EXCLUSIVE: Chevette Diesel For $250!

Jesse MortensenBy Jesse Mortensen

The diesel-powered Chevette that we featured the other day caused quite a stir, so when Barn Finds reader Joseph B asked if we would feature his, we obliged. It’s not pretty, but he is only asking $250! Even if it might never see the road again, it could be useful to someone trying to keep their Chevette alive. It’s located in White City, Oregon and has a clear title.

From Joseph B – This 4-door hatchback diesel could carry a bunch of passengers (perhaps carpooling or a family) while sipping fuel. The body isn’t bad – can’t see much visible panel rot, but it has surface rust. All the doors, trunk, hood all open smoothly. This version has become somewhat of a rarity and would be a good donor car or perhaps someone could even fix it up.

This car has the Isuzu diesel and is supposed to be reliable, but I have not tried to start it so I can’t speculate on how it starts, runs, or drives. It has been sitting for some years. I may put a battery in it and see if it turns over…

The interior is faded and the back seats are ratty. Despite being outside, it is pretty dry inside. I’ll try to take some interior shots and show the odometer. I haven’t even noticed if it is an auto or a stick.

Some people seem compelled to write that the Chevette was one of the worst cars ever built, but the owners of them often tell a different story. It is easy to forget that nearly three million of them were sold. While slow and frills-free, they were reliable and most agree that the gas mileage was stellar, even by today’s standards.

If you’re interested in dragging this home, you can contact Joseph via email here. Thanks for listing this with us Joe!

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  1. Mario

    It’s worth it just for part of it’s a five speed even better!


      UHG it’s an auto

  2. Stang1968

    I owned an 84 Chevette CS as a winter sacrifice many years ago. The sheet metal is very thin on this cars. My roof oil canned. I would be leery of the surface rust going to far down.
    Aside from that, while compact, the car was reliable, and easy to repair for most part.
    Good parts availability from junkyard cars as well as the general GM parts bin.
    I’ve heard nothing but praise for the Isuzu sourced diesels.

  3. Ralph

    Looks like someone added a/c to it, from what I recall you couldn’t get factory a/c on these because it would rob to little of the near 0 hp it had to spare.

  4. Dave

    its an otto.

  5. Howard A Member

    Again, cars like this really need to be nicer than this, like the one the other day was still presentable. I’d think the automatic would further exasberate the under powered diesel issues here. Older diesel cars, like this, are not much fun, especially on a day like today in N. Wis. ( -6 right now, ugh) Sorry, not much for this one ( scrap prices have rebounded a little)

  6. Rock On

    Joseph B, never call it “surface rust” in an ad. It’s patina!

  7. Jay M

    For only $250 someone close will be happy to give this a new home.
    Even if you just get it to start, it is one heck of a conversation piece.

    • Jeffro

      For $250, I’d gladly sit around and carry on a conversation about anything.

  8. Bill

    Wish it were in my area. I’d love to make this my daily.

  9. David Frank David F Staff

    I worked for a car rental company in LA that had a bunch of Chevettes. They were junk but they made the company the cheapest place to rent a car at the LA airport. Gear shift levers came off regularly. With more than two people aboard they could not climb any hill. Doors and hatches stuck shut. They used lots of oil. I finally got fired for advising folks not to rent them.

  10. geomechs

    I’ve heard a lot of stories about how poor these cars were but from what I saw going through the dealership’s service department and through the years where I am now, they weren’t bad at all. My co-worker’s son had one and put it through the mill. But all that happened was it wore out that mill. Brakes, tires, a new clutch, and it’s still putting along, annoying everyone on the freeway. I’ve got a customer who has five of these and has recently come across a Canadian-built Acadian–with a diesel! He’s real excited about it (about as excited as I would get if a ’69 Chevelle 300 2-door six cyl. showed up on my driveway; I don’t know about some of those people, who would all but wet their pants—over a six cyl. Chevelle).

    One thing I have to say in regard to the negative jabs to cars like this: No one designed these cars to FAIL; they designed them to serve a purpose. The Chevette did that quite well; you just didn’t want to be in too much of a hurry….

    • Ed P

      Where I worked, we had a fleet of gas Chevettes. With a stick, they were not bad to drive. Add an automatic and a/c and they were dogs. Ours lasted 10 years, as usual. Overall, they were ok econo boxes.

  11. Rod

    I worked at a GM dealership when these came out. They were basically designed as a cheap disposable car and not meant to last all these years. This provided the customers with a cheap alternative to purchase a car that was relatively reliable for a few years. There were numerous issues with the cars including poor brakes, poor engines and so on. The worst thing was the firewall was so weak it could actually flex while applying the brakes hard. Overall it was a bit of fun to drive though.

  12. Dovi65

    If it were closer to me, I’d be on it! Yeah, it’s got everything against it .. Chevette, Diesel, not the prettiest at the prom … but I got a thing for the oddness!

  13. Curtis J Henshaw

    If closer, I would for sure get it and do a full restoration on it, and drive during the summer months. But shipping to Michigan would more than likely be EXTREMELY high.
    Something I would love to restore though.

  14. Palandi

    anyone for swapping a Cruze diesel engine swapped to it?

  15. John Hess

    Had a garden center and one of the trucks was a Isuzu diesel P’up. Employee’s ran the wheels off of it and it got great fuel milage, could run all week on less then a tank. One of the problemos was the placing of the oil filter, we used to service (oil, etc) trucks, it was onthe pass. side of the engine and u lost a lot of oil on the ground before getting it up right and out. Used to park it on gravel, but emissions killed the truck in US

  16. Rustytech

    The only problem here is if you add the $250 for the car plus a $299 Maaco paint job you would already be under water.

  17. Stu

    Within the family, we have owned a total of (5) Chevettes. In the winter, I used my trusted Chevette to pull a steel snowmobile trailer with (2) Arctic Cat sleds (Not kidding). With new snow tires, it was unstoppable. Chevettes were known to go through coil springs (Most years) and distributors on cars with high-mileage. My 9-year-old 1979 Chevette was going strong until an unlicensed 16-year-old girl hit me with her boyfriends Camaro (She thought the whole thing was funny and was laughing until the Sheriff hauled her away).

  18. John K

    “Some people seem compelled to write that the Chevette was one of the worst cars ever built, but the owners of them often tell a different story.”

    I owned one. diesel too. And, yes, an automatic. it was one of the worst cars ever built.

    I use to drive it into the Combat Zone in Boston and leave it there with the keys in it. It was ALWAYS waiting for me when I came back. In an areas of the country where thieves would take anything, any time of the day, that thing was untouchable.

    It did get me out of a ticket once. I was pulled over for speeding and when the state trooper realized the car was a diesel he just laughed and said – I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – “well, you’ve got enough problems.” then got back in his car and drove off.

    • Joe

      Hmmmm. In Boston’s old Combat Zone? I’m surprised they didn’t pop the hood and steal your battery. Then siphon your gasoline, and take your windshield wipers, tires and wheels. No more than 1.5 minutes–like a NASCAR pit crew. Probably worth more than the whole car.

  19. Lion

    My 1983 Chevette will turn 34 this year. Bought new it has been going steadily even though it only has 100,000 miles on it. Went through 5 kids and only failed once when the battery died. My winter beater now and so much fun in the ice and snow. Only service ever done to drivetrain was to service the automatic trans when it developed a small leak. Great little car !

  20. Alfie

    TIL nostalgia is really a powerful thing.

    Reality: Chevettes were S%&*. It was called Shove-It for a reason. I worked on quite a few of them back in the ’90s, my younger days. Malaise-era GM cars were made to be run poorly more often than not run at all, including Chevettes. GM only made Chevettes good for 75,000 miles.Tinny bodies, crankshaft pulleys snapping, shitty electronic carburetors, front end can’t be aligned after 75k miles, auto gear shift levers falling off, and oodles and oodles more sh*%$y things about these.

