Epitome Of Mediocrity: 1986 Chevrolet Chevette

If you’re in the mood for a good chuckle I urge you to check out the Craigslist ad for this ’86 Chevette!  The seller provides a hilarious write-up and might just have serious potential as a stand-up comic!  Better yet, maybe Josh and Jesse will reach out to him and see if he wants to join the Barnfinds team as a fellow writer!  Located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the seller is begrudgingly willing “to pass the torch…to the next awesome person” and let this relic go for a mere $1,500.

First things first: the license plate.  Yes, the idea was taken directly from the ’64 Impala in Cheech & Chong’s 1978 movie Up In Smoke but no, it is not included with the sale.  That’s likely a good thing.  And is it legal to drive a car that wears tags from two different states (NJ & PA)?  Getting serious or, “down to brass tacks” as the seller suggests, this Chevette is reported to be “mechanically sound in almost every way.”  It comes with new tires, brakes, rotors, and “a top end refresh.”  The heat works great and it’s equipped with a 260 AC system.  You know, roll 2 windows down and go 60.  Sorry, that was my own lame attempt at humor.  The car wears its original gold or is it tan paint?  I’m not sure which paint code it is, but when I think of a Chevette this is the color that automatically pops into my mind.  Its faded, dented, dinged, and scratched but isn’t that how Chevettes are supposed to look?  By the way, is there a Chevette in existence without a cracked or misaligned bumper?  I remember a kid in high school who once drove 9 kids to school in his Chevette.  There were hands and feet sticking out of every window when he pulled into the parking lot!  After that day his car was known as the “Shovette.”

Surviving the abuse of time (and various owners), the interior is in much nicer shape than the exterior.  It’s what you would expect of a car with only 66,000 original miles and certainly supports the seller’s claim that it’s been taken very good care of.   In the ad the seller labels the Chevette as “the epitome of ’80s automotive mediocrity” but I disagree.  That title goes to the K-car.   Yes, Chevettes are plain, but I’ve always been partial to their design.  Never having owned one, for some inexplicable reason I feel unconditional love for these little cars.  And if this one was closer to where I live it’d be tough for me not to jump on the opportunity to become a first-time Chevette owner.  Go ahead, laugh all you want.

The reliability of the little 4 cylinder engine may not be legendary, but it’s well known.  This car comes with the optional three-speed automatic transmission.  Rear wheel driven, Chevettes were reported to achieve 28 mpg city and 40 mpg highway back in the day.  Numbers like that are impressive even by today’s fuel economy standards.  Judging by the above photo of the engine bay, things look fairly clean, neat, and well taken care of.  Certainly, this is no show car but who would ever think of bringing a Chevette to a car show?  I like it just the way it is.  Is there anyone willing to accept the seller’s dare and be the one to take this car and “fly off into the sunset, like a turkey buzzard?”

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Comments

  1. Fordguy1972

    The day I see a Chevette at a car show, I’ll know the end times have arrived.

    9
    • James Schwartz

      I’ve got one, and people LOVE it at shows.
      Seriously, it gets more attention than just about any other car there.
      Why? Because it’s the only one like it.
      Mine’s a bit more unique than this rather innocuous example, being as it’s a first year model (1976) and it’s loaded with lots of the appearance goodies of the time. I’ll attach a picture.

      34
      • Fordguy1972

        James Schwartz, my comment was made in jest and not intended to offend. While it’s true I’ve never been a fan of the Chevy Chevette, that’s not to say that, as a car guy, I don’t appreciate one that’s still with us over 40 years later. I attend one of the largest cruise-ins in New England during the summer where it’s not uncommon to have over 600 cars, pickups and bikes on a given Monday evening. You pretty much see a little of everything and while I see some cars I never cared for, I can still appreciate them for what they are; vintage vehicles that someone chose to save and restore/modify because they liked them. To each his or her own.

        When I show my car, it’s usually the only ’72 Ford Galaxie at the show or cruise-in. I usually get the same reactions to it that you probably get from yours. “Haven’t seen one of those in awhile.” Or “My Dad/Mom/Uncle, etc, had one just like it.” Or they walk on by without a glance to check out the 50 or 60 Mustangs, Camaros or GTOs in the next row.

        So I would say to all who have a vintage car that’s not a ‘Cuda or a Chevelle or a Torino; enjoy whatever oddball car that you like or means something to you. I respect that your vintage car of choice is a Chevette, James, and I’d be happy to park next to it at a car show. Your Chevette would probably draw a lot of lookers who would then perhaps check out my ride, too.

