44k Mile Survivor: 1978 Chevrolet Chevette

It’s not hard to find low-mileage Corvettes, but when was the last time you saw a low-mileage Chevette? Heck, when was the last time you even saw a Chevette? That’s because they were meant to be cheap commuter cars, not collectibles. They were driven hard, barely maintained, and eventually thrown away. Somehow this little guy has only racked up 44,000 miles while still looking great! Find it here on eBay where bidding is currently at $1,320 with no reserve. Thanks go to Barn Finds reader Mason for the tip!

One reason this car survived unscathed could be because it was owned by a “little old lady” from new until 2004. She wasn’t that old when she purchased the car, but as the years wore on, she must have driven the car less and less. For some reason, she loved the car enough to keep it around for 26 years though! The interior looks great without any major wear or visible cracks. The AM radio isn’t hooked up, but that’s minor considering the condition of everything else. A manually shifted transmission would have been nice to have though.

The 1.6-liter four-cylinder only put out about 60 horsepower, so a stick shift would have been helpful in your attempt to squeeze every pony out of it. Then again, the automatic kept the revs down so the engine probably still has great compression. It’s said to run smoothly and everything else works so it’s ready to jump into and drive. Would you feel bad adding miles to that odometer though? Or could this be the perfect classic commuter? That’s the conundrum with a low-mileage car like this. It isn’t a collector car, but its condition does make it special.

If you do decide to put it into daily driver duty, this hatchback area may come in handy. With the rear seat folded down, there’s a nice sized cargo hold back there. So this Chevette isn’t just economical, it’s relatively functional too. Another cool thing about it is that it’s rear-wheel-drive. FWD may be more economical, but having the power go to the back wheels does help with driving dynamics. Heck, if you’re going to drive it, you might as well soup it up a little for the occasional stoplight burnout!

The seller has the original paperwork and enough receipts to prove the mileage. The story may have been hard to believe if the car wasn’t in such fantastic condition. Personally, I’m still torn with what I’d do with it though. Chevrolet built almost 3 million Chevettes but they seem to have all disappeared. So, do you stash it away and look at it once in a while? Or do you put it into service so your fellow road mates can enjoy it? Obviously, the choice will be up to the new owner, but we would love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Steve

    BBC swap candidate! https://www.google.com/amp/s/jalopnik.com/someone-crammed-427-cubic-inches-of-fury-into-this-stea-1641654045/amp

    Seriously, though, it would be cool to swap an ecotec turbo 4 cyl of of a saturn sky or pontiac solstice into it and the related 5 spd. Plenty of power

    9
  2. Dave

    I saw a four door version on my way home from work yesterday. Still can’t grasp the idea of one of these wearing a PA antique plate!

    4
  3. J.B.K. from Lancaster County, PA

    I would enjoy this as a fair weather weekend cruiser only to keep the mileage down. A stick would have been preferred but this could still be a fun little car and how many do you see anymore. I remember seeing truckload after truckload on Rt 41 in Pennsylvania as they were being churned out of the GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware back in the ’70’s and early ’80’s.

    5
  4. rpol35

    Sorry, these things were complete dog-doo; that’s the reason you don’t see high mileage ones, they couldn’t go high mileage without falling apart. I suffered with one of these uninspired dogcarts for three miserable years…bad car!

    Yeah, it’s in nice shape but that’s where it ends.

    6
    • Duaney Member

      The maligned Chevette, why? People used them and abused them since they were inexpensive, but my experience has been that they’re very durable and forgiving. I drive several right now and we’re going for 150 K on a couple, use no oil, easy on gas, and fun to drive.

      9
      • grant

        You’re pretty easy to please if a Chevette is fun to drive. I’ve had 3 and they were all dogs. And the one time I attempted a burnout, the spider gears exited the rear end quite dramatically.

        1
  5. 2VT

    I always wanted to put a Cosworth Vega drive train in one. In England the Voxhal version had a 2300cc twin cam rally car. Mine turned 100k miles going through turn 9 at Riverside Raceway. Was my first race car. It was only competitive against Renault R5’s however. Last time I saw it it had just turned 200k miles.Plenty durable for me.

    9
    • john manders

      Vauxhall……….

  6. Travis McCann

    This takes me back aways. This is exactly like my first car. Same color and all.

    1
  7. Dan

    I can’t remember the last time I saw a Chevette in any condition! This one is in amazing shape, but I wouldn’t want to drive it. That slushbox would render it unable to get out of its own way.

