1981 Chevrolet Corvette coupe

“Corvette is a rolling showcase of new technology …”

For 1981, Chevrolet’s Corvette gained a new standard powertrain—the L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor combined with a four-speed manual transmission (a three-speed automatic was a no-cost option). The new engine featured Computer Command Control, which automatically adjusted the ignition timing and the fuel/air mixture. Chevrolet engineers also managed to remove 167 pounds of curb weight from the Corvette by reducing the thickness of body panels, using aluminum for more parts, and replacing the steel rear leaf spring with a fiberglass one in cars with the automatic.

With the four-speed manual, 0-60 came in about 8 seconds—quick for a 1981 model year car. Fuel economy was 14 city/20 highway by the standards of the day with either transmission. With a 23.7-gallon gas tank, one of the 40,606 proud new owners of a 1981 Corvette could expect a range of 365 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

For the $16,258.52 base price at the beginning of the model year (about $49,300 in 2019 dollars), Corvette buyers got T-tops, four-wheel power disc brakes, power steering, dual sport mirrors, and P225/70R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15 x 8 inch rally wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, a tilt-telescopic steering column, an AM/FM radio with dual front speakers, a quartz clock, and a choice of either cloth/vinyl or leather/vinyl bucket seats were all standard.

Exterior and mechanical options included aluminum wheels ($428) and power antenna ($55). Inside, buyers could add power door locks ($145), cruise control ($155), and a rear window defogger ($119). 1981 was the first year that the AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player ($423) was more popular than the AM/FM stereo radio with an 8-track player ($386). A power driver’s seat was a new option and cost $183.

1981 was the first year Corvettes were produced in two factories at one time. The new Bowling Green, Kentucky plant produced its first Corvette on June 1, 1981, while the St. Louis plant was producing its last Corvettes—the final St. Louis Corvette was built on August 1, 1981. All St. Louis Corvettes were painted with lacquer paints while the new Bowling Green plant had a brand new paint facility and used enamels with clear top coats.

Cover of the 1981 Corvette brochure, linked from Hans Tore Tangerud’s lov2xlr8 website.

One of the two 1981 Corvette brochures has what I think of as one of the best visual expressions of the “shark” Corvette as its fold-out cover. A silhouetted 1981 is in the foreground, with the image of the curving path it has just traversed carved with a time-lapse of its taillights.

There is strong club support for the 1981 Corvette, as there is for all Corvettes. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1981 Corvette in #1/Concours condition is $29,900, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $12,200. 1981 Corvettes often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I write this in December 2019, there’s a White one with a Medium Red leather bucket seats and 92,000 miles available on Hemming’s for $19,000. Make mine just like that, please.

Other Corvettes I have written about in this blog include the 1980 coupe, the 1982 coupe, the 1986 convertible, and the 1988 35th Anniversary Edition hatchback coupe. I also wrote about traveling long distances in an eighties Corvette.

1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan

When I’m out running early on weekday mornings, I often see an eighties Malibu sedan driving along the Lincoln Highway in Bryn Mawr. Time to update this elderly post.

“… a beautiful and practical choice …”

The 1983 Malibu was the final rear-wheel-drive Malibu and the last Malibu of any kind until the 1997 model year. For 1983, Chevrolet eliminated the Malibu Classic designation and reverted to Malibu as the single trim level, which you could get in either a four-door sedan or a five-door wagon.

Standard motivation for the 3,100 to 3,200-pound sedan (weight largely depended on engine choice) was provided by the evergreen LD5 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor hooked up to a three-speed automatic transmission, making 110 bhp and getting 20 city/29 highway by the standards of the day. Power options included two different diesels (a $500 V6 and a $700 V8 that just about no one purchased) and the LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a Rochester E4ME four-barrel carburetor rated at 18 city/26 highway. With an 18.1-gallon fuel tank, the owner of a V8 Malibu could expect a range of 325 to 360 miles. Performance was not exactly sparkling: 0-60 took a little over 11 seconds with the V8.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $8,084 Malibu V6 sedan (about $21,100 in today’s dollars or a little under what a 2019 Malibu L costs) included quad rectangular headlamps, high-energy ignition, a Delco Freedom II battery, power front disc/rear drum brakes, power steering, and P185/75R14 glass-belted radial tires (a size currently available thanks to Hankook) on 14-inch wheels. Inside, a base Malibu came spare—highlights were a vinyl bench seat, a cigarette lighter, a locking glove compartment, and a day/night rearview mirror.

