Rare Rides: An Utterly Pristine 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier Wagon

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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rare rides an utterly pristine 1991 chevrolet cavalier wagon

We featured the predecessor to General Motors’ J-body last week in the Pontiac Sunbird, which was replaced by the J-body J2000 in 1982. But the Cavalier was always the star of the J-body show; the one everyone thought to buy.

Today we feature an immaculate wagon from Cavalier’s second generation.

Alongside many other J-body things, the Cavalier debuted with two, three, or four doors in 1982. Body styles ran the gamut, and the front-drive Cavalier easily replaced the Monza in the hearts and minds of American consumers.

Of course, it was no surprise that after several years of sales success, General Motors introduced a second-generation J-body Cavalier. With the same 101-inch wheelbase as its predecessor, the new Cavalier was around five inches longer and equipped with more powerful engines than before.

The three-door hatchback body style was gone, replaced by coupes and convertibles with two doors, and a four-door sedan and wagon. The Cavalier’s convertible option was short-lived though. GM brass anticipated competition with the more expensive and upcoming Beretta convertible, so they canceled the Cavalier convertible after 1989. But the Beretta convertible idea was scrapped just before production, so Cavalier proceeded with fixed roofs until its next generation. The Beretta convertible appeared as an Indy 500 pace car, by the way.

Power was provided by some not very exciting four cylinders in displacements of 2.0 or 2.2 liters, alongside V6 power in 2.8- and 3.1-liter varieties. The 3.1 became an optional extra in 1990 and replaced the 2.8. Transmissions on offer were two: a five-speed manual or a three-speed auto. The automatic was standard equipment on sedan and wagon Cavaliers.

The initial increase in size was a half-step forward for Cavalier. Model years 1988 to 1990 were 178.6 inches long in sedan form. A refresh in 1991 came with a new length: 182.3 inches. The 1990 to 1994 Cavaliers were the longest ever offered. Styling was updated with a new fascia and bumpers, an updated interior, and a grille-free nose like a Taurus.

For the remainder of the second-gen Cavalier’s life, GM fiddled around with trim options here and there and added features like ABS and an optional CD player. Base engines were also improved and gained multi-point fuel injection in 1992.

1995 brought the successful third-generation Cavalier along and deleted wagon optionality. The third Cavalier remained on sale through the 2005 model year before it was mercifully killed in favor of the Cobalt. They sold a lot of third-gen Cavaliers, probably 20 billion or something.

Today’s Rare Ride is a white over blue wagon in very basic specification. The only optional extra would appear to be air conditioning. There are 27,000 miles on the odometer, and an enterprising dealer in the bustling metropolis of Grand Rapids asks $17,900.

[Images: GM]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 11, 2021

    Maybe a classic survivor because it just happens to still be around when most have been used up and junked decades ago. Nothing unusual or significant about this car except for the fact that someone stored this away for decades and didn't drive it. The same is true for an old fruit cake sold by Krogers in the 1940s that has been stored for decades in its original tin which was recently sold in a charitable auction. Its value is that is is a survivor that was not eaten or thrown out. Most of us wouldn't want an 80 year old fruit cake.

  • Roman Roman on May 16, 2023

    Production was briefly paused in 1990, but the Cavalier convertible was not discontinued altogether. It made it into every model year from the 1991 refresh into the the 3rd generation. The white convertible in your pic, based on the hub caps, is either a 92 or 93. (Also, that Sunbird name didn't stay down for long.... it was back on the convertible in 83, and the whole line in 84.)

  • 285exp If the conversion to EVs was really so vital to solve an existential climate change crisis, it wouldn’t matter whether they were built by US union workers or where the batteries and battery materials came from.
  • El scotto Another EBPosky, "EVs are Stoopid, prove to me water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius" article.It was never explained if the rural schools own the buses or if the school bus routes are contracted out. If the bus routes are contracted out, will Carpenter or Bluebird offer an electric school bus? Flexmatt never stated the range of brand-unspecified school bus. Will the min-mart be open at the end of the 179-mile drive? No cell coverage? Why doesn't the bus driver have an emergency sat phone?Two more problems Mr. Musk could solve.
  • RICK Long time Cadillac admirer with 89 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance and 93 Brougham, always liked Eldorado until downsized after 76. Those were the days. Sad to see what now wears Cadillac name.
  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.