“Camaro Z28 Is Its Big Brother”
Chevrolet’s Cavalier Z24 was announced for the 1985 model year but didn’t actually become available until the 1986 model year. The most important feature of the Z24 was definitely the engine—GM’s corporate LB6 120 bhp 2.8 liter/171 ci V6 with multi-port fuel injection. Paired with the standard four-speed manual transmission, 0-60 came in about 8.5 seconds in the 2,450-pound car—decent for a sporty compact car in 1986 (the 102 bhp Volkswagen GTI hatchback of the same year was about as fast).
Mileage was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (19/24 by today’s standards). The Z24‘s range was 265 to 275 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—like all Cavaliers, the fuel tank was 13.6 gallons.
Standard equipment on the $8,878 Z24 (about $20,600 in today’s dollars) included the aforementioned engine and transmission, a ground effects package, black grille, dual black sport mirrors, the F41 sports suspension, and P215/60R-14 Goodyear Eagle GT radial tires (a size still available thanks to Riken and BFGoodrich) mounted on 14 x 6 inch Rally wheels. Inside, all Z24 buyers received digital instrumentation fed from “a 16K computer,” including a tachometer and trip odometer, along with a rear window defroster, and an AM pushbutton radio with dual front speakers.
All Cavaliers included front wheel drive, a MacPherson strut front suspension, rack and pinion steering, and front disc/rear drum brakes. Inside, reclining front bucket seats, a full floor console, side window defoggers, and a day/night rearview mirror were standard.
Available options included 14-inch aluminum wheels ($173), tinted glass ($99), air conditioning ($645), cruise control with resume ($175), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Comfortilt steering wheel ($115), and an electronic-tuning AM stereo/FM stereo seek/scan radio with cassette player, graphic equalizer, and clock ($494). A comfortably optioned Z24 could easily reach almost $11,000 (about $25,500 in 2018 dollars or about what you’ll pay nowadays for a loaded Chevrolet Cruze Premier sedan).
Handsome in a broad-shouldered sort of way, the Z24 coupe sold pretty well for 1986—about 36,000 units. The slightly more expensive hatchback added another 10,000 units: the two models accounted for about 11% of total Cavalier production. Power would increase to 130 bhp in 1987, and a convertible version of the Z24 would come along in 1988. Chevrolet would build the Cavalier Z24 until the end of the 2002 model year.
A few folks are collecting these cars, but they certainly aren’t common at shows. You do occasionally see Z24s for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I update this blog entry in February 2019, there’s a Dark Red 1989 Z24 convertible with black cloth seats and 29,000 miles listed on Hemmings for $14,900.
Updated February 2019.