Junkyard Find: 1984 Chevrolet Chevette Sedan
In early 1973, the new GM T Platform was introduced to the world as the Brazilian-market Chevrolet Chevette, followed soon after by the Opel Kadett C in Europe. The Isuzu Bellett Gemini appeared in Japan in 1974, and it wasn’t long before these cheap, rear-wheel-drive subcompacts were being sold in every corner of the GM Empire. North America got the Chevette starting in the 1976 model year, and sales continued here all the way through 1987. American Chevette sales peaked here in the late 1970s, so the examples from the middle 1980s have been tough to find in junkyards. Here’s one of those cars, a thoroughly battered ’84 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard.
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Rare Rides: A 1986 Pontiac 1000 - Preserved Performance

The Rare Rides series has previously featured many Pontiacs, and today’s hatchback is our ninth to wear the Red Arrow badge. It’s also the smallest Pontiac we’ve ever featured.

It’s not a Chevette, but it is the Chevette’s sporty Driving Excitement cousin!

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Chevrolet Chevette

North Americans could buy the Chevrolet Chevette, featuring the finest in affordable early-1970s Opel Kadett C technology, starting with the 1976 model year. Chevette sales continued all the way through 1987, amazingly enough, because it could be manufactured and sold so cheaply.

Since the Chevette was so simple and sold in such large numbers, enough have survived that I still find them in the big self-service wrecking yards to this day. Here’s a grimy, beat-up ’81 spotted in a Denver yard last winter.

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Rare Rides: Control Yourself With the 1985 Isuzu Impulse

Today’s Rare Ride has brown paint, a tweedy tan interior, and super rad 1980s Italian design. Think you can control your Impulses?

Okay, no more puns.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Chevrolet Chevette Scooter

The Chevrolet Chevette was a primitive, cramped, rear-wheel-drive econobox hammered together with obsolete technology… that sold like crazy because it was simple and cheap at a time when stagflation and gas prices were up and confidence in the future was down.

The Chevette Scooter was the most affordable Chevette; here’s one that managed to evade The Crusher‘s jaws until age 42, finally ending its days in a snow-covered Denver self-service yard.

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Rare Rides: 1988 Isuzu I-Mark RS Turbo - In Which Lotus Helps a Hot Hatch

Let’s take a trip back to the 1980s — the time when one could drive past numerous Chevrolet and Geo (or Pontiac in Canada) dealers to visit their friendly Isuzu franchise. General Motors has a 34-percent stake in Isuzu, and that means some of the vehicles at the Chevrolet, Geo, and Isuzu lots are up to some badge-swapping trickery. Born as the Isuzu Gemini, the hatchback was renamed and rubber-stamped across brands, swapping badges and fascias with ease.

But one version was strictly badged as Isuzu, and only available for two years toward the end of the model’s run. It’s called the RS, and it’s Really Sporty fun on the cheap.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Chevrolet Chevette

You know how people say there aren’t any truly bad cars sold in the US any more, with a sort of wistfulness that we’ve lost the benefits of an era when men were men and miles spent in miserable crapwagons strengthened your character? Every time I see a Chevette in a wrecking yard— which happens more often than you might think, given the checks-all-the-boxes awfulness of these heaps— I’m reminded of how great today’s lowliest econoboxes are compared to the stuff you might buy during the darkest night of the Malaise Era. I’m a member of the generation whose first cars were mostly dredged from the cheapest-possible-used-car cesspool that contained such horrors as the Pinto, early Colt, and Vega, and— even against that backdrop of automotive suckiness— the Chevette stood out as the booby prize, the car that your crazy aunt gave you when she upgraded to a new Renault Alliance and you couldn’t afford the $150 to buy a Maverick with a rod knock. About the best that could be said about the Chevette was that it was cheap and simple, without much to go wrong, and so there’s still a pool of the things to provide fresh examples for your local U-Wrench-It. Here’s one that I saw in California a few months back.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Chevrolet Chevette CS Diesel

Did you know that the Chevrolet Chevette was manufactured in the United States through the 1987 model year? It’s true! Serious fans of Chevette trivia also know that American car shoppers could buy a new Chevette with an Isuzu diesel engine; Chevette Diesel owners could eke out tremendous range in their oil-stinking, cramped, rear-drive econoboxes, and isn’t that really what car ownership was all about in the middle 1980s? I see the occasional Chevette in my travels (not to mention on the race track), but this California find is the first diesel Chevette in this series.

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Junkyard Find: High Plains Chevette-O-Rama!

