Nicest One Left? 26k Mile 1980 Chevrolet Chevette

After the Vega didn’t turn out the way they had hoped, Chevrolet tried its hand again at the subcompact market with the Chevette. It was based upon an Opel from GM’s European division, so it was not an all-new design. The Chevette was basic transportation, didn’t cause much controversy, and was largely pretty dull – a winning combination for the era! At just 26,000 miles, this 1980 Chevette found itself locked away in a barn for many years and emerged from captivity in remarkable condition, perhaps the nicest 40-year-old original subcompact around. The “little car that could” can be found in Perry, Ohio and is available here on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $4,895.

Chevy introduced the Chevette in 1976 as the smallest car the Bow Tie people had ever built (at least until then). Everything about the automobile was old school, even for the ‘70s. Rear-wheel drive with a tiny 4-cylinder engine that never put out more than 70-something horsepower at any time during its 12-year life. Simplicity was the goal and Chevy got high marks from buyers wanting cheap basic wheels. By the time the car ended production in 1987, the starting price has gotten to $4,995, about what the seller is looking to get out of this car today. They were barely fast enough to get out of their own way, especially with an automatic transmission, but had gas mileage of 30-40 mpg to brag about instead (remember the OPEC oil embargo was still fresh in everyone’s minds). You could even get a Chevette with a diesel engine, but why? Chevrolet managed to sell nearly 2.8 million (yes, I said million) of them before moving on to something else. 1980, the model year of the seller’s car, would be the Chevette’s best sales performance at more than 450,000 copies. For everything you never wanted to know about the Chevette, go to How Stuff Works.

For reasons unknown, this 1980 Chevy Chevette was used lightly and then shuffled away into a barn in a small farm town. Perhaps it was Grandma’s buggy and they took the keys away from her for the safety of the town folk. The seller is a dealer who spent some time bringing the little car back up to speed. The body and paint look practically flawless, as does the simple interior. At first glance, you’d swear you just got out of a time machine in 1980, five years before Marty McFly got there. The brakes are brand new as are the tires. All the coil springs have been replaced, no doubt because of the weight it carried in a standing position all these years.

The exterior looks good, but not perfect. There is some surface rust on the left quarter panel in front of the wheel well. It also looks as though that quarter was repainted at some point as the color is slightly off from the rest of the paint (hence Grandma’s keys being hidden?). The paint on the roof might be a tad faded as well. Everything else, including the undercarriage, is up to snuff. The chrome and grill also look like 1980 all over again. On the inside, the seller says the trim panels have discoloration from age and will need to be dyed, but I don’t see it and wouldn’t worry about it.

Starting, driving, and running well are more strengths of the car, but don’t take on any SS 396’s at the next traffic light. If you just have to have yourself a 1980s Chevette, this is probably the one. Despite their large production numbers, they were throwaway cars that seldom saw Y2K. When was the last time, if ever, that you saw a Chevette at Cars & Coffee? NADA will tell you that the four in the asking price should be a one but — considering what $5,000 will buy you today in terms of an automobile — this one could be worth it.

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Comments

  1. Moparman Member

    The automatic is going to be a damper on this “plain brown bread” box, LOL!
    At least it has the pop open side windows for flow through A/C. GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 11
    • jerry hw brentnell

      if general mistake had any brains about them selves and others they would go back building cars like this that people could afford, with out 90 percent of the crap thats on new cars, because they are never going to sell me another new car no matter who built it! heres a side note I went out with a friend who owned a midsized sand and gravel operation! he wanted to buy 10 new 3/4 ton stripper pickup trucks, by that I mean no carpet, air , the trucks were never going to licenced for the road they had to be heavy duty every thing they were going to stay in his gravel pits for work trucks, we hit ford, gm,dodge, no such animal to be had! couldn’t order them either!

      Like 1
      • KKW

        If they built cars like this again, nobody would buy them. This lazy ass new generation couldn’t live without the bells and whistles. Btw, you can still buy stripper pickups, rubber floor mats, roll up windows, etc

        Like 2
      • JCA

        This a fallacy I often read on BF that simply isn’t true. The $4k MSRP of this turd Crapvette is around $15k inflation adjusted in today’s dollars. For around $15K you can get a base Nissan, Mazda, Chevy, Kia, Hyundai and even close to the cheapest Honda. These cars have double the HP and higher MPG not to mention airbags, antilock brakes and much higher crash ratings than this death trap dinosaur you think you have the crazy idea that you want to actually daily drive. In addition, I remember interest rates in the 80’s were probably 6-15% on a car loan. So the Crapvette would be twice the payment. This is why the average car sells for $37k, because there interest is practically no-existent. It’s also why you are going to sell your outdated house for so much more than you paid for it. Not all things are better back then which is why I wouldn’t drive this brown turd if you gave it to me free.

        Like 3
  2. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice find, Russ! That’s a beauty.

    Like 2
  3. alphasud Member

    This car reminds me of a favorite high school teacher I had. He was a Chevette guy and I suspect a lot of school teachers of the time owned these due to their frugal nature. I guess 40 years on even the most basic and underwhelming cars can become charming today. I guess the same could be said for the Corvair which sold in the same numbers. Except the Corvair was more groundbreaking and fun to drive.

    Like 9
    • Hank Kaczmarek

      One of my female co-workers had one of these in the late 80’s.
      Spent a few hours working on it and riding in it. Not my cup of Tea.
      Rather Drive my 65 Monza

      Like 2
  4. Joe

    Turd of a car. Slow as molasses. But a basic car.. did the job. Need basic cars made today. Back in the 80s we put a few to the test.. they passed

    Like 17
    • Oldsfan88

      I owned an 81, burgundy with red vinyl seats.
      Getting onto the highway (merging) in Boston was a roulette wheel with a full chamber.
      It took me 2x as long to get anywhere because I had to avoid hills.

