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!

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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