Strange Survivor: 1996 Chevrolet Beretta

When people refer to cars that have seemingly disappeared from American roadways, the Chevy Beretta should be included on that list. This is a car I once saw every day that now it seems I see only once every six months. These were econoboxes from new, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate impressive specimens like this example here on craigslist with a $3,600 asking price and sent in by Barn Finds reader Pat L.

While it’s not the high-zoot trim like the GTU or the GTZ (both of which turned in much better performance than this base model automatic), there’s still lots to like about using this survivor-grade Beretta as a nice-day driver. The body presents incredibly well, and I have to believe that’s original paint. Where are the factory wheels, however?

The seller reports mileage of 40,500. The floor mats looks way more tired than that, and if this were my car, I’d have had those floormats shampooed or remove them entirely before listing for sale. The rest of the interior appears to be holding up in fair shape, and the seller notes that the air conditioning system still works. Crank windows – less to go wrong on this car.

Image courtesy of Best Ride

One of my favorite Beretta features is the blacked-out tail lamp panel, which contrasts perfectly with the red paint on the craigslist car. Really, it’s a hard car to fault aside from the floor mats and maybe the automatic transmission, both of which can be forgiven if you’re looking for one of the nicest Berettas left – especially given how few there are to choose from.


  1. Ken

    They disappeared because they were junk, like a lot of GM cars from the 80s and 90s. My cousin had a late 80s Beretta, and he hated it.

    Like 13
    • Will Fox

      This was mid-way through the period GM cars started turning into appliances. They were junk and didn’t hold up at all. Now in 2019, GM is a full-fledged appliance manufacturer, with products of les & less appeal. My last one was (gasp!) An `83 Buick Skylark T-Type that the shop had more than I did. By `85 I was finished with GM products and never looked back.

      Like 10
      • Brian Laskoski

        Totally agree, but I think it started around 1992. I own a 1990 Cavalier Z24 and that was the last of a GM car that actually had style. They changed the style in 1991 and thats when it all began…the cheap plastic junk.

        Like 2
      • Little_Cars

        Have you bought ANY new car since 1983? What major auto manufacturer today isn’t in the appliance business? Except maybe Tesla, Fisker (sp?) and entrepreneurs designing outside our comfort zone to build the transportation of the future? Face it, Barn Find readers, the future lies in electric boxes with four wheels and self driving cars. High speed rail to go into the major centers of business. It took a century for auto manufacturers to venture past body-on-frame, internal combustion highway death traps. I will teach my young one (3 mo) about cars but he will most likely slide a credit card into a slot and ride in a nondescript silver pod to get from point A to B.

        Like 7
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        NHTSA and the insurance companies are really pushing the car industry to make the driver into just a passenger-let’s face it, more than a couple of the drivers on the road today already ARE just passengers but have control of a 3000 # mass moving at velocity through the city streets and highways.

        That being what it is, I for one will not give up any of my vehicles without a fight as long as I am capable of operating them safely and they run well..especially since they’re paid for!

        Your son, Little_Cars, will most likely have an appliance for transportation, especially in the urban and city areas. But having his father plant the seed of a different perspective in going from Point A to Point B will always be there. Good for you.

        Insofar as appliances, I think we’ve all owned one at one time or another whether by design or by need-a B210, in my case..not fun initially until a friend of mine showed me how to make it fun, as was her attitude about life in general!

        Like 5
    • Jeff Tolliver

      I had a red one that looked like this one. I must have been lucky because it was a good car with no problems. I bought it used in 2001 with 209,000 miles on it for $500.00. I drove it for several years and all I had to do was put brakes and tires on it while I had it.No other problems.I sold it @ 252,000 for $1200.00 and it still ran and looked good. I don’t know how much maintenance it had before I got it but it sure treated me good. Funny, I had my first cell phone in that car. It was huge, must have been 4″x8″ when you plugged it in the lighter. It was twice that size when you put it back in its case with the battery. I just left it on the console, never carried it.

  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    I had a really good Beretta-handled nicely, well balanced, .40 caliber.
    Can’t say much good about the ones with 4 wheels..

    Like 27
    • Jaydawg7 Jaydawg7


      Like 5
    • CapNemo


      Like 5
  3. Bakyrdhero

    I really liked these and I had a couple Corsica’s which were the four door version. An 89 and a 91. The 91 had the updated interior with airbag. I liked both cars a lot. Comfortable and fairly roomy, of course I was younger, smaller, and had less money so that could be part of why I remember them fondly. I thought the Beretta was sharp and I wanted one, but bought a Cavalier Z24 instead. I also had the new for 97 Malibu that replaced these. A much more refined car, but far less reliable. That orange Dex cool ate two intake gaskets before 60k. It’s no coincidence that car was the last GM I purchased.