    1
    • ROB

      Used to see the Pontiac version (T1000) daily in traffic to and from work every morning in really nice shape… until about three weeks ago. wondered what happened to it and while scanning the local copart and iaa auction listings I found what was left of it. I do not know what hit it but obviously they are not up to modern crash standards!

      Too bad though.. it was a really nice little car! (As far as old GM subcompacts go!)

      • Dan

        MotorWeek tested a Pontiac 1000 in its early years. Said car set records for slowest acceleration. 0-60 MPH required 30 seconds and over a quarter-mile. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the test car had a 3-speed automatic.

  8. CJinSD

    I don’t know when was the last time I saw a Chevette with round headlights and small taillights. It seemed like they vanished from the streets within two years of the square headlight facelift. A friend had an early square headlight model in 1984. It had an automatic and wasn’t fast enough to speed in with three people aboard. Those were the days of the 55 mph speed limit too. Overall though, I think Chevette buyers were pretty pleased after the horrors of the Vega and Monza. I don’t know about the dynamic advantages of rear wheel drive for an econobox. A Civic, Horizon or Rabbit would drive circles around any Chevette.

    2
    • Duaney Member

      You should read the road tests of these vehicles when new. There’s lots of advantages to RWD. For one thing, there’s no way to have the superior steering and handling of RWD when with FWD you’re also driving the wheels, major compromises are made to make this work. RWD is better balanced with weight front to rear. This is why they don’t make FWD Mustangs and Camaro’s.

      4
      • CJinSD

        I have most of the Car and Drivers and Road & Tracks from the late ’60s through the early ’80s. Crude little coal carts like this were miles behind the decent FWD cars of the era. Mustangs that can handle are newer than smart phones. RWD doesn’t make up for bad geometry, cheap components and badly selected spring rates, damper rates, and bushing elasticity. The second best handling car you could buy in the US in the mid ’80s was the Prelude according to Car and Driver. The best was the 944, which was RWD, Behind the Prelude was every other RWD car. Engineering prowess and commitment to quality matters more than drive wheels. I’ve seen a FWD Charger 2.2 drop a muscle car on a curvy road like it didn’t have half the power. The Chevette? You could out run it on an Aero 80 scooter.

        2
  9. Alberico Ciccone

    I own a survivor Chevette. 1976 with only 35,000 miles. I drive it.

    • grant

      Why?

      1
  10. LARRY

    The worst problem with these were the electronic carburetors..same as all the other vehicles equipped with electronic carburetors…I’ve seen these engines changed over to dual Weber’s with more available power and reliable..of course a small block or v6 ain’t too hard to drop in a chevette

    2
  11. Bob Member

    I bought one of these new in 1980. It was the really basic model that did not come with a rear seat. Sounded like a tin can on the inside driving down the road.

    1
  12. James Schwartz

    Most people who rip on the Chevette either never owned one, or the one they did own was a 10 year old example (that had been thoroughly abused for those 10 years) that they picked up for 500 bucks. And then when issues came up they would say the car was junk. It’s the same people who chime in with mis-informed lines about “most Fieros catching fire”, or “all Pintos would explode on contact with the rear end”… Tired, old, unoriginal comments that I wish would just stop being used.
    For the time, these cars were actually very durable, reliable machines. Not at all fast, not at all roomy in side, not very smooth riding, and kinda noisy, BUT very tough and dependable little cars. I’ve owned several. These were such a major improvement over the failed small car attempt by GM…the Vega.

    Back in the day, Car & Driver magazine once called the Chevette (and my quote might not be exact, but you’ll get the point): “Chevette is the most reliable, trouble free, slam the hood and forget it, cancel your service writer off your Christmas List, car we’ve ever tested”.

    Some will still disagree and claim that they were “junk”, and that’s fine. And those that do might as well follow it up with “Yugos had rear window defrosters standard so it would keep your hands warm while you pushed them”

    Gee…never heard that one before.

    18
    • Nailz15

      The issue is that they were relatively junk compared to other similar cars. Realize that the chevette and Omni were trying to imitate the success of the rabbit. I started driving in the early 80’s and one of my first car was a 77 Rabbit, likely bought for $500. I also worked as a mechanic at the time so I had experience with chevettes as well. I can say first hand there was no comparison. Driving my rabbit felt like driving a Porsche compared to driving a chevette. Both can be had used for $500 back then. The Iron Duke was about the worst engine I had ever worked on. Noisy, crude, and no power. The German and Japanese were miles ahead of that engine.

