1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS sedan

The inspiration for this blog entry is a loaded 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS sedan that one of my frequent readers owned back in the day.

“one of today’s most advanced front-wheel-drive cars”

1983 was the second year model for Chevrolet’s Cavalier compact. The biggest news was likely in the powertrain; a 2.0 liter inline four with throttle-body fuel injection was the new standard engine along with a newly optional five-speed manual transmission. A convertible version of the coupe was a mid-year announcement.

The only engine available was the LQ5 86 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. The LQ5 had two less horsepower than the previous year’s L46 1.8 liter engine, but notably more grunt—an additional ten lb-ft of torque. The result was a meaningful half-second improvement in 0-60 times, though the Cavalier remained slow (even by 1983 standards). A four-speed manual remained standard, while a five-speed manual ($75) and an automatic ($395) were available. Fuel economy ratings were 25 mpg combined by the measures of the day. With a 13.6-gallon fuel tank, a Cavalier driver could expect a range of about 305 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the 1983 Cavalier was far sparer than it had been in 1982, when many had blanched at the sedan’s $7,137 base price. Still, exterior and mechanical features on all Cavalier sedans did include front-wheel-drive, a front stabilizer bar, rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P175/80R13 radial tires on 13 x 5 inch steel wheels. Inside, vinyl reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included. For 1983, the sedan started at $5,999—about $15,800 in today’s dollars and just a little under what a 2020 Chevrolet Sonic sedan goes for.

Page from 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure
CS sedan page from the 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure

Moving up to the $6,484 CS added a glove compartment lock, a colour-keyed instrument panel, a cigarette lighter, an ashtray light, and an AM push-button radio with dual front speakers.

Only available with the CS, the CL package added Sport mirrors, a Custom interior with Custom reclining seats and adjustable head restraints, a three-spoke steering wheel with a black leather rim, and a right-hand visor vanity mirror.

Exterior and mechanical options for the CS sedan included tinted glass ($90), a removable sunroof ($295), Custom two-tone paint with pin striping ($176), halogen headlamps ($10), power steering ($195), and an F41 sport suspension ($49). Inside, power door locks ($170), power windows ($255), automatic speed control ($170), a six-way power driver’s seat ($210), a Comfortilt steering wheel ($99), and air conditioning ($625) were among the many options.

The 1983 Cavalier sold well, with 215,585 exiting Chevrolet showrooms, making it the most popular model in the Chevrolet model line. Of all Cavalier variants in 1983, the CS sedan was the most popular, at almost a quarter of the total—the convertible was, of course, the rarest, with a mere 607 sold. Despite this popularity when new, Cavaliers of this generation have now almost vanished, except for the convertibles and the higher-performance Z24 versions. Amazingly, there is currently a white 1986 CS hatchback with blue cloth bucket seats and 66,000 miles for sale on eBay Motors.

Make mine a Light Briar Brown over Dark Brown two-tone—just like my reader’s car.

The other J platform cars I have written about are the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, the 1984 Pontiac 2000 Sunbird S/E hatchback coupe, the 1985 Oldsmobile Firenza ES sedan, the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe, and the 1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan. Some day, I will write about the Buick Skyhawk.

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