Sunday, May 1, 2016

Show Car Sunday - Proof that you can polish a turd

Well whaddaya know? I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this mint condition little punk roosting in Gowanus. When was the last time you saw one? (people in the West please keep your smug answers to yourselves) In the Northeast they do not exist at ALL anymore. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Chevette!
More specifically this is a 1986 Chevrolet Chevette CS in Light Blue Poly. This one has the temerity to be sporting a spoiler under its body colored bumper and blacked-out grill (These were actually included in the CS package along with almost nothing else).
This little nugget's riding a bit high in the front leading me to believe the motor is out for some reason. We're talking about a 1.6 Liter 4 cylinder cranking out a mighty 70 horsepower! Laugh all you want; the original Chevette lump was good for a mere 53hp.
Why is it so nice? Some of my favorite discoveries are cars that have no reason to be in perfect condition but somehow survived. The fact that I think someone is having the engine rebuilt speaks only of love. This car is worth $2,450 in mint condition according to the price guides, and I'm sure the engine will run at least that.
The Chevette represents a rare bit of perfect timing by the US auto industry. It was introduced in 1975, moments after the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards went into effect. As slow as these were they are good for 40 or so mpg in the city and a whopping 48mpg highway.
When it was introduced the only body style was a 2 door hatchback. Other than the addition of this 4 door hatch body style not much changed during its entire run until it was discontinued in 1987. By the time this car rolled out of the factory Chevy was already selling the new version of the Nova. The new-for-1985 Nova was egregious badge engineering as it was 100% Toyota Corolla wearing a Chevy nameplate. Fans of the storied Nova name were incensed.
Automatic transmission; the only way to make this even slower. The interior is unfussy and pleasant enough for my tastes though.
The subcompact market was getting crowded in 1986 with the Hyundai Excel and infamous Yugo both being introduced in '85. The Hyundai was advertised at $4,999 and the Yugo an astonishing $3,990 brand new, easily undercutting the Chevette MSRP of $5,959.
Wicked '80s on full display with this font.
This car replaced the Vega which was rife with turmoil. The Vega, meant to be Chevys "World Car", was prone to rotting, terrible overall build quality, and engine failure. The diminutive Chevette was relatively without issue as illustrated by its long production run. It's remarkable to me that cars so common in my childhood have quietly faded away to the point where encountering one at all is a surprise. I've probably ridden in 10 of these when I was young but haven't seen one on years.
Congratulations little Chevette! You've survived long enough to be interesting again. This is the Cassette of vehicles.


  1. As the owner of the car it would have been nice to be asked if such an article can be published but after reading it it was done in good taste and it would have been nice if you know the story about that car also I think you did a great job from the owner of the car

    1. Being asked about these is great, as most owners love to talk about them. This is a memeber of the Facebook group Chevette Owners and he seems flattered that someone wrote about it, as he has posted it to our page wall in excitement.