        11
      • James Schwartz

        Very well said Fordguy1972!
        And no, I didn’t take offense to your initial comment. We seem to agree that we both appreciate all kinds of vintage cars, and we’ve witnessed the same sort of thing at shows.
        Some people are only interested at looking at the typical Mustang, Camaro, Chevelle, Charger type cars. But others will pause and take a great interest in cars that aren’t typical “show cars”.

        5
      • Dave

        One of the most unique builds I’ve ever seen was a T-bucket powered by a chromed Pinto engine. The owner had fabbed up a special intake manifold that held 4 motorcycle carburetors. He said he did it because he wanted something besides the standard SBC.

        3
    • Bodyman68

      Well the end times have passed then and you were hiding out in a bunker ! I have seen prius’s at a car show and thought why ? I think the chevettes have more looks then the junk boxes of today.

      3
    • KenB

      I’ve seen three or four Chevettes consistently at local car shows over the past few years.

      4
    • Ed

      I have a 1986 chevette, same color, factory diesel auto. 32mpg, top speed 67.

      4
  2. Carl

    Our family had one that was only running on three cylenders from the factory it got 50 mpg but with no power after a valve job to fix factory flaw it still got40 mpg.one of my bosses had one with 300000 miles on it GM bought it to take apart and inspect it

    6
    • Greg

      gm bought it? I call BS. They don’t do that. Take off your tinfoil hat.

  3. James Schwartz

    I love this guy’s ad write-up. Refreshing to see some creativity in a listing. And I agree with Jay B that the title of the “epitome of 80’s automotive mediocrity” should belong with the K-car. But that has more to do with the years of production than the Chevette being unworthy of the title. The Chevette split it’s production run relatively evenly between 2 decades (produced from August of 1975 to December of 1986).
    I’m a big Chevette fan myself. I’ve owned several, and currently own two (one is pictured above in a reply to Fordguy1972). The Chevette had it’s shortcomings, there’s no doubt about that. But when uneducated people bash their mechanical durability, they’re just plain ignorant. Those things are tough little buggers. Small? Noisy? Underpowered? Choppy ride? All a big. YES! But they were as dependable as the day is long. Sure, there were some Chevette’s made that were lemons. But for the most part..tough as an anvil…hard to kill em. I’ve had two that had over 200k miles on them. And to realize that people would rarely invest the money into properly maintaining them.
    One final thing>.. Why are all the chevette’s that ever get featured here Automatic Transmission??? Where did all the 4-speeds go? Or even better, the 5 speeds?
    Believe me, I know from experience… You do not want an automatic transmission Chevette if you’re trying to keep up with modern traffic. Yikes.

    6
  4. Ben T. Spanner

    Rolex; Timex: Corvette; Chevette : If you can’t tell the difference, why pay the difference? Most can, and most will. Entertaining ad for a very boring vehicle.
    I worked with a young lady who was a typical Chevette driver. In cold weather, she boiled extra hot water when making instant breakfast oatmeal. The extra boiling water was thrown on the Chevette’s windshield to melt ice. It never broke, so there is that.

    5
  5. Mark Cobra

    That is not an 76!!!

    • James Schwartz

      Mark Cobra,

      Mine is a ’76 (it’s pictured above in a reply to Fordguy1972), the light blue “Rally 1.6”.
      This article is about an ’86 model.
      I’m not sure what you meant by “That is not a 76!!!”.
      Maybe I confused things by adding a pic of mine (the ’76) earlier in the comments.

      1
  6. Bob C.

    These dull, boxy people movers had a good 11 year run. Hyundai picked it up from there with the Excel.

  7. Nick

    This is mediocre?

    3
  8. Nick

    Did someone say Chevette?

    5
    • scottymac

      Nick,
      Unfortunately, we never got a version of the HS or HSR in the States, all we got were sh*t box 1.4 and 1.6s that couldn’t get out of their own way. Always wondered if the Vauxhall 2.3 in them was in any way related to the Vega 2.3? We never got any of the good stuff you got in Europe. The Ford Focus RS is similar to what you get now, but Ford is having problems with cracked blocks, hopefully that won’t drive all the millennials back to Japanese buzzbombs.

      Schwartzman,
      A Chevette was one of the last hobby cars my dad piddled with, and he could never cure it of overheating, what was he doing wrong? It had a decent body for an Ohio car, always regret not getting it when he passed and installing the 215 aluminum Buick V-8 I had in the garage.

