American Hot Hatch: 1987 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

With the introduction of the new Toyota Supra, waves of memories came rushing back about the 80s and how seemingly every car company wanted to build a grand tourer or otherwise sporty car for enthusiast buyers. It’s a different landscape today, where those cars are reserved for buyers with big bank accounts. Not so with this rare 1987 Chevy Sprint Turbo, seen here on craigslist for $2,650 and offering a turbocharged and intercooled motor for that low price. 

Now, some of you might say that Chevrolet at least offered us the Cobalt SS in recent years, and that’s a fair point. My bigger point is it seems like fewer and fewer automakers are interested in making a true performance car for under $20K, which makes the era in which the Sprint Turbo was made seem even more distant. This was as basic as it got for economical transportation, and even a budget-friendly hatch like this got a full aero kit and turbocharged buzzsaw of an engine.

Sport bucket seats with unique cloth upholstery was also offered, but by modern standards, the hilariously-tall stick shift seems bus-like in such a tiny cockpit. The seller says there are a few issues, most notably that the A/C compressor is missing and the driver’s seat has a tear in the seam. Other minor quibbles include a previously repaired right-front fender and a broken latch on the pop-out window.

While the turbocharged and intercooled motor represented a healthy bump in power over the stock Sprint, overall output was still under 100 bhp. Regardless, the Sprint’s light weight made the most of the extra power and torque, able to eclipse 60 m.p.h. in under nine seconds. Coupled with outstanding fuel economy, it remains a head-scratcher to me as to why this Sprint Turbo wasn’t a bigger commercial success. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Miguel for the find.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. KevinLee

    With a turbocharger, maybe this one could actually get out of it’s own way. I bought one from a co-worker for $300 just to get back and forth to work cheaply. While it did sip gas, and was easy to work on, it was slow as molasses. Hard to see $2650 here.

    Like 5
    • Xrotartguy

      You’d be surprised how quick these cars are.

      Like 2
  2. CCFisher

    American? This was a Suzuki with a Chevrolet label. It’s about as American as sushi.

    Like 22
  3. CanuckCarGuy

    I was posted to a base in Quebec when these were new, and they were hugely popular with the French guys that couldn’t afford to buy a Civic Si. The later, more rounded body style was even more popular. Would be a cool little car to own now, an oddity for many.

    Like 0
    • Andre

      Ya I could really get into having one of these in the fleet for such a low cost.

      They’re so awkward and interesting that they’re desirable.

      If I saw one of these in traffic these days I’d jump out of my seat to gawk.

      Like 2
  4. Beatnik Bedouin

    A Suzuki Swift by any other name is still a Suzuki Swift… ;-)

    We got them as both Suzuki Swifts and Holden Barina; most have rusted into oblivion. They were popular models back when they were new.

    I would have thought that these would practically be give-aways in North America.

    Like 2
  5. Ed

    I owned one of these back in the mid 90s.
    70hp when new. Tiny and fun, total death trap, slow even by the standards of 20 years ago. Cost me $800 used.

    Like 3
  6. JC

    I test drove one of these in 1987 shortly after getting my first real job… it was a fun test drive… and I wanted to buy it but I couldn’t get financing because I had just started working… by the time I had gotten a real credit history to buy one, they had stopped making them… I then bought the only bad car I ever owned, a 1989 Ford Escort GT…. ugh, what a mistake that was.

    Like 1
  7. Camaro guy

    This same car was my 2nd new car purchase. Yes it was slow but it did get great mileage, bought it for my then wife and for a commuter car still like the looks of them, wasn’t crazy about the 12″ wheels but at least then there was no aftermarket alternative,I remember driving to work one morning in a big snowstorm, the side streets weren’t yet plowed the snow was deeper than the tires were tall, supriseingly the little car plowed right through it, although at about 5,000 RPM in 3rd gear 😊 but I made it to work

    Like 2
  8. xrotaryguy

    My buddy and I both bought new (to us) little cars at about the same time back in 2007 or so. Mine was a 79 Triumph Spitfire and his was an 87 Sprint Turbo. Both were rated at 70 hp and both cars weighed 1700 lbs. We swapped cars one night on the way to dinner.

    Man, what a difference. His Sprint was hilariously quick through 1st and 2nd gears. If you built a little boost, you could smoke the tires in first and get scratch in 2nd. By 3rd gear, wind resistance took over and it behaved like a normal car.

    I have no idea where those 70 hp were in the Spitfire. I estimate is actually had about 45 hp. It was dog slow!

    Like 0
  9. Bryan W Cohn

    A team raced a pair of these in the IMSa Firehawk series in ’88-89. We looked at one as a possible replacement for our soon to be outdated Peugeot 505 Turbo SSB race car. After a test drive I found the gearbox to be the weak link as it was really easy to miss shifts. I’m sure illegal mods to mounts, linkage/cables and so forth would have solved the shifting issues. :) We found what others found, it was speedy down low but ran out of steam in 3rd gear. After driving an ’89 Civic Si there was no comparison……

    Still kind of a fun, very interesting and quick little car. With today’s technology and knowledge holy moly could you make one of these fly!

    Like 0
    • xrotaryguy

      Right, the car was quick down low but “average” up top. That’s an improvement over the NA version which was slow down low and even slower on the freeway. I remember seeing the NA versions struggling to achieve 55 with a head wind.

      Like 0
  10. Miguel

    I worked at the Chevy dealer when these were new.

    They were fun to drive.

    I have realized I don-t want a fast car, I just want a car that feels fast to keep me out of trouble.

    Like 3
  11. linen grey ghost

    Bought one of these new in 1987, put over 100,000 miles on it, never left me stranded, easy, inexpensive maintenance – (sniff) miss the little box …

    Like 0
  12. Don

    bought one of these from a kid @ work for $100 back in early 90’s..I was surprised that it was kinda quick thru 1st & 2nd gears & made you feel like it actually had HP..drove it for 2 years & passed it to my son to get to work..he drove it another 2 yrs & I sold it for $750.. wish I had it was actually fun to drive & I swear I got round 50 MPG.

    Like 2
  13. Mark-A

    Am I right saying that it’s a badge engineered version of the Suzuki Swift? If so I wasn’t aware of a Turbo version (when I read that it was a Turbo I honestly expected it to be a Kei Car with a 660cc engine). Seems like this would be a great car to run a comparison with a Daihatsu Charade GTti 3 cylinder 12 valve Turbo

    Like 0
  14. JC

    Bought a 1986 one used from a college girl in 1989 for a couple of grand and loved that little thing. It got 60+ miles per gallon on a trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park in (very flat) Ohio that summer. I almost cried when I wrecked it in a detour after an old idiot a few feet in front of me slammed his brakes on in his piece of crap truck – with no brake lights.

    Oh well. Great little car for the 15K miles that I owned it.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds