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 ci 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 $12,500 in 2018 dollars—a little under the cost of a base 2019 Chevrolet Spark hatchback coupe), 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.

Updated February 2019.

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.

1982 Chevrolet Corvette coupe

“Cross-Fire injection adds to the Corvette performance equation.”

1982 was the final year for the “shark” Corvette but the first year for the L82 Cross-Fire 5.7 liter/350 ci V8—a throttle body fuel-injected design that put out a respectable for the day 200 bhp and 285 lb-ft of torque. The downside was that it was only available with a four-speed automatic transmission; a manual transmission would not return until the middle of the 1984 model year. Top speed for the 1982 Corvette was 125 mph, and Road & Track managed a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds. Estimated fuel economy was 15 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—not bad for a fairly large V8 with primitive engine controls.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $18,290 base Corvette (about $45,100 in today’s dollars) included a Delco Freedom II battery, power steering, power disc brakes, and P225/70R15 tires on 15-inch by 8-inch steel rally wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, quartz analog clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio were all included.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included power sport mirrors ($125), power door locks ($155), cruise control ($165), electric rear window defogger ($129), gymkhana suspension (only $61 for specially tuned shock absorbers, higher-rate rear spring, and a rear stabilizer bar), two-tone paint ($428), aluminum wheels ($458), and  P255/60R15 Goodyear Eagle GT tires ($543). Optional interior equipment included a six-way power driver’s seat ($197) and an AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player ($423).

Options that date this car include the stereo radio with cassette and Citizens Band  ($755) and the stereo radio with 8-track player ($755). Corvette buyers piled on the options: the average buyer ordered $2,195 worth, raising the sticker to $20,485 (about $50,500 in 2014 dollars).

Rear cover of the 1982 Corvette brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

There is strong club support for the 1982 Corvette, as there is for all Corvettes. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a non-Collector Edition 1982 Corvette in #1 condition is $29,000, with a more normal number #3 condition car going for $13,900. 1982 Corvettes often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—as I write this in September 2014, there’s a black car with a red leather interior with 39,000 miles available for $18,000.

Make mine one of the relatively rare (and absolutely gorgeous) Silver Green Metallic cars, with the Silver Green interior.

1983 Chrysler Imperial coupe

While out in driving late in 2014, I saw an early 1980s Chrysler Imperial aggressively carving the back roads in the Philadelphia suburbs near where I live. The body design remains utterly distinctive: the alacrity with which the Imperial was moving makes me assume that it had the carburetor conversion and/or some other engine upgrade.

“A singular statement of car and driver.”

Chrysler introduced the “bustle back” Imperial for the 1981 model year, bringing it to market in part to reassure potential buyers that the company would remain in business. By 1983, the Cordoba-based luxury coupe was in its final year, selling a mere 1,427 units as all rear-wheel drive Chryslers continued their decline.

For 1983, the powertrain continued to be the same: the LA 140 bhp electronic throttle-body fuel injected 5.2 liter/318 ci V8 paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission. Despite notable attempts at increasing quality (each Imperial went on a five-and-a-half mile test drive and received numerous other checks before shipping from the factory), the bleeding edge fuel injection continued to be stunningly unreliable—Chrysler frequently ended up replacing it with a carburetted system at the cost of $3,500 plus about 50 hours of labor.

Performance for the 3,900-pound coupe wasn’t impressive: 0-60 came in a little under 14 seconds. To be fair, neither the Cadillac Eldorado nor the Lincoln Continental Mark VI (the Imperial’s intended competitors) were notably faster in 1983. Fuel economy was rated at 16 city/26 highway by the standards of the day, giving a range of about 340 miles with the 18-gallon gas tank and a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard mechanical equipment for the quite well equipped for 1983 $18,688 Imperial (approximately $48,000 in today’s dollars or more than the list price of a loaded 2018 Chrysler 300C) included halogen headlights, power brakes, power steering, cruise control, and Goodyear Arriva P205/75R15 steel-belted radial whitewall tires (a size still readily available) on cast aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment included power heated mirrors, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, and a rear window defroster. Interior equipment included “semi-automatic” air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, leather and vinyl 60/40 power seats, and a 30-watt AM/FM stereo with cassette and power antenna.