      1
  9. TinCanSailor

    There is a guy that drives one of these to work every day on the west side of Baltimore. I see him several times a week… and it is probably the only Chevette I’ve seen in two decades!

    Great ad! This would have been seen by six people if he’d advertised as most do – “86 Chevette. Decent shape, A/C doesn’t work, $1504 OBO”

    1
  10. Burger

    The car world ended for me in 1970, and cars like Pintos and Chevettes were the banner-carrying turds and slugs that led us all down the merry path to Hatesville. Novel today, because we all like to pick at scabs, when faced with all the cars built between 1900 and today, I’d rather eat puke-flavored cyanide ice cream than park one of these lawn trout in my driveway. 😜

    But it takes all types, and while the foul taste of the just about everything that was the 80’s still fills me with the urge to defecate, I gotta admit that if I saw one of these going down the road today, I would get a smile on my face and feel momentarily happy that someone is probably enjoying their little boxy bug of a car, novelty that is has become.

    For the humor impaired, this disclaimer is presented to alert the reader of sarcastic content above.

    2
  11. David Rhoces

    the ONLY good thing about it is the plate …. wouldn’t be allowed to use it where I come from

  12. jw454

    My sister had a 1986 like this one. It delivered thousands and thousands of trouble free miles until she ran a stop sign around ’95~’96. Another driver, who wasn’t required to stop, turned it into something that resembled a crushed discarded beer can. She wasn’t hurt but, the car never moved under it’s own power again. Given her poor attention to the maintenance schedule and, her sports car like driving style, I’ve often wondered how long it would have lasted.

    2
  13. W9BAG Member

    A buddy of mine had 1 of these, used as a trail vehicle for cross country bicycle events. It was a diesel, and his wife put about a gazillion miles on it. It was a manual shift car and proved to be an incredibly reliable, economical car. They ended up trading it for a Ford Escort with a diesel. The Chevette ended up being the winner in the reliability category.

    2
  14. Frank M

    We had the exact same car, only in red. Auto and all. After driving it for a while, I told my wife we needed to give a ride to a drug addict. That why when we came to a hill, he could find a pusher. She didn’t think it was funny.

    3
  15. TreDeuce

    Bought a new 81′ for my wife with the diesel & 4-speed.

    The first night we had it I tore out the kick, door, and rear side panels to put in big speakers and wiring to go with the ew Pioneer Super Tuner.

    My wife came out to the garage about 4 in the morning only to see interior parts of her new car scattered across the garage. It was back together in time for thhedrive to work.

    Pumping the watts to those rear speakers caused the rear quarter metal to move in and out, attenuating the sound to the environment.

    The Isuzu diesel provided good torque and 50-65_mpg and never was a problem even on sub-zero mornings.

    With a tire size upgrade and a rear sway bar from my old Opel Manta, it handled pretty good, responding well to all typical performance driving inputs, but would get stuck on a banana peel. Winters required studded tires on all four corners.

    The car was roomy even in the back seat.
    It served us well many years.

    3
    • Craig M Bryda Member

      Did ya tell her you were buying her a Vette ?

      1
  16. Brian Scott

    Mom drove one back in the day. It performed flawlessly, seriously, but sadly was totaled when we hit a dragonfly. Just kidding. It was better than her previous automobile, a Vega, but then again, so was uncontrollable diarrhea, I suppose. Stranger still was when we went camping, and my older, married sister had her Chevette, with a camper in tow! The best part of all this? Telling people in high school that my Mom and sister both drove Vettes. No, come to think of it, the best part was that when we got a Cavalier, therefore I could lay claim to being an initiator of what we today call the throwaway society.

  17. Guggie 13

    My Buddy and were on the Mass Pike one night he was driving a Chevette just like this one , when we passed a semi and one of those big retreads blew off a trailer tire and went right across the windshield , my life passed before my eyes , low and behold no broken windshield or even any body damage , but our under ware different story lol

  18. Karl

    Whoever said the Epitome of Mediocaty could have not been more accurate!!!

  19. Tom Henderson

    Look at all these comments. Just goes to show that people love Chevettes. LOL. My Dad had a diesel version (Izuzu) and it got better than 50 mpg all the time. He claimed to have gotten 56 on one tank. Unfortunately he had not heard of a timing belt and all the valves got bent when it broke. It was rebuilt at a local shop but always burned oil after that and the mileage was down in the 30s. If anyone has a diesel Chevette for a reasonable price, I’d be interested.