Moving to the V8 brought the Malibu sedan’s base price up $225 to $8,309 (about $21,700 in 2019 dollars). Options that were ordered in more than 50% of 1983 Malibus included air conditioning (the most expensive option at $725), tinted glass ($105), remote left-hand side-view mirror ($22), and rear window defogger ($135).

1983 Chevrolet Malibu brochure cover, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Interestingly, you could still order some performance-oriented options for the Malibu even in its final year. A limited-slip differential ($95), performance rear axle ($21), gauge package with trip odometer ($95), heavy-duty battery ($25), heavy-duty cooling, rally wheels ($108), and the F40 heavy-duty suspension ($26) were all available, though I’m not convinced they found a lot of buyers among the total of 117,426 Malibus purchased in 1983.

This generation of Malibu does come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, but there were no reasonably stock sedans available when I updated this blog entry in June 2019.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic, please.

Other rear-wheel drive G-platform (designated A-platform before 1982) cars I have written about include the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe, the 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe, the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe, and the 1987 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe.

Updated June 2019.

1988 Chevrolet Corvette 35th Anniversary Edition hatchback coupe

One of the Corvettes judged at the NCRS Mid-Atlantic Regional a few months ago was a 35th Anniversary Edition Corvette coupe. Time to write a blog entry about one of the most striking of eighties Corvettes.

“… the influential sports car of the modern era.”

For 1988, the big news for Chevrolet’s Corvette was the 35th Anniversary Edition coupe. It was only the second anniversary edition Corvette, following 1978’s Silver Anniversary version. Chevrolet had missed the 30th anniversary (there were no 1983 Corvettes), and one senses that General Motors’ marketing team didn’t want to let another one go by without acknowledgment.

The standard powertrain continued to be the L98 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic with overdrive. Depending on the rear axle ratio, horsepower for the coupe was either 240 bhp or 245 bhp. Top speed for the 1988 Corvette was about 155 mph, with a 0-60 time of about six seconds. Estimated fuel economy was 16 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (15/23 by today’s standards). With a 20-gallon fuel tank, a Corvette owner could expect a range of 340 to 370 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $29,489 base Corvette coupe (about $65,500 in today’s dollars) included power steering, power anti-lock disc brakes, and P255/60ZR16 tires (a size still available thanks to BF Goodrich) on 16-inch x 8.5-inch wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, and an ETR AM/FM stereo radio with a clock were all included.

Additional equipment on the $34,284 35th Anniversary Edition coupe (about $76,200 in 2019 dollars) included white leather seats and steering wheel along with a black roof bow. In a preview of early 1990s Corvettes, the rub strips were body color instead of the usual black.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included an electric rear window defogger ($129), the Doug Nash 4+3 manual transmission (no cost), Z51 performance handling package ($1,295 for a radiator boost fan, Delco-Bilstein shock absorbers, engine oil cooler, heavy-duty radiator, 17 x 9.5 inch wheels, and fast steering ratio). Optional interior equipment included power driver’s and power passenger’s seats ($240 each), electronic air conditioning ($150), and a Delco/Bose AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player ($773).

Picture of 1988 35th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette
1988 Chevrolet Corvette 35th Anniversary Edition, photo courtesy of Mecum.

There is strong club support for the 1988 Corvette, as there is for all Corvettes. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1988 35th Anniversary Edition coupe in #1/Concours condition is $33,800, with a more typical number #3/Good condition car going for $11,500. 1988 Corvettes often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and eBay Motors—as I write this in May 2019, there’s a 35th Anniversary Edition coupe with 28,000 miles and many NCRS awards asking an astonishing $80,000.

