42,000 Original Miles: 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24

Here’s a car from my youth that I never thought I’d classify as desirable: a clean Chevrolet Cavalier Z24. This is a bit of an amazing specimen of a car that was typically chucked aside when the first mechanical fault of any significance hit, as no amount of body cladding and polished wheels could help its fate as a cheap, entry-level beater. The Cavalier seen here has escaped that purgatory, instead appearing to present like-new thanks to an owner or owners who decided it was worth preserving the sporty Z24. Find the clean Chevy here on craigslist in Freeland, Michigan for $6,500 despite appearing on craigslist in Florida.

I realize many of you still consider the Cavalier to be a throwaway car, and certainly many of the base model examples on the road today would qualify as expendable. Even if you found a rough Z24, I wouldn’t expect you to save as these were not performance cars but more a case of dress-up to give shoppers the feeling of having exited the doldrums of economy car ownership. Now, that being said, Chevy still did a good job of at least executing on the looks of the Cavalier, adding front and rear spoilers, side skirts, and sharp polished wheels. Still, it’s not enough to justify keeping one on the road unless you own an example like this. As the seller reveals, the window sticker is still included and the seats appear near-perfect.

Image courtesy of Etsy

The marketing efforts around the Cavalier show Chevy was doing everything possible to have you believe you weren’t driving a mobile penalty box. But in the case of the Z24, Chevy at least did make its optional V6 engine a standard feature, so perhaps I should walk back my statement that it wasn’t a performance model. It wasn’t a performance model in the sense that it didn’t exist on a separate platform and it wasn’t a limited production special; no, it was a standard Cavalier that came standard with a V6 and some other cosmetic enhancements. Still, looking at the base model seen in this photo, it may as well have been a Corvette ZR-1 in comparison.

The seller’s car wears perhaps the best color for one of these, with black paint highlighted by a red bowtie emblem on the nose. The paint alone on this Cavalier tells you it’s been loved, but it’s the low mileage of just 42,000 that tells you this is likely one of the best specimens left of a car that nobody tried to preserve. Honestly, the asking price doesn’t seem bad for what you’re getting, even though I’d personally never go chasing one of these to add to the collection. But if you’re a GM fanatic of a certain age and have to have the best Z24 out there, is this the one to buy? Or is there an even more preserved specimen lurking in someone’s garage?

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Comments

  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I had this car in bright blue with a blue interior. It meant a lot to an 18 year old kid in the late 90’s. Cars still weren’t all that fast yet but these little cars moved with the 3.1 liter and had a nice growl also. The front wheel burn outs were cool for the day, and it looked pretty sharp I thought. I can’t say I have abuse for one anymore, but I really loved that car! Kudos to the owner for preserving this one, I hope the next owner enjoys it.

    Like 24
    • Andrew

      I actually had 2 Z24s. An 89 with a 2.8 and a ’94 with the 3.1. A more interesting combo would have been the Z34 engine- the 3.4.

      Like 2
      • Robert

        I had a 92 z34 and it was an awesome high revving engine that was almost as strong as the Mustangs 5.0 however it was a terrible engine of the day. However it had more problems then a Meth addict at the dentist. If the timing chain went you basically had to replace the engine which I did in the two years I owned it. I loved and hated that car. Funny thing is I actually traded it in on a brand new 2003 Cavalier LS Sport Coupe which I would consider the last cavalier Z24.

  2. Anthony James Poirier

    I owned this car! 1993 black but mine was a 5speed manual. Only car I have owned that I actually miss

    What a great ride. It was my realistic dream car in 2001

    Like 12
  3. DarkWolf

    I had the black ‘86 hatch back… I tricked it out a bit more visually (I have pics that need to be scanned in somewhere in my home) with pin striping that wrapped from the top windshield Z24 to a Z24 on the back window in red and orange.
    Wish I still had all my old Chevys back!

    Like 6
  4. Tooyoung4heyday Member

    I had a black 94 like this in high school back in 2001. Mine too however was a 5 speed, just a blast to drive. Bakyrd hit it on the head saying most cars were still underpowered back then so it was fun enough to drive. Mine was purchased as an economy option as my truck was averaging about 10 mpg. The Z served me well for many years, bought it used and abused with 125k on odometer, previous owner sold this to buy a turbo Eclipse. It received new engine at 127k since the engine had a knock. Warped crank made flywheel rub on back of block. New gm crate engine got me to 232k when i sold it, still getting 26 mpg. Wisconsin winters took toll on the body but someone thought they could get more use from it. The 3.1 had an agressive sound to it, when the original muffler fell off i had it replaced at midas, surprisingly still sounded good despite being a lesser quality muffler than stock. When that fell off I had aquired a Rinehart muffler meant for a Harley bagger. It fit perfect with no modifications required, bonus was the black endcap that comes on them since my car was black. Looked good and sounded really good. Despite all the fun stuff i currently have, id still rock one of these. Always thought it was interesting how similar these looked to the 5.0 stangs. I have a pic of mine next to a black 93 cobra, they look very similar. Good memories…..

    Like 10
  5. joenywf64

    Interesting air cleaner/exposed filter – is that a cold air induction hood?

