Junkyard Find: 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1985 chevrolet cavalier wagon

Chevrolet built Cavaliers for close to a quarter-century, selling something like five million units. If you count the all the other J-body siblings sold around the world (including some really weird stuff), the extended Cavalier family is one of the largest in automotive history. Somehow, though, the once-ubiquitous 1982-1987 first-generation Cavaliers have all but disappeared from North American car graveyards; I’ve documented plenty of later Cavaliers during my junkyard travels, sure, but the early ones seem to have been crushed decades ago. Finally, here’s a reasonably straight ’85 wagon in a northeastern Colorado yard.

This one is plastered with numerous stickers celebrating the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but the lack of horrific rust on this car indicates that it spent very little, if any, time in Yooperland during its life.

Two engines were available in the 1985 Cavalier: A 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 85 horsepower and a 2.8-liter V6 making 130 horses. This car has the 2.0.

A four-on-the-floor manual transmission came as base equipment, with a five-speed manual and three-speed automatic as optional equipment. This car has the automatic, which added 425 bucks to the $6,727 sticker price (that’s about $1,115 extra on a $17,635 car when considered in 2021 dollars). How much did the five-speed manual cost? 75 American dollars!

Air conditioning added a stinging $750 to the cost (that’s about $1,965 now), but the original purchaser of this car decided to do without. Probably a good move, what with the slushbox vampiring away so many of those 85 horses, anyway.

These were useful little haulers, but GM stopped building US-market J-body wagons after 1994. If you wanted a more luxurious version of the Cavalier wagon, you could always get an Olds Firenza, Buick Skyhawk, or Pontiac Sunbird with the longroof setup. Sorry, Cadillac didn’t sell Cimarron wagons.

This says, “Mess with me and I sue!”

The first-generation Cavalier Z24s get some enthusiast love these days, but an ordinary wagon with the four-banger doesn’t have much hope of being rescued from The Crusher.

A car badged as a Chevrolet Cavalier has been available in China since 2016, but it’s a Chevy Cruze cousin with no J-body genes.

For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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  • SD 328I SD 328I on Nov 17, 2021

    The first car I've ever owned. It was a hand me down from my family, a 1983 Chevy Cavalier station wagon, in blue! It was surprisingly peppy with that fuel injected motor. I used it from my 18th birthday until I was about 21, right before I got my new Integra GS-R. I honestly miss the old girl, she carried at least 7 people, because back then we were able to ride in the cargo area. As kids we would sit in the back staring at the cars behind us. When I got the car, it was my "learning to drive" car, took her to college my for my freshman and sophomore years. Great surf car too! I honestly would pay quite a bit to get that car back, though you rarely see any running anymore.

  • Bluebutterfly Bluebutterfly on May 18, 2022

    I just have to comment here...I still drive a 1985 Chevy Cavalier. I don't drive a lot (never take it out on the highway, only on city streets). It only has about 85K miles on it. It was my dad's ....after he passed away, I inherited it and it serves the purpose I need it for, which is basic transportation. I just put on a new radiator and did some other basic maintenance, but apart from that , don't do anything to it. I love how basic it is, cheap to insure also. I do worry about the safety aspects of it, so will probably be getting another car in a year or two. I drive super carefully and always feel like 99% of the cars on the road are bigger and heavier than me, but it is what it is for now. The a/c conked out long ago, and I have no intentions of getting it fixed, which makes for verrrry miserable summers where I am, temps over 110 in the summer. I'm looking forward to having nice cool a/c in my next car! Hey, if anyone here is serious about buying a chevy cavalier with low mileage, let me know! lol...probably no one is, but ya never know! Thanks for the memories!

  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."
  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.