • avatar

    What always bothered me about the J cars was their terrible crash ratings. I had a friend who was pretty badly hurt in a relatively minor crash in one of these.All the more frightening considering how many people put their teenagers in them as first cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      True. The safety ratings were scary. And that’s an argument against parents who say “I’m going to put my kid in the oldest thing I can find.”

      Budgets, space constraints and other things matter, too, but I would put my child in the safest, most-modern car I could find, within reason. I wouldn’t deliberately find something super old, just because it’s old.

    • 0 avatar

      I had to drive one of these for drivers Ed. It’s amazing how that car was almost brand new yet was terrible in every way compared to either my parents late 90s Villager and Escort, or my soon to be 80s Volkswagen. I lived not terribly far from where these disasters were made, and there were so many “buy local” people who had these because they were American, but not because they were any good.

  • avatar

    A neighbor had two of these maybe 4-5 years ago. One never moved, guessing it was purchased for parts, the other ran, badly, for a little while. One day while driving past I noticed the hood up on the running one, with a couple guys working on it. I stopped in to see if they needed any help/tools (I maintain my own cars and have accumulated a lot of stuff to that end), and it turned out they were replacing the headgasket. Having done that job before, I was a little concerned by the big pile of nuts/bolts on the base of the windshield, but hey, maybe it wasn’t their first time?

    A day or so later the car was back on the road, but not for long. It wound up parked in the driveway for a few months. Then one day I was working in the yard and heard loud banging, like someone hammering something. I noticed some teenagers in the street in front of my house looking pretty concerned, their attention focused toward the Cavalier house. I asked if they were alright, and one replied “He lost it man, he crazy!” in reference to Cavalier owner. Said owner was beating one of the Cavaliers with an aluminum baseball bat, leaving taillights smashed, panels dented. Didn’t touch the glass for some reason though.

    Couple more months, rollback hauled off both Cavaliers.

    Since then, I think I’ve seen as many 2nd gen Cavaliers as I have 3rd gens. Which is to say, maybe 1 of each.

    A friend in high school had an ’02 model in yellow, with the Ecotec engine. He ran the hell out of that thing and it took it well for at least a few years. He participated in some of the import meets that were popular at that time, and claimed the car acquitted itself well against Civics etc. in stoplight races.

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