1989 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan

A co-worker of mine casually mentioned that he owns a beige 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan. That’s enough for me to write a blog entry.

“contemporary front-drive technology”

For 1989, Chevrolet’s Celebrity mid-size sedans and wagons were little changed. The major news was that the five-speed manual transmission that (very) few bought was no longer available and that the coupe had been discontinued.

Standard power on the Celebrity remained the Tech IV 98 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. The LB6 125 bhp 2.8 liter/181 ci V6 with multi-port fuel injection was available for $610. A three-speed automatic transmission was standard on both engines, but buyers of the V6 could add a four-speed automatic for an additional $175.

With these two engines and curb weights in the 2,750 to 2,800-pound range, the Celebrity was not a fast car. 0-60 mph with the four was a little over 13 seconds, while V6 owners got to 60 mph about two seconds faster.

Mileage with the base four was 23 city/30 highway (21/28 by today’s standards) while owners of the top-of-the-line V6/four-speed automatic combination could expect 20 city/29 highway. With a 15.7-gallon fuel tank, Celebrity V6 drivers could expect a range of between 310 and 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

My colleague's 1989 Celebrity, prior to restoration.
My colleague’s 1989 Celebrity before restoration.

Standard equipment on the $11,495 Celebrity (about $23,400 in 2016 dollars) included power steering, power brakes, 14-inch wheels on P175/75R14 tires (a size now tough to find), and a Delco AM/FM stereo radio with digital clock. Adding the V6 and the four-speed automatic brought the price up to $12,280, or about $25,000 in today’s dollars.

By 1989, Chevrolet was moving to “Preferred Equipment Group” option packages as a way to reduce the number of equipment combinations. The Celebrity’s option packages were:

  1. Air conditioning, auxiliary lighting, exterior moldings, floor mats—($931 with the 2.5 liter inline four/$957 with the 2.8 liter V6)
  2. Air conditioning, auxiliary lighting, exterior moldings, floor mats, power door locks, gauge package, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and intermittent windshield wipers—($1,565 with the 2.5 liter inline four/$1,591 with the 2.8 liter V6)
  3. Air conditioning, auxiliary lighting, exterior moldings, floor mats, power door locks, gauge package, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and intermittent windshield wipers, sport remote mirrors, AM/FM stereo cassette with digital clock, power trunk opener, and power windows—($2,062 with the 2.5 liter inline four/$2,088 with the 2.8 liter V6)

Adding the Preferred Equipment Group 3 to a Celebrity with the V6 and the four-speed automatic brought the price all the way up to $14,368, or about $29,300 in today’s dollars—about what a well-equipped (1LT with leather) 2017 Chevrolet Malibu costs.

The most glamorous option for the Celebrity continued to be the $230 Eurosport package, which included the F41 sport suspension and 14-inch rally wheels on P195/75R14 tires. The exterior featured blacked out window trim and red center stripes on the protective rubber door and bumper molding; fender and trunk emblems were red rather than the standard chrome. Eurosports also featured unique red emblems on the interior door panels and dash and a black steering wheel.

Other optional equipment included two-tone paint ($55), aluminum wheels ($195), engine block heater ($20), cloth bucket seats with a console ($257), and six-way power driver’s seat ($250).

1989 would end up being the last year for the Celebrity sedan—the wagon would soldier on for one more year. I think of these cars as honest but basic. Celebrities sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. I saw an early (1982-1985) coupe at an AACA show a few years ago. Make mine black, I think.

Other A-bodies in this blog:

1986 Buick Century sedan

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE sedan

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1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo

For some reason, one of my local supermarkets often has interesting eighties cars. Today, there was a Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo casually parked among the crossovers—good enough reason for this blog entry.

A 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbo Coupe in Radnor, PA
An (I think) Champagne Metallic 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo in Radnor, PA

“A singular new achievement”

1985 was the last year for Mercedes-Benz’s mid-size W123 models—they would be followed by the substantially revised and very different looking W124 models in 1986.