    Like 8
    • Gary

      The Dex-Cool did have its issues but the real culprit was the junk plastic intake gaskets.All gm veh. From cars to trucks with these gaskets had issues. Even the fel-pro gaskets failed. After the revamp to a steel gasket with rubber inserts seems to have remedied the problem.

      Like 4
      • Bakyrdhero

        Thanks for the info. I stopped thinking about it years ago. That makes sense though, I had an early intake gasket failure on a Z24 with the 3.1 that had regular green coolant also. Couldn’t blame the Dex-Cool for that one.

        Like 2
  4. mallthus

    These were objectively uncompetitive vehicles. I’ve said for years that GM’s products of the 80s and 90s would have been significantly better if GM had issued every GM employee in charge of designing, engineering, or budgeting anything drive a Toyota and/or a BMW. It’s not that GM lacked talent, it’s that everyone in the company existed in an all GM bubble in Michigan, unable to really understand how uncompetitive their products were.

    Like 8
  5. TimS Member

    I saw so few of these in good condition even when they were relatively new that it seemed they all came from the factory with 97,000 city-driven miles.

    Like 5
  6. Little_Cars

    I owned a black 90 Beretta GTZ, limousine tint, purchased right off the new car showroom. I babied that car. Quad4 engine was nicely balanced. First car I ever took to 100 mph and held there for more than a few miles. It had the Recaro interior which held up reasonably well but most of the plastic trim was broken or tired after a couple years. Parking brake handle and door pull both broke off in my hand within the first year. My blackout taillight panel was replaced under warranty due to it holding water after a rain storm or car wash. I’m not sure, Jeff, why you think those wheels aren’t factory but they look okay to my eyes regardless. Maybe something off of an Asian make?

    Like 3
    • Adam

      Looks like a set of rims from an Oldsmobile Alero

      Like 4
  7. That 80's Guy The Tower

    My first brand new new car was an ’88 Beretta GT, purchased in February 1988. With a sticker price of $13,600 for a 2.8 V6, 3-speed automatic with crank windows and manual door locks, though with the optional digital dash, it was hardly an econobox. Had good acceleration for the era and even better handling. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, quality was below par. I put only 14k miles on it in the year and a half that I owned it, and in that time, it had issues with carbon in the idle air bleeds, which caused occasional stalling when pulling up to a stop. It also got a full repaint under warranty due to the original dark blue metallic flaking off all of the upward facing surfaces. The interior bits didn’t wear well at all, as the several plastic pieces had broken without too much effort.

    I do have some fond memories in that car, but I was glad to see it go when I traded for an ’88 Pontiac Trans Am GTA in late 1989.

    Like 5
  8. Bakyrdhero

    GM must have issues an awful lot of “on the house” paint jobs in the 80’s and early 90’s. Paint flakes off of everything they made it seems. In high school auto mechanics we had several mid to late 80’s GM write off vehicles. Donated brand new on account of flaws. Several arrived with peeling paint. A Corsica, Lumina, Vandura and Surburban come to mind.
    I’d say the GTA was a substantial step up!

    Like 4
    • That 80's Guy The Tower

      Surprisingly, the GTA was virtually trouble-free through the 90,000 during which I owned it. The electronic instrument cluster went out due to a pinched wire, which was fixed by my dad in an afternoon, but that was the only issue, aside from having a penchant for going through alternators.

  9. Paul Hudson

    I rented one in the late 80’s or early 90’s in Indianapolis. It was a pleasant enough car but one thing I do remember is the column mounted gear shift was so close to my knee that several times I hit it and put the car into neutral which was not good for safety. They were nice looking cars. At that time I had a Ford Tempo company car which was much nicer to live with.

  10. nycbjr Member

    I remember lusting after the GTUs when I was in my teams.. nice looking but 80s GM at it’s finest lol

  11. Jack M.

    I bought a 1988 Beretta GT second hand in 1990 with the 2.8 litre V-6 and automatic. It was the first fwd vehicle that I owned and the first non V-8 vehicle. I had to learn very quickly how to drive it in the snow as there was a blizzard when I went to pick it up on the other side of the city. Drove it for 5 years but got rid of it when it ate it’s second catalytic converter,

    Like 1
  12. David

    My high school graduation present was a new 92 Corsica in LT trim. Looking back I have mixed feelings about it. Overall I was satisfied at the time.