Other eighties Corvettes I have covered include the 1980 coupe, the 1981 coupe, the 1982 coupe, and the 1986 convertible.

1986 Chevrolet Corvette convertible

“Yes to wind. Yes to sunshine.”

For 1986, the big news for Corvette was the return of the convertible, gone since 1975. Other improvements included Bosch ABS II anti-lock brakes, a Vehicle Anti-Theft System (VATS), and the mid-year introduction of aluminum cylinder heads.

The standard powertrain was the L98 235 bhp 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with fuel injection paired with a Turbo-Hydramatic four-speed automatic transmission. Car and Driver recorded 0-60 time of 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph. Estimated fuel economy was 17 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (15/22 by today’s standards). With a 20-gallon fuel tank, a Corvette convertible’s proud new owner could expect a range of between 335 and 370 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Built in collaboration with ASC, the convertible included a manual top, a rear-hinged deck panel to cover the top, and an X-brace underneath the floor. The newly-required high-mounted rear brake light was integrated into the rear fascia. Even the gas filler cover was different from the coupe—square because there was no rounded rear hatchback glass for it to wrap around.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment for the $32,032 Corvette convertible (about $76,700 in today’s dollars or about what a well-equipped 2019 Corvette Stingray convertible goes for) included a Delco Freedom Plus II battery, power operated quartz-halogen retractable headlamps, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, and P255/50VR-16 tires on 16 x 9.5 inch cast alloy aluminum wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, Tilt-Telescopic steering wheel, driver information system, cloth seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna were all included.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included performance axle ratio ($22) and Delco-Bilstein shock absorbers ($189)—the Doug Nash 4+3 manual transmission was a no-cost option. Optional interior equipment included cruise control ($185), power door lock system ($175), electronic control air conditioning ($150), a six-way power driver’s seat ($225), and the Delco-GM/Bose Music System ($895). The Z51 Performance Handling Package was not available with the convertible.

Pages from the 1986 Corvette convertible, linked from the always useful PaintRef.com.

The return of the Corvette convertible was well-received—Chevrolet sold 7,315 in about half a model, even at $5,000 more than the coupe. Reviews were also good; Car and Driver stated that the convertible was “a mighty hospitable carriage.”

There is strong club support for the 1986 Corvette, as there is for all Corvettes. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Corvette convertible in #1/Concours condition is $20,200, with a more normal number #3/Good condition car going for $7,700. 1986 Corvette convertibles are regularly featured in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I write this in December 2018, there’s a Yellow car with black leather seats and 29,000 miles available on Hemmings for $17,900.

Make mine White, with red leather seats—the “heritage colors” that match the first Corvette back in 1953.

1980 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport coupe

At Barrett-Jackson’s 2018 Northeast auction, a bright blue metallic 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport coupe with black vinyl seats, a 3.8 liter/229 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 45,000 miles crossed the block. The hammer price was $4,700 for this honest, reasonably original car that no one ever tried to turn into something resembling a Z28. I find these non-top of the line cars interesting because they are rarely saved, leading to something like what we have with 1957 Chevrolets, where you’d think 90% of them were Bel Airs.

“It’s an escape from the ordinary.”

For 1980, Chevrolet featured four versions of the Camaro. The base model was the Sport Coupe, followed by the Rally Sport, the Berlinetta, and the Z28. This post is about the Rally Sport, which cost $5,916 (about $19,800 in today’s dollars) and got a few changes in the final year of this particular iteration. A new blacked out grille and a new three-tone striping package were visible, while inside sat a new standard V6.

Rally Sport and Sport Coupe pages from the 1980 Chevrolet Camaro brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

That new standard powertrain on the 1980 Rally Sport was the LC3 115 bhp 3.8 liter/229 ci V6 with a Rochester M2ME two-barrel carburetor paired with a three-speed manual. EPA fuel economy was 20 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—with a 20.9-gallon gas tank, a Camaro owner could expect to go 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. The trade-off was performance that belied the Camaro’s sporty looks: 0-60 in a little under 13 seconds with a top speed of 112 mph.