For 1985, the 300CD Turbo powertrain continued to be the fuel-injected 125 bhp 3.0 liter five cylinder turbodiesel connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. At about 3,360 pounds, these were not fast cars—0-60 mph took about 15 seconds. Fuel economy was 22 city/25 highway by the standards of the day—19/23 by today’s standards. With the 21.1 gallon fuel tank, the driver of a 300CD could expect almost 450 miles of range with a 10% reserve.

Base price for the 300CD Turbo was a non-trivial $35,220—about $81,700 in today’s dollars. You did get a lot of standard equipment: power steering, power brakes, halogen headlamps, halogen fog lamps, and light alloy wheels were all included. Inside, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, intermittent windshield wipers, eight-way power front bucket seats, electronic climate control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna were standard.

There were few options on the 300CD Turbo: leather upholstery and a power sunroof (optional at no extra cost) were available.

W123 models definitely have a following, especially the relatively rare coupes and the 300TD wagons. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 300CD in #1/Concours condition is $16,900, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $8,400. 300CDs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, often with mileage well over 200,000.

I like these coupes, with their smooth hardtop lines and their reasonable size. Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, I think.

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1985 Ford LTD LX sedan

“Because Mr. Bondurant shouldn’t have all the fun.”

Late in the 1984 model year, Ford added a performance-oriented model to the Fairmont-based LTD line. The LX was loosely based on a few sedans that Bob Bondurant had cobbled together for use at his high-performance driving school.

The engine was Ford’s 165 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci Windsor V8 with electronic fuel injection. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 came in a respectable 9 seconds—faster than the Dodge 600ES and competitive with the Pontiac 6000 STE. Mileage was 19 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 16-gallon fuel tank, range was between 280 and 300 miles with a 10% reserve.

For 1985, the LX wore the updated nose and tail that came along with all 1985 LTDs. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $11,421 LX (about $26,500 in 2016 dollars) included quad rectangular halogen headlamps, power brakes, a Traction-Lok rear axle, a rear stabilizer bar, and P205/70HR Goodyear Eagle tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch styled road wheels. Inside, dual power mirrors, lumbar-support bucket seats, a center console with a floor shifter for the transmission, brushed aluminum trim on the dash bezels, an upgraded instrument cluster with tachometer, a Tripminder computer, and an AM radio with dual front speakers (ah, the glamor!) were included.

Options included cast aluminum wheels ($224), air conditioning ($743), power windows ($272), power locks ($213), and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($409).

Page from the 1985 LTD brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochure pages.

Like some other interesting Ford performance cars from the 1980s (I’m thinking of you, Mustang SVO), LTD LX‘s did not sell well, with only 3,260 sold over the 1984 and 1985 model years (there would be no 1986 LX). Likely because of the limited production numbers, you rarely see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. There is some enthusiast support.

Make mine Medium Charcoal Metallic, please.

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1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe

“One exhilarating road machine”

The last of the rear wheel drive Grand Ams came in 1980. Unlike in 1978 and 1979, the sedan was no longer available—only the coupe remained.

The standard engine in non-California cars was the L37 155 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with four-barrel Rochester carburetor and electronic spark control (California cars got the Chevrolet-sourced LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8). The only transmission available was a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH200 automatic transmission. Mileage was 17 city/25 highway by the standards of the day. With the 18.1-gallon fuel tank, range was about 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. Period performance tests of the Grand Am are hard to come by, but 0-60 mph likely came in around 9 seconds.

New features for 1980 included a revised soft-fascia front end with three sections per side, an Ontario Gray lower accent color for the exterior, a silver upper body accent stripe, larger wraparound black-out tail lamps, and larger front and rear stabilizer bars for the optional ($45) Rally RTS handling package.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,299 car (about $24,500 in 2018 dollars) included dual sport mirrors, dual horns, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 205/75R14 black sidewall radial tires (a size still readily available) on Rally IV cast aluminum wheels. Inside, Grand Am purchasers could expect cut-pile carpeting, custom vinyl front bucket seats with center floor console, rally gages with clock embedded in a brushed aluminum instrument panel, and a custom sport steering wheel.