    Engine was a 3.1L V6, as little side badges said. Straight-line performance was surprisingly good, likely due to the power-to-weight ratio. It couldn’t corner well at speed, however.

    Passenger side had a weird, flimsy, fold-out dual cup holder right above the glovebox. It felt fragile and I mainly used it to place my handheld CB radio.

    Occasionally a puff of smoke would waft out of the top of the steering column at random times. Neither the dealer nor any independent mechanic could ever be sure what the cause was.

    There was apparently a TSB, not a recall, on the radiator cap. Many, like mine, shipped from the factory with caps that “blew” at (as I think I recall) 15psi. The revised one was 18psi. I’m not a mechanic so I don’t know exactly what happened but the car blew steam twice before the dealer finally replaced the cap. I assumed it had overheated and had it towed both times.

    Sure I could think of a lot more memories!

    • Bakyrdhero

      I had a puff of smoke a couple times from my steering column. The third time it was a flame that shot out of the wiper switch! So that had to be fixed…as far as the cup holder in the dash, my girlfriend placed a bottle of coke into it with a little too much aggression and it broke right through to the floor. I was always a little leary of that cup holder. The things we put up with from cars back then huh? Ugh

      Like 1
  13. Jim Kirkland

    My friend really liked his 3.1 3-spd auto
    Beretta. He unwisely chose to get his oil
    changes at the Chevy dealer. The last time
    he took it there, they claimed the tranny
    suddenly went bad. Either the lot-porters
    blew it up, or just as likely, somebody at
    the dealership wanted the car; for
    themselves, or somebody else.
    They gave him a “deal” on a 4dr 2001
    Cavalier demonstrator, and sent him on
    his way, the only good thing being it was
    a better car for parking in the city.

  14. Boatman Member

    Anyone notice the painted door striker?

  15. Gay Car Nut

    Nice looking car. I remember the Chevy Beretta. A cousin of mine had one yrs ago. Although I didn’t find it as attractive as its 4 door relative, the Corsica, it was a nice car to ride in.

  16. Brad G

    I had one in deep burgundy. It was a chick magnet.

  17. SWells679

    My first BRAND NEW car was an ’88 Beretta. I was about to turn 21 and that summer, the Chevy dealer was running an “8 / 08 / 88!!!” sales event. All I wanted was a stick shift and sunroof. Well, I got the stick shift, but no sunroof. Mine was a bright red “ST” which I’m assuming stood for “STripped” cuz it had noooo options – no A/C, no power nuthin’ and a tiny 2.0 “MFI” engine. And, I absolutely loved that thing! I think I paid $9600 for it.
    I won’t dispute what others have said above. I do remember them getting slagged in the auto reviews, if they were even mentioned at all. Sadly, I kept running into stuff with it and after a relatively major fender bender, had to get rid of it. I do miss it though.

  18. Little_Cars

    My fall into driving appliances was when I was offered a Ford Aerostar van by a family who needed the money back around 2005. Talk about a non-descript box — no style, performance or enhancements other than to move things to and fro. After I got it sorted, I trashed it royally by using it exclusively to run kayaks down to the banks of waterways. Eventually the whole rear bumper structure was compromised by the rust that formed inside the eurothane wrap. Sold to a house painter who probably trashed it even further. I’ve used Nissan Quest and GMC Safari vans for similar transport but the Aerostar was by far the absolute nadir of my vehicular stable.

  19. Ort

    I bought a 1989 Beretta GT brand new as my very first new car. What a complete POS that thing was. I spent more time in the dealership getting multiple problems fixed, than actually driving it. Bad heater core, oil sending unit never worked from day one. Rusty dots coming up through the white paint all over the entire car. I got rid of it quick. Some poor woman ended up buying it and somehow found my information in the car and called me. I told her to RUN don’t walk away from that car. She was extremely grateful.

  20. head1

    Bulletproof drivetrains! Sadly the rust-bug took them quick (along with the toyotos/hunds too) so you dont see many 25 yo cheapies cuz they got used up quick!

    Like 1
    • Ort

      Yeah, true. My first used car was a 76 Celica GT and I loved that car. When I saw one in California when I was on vacation, I was amazed. I thought “so that’s what my car is supposed to look like without rust!”
      Damn thing rusted so bad the car couldn’t be put on a lift to do the brakes, because the mechanic said it would crack in half.
      I’d kill to have another Celica of that vintage. The engine never quit, but the body sure did.

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