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Thread: 1976–1987 Chevy Chevette

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    1976–1987 Chevy Chevette

    It wasn’t much, but one nice thing about Chevrolet’s first attempt at designing a “world car” to compete on equal terms with the successful Japanese small cars of the mid-1970s was that if you put the transmission in neutral, revved the canker sore 52-horsepower engine to its redline and then dumped it into gear, the rear tires might (if the ground was wet) spin for a few turns. That’s because the Chevette—perhaps the definitive low-tier shitbox—was the very last of the few American-built subcompact economy cars to feature a conventional front engine and rear-wheel-drive layout, just like the larger cars of the time. This made for amusing driving when it snowed. The car was ideal for shopping mall parking lot games of “chicken” and parking brake J-turns, inspiring a few enterprising hot-rodders to remove the little four-cylinder engine and replace it with a V-6 or even a V-8, endowing the car with often-formidable—but always scary—straight-line acceleration capability.

    Owners of Chevy’s austere little econo-box could also casually mention their “Vette” parked outside to comely (if gullible) prospects at singles bars—though it was critical that a minimum of three double-strong Long Island Iced Teas be consumed before suggesting a ride back to your parent’s basement.

    If you drove a Chevette when it was new, you were poor; if you got stuck with a used one as your high school ride, your parents were. But the car could help keep teen drivers out of trouble, especially the diesel-equipped version that was offered for two years. The 51-horsepower Isuzu-sourced 1.8-liter diesel affected the Chevette’s already palsied ability to move like a whack to Nancy Kerrigan’s shinbone affected her ability to do a Flying Camel. Straining with all its might, the regular Chevette needed 17 seconds to heave itself to 60 miles per hour; the diesel option drew the agony out for another couple of seconds, making it a dead heat between it and a well-used VW Bus, one of the all-time slowest passenger vehicles ever released by a major automaker.

    Buyers with a need for speed weren’t entirely forgotten, however. Chevy did put out a “High Output” version of the Chevette in 1978. It featured a 75-horsepower version of the now-standard 1.6-liter gasoline engine—enough power to qualify a Chevette as self-propelled machinery on most interstates and sufficient to achieve the heady 90-miles per hour terminal velocity necessary to launch the car over a couple of school busses at the local demolition derby.

    For the last five years of its production run, the Chevette received almost no upgrades or improvements. It just sort of sat there like an old nag that just wouldn’t die. The ’Vette was finally put to sleep after the 1987 model year, replaced by the more modern, front-wheel-drive Cavalier as Chevy’s number one bottom feeder.

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    Last edited by Eric; 08-22-2009 at 07:48 AM.

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