Optional powertrains included two V8s, both of which required power brakes ($81): the L39 120 bhp 4.4 liter/267 ci with a two-barrel carburetor ($180) and the LG4 155 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci with a four-barrel carburetor ($295). An automatic ($358) was available with all three engines, while a four-speed manual was only available with the larger of the two V8s. The LG4/four-speed combination yielded notably better performance than the base powertrain: 0-60 in about 10 seconds. It didn’t make mileage that much worse—16 city/24 highway by 1980 standards.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Rally Sports included High Energy ignition, power steering, front stabilizer bar, sport mirrors, rear spoiler, concealed windshield wipers, front disc/rear drum brakes, and 205/75R14 steel-belted radial ply tires (a size still available thanks to Hancook and Kumho) on 14-inch color-keyed Rally wheels. Inside, flow-through ventilation system, contoured full-foam vinyl bucket seats, a “centre” (as spelled in the brochure) floor console, and cut-pile colour-keyed carpeting were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included removable glass panels ($695) and 14 x 7 aluminum wheels ($337). Inside, air conditioning ($566), intermittent windshield wiper system ($41), electric rear window defogger ($107), automatic speed control ($112), power door locks ($93), power windows ($143), a Custom interior ($68), gauge package with tachometer ($120), Comfortilt steering wheel ($81), and an AM/FM stereo radio with stereo cassette tape ($272) were all available.

Though the Z28 wasn’t the most popular Camaro, the Rally Sport did not hold up its end of the bargain (likely why it was gone in 1981). The leading seller remained the entry-level Sport Coupe (46% of production), followed by the Z28 (30%), the Berlinetta (16%), and the Rally Sport (8%).

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Camaro Rally Sport with the LG4 V8, a four-speed, and T-tops in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $21,600, with a far more typical #3/Good car with same equipment going for $12,800. Values slide down substantially with the base equipment—a base V6 Rally Sport in #3 condition is only worth $7,600.

This generation of the Rally Sport maintains some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I write this in August 2018, there’s a beige/metallic brown 1979 with 78,000 miles for sale asking $29,000.

Make mine bright blue metallic, please.

1985 Chevrolet Citation II hatchback sedan

“One car that does it all.”

1985 was, mercifully, the last year for the Chevrolet Citation. It was also, in a sad General Motors tradition, the best Citation (the 1985 Citation had no recalls after the nine that the 1980 had). Half-heartedly renamed Citation II in 1984, the X-car would be replaced by the Nova in 1986. There were some changes: new colors were available, and the dashboard was revised, allowing the “normal” horizontal Delco radios.

For 1985, the Citation II’s standard powertrain remained the LR8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a four-speed manual (the Citation never got a five-speed—even as an option). With the standard powertrain, 0-60 came in a little under 12 seconds in the 2,500-pound car with a theoretical top speed of 101 mph. Mileage was competitive: 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards). With a 14-gallon fuel tank, the owner of a base Citation could expect a range of between 325 and 365 miles with a 10% field reserve.

Powertrain options included two different 2.8 liter/173 ci V6’s (why?): the LE2 112 bhp version with a two-barrel carburetor ($260) and the LB6 130 bhp type with fuel injection ($435). A three-speed automatic was—of course—available ($425). The V6 in general, and especially the fuel injected version, made the Citation II substantially more spritely: 0-60 times of about 9 seconds and a top speed of about 118 mph. You paid a mileage price for that performance: 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards).