      1
      • James Schwartz

        The “Iron Duke” that you speak of was never put in a Chevette. Not from the factory anyway. Chevette engines were not even closely related to the Iron Duke engine. That engine was used in the Monza and later Citation, Celebrity and more, NOT in the Chevette.
        So, kinda throws your entire argument out the window as far as I’m concerned.

        3
      • Nailz15

        Ok, it wasn’t the Iron Duke, it was another nameless, gutless engine. Whatever versions of 4 cylinder engines GM or ford produced back then were not as good as the imports. Chevette, Fiero, Cimarron, those all stick in my mind, and not in a good way. Dangerously slow, noisy and just bad. 4 cylinder engines just weren’t our thing back then. Even when we set out to copy the japanese or german engines with the Quad 4, it was still not as good. Just drive a 78 Chevette, a 78 Rabbit, 78 honda civic, and tell me which is at the top and the bottom as far as small engines go. I would rather not collect a chevette, id rather forget it altogether.

    • Chebby Member

      My grandma had one she bought new in 1984 and I drove it a lot. They were junk. Did they catch fire or fail catastrophically? Nope. They were just tiny, crude, mediocre cars that filled a hole in GM’s product lineup, a desperate grab at the MPG market they failed to predict or adapt to. Nothing was horribly wrong with them, but they fulfilled their duties to the minimum standard and did not excel at anything: gas mileage, interior space, build quality, etc etc. GM at the time could not build small cars and this was their best effort. But they were junk compared to what the foreign manufacturers were selling. If we bought grandma an ’84 Accord, we might still have it. (My dad still has his ’84 528e.) A Honda/Toyota certainly would not have gone to the scrapyard with only 30k old-lady miles like our Chevette did. Dead paint, faded plastics, leaking windows, and rattles galore. It was only 10 years old and no one wanted it.

    • Dan

      Agreed 100%, especially as regards the Pinto.

      1
  13. irocrobb

    You will turn more heads with this than a 90s Corvette at a car show I would think. They were everywhere in there day.

    8
    • Jerry

      Related point: so sick of seeing the same cars at shows – 69 camaro, 69 anything; love to see something original!

  14. ed knapp

    I owned a mid 1980s chevette4dr with a 4cylinder diesel it ran great. a/t never any problem. 1986 family moved to palm beach county fl.only reason I sold car was no shop would put in a/c .they could not say how effient a/c would be. always had good things to say about that chevette.great reliable car. drove from Connecticut to florida 1200 miles plus

  15. Ohio Rick

    Some of the boys at Hot Rod magazine swapped in a 500 ci Cadillac engine into one of these beauties. Check out the April 2000 issue for the sordid details.

  16. david railsback

    I drove one from Florida to California pulling a trailer. Never would have attempted that if I knew it only had 60 horsepower. They were pretty crummy cars, though

    1
  17. PAW
  18. moosie moosie Member

    A good friend bought one of these for his wife after he wrecked two of her Corvettes, he told her he was going to buy her a new “Vette”, this is what she got, same color but hers was a “Scooter” model. They are not together any longer.

    2
  19. Greg

    I learned to drive in Ohio on the back country roads with one of these.

  20. Jason Caudill

    There is still a nice 2dr running around in McKeesport PA with Cragar S/S mags on it. Id pimp it. Especially with a gear box & a diesel. If it were a diesel, id bid on it. I currently cruise the summers as a daily ride an 85 2dr diesel Celebrity. When is the last time you seen a 2dr one of those

  21. David

    I’m thinking buy it and do an LS swap.miles of smiles.

  22. Glenn

    Drive it like you stole it. These were reliable, cheap to drive, cheap to insure.

  23. 77Vette

    My Dad bought on new in 76 with a four speed. It was cheap, reliable and ran well over a hundred thousand miles with no major repairs. Running good when he sold it. Even with the four speed it was miserably slow but got consistent 30 mpg.

    1
  24. Niche

    I know they made a version of the Chevette called the Chevette “Scooter” -was some sort of “performance” version of the Chevette !? . . ?

    I know this because one time I was made fun of, because I knew this little piece of auto “Trivia” !!!

    • moosie moosie Member

      The scooter was a lower priced economy version of the Chevette, it had no glove box door plus other deletions that I don’t recall, maybe rubber floor covering instead of carpets ?

  25. Del

    Pretty sad that this is the best find on here today.

  26. The Chucker

    I learned to drive a manual transmission on one of these, and that’s the most I can say for them.

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