Easily overlooked among all the Nashes and Willys of the Brain Melting Colorado Junkyard were the many Chevettes scattered across the landscape. The owner of the BMCJ has had a soft spot for Chevettes for many years, and he has acquired dozens of the little Opel-designed subcompact. Here’s a few that I photographed during my visit.

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Time Machine Dilemma: It's 1986 and You Have Enough Money For a New Chevette. What Do You Buy?

After last week’s Time Machine Dilemma (in which you emerged from your time machine in 1973, on Auto Row and with enough cash to buy a new Ford LTD), I thought of doing a 1974 Oil Crisis Diminished Expectations Economy Car Time Machine Dilemma. However, the really challenging econobox-shopping decisions came a bit more than a decade later, when the Hyundai Excel and Yugo GV arrived in a marketplace full of Japanese subcompacts duking it out for supremacy and Detroit trying to stay relevant. Yes, 1986! So, you exit your time machine in front of the Chevrolet dealership with $5,645 in your pocket. That’s enough to buy a new Chevette at full list price (the out-the-door-price would almost certainly be lower, but we’ll go with MSRP for this exercise). Do you get the antiquated-but-simple rear-drive Chevy for your penny-pinching commuter… or something else? Let’s look at your choices.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Chevrolet Chevette

We give GM a hard time over the Citation, but at least the Citation was a big leap into the future compared to the primitive, rear-drive, Opel-designed Chevette. However, it tells us something that more Chevettes than Citations have survived long enough to make it into junkyards in 2011.

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Junkyard Find: Fully Loaded 1979 Chevrolet Chevette

Back in the grimmest part of the Malaise Era, most Chevette shoppers knew exactly what they wanted: a really, really cheap car. You don’t find many Chevettes with a factory AM/FM radio, or remote mirrors, or even an automatic transmission. A Chevette with all those options and air conditioning to boot? This is a junkyard first for me.

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And the Real Winner Is…

If you want to contend for 24 Hours of LeMons racing’s top prize, the Index of Effluency, choosing a terrible Malaise Era subcompact gives you a big edge. Choosing a General Motors product also helps. Going with a diesel or, even worse, a Chevette Diesel, means that you pretty much have the Index of Effluency nailed down if you can manage to keep the thing on the track for most of the weekend. Easier said than done, of course, but Zero Budget Racing managed to do just that with their ’82 Chevette Diesel.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Chevrolet Chevette

The ’79 Monza wagon we saw last week was a choice specimen of Malaise Era misery, to be sure, but how did the [s]Vega[/s] Monza compare to the Chevette?

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And the Real Winner Is…

The Index of Effluency goes to the LeMons team that accomplishes a feat far beyond their vehicle’s purported abilities, and the chances for an IOE go way, way up when you race a General Motors product. The IOE chase in the Loudon Annoying 24 Hours of LeMons [s]d[/s]evolved into a Chevette-versus-Storm battle early on and stayed that way all weekend.

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  • Ronnie Schreiber From where is all that electricity needed to power an EV transportation system going to come? Ironically, the only EV evangelist that I know of who even mentions the fragile nature of our electrical grid is Elon Musk. None of the politicians pushing EVs go anywhere near it, well, unless they are advocating for unreliable renewables like wind and solar.
  • FreedMike I just don’t see the market here - I think about 1.2% of Jeep drivers are going to be sold on the fuel cost savings here. And the fuel cost savings are pretty minimal, per the EPA: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/PowerSearch.do?action=noform&path=1&year1=2022&year2=2022&make=Jeep&baseModel=Wrangler&srchtyp=ymm&pageno=1&rowLimit=50Annual fuel costs for this vehicle are $2200 and $2750 for the equivalent base turbo-four model. I don’t get it.
  • FreedMike How about the “Aztek” package? Wait, this car already has that…Said it before and I’ll say it again: they need to restyle the hind end on this car, stat.
  • Johnster "Vale" is the [s]cheap[/s] lower-priced performance version with black trim and stiff suspension."Mist" is the "DeLuxe" version with a bit more chrome and trim. (Sort of like the "Decor Package" option.)"Magentic" is the full-on Brougham treatment (in its current state) with more chrome trim than the "Mist" and all sorts of gimmicky electronic features inside. (Sadly, it will not include simulated landau irons or a vinyl covered roof, even as an option.)"Aurora" is the Oldsmobile of Cadillacs (sort of like the old Cadillac Calais). No, that's not right. It's the top-of-the-line model, sort of a "Grand Touring" version, with not as much chrome as the "Magentic" but all of the gimmicky electronic features and a stiffer suspension.
  • Drew8MR Why can't CARB leave hobbyists alone? Maybe lay off the low hanging fruit and go after the gross polluters. Bring back the rolling exemption.