    2
  20. Duaney Member

    The reliability of the 4 Cylinder Chevette engine IS legendary, contrary to the lead story, and the author that never owned one. Can’t kill that engine or the diesel either. I can think of many Cadillac and Buick and even some Ford engines that self grenade.

    1
  21. John B

    In this age of the “me too” movement, I have to say that license plate is filthy, suggestive, disgusting, degrading and sexist…which is EXACTLY why I want that message on my Honda here in Virginia. I’ll just have to check and see if it’s taken.

    4
  22. JoeNYWF64

    40 mpg with a 3 speed (lockup?) automatic? Impressive. Guess that’s at 55 or maybe 50 mph steady on flat highway. No 4 speed automatic for these in ’86?
    I don’t think i ever seen 1 of these with a lot of rust either.
    Too bad it’s not a 2 door Rally.

    • James Schwartz

      I agree JoeNYWF64. I’ve owned several Chevettes (and currently own two, including the light blue ’76 Rally that I shared a picture of in a previous comment), and an automatic Chevette would have a hard time delivering 40mpg. it would have to be ideal conditions and at far lower than today’s highway speeds. Everyone needs to remember that these cars were built for the 55 mph speed limit, and if you keep them maintained, a manual tranny Chevette could get you up to 35 mpg on the highway (at 55mph). The rarer 5 speed added a couple more MPG highway. And of course the Diesels could deliver 50+ on the highway if speeds were kept down (with 5 speed manual).
      Also, unfortunately the “Rally” was only available for the first two years of production. But Chevy did come up with a Chevette ‘S’ (exterior sport decor package) for the model years 83-87 and it gave the car a sportier look, though no performance upgrades. It included blacked out trim with red accents, and decals, actually looked pretty good imo. But I’m a little biased as my first car was a 1983 Chevette S with the 5 speed manual. Picture of a Chevette S included.

      1
  23. Chris In Australia

    I prefer the Aussie version. Holden Gemini. Mine on the beach

    1
  24. Bodyman68

    If you haven’t had or have a chevette then you cant write about one ! I had a fleet of them in late 80s early 90s in all versions. The diesels were great couldnt kill it and got over 50mpg with the 5 speed . I dont recall a 4 speed in a diesel at all as they needed the extra gear for low revs . The dogamatic was not by anymeans useful in a chevette of any kind . These little cars were great at handeling with a set of wider tires and blocks under rear springs to stop the rubbing in turns ! The gas cars with the 2bbl 4spd were good to go with a few tweaks and you could churp it in 3rd, they didnt have many options and ac is a serious drag as in loss of 5 mph . I did have an 82 with tilt wheel and wiper delay with am/fm radio ! That was style! My 86 was 2dr 5 speed and ran great . Didn’t come with a radio ! Id love to find another clean body chevette thats reasonable priced but this 4dr is a $500 car . Oh and the k car wins .

  25. ACZ

    Indestructible! My mother-in-law had one for twelve years. She couldn’t kill it. If she couldn’t, no one could.

  26. Brian M

    In the early ’80s I was stationed at Hanscom AB in Mass and as I lived in NH I was allowed to join a civilian carpool. The vehicles were a new Honda civic (small compared to today’s version) my Fiat 128 station wagon, a pinto wagon and, if his wife had duty the same day and took the citation, an early Chevette. At the time the vernacular would call these econoboxes, but this collection qualified as penalty boxes, especially the back seat of the pinto! 35 miles each way in these, five days a week qualified all of us for chiropractic attention. Things improved, size-wise, when my Fiat went toes up because of an improperly installed timing belt by a “skilled” mechanic and my ride became a first year Dodge Aries station wagon. As the only military member, I occasionally had to drive myself for exercises and inspections, thus sparing me some of the human structural damage inflicted by our rides. I remember the Chevette and my K-car being the only manual tranny vehicles and the Chevy gearbox whined like an old straight-cut box from pre-war (WWII) days. Oh, the memories!

    1
  27. Donald

    I had one just like this, same color 4 door..broke 2 thermostat housings on it- dang aluminum junk..beat the snot out of that Chevette & it kept going…but, the most fun I had w/ a little Chevy was an 87 Chevy sprint..3 cyclinder made by Mitsubichi & a 5 speed manual.

    • James Schwartz

      The Sprint was made my Suzuki, not Mitsubishi.
      Chrysler had a partnership with Mitsubishi.

      2

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