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.

The standard engine continued to be an LC3 110 bhp 3.8 liter/229 cubic inch V6 with a Rochester 2ME 2-barrel carburetor. Optional power included a $750 (!) Buick-built LC8 170 bhp 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch V6 with a turbocharger and a Rochester E4ME 4-barrel carburetor and a $50 L39 115 bhp 4.4 liter/267 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester 2ME 2-barrel carburetor. California got an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester 4ME 4-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. 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 4-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 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 68,000 miles for $8,250.

Make mine Green Light Jade Metallic, please. 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, the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am.

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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 98 bhp 2.5 liter Tech IV inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. The 125 bhp LB6 2.8 liter 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 about 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, 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 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:

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE sedan

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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 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 an unimpressive 225 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—like all Cavaliers, the fuel tank was only 11.6 gallons (the same size as a modern Mini).

Standard equipment on the $8,878 Z24 (about $19,600 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 Eagle GT radial tires mounted on 14-inch Rally wheels. Inside, all Z24 buyers received digital instrumentation fed from “a 16K computer,” including a tachometer and trip odometer, along with reclining front bucket seats, a rear window defroster, and an AM radio.

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 $24,100 in 2016 dollars or about what you’ll pay nowadays for a loaded Chevrolet Sonic RS).

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

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.

There are a few folks 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 write this in November 2015, there’s a white 1988 Z24 convertible with a gray interior and 52,000 miles listed on Hemmings for $7,000.

Other J cars in this blog:

1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

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.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette

“How many other cars can you name at a single glance?”

For the 1980 model year, the Corvette’s long-running “shark” body style was substantially redesigned for the third time since its debut in the 1968 model year. The front and rear bumper caps were modified with integrated spoilers that decreased the drag coefficient by 14% to 0.443. Chevrolet engineers also managed to remove 167 pounds of curb weight from the Corvette by reducing the thickness of body panels and using aluminum for more parts.

There were two engine options for all states but California, both 350 cubic inch small blocks with 4-barrel carburetors: the standard 190 bhp L48 and the optional ($595) 230 bhp L82. The four-speed manual transmission was only available with the L48—the L82 and the California-only 180 bhp 305 cubic inch LG4 could only be combined with the three-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy was 14 city/20 highway by the standards of the day with either 350 cubic inch engine and either transmission. With the relatively rare (about 12% of production) L82 and automatic transmission combination, 0-60 came in about 7.5 seconds.

For the $13,140.24 base price at the beginning of the model year (about $42,800 in 2015 dollars), Corvette buyers got T-tops, power disc brakes, power steering, dual sport mirrors, and a choice of transmissions. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, a tilt-telescopic steering column, an AM/FM radio, and a choice of either cloth/leather or all leather interior were all standard.

Exterior and mechanical options included aluminum wheels ($409) and power antenna ($56). Inside, buyers could add power door locks ($140), cruise control ($123), rear window defogger ($109), and dual rear speakers ($52). 1980 would be the last year that the AM/FM stereo radio with 8-track player ($155) would be more popular than the AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($173).

Cover of the 1980 Chevrolet Corvette, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The redesign probably kept Corvette sales from dropping as much as they otherwise would have, but they were still off more than 13,000 units from 1979 as the shark aged. The tag line for Car and Driver‘s review of the 1980 Corvette was “America’s only sports car, but that doesn’t excuse everything.”

There is strong club support for the 1980 Corvette, as there is for all Corvettes. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Corvette with the L82 engine in #1 condition is $30,200, with a more normal L48-engined car in number #3 condition going for $13,500. 1980 Corvettes often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—as I write this in June 2015, there’s a white one with a red leather interior and 67,000 miles available for $14,000. Make mine just like that, please.

1987 Chevrolet Chevette CS 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 rather 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 inline four with 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 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 actually 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.

1982 Chevrolet Corvette

“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 engine—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 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).

1982 Chevrolet 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.