Unusual standard equipment for 1983 in any car included an electronic instrument cluster, a garage door opener, and a two year/30,000 mile warranty (a lot of warranty in those unreliable days). The only extra cost option was high altitude emissions ($75—why did Chrysler cheap out at this point?); no cost options included cloth and vinyl seats, Michelin tires, and wire wheel covers. Unlike in 1981 and 1982, there was no Frank Sinatra edition for 1983.

Page from the 1983 Chrysler Imperial brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Especially from the rear, the Imperial looked a lot like Cadillac’s 1980 Seville redesign, but seems to have been a separate idea—exterior design had begun in 1977.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Chrysler Imperial in #1/Concours condition is $10,500, with a more normal #3/Good condition car fetching $4,000. Imperials do show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—as I update this entry in December 2018, there’s a Day Star Blue Crystal Coat 1981 with 83,000 miles and the original fuel injection still installed (“runs poor” states the dealer) available for $5,000.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the 1981-1983 Chrysler Imperial—it is here. Make mine Formal Black, please.

1981 Toyota Celica Sport Coupe

We do requests on Eighties Cars, whether or not they are definitive ones. A friend of mine mentioned his 1981 Celica in one of the forums I frequent, and that was enough inspiration for me.

 “The Ultimate Toyota.”

1981 was the final model year for the second-generation Toyota Celica which had debuted in 1978. Despite this, there were some significant changes, including a new engine.

celicas
1981 Celica and Celica Supra poster, courtesy of Flickr user Alden Jewell.

The Celica’s new engine for 1981 was the 22R 97 bhp 2.4 liter/144 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor. Paired with a five-speed manual transmission, fuel economy was an impressive 25 city/37 highway by the standards of the day (22/34 by today’s standards). Choosing the optional four-speed automatic transmission dropped economy slightly to 25 city/35 highway (22/32 by 2014 standards). With a curb weight of a little over 2,400 pounds, 0-60 times were in the mid nine-second range—respectable for 1981.

The Celica Sport Coupe was available in ST and GT trim levels. Standard equipment on the Celica ST ($6,699 or about $19,900 in today’s dollars) included electronic ignition, an FM radio, reclining front bucket seats, “cut pile wall-to-wall carpeting,” power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 185/70R14 steel belted radial tires (a size still readily available).

Moving up to the GT ($7,429 or about $22,100 in 2018 dollars) added features such as tungsten halogen high beams, styled steel wheels, dual outside mirrors, a dressed up instrument panel and console, a locking gas cap, and an AM/FM/MPX stereo with four speakers.

Optional equipment included air conditioning, a sunroof, and power steering. Aluminum alloy wheels, a rear window defogger, and cruise control were GT only options.

Celicas of this generation sometimes come up for sale in Hemmings Motor News and eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I updated this post in December 2018.

Updated December 2018.

1986 Chrysler Town & Country convertible

“Why sit around waiting for a summer breeze to come up when you can create quite a stir yourself?”

1986 was the last model year for Chrysler’s Town & Country convertible. Basically a special version of Chrysler’s LeBaron convertible, the Town & Country was first available in 1983 and was intended to remind potential buyers of the classic (and valuable) Town & Country convertibles of the 1940s. It was not especially successful, selling only 3,721 units in four years, with only 501 sold in 1986.

Like all LeBarons, the Town & Country’s front and rear fascias, headlights, grilles, and taillights were all updated with a more rounded and aerodynamic look in 1986. The center-mounted brake light mandated for all 1986 vehicles by U.S. federal law was mounted atop the trunk lid. Inside, the standard digital instrument cluster was redesigned for better legibility.

1986ChryslerTown&Country
1986 Chrysler Town & Country convertible from the LeBaron brochure.

