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Always A Bridesmaid: 1980 Chevrolet Chevette

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You know you love this car! This is a 1980 Chevrolet Chevette and it’s in bucolic-sounding Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, just an hour west of the great city of Milwaukee. This baby blue beauty is listed on eBay with a current bid price of $2,200 and there are still three days left on the auction. It seems like the Chevette is always a bridesmaid, never a bride..

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This car is as original as it gets with only 63,000 miles having been put on it over the last 36 years. The body looks good, at least as far as rust and dents go; design-wise, a few of you may have an opinion on that. The grille and front end isn’t super inspiring but it sure is in nice shape. And, if you fold the back seat down you’ll have more than enough room to haul your Marshall Amp, Gibson Flying V, and your 4″ platform shoes to band practice. Dang, I could have used this car in 1980.

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The seller says, “Good news: No rot!! Solid floors, wheel wells, doors and rocker panels.” It really does look like a good car as far as the body goes, other than faded paint and a few nicks. The Chevette is probably lower on the most-beloved-vehicles list than almost any other car ever made. Yes, lower than even the Pontiac Aztek. Well, that’s probably a bit of a stretch, but it’s not a popular car. Although, it is popular to gang up on the Chevette and sometimes, unfortunately, the Chevette owner. Sort of like that time I rode a battery-powered minibike to Sturgis…

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The Chevette was made from 1976 through 1987 and even though it’s now one of the most laughed at and picked on cars in the history of car’dom, they sold 2.8 million of them! Once again, proving that sometimes our memories may be slightly skewed at times. How such a “horrible, horrible car” could have sold almost 3-million copies is beyond me; someone was buying them! Not to mention that it was the best-selling small car in the US in both 1979 and 1980.

The interior of this car is where you’ll spend most of your time. The door panels need to be dyed, you can see the original color on the bottom, the part that matches up with the side of the seat bottom! Now that’s some severe and pinpointed fading. And bummer of bummers, there’s an automatic shifter sitting right there instead of an available 4 or 5-speed manual which would make this car at least semi-fun to drive. But, in general, this wasn’t a car that people looked forward to carving up a mountain pass in, this is a car that people got in, put it in D, and used it to just get on with their lives. I drive one of those types of cars every day and I’m guessing that most Chevette drivers also had other options when they wanted to actually have fun behind the wheel.

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Here’s the part where your eyes glaze over and you fantasize about shoehorning an SBC in there! Or, maybe they glazed over on the first paragraph.. This is Isuzu’s 1.6L, G161Z, single-overhead-cam, inline-four with 60 hp, compared to 53 hp in the 1.4L engine. So, you’re right, this car could use a little help in the pep department. But, like I’ve said before, these cars weren’t made for stoplight racing, Chevrolet had other cars in their arsenal that were better suited for that. The Chevette was meant to help Chevy, and GM in general, over the hump as far as making the EPA happy and it worked for a while.

All kidding aside, I know that this car has at least three strikes against it for the vast majority of Barn Finds readers: it’s a Chevette, it has an automatic, and it has four doors. I know that a lot of folks love four door cars so maybe that one isn’t valid here. But, the other two strikes will probably rack up the most comments. The seller says that this car gets a lot of attention at car shows and I don’t doubt it one bit. What do you think about this Chevette? There really isn’t much work to do on it to really make it shine, but is it worth the effort if what you end up with is a four-door Chevette with an automatic? I think it’s always a worthy cause to save a car like this just to preserve a bit of automotive history, how about you?


  1. RayT Member

    You hit the nail on the head, Scotty! SBC, upgrades to brakes, suspension, tires and rear end, add decent seats — nothing flashy, though — and maybe a fast trip through a MAACO, and this one would appeal to me! Well, it would after I added a/c to the other mods….

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  2. Jonny the Boy

    If there was a “Dork” division at a car show, you’d think this car would win. But I have a feeling it would somehow still place second… or third.

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  3. Kincer Dave Member

    These are nothing to look at, nothing special but basic transportation but I gotta tell you I had an 85 that I paid $600 for and it was a blast! I bought it as a beater work car, light blue four door with a 4 spd, I drove that car everywhere, in the woods, road trips into other states, winter time parking lot donuts, changed the timing belt along side the road, literally pounded the crap out of it and it was a lot of fun. It had a huge dent in the roof from me and my buddies sitting on the roof tailgating. It was nothing special but lots of good memories.

