Rare Rides: The 1987 Chevrolet Cavalier RS Convertible, Last of First

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

The Rare Rides series is a friend to the General Motors J-body. In 2018 we featured a 2000 Sunbird from ’83, in 2020 there was the ’84 Oldsmobile Firenza Cruiser, and earlier this year a ’91 Cavalier wagon.

But we’ve never featured the OG J-body main event, a first-gen Cavalier. Let’s go.

Introduced for the 1982 model year, the J-body lineup was both very important for GM and very extensive. A global platform, the J was branded as no fewer than nine different marques. Overseas Js included the Opel Ascona, Vauxhall Cavalier, Holden Camira, and Isuzu Aska, plus an additional subset of badge jobs. Domestically the J ventured outside Chevrolet to Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and that most sinner-y of J-bodies, the Cadillac Cimarron. Cimarron should be covered separately.

Cavalier was GM’s second contemporary offering in the compact class, alongside the unloved Citation which we’ve covered extensively in previous articles. Cavalier existed alongside Citation for only a few years, until Citation’s replacement by the Corsica and sporty two-door Beretta. And because it was not Crossover Time, there were several different body styles from which to choose. In two-doors there were coupe and convertible cavaliers, a three-door sporty hatchback, and four doors of sedan and wagon shapes. All Cavaliers regardless of body style rode on the same 101.2-inch wheelbase.

Worth noting, the convertible Cavalier was not a launch model but arrived in 1983 with a very limited production run of 627 examples. All were made by good old ASC of Lansing, Michigan, and were notable as the first Chevrolet-branded convertible since the Caprice Classic of 1975. In 1983 a Cavalier convertible asked about $11,000 ($30,500 adjusted), nearly double the $5,880 ($16,492 adjusted) of a base model.

At Cavalier’s launch in ’82 there was but one engine on offer, a 1.8-liter inline-four with carburetor. The 1.8 was immediately supplanted by a 2.0 with throttle-body injection (’83-’86), which was supplanted again for ’87 to ’89 by a more advanced 2.0, the LL8, good for 90 horsepower. From 1985 to 1989 the best engine choice was the 2.8-liter LB6 V6 which had real fuel injection and managed 130 rowdy horses. The Z24 package was available from 1986 onward, but was only offered in coupe and hatchback Cavaliers. Other versions made do with the lesser RS trim, but Z24 was granted to the convertible in ’87.

Cavalier was new for 1988, and adopted larger and more rounded looks, and looked a bit more sure of itself in convertible guise. The unpopular three-door hatch was a casualty of the shift to a second generation. Today’s Rare Ride is from the end of the first-gen Cavalier, and reaches high with 2.8-liter V6 and RS trims. Faded yellow paint puts one in mind of an old Volvo 850 T5-R, a Rare Ride we need to cover. The interior is a symphony of slightly dirty beige colors and has a stellar digital gauge package. Yours at $4,050 in Pittsburgh, where at least one of TTAC’s frequent commenters lives.

[Images: GM]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.