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,090 Citation II hatchback sedan (approximately $16,900 in 2019 dollars—about what base 2019 Chevrolet Cruze L sedan goes for) included halogen headlamps, rack-and-pinion steering, front disk/rear drum brakes, and P185/80R-13 radial tires (now a trailer size) on 13-inch by 5.5-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers. Inside, sliding door locks, a lockable glove box, a folding rear seat, and an AM/FM radio with two speakers were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass ($110), two-tone paint ($176), power brakes ($100), power steering ($215), and the F41 sports suspension (acknowledged to be a bargain at $33). Inside, a quiet sound/rear decor package ($92), air conditioning ($730), cruise control ($175), Comfortilt steering wheel ($110), an electric rear defogger ($140), and an electronic-tuning AM/FM stereo radio with cassette, clock, and seek/scan ($319) were all available.

1985 Citation II brochure cover, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1985 Citation II did not sell—overall sales in this last year fell to a mere 8% of the first year sales. At an average Chevrolet dealership, you could expect it to be outsold by the Chevette, the Cavalier, the Camaro, the Celebrity, the Monte Carlo, and the Caprice Classic.

I haven’t seen a Citation in years—the last one was an X-11 in early 2014. They rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one shown, though I’m not betting against that at some point.

Updated in February 2019.

1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe

It was a beautiful weekend in the Philadelphia area. Lots of people had their old cars out—one that caught my eye was an eighties Monte Carlo. However, it wasn’t the relatively glamorous SS of the mid-eighties; just a “normal” coupe.

“A matter of personal pride.”

For the 1981 model, the Monte Carlo that had been downsized in 1978 was significantly restyled, both to improve aerodynamics and modernize its looks. Much of the sculpting on the sides (which the middle-school-aged me found appealing) was flattened, the hood was lowered, and the trunk slightly raised. All of this change improved the drag coefficient by about 10%.

The standard engine continued to be an LC3 110 bhp 3.8 liter/229 ci V6 with a Rochester 2ME two-barrel carburetor. Optional power included a $750 (!) Buick-built LC8 170 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with a turbocharger and a Rochester E4ME four-barrel carburetor and a $50 L39 115 bhp 4.4 liter/267 ci V8 with a Rochester 2ME two-barrel carburetor. California got an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a Rochester 4ME four-barrel carburetor as an option replacing the 4.4 liter V8. All engines were paired with a Turbo Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic transmission.

Mileage for the standard engine was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by today’s standards). With an 18.1-gallon fuel tank, a Monte Carlo driver could reasonably expect 310 to 365 miles of range with a 10% fuel reserve. Performance wasn’t exactly sparkling: 0-60 mph came in about 14.5 seconds with the standard V6 and 14 seconds for the 4.4 liter V8. The rare (about 2% of 1981 sales) turbo V6 was much faster—about 9 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,299 Sport Coupe (approximately $21,300 in today’s dollars or about what a base 2017 Chevrolet Malibu costs—the Monte Carlo disappeared after the 2007 model year) included Computer Command Control, Delco Freedom II battery, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P195/75R14 steel-belted radial tires (a size still available thanks to Hancook and Kumho) on 14-inch wheels. Inside a split cloth front bench seat, cut pile carpeting, and an electric clock were standard.

Exterior and mechanical options for the Sport Coupe (there was also a higher-content Landau Coupe) included halogen high beam headlamps ($27), removable glass roof panels ($695), F41 Sport Suspension ($43), limited-slip differential ($67), Rally wheels ($49), and attractive new aluminum wheels ($319). Inside, there were many options: air conditioning ($585), automatic speed control ($132), Comfortilt steering wheel ($81), power windows ($140), power door locks ($93), bucket seats ($118), gauge package ($55), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette tape ($264) were all available.

Back cover of the 1981 Monte Carlo brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

1981 Monte Carlo sales were astounding by modern standards for auto sales—Chevrolet sold 149,659 Sport Coupes along with another 38,191 Landau Coupes. For context, the combined Monte Carlo numbers would be enough to make it the 12th most popular car in 2016; and Chevrolet had four model lines that sold better in 1981 (Chevette, Citation, Malibu, and Impala/Caprice). Chevrolet was probably happy with the increased sales over 1980, but this would not last—1981 turned out to be the eighties high water mark for Chevrolet’s mid-size coupe.