Also for 1986, a throttle-body fuel injected K 2.5 liter/152 ci inline four producing 100 bhp replaced the carburetted 2.6 inline liter four built by Mitsubishi as the base engine. The optional fuel injected Turbo I 146 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci turbocharged inline four remained for an additional $628. Both engines were paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic. Mileage with the base engine was 23 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (20/23 by 2014 standards). The Turbo I was rated at 20 city/24 highway—not a big price to pay for a significant percentage of extra horsepower.

The base price for 1986 was a non-trivial $17,595 (about $37,600 in today’s dollars). For that money, you got halogen headlights, dual horns, power brakes, wire wheel covers with locks, and the Town & Country’s distinctive white ash moldings and teak appliques on the body sides. Inside you got a very attractive Mark Cross leather interior along with air conditioning, power mirrors, power driver’s seat, and the Ultimate Sound System AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer and six speakers.

Options included the $302 Deluxe Convenience Package (cruise control and tilt wheel) and the Power Convenience Discount Package (power windows and power locks).

These eighties Town & Country convertibles are being collected but by a very small set of collectors. I have recently seen nice examples at several AACA judged shows. You do see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I update this in June 2015, there’s a white 1986 Town & Country with 82,000 miles for sale for $6,500.

Of course, these convertibles also started Chrysler’s long tradition of making convertibles that might occasionally be sporty but were not sports cars—a market niche they only just exited with the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible.

I still like what Chrysler was trying to do, and I appreciate how these cars look. Make mine White, please, with that killer Almond/Cream leather interior.

1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic coupe

For unclear reasons, for several years this was my most popular post on this blog. Because of this, I recently updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“… the personal flair of a distinctive coupe.”

1987 was the final model year for Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic coupe, with only 3,110 made. Beginning in 1988, the Caprice would soldier on with just the sedan and wagon, as the once very popular big American coupes continued to lose favor.

ChevroletCoupeSales

The standard power team on the coupe (and sedan) was the LB4 140 bhp 4.3 liter/262 ci V6 with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage was rated at 18 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards).

Optional power was the LG4 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with four-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed automatic transmission (I see what you did there, Chevrolet). In 1987, this combination was rated at 18 city/25 highway (16/23 by 2014 standards). With a 25-gallon fuel tank, you could reasonably expect a comfortable range of about 440 to 480 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—impressive for a 3,600-pound full-size car back then. Even with the V8, these cars were not fast—0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds.

Standard equipment for the $11,392 coupe (about $26,000 in today’s dollars—just a few thousand dollars less than a 2019 Impala LS sedan goes for) included power steering, power brakes, halogen headlights, and P205/75-R15 all-season radial tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a full-width cloth bench seat, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM radio were standard.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($775), cruise control ($175), power door locks ($145), power windows ($210), power seats ($240 each), power trunk opener ($50), a 50/50 split-front seat ($195), and AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer ($435).

Caprice Classic Coupe pages from the 1987 Chevrolet Impala/Caprice brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

I have fun sometimes (often?) building a “unicorn” configuration for these old cars. When I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership in the mid-eighties, I dreamed up a Caprice S. Here’s what optional equipment it would have required, all still available in 1987:

  • F41 Sport Suspension (includes a rear stabilizer bar, 15-inch by 7-inch wheels, and sportier shock absorbers)
  • LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci V8
  • P225/70R-15 tires
  • Sport wheel covers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Performance axle ratio
  • Heavy duty cooling
  • Dual power Sport mirrors
  • Special instrumentation/gauge package

So, a “John-configured” coupe would have listed for at least $15,096—real money in 1987 and about $34,500 in 2019 dollars. A desperate product planner might have tried to get the leather seats from the Brougham available in the Coupe and maybe scored some black wall tires, but that’s another story …

These big and (I think) handsome coupes show up occasionally in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track Caprice Classic values past 1975. When I updated this blog entry in August 2017, there was a Light Brown Metallic/Medium Brown Metallic two-tone 1985 coupe with saddle velour seats and 60,000 miles for sale on eBay Motors with a starting bid of $8,500. Make mine Silver Metallic, please, though I’m tempted by the Black/Medium Gray Metallic two-tone.

Another Caprice that I’ve written about is the 1985 Caprice Classic station wagon.

Updated February 2019.

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