Junkyard Find: 1987 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Sport Coupe
Since I’ve noticed in recent years that first-generation Chevy Cavaliers have all but disappeared from both street and junkyard on our continent, despite the millions sold here, I’ve made it my mission to document examples of the now-rare 1982-1987 Cavalier when I see them during my wrecking-yard travels. We admired a Yooper-owned ’85 Cavalier wagon in a Colorado yard in November, and I found today’s factory-hot-rod ’87 Cavalier Z24 in a Northern California yard in December.
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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.

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

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.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic American Compact Coupes From 1998

The Buy/Drive/Burn series has taken on a late Nineties theme lately: Our last two entries represented midsize sedans from 1997. Based upon a suggestion in the comments, we return once more to the period. On offer today are three very basic American compact coupes from 1998.

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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.

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2005 Chevrolet Cavalier, Last Gasp of the J Platform Edition
The 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.
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Rare Rides: An Ultra Brown 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Cruiser

In the Eighties, did you seek a compact car with the highest possible number of lamps at the front? If so, the choice was clear in ’84: Oldsmobile Firenza.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Chevrolet Cavalier Coupe

GM may have produced the W-Body for a few more years than the J-Body (W-based Impala Limited production continued until 2016), but Chevy Cavalier sales continued like money-printing clockwork via the increasingly antiquated J platform from 1981 all the way through 2005.

More than five million Cavaliers rolled off assembly lines in the United States and Mexico, so we still see the later ones on the street. 1980s Cavaliers — particularly Cavalier coupes — have all but disappeared from the street, so I keep my eyes open for interesting examples as I tread the oil-saturated soil of American junkyards. Here’s an ’88 coupe still showing the personality of its final owner, found in the shadow of Pikes Peak a few months ago.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Economical, Basic American Sedans for 1985

It’s the mid-1980s, so having a gas-guzzling, rear-drive Malaise box from the late ’70s is unthinkable. No, you’re a modern consumer, and you demand something front-drive and economical, but still with Malaise build quality.

Today we pick a compact Ace of Base from 1985.

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GM's Keeping That Hot Cavalier Nameplate Alive

Ask this writer how he feels about the oft-derided Chevrolet Cavalier, and he’ll tell you it was only worth owning when offered with GM’s 60-degree V6 family (a second-gen coupe with a 3.1-liter is essentially the model’s zenith), though the 2002MY decision to plunk the decently powerful, low-maintenance 2.2-liter Ecotec beneath the hood wasn’t a bad one.

Besides those attributes, as well as, um, excellent secondhand affordability, there’s little praise that can be mustered for the model that bowed out of the Chevy lineup in 2005. Still, General Motors continues to see value in the Cavalier name. The model is still sold in China and Mexico, where it looks much like a smaller Cruze. And, in the U.S., GM just filed a trademark application for the nameplate.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Buick Skyhawk Custom

The General got his money’s worth out of the J Platform, which began with the 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier and ended 23 years later with the Pontiac Sunfire. Buick’s only J-body was the 1982-1989 Skyhawk, which took the name of the much more successful rear-wheel-drive H-body Skyhawk of the 1970s.

Here’s a sporty five-speed ’84 Skyhawk in a Denver-area self-service yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Convertible

GM sold 191 octillion Cavalier s, more or less, during the Chevrolet-badged J-Body‘s 1982-2005 production run, and so I walk by many discarded examples without feeling any urge to grab my camera.

A late-1990s Z24 convertible is a rarity, though, and so I photographed this ’98 in a Phoenix self-service yard back in July.

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Junkyard Find: 2001 Pontiac Sunfire

The GM J Platform, best known for being the basis of the Chevrolet Cavalier, was built for a full quarter-century before being axed in 2005. The last J-Body Pontiac of them all was the Sunfire, a Cavalier sibling. Here’s an ’01 with a racy-looking hood scoop I recently spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.

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China Resurrects a Great Nameplate for a New Chevy: 'Cavalier'

No matter who you are or what status you hold in society, at some point in the past 34 years you did something in a Chevrolet Cavalier, and it was probably a lackluster experience (barring anything in the backseat, though even then…).

For reasons unknown, the nameplate that once summed up everything that was wrong with domestic compacts will return to the automotive landscape on a China-only Chevrolet model, GMInsideNews reports.

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Chevrolet Cruze: Success or Failure?

There was a time when the word ‘cockroach’ was the best way to describe any old Chevy compact.

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  • EBFlex "I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles"Assuming you went from 0 gallons to full (17.2), you have averaged almost 50MPG over those 2500 miles. 50 MPG in a Jeep Wrangler. To all of you EV nut jobs, tell me again how PHEVs are not the absolute best thing to happen to automobiles since the wheel. And tell me how they don't make EVs look like the awful play toys that they are.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The Buick 215/3.5-liter aluminum V8 was one of GMs great engines. Unfortunately GM being GM in one of their greatest mistakes was selling off the tooling to BL. If they kept it around and improved upon it it would have been a fine motor for their compacts and midsize models through the OPEC oil crisis.
  • Chris P Bacon Not sure why a '21 is getting reviewed, because there have been improvements to the 4xe. I've got a '22 4xe Sahara. May 2022 build in High-Velocity yellow with a soft top. As soon as it was announced I knew I wanted to try it, not for the fuel mileage, but for the technology. I don't have a Level 2 charger, it charges fully overnight on the included Level 1. I see an indicated range of 27 miles regularly. Today it indicated 29 when I unplugged. I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles, a full charge costs me about $3 based on my current electricity supplier. I don't experience the rough transitions between electric and gas, so maybe Jeep figured it out? It's stupid fast when using all the power off the line. So much so that it will break the rear wheels loose when you stomp on it. I agree that plugin hybrids are the future. I see no need for a pure electric. This is the way to go.
  • RHD The word B R O N C O written in contrasting paint on the dashboard is quite unnecessary. The passenger certainly knows what kind of vehicle he or she is in. That detail is a big fail. The red and white Bronco looks great, especially with tires that have honest-to-goodness sidewalls on them.
  • Luke42 Aren't those trim levels just different colors of paint?That's what they sound like, at least. 🤷‍♂️