Third-generation Monte Carlos have a following, though most of the interest is in the aforementioned SS, which is the only eighties Monte rated in Hagerty’s valuation tools. A 1986 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe with a maroon interior and cloth bucket seats, an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 60,000 miles sold for $9,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Las Vegas auction.

These Monte Carlos do show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this, Hemmings is listing a 1985 Monte Carlo with a light brown metallic exterior, saddle cloth seats, an LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 68,000 miles for $8,250.

Make mine Green Light Jade Metallic, please. A rare choice when new, those GM light greens from the early eighties have aged very well.

Other rear-wheel-drive G-platform (designated A-platform before 1982) cars I have written about include the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe, the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe, the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe, and the 1987 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe.

Updated February 2019.

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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 $24,100 in 2019 dollars or about what a 2019 Chevrolet Malibu LS sedan goes for) 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 $25,700 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 $30,100 in today’s dollars.

The most glamorous option for the Celebrity continued to be the $230 Eurosport package, which included the F41 sport suspension and P195/75R14 tires (a size still available thanks to Hankook and Kumho) and 14-inch rally wheels. 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), an engine block heater ($20), cloth bucket seats with a console ($257), and a 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; they aren’t really being collected, though I did see an early (1982-1985) coupe at an AACA show a few years ago. Celebrities sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors—as I updated this entry in February 2019, there was a 1988 Gray Celebrity wagon with 24,000 (!) miles for sale in Hemmings for $6,500.

Make mine Black, I think.

Other A-bodies in this blog:

1986 Buick Century sedan

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE sedan

Updated February 2019.

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1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe

“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).

Cavalier Z24 pages from the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure, linked from Hans Tore Tangerud’s amazing lov2xlr8 website.

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.

Other J cars in this blog include the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan and the 1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan. I will not ignore Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac forever.

Updated February 2019.

1985 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Station Wagon

For Independence Day 2015, here’s an all-American eighties wagon from thirty years ago.

“Big wagon convenience that drives like a Caprice.”

1985 was a year of refinement for Chevrolet’s full-size wagon. The standard engine was Chevrolet’s LG4 5.0 liter V8, uprated to 165 bhp but still struggling to haul around about two tons and eighteen feet of metal. Paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy was 15 city/22 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 22 gallon fuel tank, range was about 365 miles with a 10% reserve.

The full-size Chevrolet interior was also modernized for 1985, with an updated satin finish dash design that added the ability to use more capable DIN style radios instead of the previous two-knob style.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $10,714 wagon (about $24,500 in today’s dollars) included power steering, power brakes (disk front/drum rear), a three-way tailgate with power window, heavy-duty front and rear suspension, a Delco Freedom II battery, full wheel covers, and white-striped P225/75R-15 all-season radial tires.

Inside, Quiet Sound Group, a quartz electric clock, a headlamp-on reminder chime, a lockable glove box with light, a full-width front bench seat with center armrest, a third row seat, and an AM push-button radio with dual front speakers were all part of a base Caprice Classic wagon.

Exterior and mechanical options included Estate Equipment ($307), roof carrier ($110), rear air deflector ($40), power tailgate lock ($50), heavy duty battery ($26), heavy duty cooling ($40), engine block heater ($20), cornering lamps ($55), and high and low beam halogen headlamps ($22).

Inside, buyers could add air conditioning ($730), electronic speed control ($175), Comfortilt steering wheel ($110), power windows ($185), power door locks ($125), deluxe rear compartment decor ($59), and a GM-Delco ETR AM/FM stereo radio with seek and scan, cassette tape, clock, graphic equalizer and extended range sound system ($394).

Page from 1985 Chevrolet full-size brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Chevrolet sold almost 56,000 Caprice Classic  wagons in the 1985 model year, marking about 21% of total full-size Impala/Caprice production. I sense that there actually are a few folks preserving these cars, but they certainly aren’t common at shows. You do sometimes see Caprice wagons for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in July 2015, there’s a rather rough white wagon with a burgundy interior and 77,000 miles listed on eBay.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic please.