    Those 1.8 Isuzu diesels were taken out of Chevettes and converted into a standalone generator back in the day. Diesels with autos couldn’t outrun a golf cart. And the Isuzu 1.8 diesels tend to break the auto’s flexplate, which hasn’t been sourced for over 20 years. If this car’s flexplate breaks, it’s a parts car or a date with the crusher. In fact, I bet that’s why this car was parked in the first place.

  21. junkman Member

    I just junked the twin to this car( ok) mine was uglier, Diesel and all, nothing special here.

  22. rustylink

    my buddy in high school had one of these in appliance white – the most basic am radio model. Apparently this was the car his parents felt he could not get into any trouble in. They were absolutely correct – there were times I am pretty sure I could have outsprinted this thing holding a beer and smoking a cig. I will say it got phenomenal gas mileage – upwards near 50 mpg…

  23. Kevin

    These were marketed in the UK by Vauxhall and were a very popular car. I have to say the Vauxhall take on the whole thing produced a far better looking car than the Chev version. Also there was a Chevette HS, 2.3 litre. Factory spec was about 135HP but very easily “tweakable” to well over 150HP, with excellent handling. They were only available in silver. They are quite rare nowadays and fetch good money, doubtful if you’ll ever see one in the U.S. However, if you ever come across one snap it up you won’t be dissapointed.

  24. Ward William

    Best to let it rot. Nobody should ever think about restoring a chevette. In fact, it should be a crime.

  25. Lion

    Hahaha, Ward. I didn’t say anything about restoring mine, I just drive it, in the winter, cause it starts and runs in the cold and is cozy warm inside. Pull out in front of me, tailgate me, park too close, I don’t care, its rusty and dented and its insured.

  26. Taylor

    I personally would give anything to have one of these old cars. Look around today and try to find one that has not been tubbed out to become a funny car or someone’s track car. These have become the car to get to put a big ‘ol V8 into and stick on a track! Not only that but this little car has helped people save thousands and thousands of dollars ever since the time they were made simply because of the fact that they were super economy car and everyone wanted them for that fact. If anyone today sits there and still continually bashes these little cars they need to go and get their head examined because these cars brought on an entire wave of new car technology. To this day I would still give anything to have one simply just because of this economical fact of owning one. However… I would love to get a hold of one today because I want the engine transmission and drivetrain out of it for another project I have as they were a great little compact engine.

  27. mars2878

    I’m off my meds, so bear w/ me. 🙂
    I must be the odd duck here. I’ve always to do a sleeper/dd moredoor chevette.
    Wait, what, did he just say to build up a chevette? Yes I did.
    Leave the body as is, patina & all, just flat clear it.
    Clean up/frebreeze the interior so its not as tacky or musty from the years of not being cleaned.
    Now that the body & interior are done, lets move on.
    Rims, keep them factory steel. get a size more suited for better tires. Mismatch them between ralleys & hubcap style. Use no more than 2 hubcaps on the car on opposing corners. Leave them w/ the crappy 30+ yr old paint. Mismatched colors are even better.
    The exterior look of the beater is now complete.
    Drivetrain would be a 6cyl setup from a 5th gen Camaro. With over 300hp stock, that car will boogey.
    Exhaust will be quiet & unsuspecting while using crappy stressed tips on the tailpipes.
    Suspension will be newer variety but will not raise or lower from the stock height.
    Rearend, maybe a beefed up/modified unit from a g-body or s10.
    Nothing on the outside of this vehicle even remotely looks fast.
    The reason for a 4dr over 2dr is that I feel that the slightly longer wheelbase will give better stability with that light body.
    Now it will truly earn the vette part of its name.
    Now that your Chemaro is complete, yes I said Chemaro, go see how many unsuspecting book cover judgers you can take down.
    They say that I have to go back to my white padded room now.

  28. Scott Eckhardt

    Chevettes were ugly and slow, but not as miserable as a Vega. A girl I knew bought the Monza variant of the Vega. I leaned on the trunk and dented it. If the Chevette used the same thin sheet metal, forget it.


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