Available exterior and mechanical options included a power sunroof—either metal ($561) or glass ($773), dual remote sport mirrors ($73), Soft-Ray tinted glass ($107), and electric rear window defroster ($107). Inside, air conditioning ($601), power door locks ($93), power windows ($143), a six-way power driver’s seat ($175), a tilt steering wheel ($81), automatic cruise control ($112), and an AM/FM stereo radio with stereo cassette player ($272) were all available. A nicely configured Grand Am could easily push past $9,600—real money in 1980 and over $32,000 in today’s dollars.

Page from 1980 Pontiac full-line brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Grand Ams didn’t sell at all well in 1980—Pontiac moved only 1,647 of them, after selling almost five times as many coupes only two years prior in 1978. Despite this, Pontiac would not give up on the Grand Am name—it would be back in 1985 as a small front-wheel-drive coupe.

Most of the Grand Ams being collected are the larger and more powerful first-generation Colonnade versions sold from 1972 to 1975. You do occasionally see second-generation Grand Ams for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. I haven’t seen a Grand Am from this generation for many years.

Make mine Starlight Black, please.

Other G-bodies covered in this blog include the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe, the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan, and the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe.

Updated December 2018.

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1988 Cadillac Cimarron

This afternoon I was walking in the University City portion of Philadelphia and I saw a later Cadillac Cimarron driving towards me in surprisingly good shape. As good a reason as any to finally complete this blog entry.

“… built for those who consider driving a sporty pastime.”

It is an article of faith in the automotive world that General Motors often finally gets a car right just before killing it. Examples that spring to mind are the last of the Pontiac Fieros and the last of the Cadillac Allantes. However, in the case of the Cadillac Cimarron, all GM was able to do was make it less awful and embarrassing.

The only engine available for 1988 was the 125 bhp LB6 2.8 liter V6 with multi-port fuel injection. When paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission, mileage was 20 city/29 highway by the standards of the day (18/27 by today’s standards). A three-speed automatic transmission was optional and rated at 20 city/27 highway. 0-60 in the 2,800-pound car came in about 9.5 seconds with the manual transmission and about 10.5 seconds with the automatic transmission.

The $16,071 base price (about $33,500 in today’s dollars) included standard exterior and mechanical features such as power brakes, power steering, power mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, and 13-inch aluminum wheels. Air conditioning, leather seating areas, a leather steering wheel, a tachometer, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were all standard in the interior.

Options included a sunroof, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, six-way power seat, tilt steering wheel, and the Delco-GM Bose Symphony Sound System.

Exterior styling that was at least somewhat more differentiated from the Chevrolet Cavalier sedan than the earliest Cimmarons had been. A more aggressive and distinctive grille had been added in 1984, the front end had been lengthened in 1985, and ribbed lower body cladding had appeared in 1986.

Page from the 1988 Cadillac brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochure’s section.

By 1988, sales of the Cimarron had completely collapsed. After a first year peak of almost 26,000 unit sold in the 1982 model year, sales dropped to a sad 6,454 in the Cimarron’s final model year.

I have yet to see a Cimarron at a serious antique car show—they’re treated by Cadillac folks like Ford folks treat the Mustang II from the 1970s—but I’m betting some intrepid soul will save one and bring it back for judging. You occasionally see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in June 2015, there’s a Glacier Blue 1987 Cimarron with a Dark Blue leather interior and 11,300 miles listed on Hemmings for $14,900.

1987 Chevrolet Chevette CS hatchback sedan

My wife and I were taking a walk early this Saturday morning and passed a Chevrolet Chevette parked at the end of our street. Reason enough to finally complete this blog entry.

“… one of America’s best known cars …”

1987 was the final year for the somewhat antiquated rear wheel drive Chevette—in North America, at least. The 1.8-liter diesel engine was no more, but otherwise little was changed from 1986.

The only engine available was the L17 1.6 liter/98 cubic inch inline four with a Holley 6510c two-barrel carburetor and 65 bhp, but you did have a choice of transmission: the standard four-speed manual, an optional three-speed automatic ($450), or an optional five-speed manual ($75). Mileage with the standard transmission was 28 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (24/31 by today’s standards). With the 12.2-gallon fuel tank, Chevette owners could expect a 340-mile range with a 10% reserve. Predictably, 0-60 mph took a little under 16 long seconds.