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  4. Ben T Spanner

    I worked with a young lady whose first car was a 1964 hand me down Chevrolet with a six and powerglide, with manual steering and brakes.

    Her first new car was a refrigerator white Chevette. In the winter she boiled a pan of water and flung it on the windshield to deice vs. scraping. The windshield never broke. She admitted the 1964 was nicer to drive

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  5. Will

    I had a couple of these. I totaled one by falling asleep on the interstate in Deming New Mexico and rolled it six times. I remember hanging upside down watching the differential rolling down the interstate with both wheels still attached, but we both walked away. Great little econo cars. Gas was expensive then and they sold a lot primarily for that reason. The only thing I didn’t like was that the steering column was at an angle toward the center of the car. The result being that the steering wheel was not perpendicular to it so when you turned the wheel halfway around it was at an odd angle

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  6. JW454

    If there were a couple less doors I’d be more interested. These served a purpose at the time. They seemed to be everywhere so I guess it was a success. They helped to sell the pick ups and cars like the corvettes that didn’t do so well on MPG. It was your fleet average EPA was looking at.

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  7. Rando

    The door cards will likely need replacing instead of dye job. The plastic texture would get crumbly on the surface. and start chipping/falling away.

    My ex had one and I drove it to work a lot. It was trasportation, but that’s about all. And it was a 4 spd. i can’t imagine driving an auto in this day and age. A Prius is faster, no matter how you wring out the Chevette.

    They were unexciting dogs that could be beaten and beaten and refused to die if you wanted it to. At least ours was. Our 81 wasn’t rusty as of 93 and it got no special treatment.

    Not sure why anyone would really want one to do anything with, but that’s just me. I’d rather have the PINK 510 wagon from today.

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  8. Steven C

    A girl i knew in high school had a 2 door one of these from the same year with the automatic. It was in mint condition, ran perfectly, and had been her grandmother’s car. It was the most gutless car I have ever had a chance to drive. My 79 Datsun 210 4spd and my 1970 VW type3 automatic seriously felt like F1 cars compared to that vette.

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  9. Jim G.

    These cars will always hold a special place in my heart due to them being THE car of choice at the local driving school where I took drivers ed….Merging onto the expressway with these cars was a nerve wracking, pulse racing, white knuckle experience. A thrilling event when you’re 15 years old, but I’d hate to try it in today’s world.

    Basic transportation at best and NOT EVER going to be a highway cruiser.

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  10. grant

    I’ll got out on a limb and venture that most Chevette drivers did NOT have a second car for “fun.” If you are daily-ing one of these it’s because it’s the only car you can afford. Ick.

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    • Kincer Dave Member

      I did, 95 Z28 that sat in the garage during the winter and rainy days in the meantime I drove the Chevette that wouldn’t die.

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    • jsmith

      I drive a Ford Fiesta daily. I have two corvettes and a mustang at home in the garage.

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      • grant

        Cool. But I stand by my statement that I doubt most Chevette buyers had something else for “fun.” These were a basic transportation econobox. People bought them as entry level cars.

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  11. brad

    A total loser of a car. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.

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  12. Benjamin

    My mom had a Chevette in 1977. She learned to drive on it (she didn’t get her license until she was 40). I used it to take my driver’s license test later the same year. I received my learner’s permit on Saturday and took the test on Wednesday and despite the State Trooper putting me through the wringer, I passed. The car was so easy to drive. At the time they were okay cars for their purpose: econoboxes. Her car was the same color as the one in this listing, but I recall it was a two door.

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  13. BMW/Tundra Guy

    My roommate in College had a two door, stick,……………..DIESEL!!!! In his hometown he was also a Volunteer Fire Fighter. I know I wouldn’t want to be the one, with his house on fire, waiting for HIM to get there and douse the flames!!!!! You had wring the living ____ out of that poor thing just to get it up to speed, never mind actually speeding!!!! BUT, hardly ever had to stop at a petrol station!!!

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