    Like 2
    • Shawn

      There’s a port on the hood that seals against the air box that has ducting that goes back to the buldges on the back of the hood. They’re hard to see on a black car. The buldges pull in air from the cowl, so it’s a 90s version of cowl induction.

      Like 5
  6. Bick Banter

    This is the kind of car you win a RADwood event with. It was very dated and not particularly compelling by 1994 with cars like the Sentra SE-R, Integra GS-R, and Civic Si around, especially with an automatic. But you very seldom see them now in any condition, much less near mint.

    Like 3
  7. Brian

    My first new car was a 1986 z24, 2.8 l with a 4-speed. God I loved that car. Sounded snotty as hell, was a lot of fun to drive compared to my old Fairlane, and sadly it was car number 6 in an 11 car chain reaction accident on the belt parkway and there wasn’t a straight panel on the car after that. If I could find a good clean 86 I would buy one tomorrow.

    Like 1
  8. Richard Isenberg

    The article written seems to really not say much good about these cars. I think it’s a very nice presentation of a what I think is a good car. We had 3 at different times in our family and the motor was wanting to keep on going but living in PA with the road salt killed them from underneath. I’d love to have this car and myself being a detailing freak I’d enjoy it. I still wish no matter where the car is from I wish sellers are from I’d like to see the undercarriage.

    Like 7
  9. Lance Platt

    I believe the car is worth saving but be prepared to spend alot on repairs. I owned a 1987 Cavalier coupe that my dad and I bought at a Chevrolet dealer after I got put of the Army in 1989. I used the car for my work and drove my son home from the hospital in my Cavalier. I took trips tp Pennsylvania, the Smoky Mountains and Walt Disney World so many pleasant memories. The front wheel drive provided better traction than the RWD cars I had previously. The steering was precise until the rack failed at 80K miles. The 2.0 engine did fine in city and highway driving until the head gasket blew at 50K. Bottom line: well designed, attractive looking car with room for a small family but wasn’t built to last in the planned obsolescence corporate mentality. I later had a smooth V6 Beretta that also self destructed as it aged.

    Like 2
    • joenywf64

      I wonder if any early front wheel drive cars were made with recirculating ball/traditional steering box steering. Sure it’s a heavier setup, but the GM versions(especially) last a very long time. 200k+ miles. & they can tolerate impurities in the fluid a lot more than a rack can.
      & with optional power steering, can be a lot easier to turn the wheel than with rack & pinion.
      & GM’s optional quick ratio one in the late ’60s was a little more than 3 turns lock to lock, while the early pinto’s rack & pinion was 4 turns lock to lock!

      Like 1
    • Alex

      My wife wants to replace the beretta gt she had in high school. I have played hell trying to find one of those in any condition outside of a junkyard.

      Like 2
  10. Psychofish2

    Was this really about the car or the author’s narrow perspective of it?

    There are no throwaway cars only throw away attitudes about cars.

    Money is to hard earned to be so ….. cavalier….. about wasting it trashing a car because it’s a “throwaway”.

    Like 6
  11. Karen

    I put 171,000 abusive teenage miles on one of these. I did backwards donuts at prom. That little car really took a beating.

    Like 1
  12. MoragaPulsar

    Well, could be :) Rarely do I ever read the write ups on BarnFinds.

    It seems that I just always go straight to the far more interesting comments, such as yours and others (but of course skipping those comments that say nothing more than ‘hey I had one of those’ without adding any insights).

    Like 1
  13. Tim

    Couldn’t agree more with, “without any insights “. Above

    Like 1
  14. Bruno

    Just looking at all the comments is all that needs to be said. As an 18 year old in 94, I bought a 90 with the 3.1 with manual tranny. What a ride that was! Gray over silver with black interior & a sunroof installed. All the torque steer during front wheel burnouts was hard to keep it going straight, but it was an experience. Was thankful to get the chance about 8 years ago to buy another 94 with the 3.1 and manual. This one is blue with gray interior. Now, letting my son enjoy it is all a dad can ask for! I now drive an 11 2SS Camaro.

    Like 1
  15. Abi

    “Non-smoker / no pets-Garage kept-No winters”
    Then why at 42k miles did it need a replacement headliner, visor and window regulators?

    Like 1
    • Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

      Whoa whoa whoa. Take it easy on the old girl, she’s almost 30 years old. Mileage is only part of the total picture.

      Like 2
      • Abi

        I know – that’s why I prefaced it with
        “Non-smoker / no pets-Garage kept-No winters”
        So why would a car that’s had no pets, no smoking, in a garage all it’s life and never out in the winter end up with a headliner so bad it needed to be replaced and at 42k miles need window channels replaced considering the condition of the rest of the car?

        Like 1
  16. Andrea Flaherty

    I still have my 1994 cavalier RS. First car I’ve ever owned, brand new! I love my little car. Memories of my past make it valuable to me. Would love to own another!

    Like 1
  17. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    gone.

    Like 1
  18. Tooyoung4heyday Member

    If i still had mine sitting in the driveway i wouldve nabbed this one up and stuck my 5 speed setup in it. You still see some of these here in Wisconsin that are nice, must have been garaged. They usually appear in the teal or white. Still quite a few Z26 and GT Berretta’s hanging out too. The GTU and GTZ are pretty rare.

    Like 2

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