The Chevette was a small car, classified by the EPA as a sub-compact. Curb weight for the sedan was 2,137 pounds, with a 97.3-inch wheelbase, a 164.9-inch overall length, a 61.8-inch width, and a 52.8-inch height.

The truly “base” Chevette had been gone since 1985, but standard equipment was spare even on the supposedly upmarket CS. For your $5,495 base price (about $11,400 in 2015 dollars), you got four doors, a rear hatch with a single strut, rack and pinion steering, front disc and rear drum brakes, and P155/80R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho) on 13-inch by 5-inch steel wheels. Inside, there were vinyl front bucket seats and vinyl rear bench seats, along with a floor console.

Because the standard equipment was so spare, there were a lot of options. Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included power brakes ($105), power steering ($225), an engine block heater ($20), and a custom exterior package ($154). Inside, the buyer could add air conditioning ($675), a tilt steering column ($125), custom cloth bucket seats ($130), a rear defogger ($145), and an AM/FM stereo radio ($119).

Despite being on its last legs, Chevrolet still sold a little over 20,000 Chevette sedans in 1987, along with slightly more than 26,000 coupes. Chevettes rarely show up in either the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

1986 Mercury Capri

“Proof that getting there can be a fun experience in itself.”

Mercury made three attempts at the Capri. The first was an imported version of the European Ford Capri and was sold from the 1970 to 1978 model years as first the Capri and then the Capri II. The second was Mercury’s version of the Fox body Mustang and was sold from 1979 to 1986. The final version of the Capri was an imported version of the Australian Ford Capri and was 1991 to 1994. Sense a trend here?

For 1986, Mercury’s Capri had three engine choices and two transmission choices. Standard on the GS was the Lima 88 bhp (aargh!) 2.3 liter in-line 4 with one-barrel carburetor mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Power options for the GS included the Essex 120 bhp 3.8 liter fuel injected V-6 and the (wonderful) Windsor 200 bhp 5.0 liter V-8 with sequential fuel injection that was standard on the 5.0L. All three engines could be paired with a three-speed automatic transmission for an additional $510 (the V-6 required the automatic while the 5.0L came standard with a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive).

Mileage ratings for the various configurations ranged from 23 city/28 highway (21/26 by today’s standards) for the four-speed manual in-line 4 combination that I’m not convinced that anyone bought to 17/25 for the “big daddy” five-speed manual paired with the V-8.

Performance with the 2.3 liter paired with either transmission was ghastly — 0-60 came in about 15 seconds, which meant a Capri driver with the Lima engine would see only the taillights of Iron Duke powered Camaros and Firebirds (such a sad competition!). Moving to the V-6 paid significant performance dividends, dropping the 0-60 time by about 3.5 seconds. Of course, the V-8 was by far the best: even the automatic was in the 7 second range, while the manual could do 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

The base price for a Capri GS was $8,331 (about $17,800 in 2015 dollars). For that money, the Capri came fairly well equipped by mid-1980s standards: external and mechanical feature included halogen headlamps, power steering, power brakes, tinted glass, and the distinctive bubble-back rear hatch with rear-window defroster. Inside, power windows, interval wipers, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were standard.

Page from the 1986 Mercury Capri brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The more sporty Capri 5.0L stickered for $10,950 (about $23,300 in today’s dollars) and added the aforementioned V-8, dual exhaust, and P225/60VR15 tires on cast aluminum wheels.

Exterior options for both the GS and the 5.0L included a flip-up open-air roof ($315) or a T-Roof ($1,100). Inside, buyers could add air conditioning ($762), power door lock group ($182), speed control ($176), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($300).

Sales for the last of the second generation Capris were not at all good, but Capri sales had not been good for years — Mercury’s traditional problem wedged between Ford and Lincoln. By 1986, Capri sales were about 9% of Mustang sales.

MercuryCapriSales

Fox body Capris sometimes show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds, but there’s definitely not a lot of activity, though I’ll say they are uncommon rather than unloved. Make mine Smoke Metallic, please.