      Like 8
      • Robert

        I know ……..completing a pass on a 2- lane road with less than a mile clear visibility well ………. the bung-hole tightens up.

        Like 6
  5. Alexander

    This is the kind of “everyday” car that truly belongs in a serious museum collection, not just some car collector.

    People drool at overkept Corvettes, Porsches, Caddies, and Mustangs, but far more people will wax nostalgic to grandkids about “this was my first car!” over a vintage Chevette, Camry, Escort, Civic, etc.

    Like 17
    • William

      Yes, someone should have a museum like that, full of base cars and cars that no one ever thought of saving. I would pay to go to that. People like a great restored muscle car, but you can only look at so many, besides, how many of us have any experience with them? Everyone knew someone with a Pinto, or Dodge Dart, or yes, a Chevette. I remember motoring history, used to read all the magazines, often lusted after many of them, but the most important history, the stuff that warms my heart and sometimes brings tears to my eyes, is my own history.

      Like 19
      • Chris Hanley

        Well said.

        Like 3
      • jerry hw brentnell

        you hit the nail on the head! ever been to a grand national buick show? where that was the only cars there? holy crap martha look another black buick! or a tri 5 chev only show same thing! how many 57 chevs can you look at?

        Like 3
    • Fisher

      My first car was a blue ‘81 Chevette. It was okay except for lack of pick-up. I nearly got creamed many times entering the LI Expressway.

  6. sir_mike

    Also badged as a Vauxhall Chevette in Euorpe and GB.They also made a performance version…2600HSR…It made a great rally car

    Like 6
  7. Jim

    Looks more like 126,000 miles. Check out the carpet, the upholstery and the door panels. You don’t get that kind of wear in 26,000 miles. I’ll admit the body looks nice though.

    Like 6
    • Evan

      You’ve obviously never seen a 26k mile Chevette. The materials were so cheap that you did indeed get that kind of wear in 26k.

      Like 11
      • Jim

        Actually, yes, I have. My aunt had one, and it held up quite well. Wasn’t much fun to drive, but it was a nice little car.

        Like 1
      • BC

        Between the poor quality and passing of time, unless hermetically sealed, this is what you would get. At 126k miles and 40 years later, it would not look like this, inside or out. They were crappy when new but served a purpose.

        Like 3
  8. Skorzeny

    I laugh when someone bothered to buy a dreary economy car, and then opted for an automatic, which COST them mileage. Lazy…
    I do remember an article (Hot Rod I think) which used all GM parts to install a V-6 in a Corvette. I wish I remembered the performance numbers on that. I’m pretty sure it was a 2.8. I still like to see these, they weren’t bad cars.

    Like 6
    • Jim

      Not everyone knows how to drive a stick.

      Like 4
      • local_sheriff

        True enough, but if your sole intention of purchasing any ‘economy car’ is MPG maybe it’s about time to learn it…? It’s my experience that the #1 power robber in ANY motor vehicle is the slush box

        Like 4
      • William

        40 years ago many more people did know how. Not so important now because of CVTs and multi speed autos, back then a stick was needed for these low powered cars. I loved the stick in my friends Chevette. Not a bad little car at all, got the job done. I agree with the above poster, we need more basic cars. Cheap, but reliable. When people get a little more money later on, then fun cars can be had, but the young today need cost effective good transportation, not some used 12 ton pick up.

        Like 6
      • Dave

        Modern automatic transmissions with locking torque converters will return the same mileage as a manual transmission. That said…
        Last night I dreamt of returning to the building where I worked over 20 years ago. People were cleaning the building out…there was one of the old field service trucks with a ton of old computers in the bed. Then a bunch of kids pushed a 68 GTO out and said “Nobody knows how to drive a stick. Keys are in it, get it out of here or it gets scrapped! ” It needed a jump, but I got in and rowed that four speed.
        Too bad that my wife snores…

        Like 6
  9. Steve R

    This site has recently featured better Chevettes. It may have survived in good condition, but so what. It doesn’t have appeal beyond its condition, no more so than any other generic car from that era in similar condition.

    This site should really rethink its use of the phrase “surface rust”. Though this car has very little, what was there isn’t surface rust. Real surface rust can be removed with little effort by using Scotch Brite, medium/fine grit sand paper or even steel wool. Any rust that needs some form of cutting or grinding is something else.

    Steve R

    Like 3
  10. Cam W.

    My late father was a partner in several GM dealerships in the 70s-80s. My parents and I got to drive our choice of “demonstrators” from the dealerships. When I had a nice demo Camaro, my younger sister got her licence, and demanded a car too. (We were spoiled kids BTW)
    Dad promised her a new Vette. She soon was bragging to friends about the new Corvette she was going to drive. The Vette was dropped off at our house 2 days later…..the CheVette that is. She cried. It was several weeks before she would be seen driving it.

    Like 16
    • William

      Your right, she was spoiled. I hope she turned out okay, kids like that can go either way.

      Like 6
      • Cam W

        Sister turned out well. She is a very successful senior exec at a large international company. She has 3 young adult kids. All went to, or are going to university. None of the kids were given a car. The Chevette story is still told at family dinners, and always brings a laugh.

        Like 10
    • vintagehotrods

      Your Dad sounds like my kind of guy……..and a lot of fun too!

      Like 2
    • Al S

      she didn’t want a Blazer like Steve’s?

  11. Matt Watson

    For all you’d ever want to know about the development of the T-Car have a look here for the US version:
    http://vauxpedia.net/vauxhall-t-car—aka-chevrolet-chevette-north-america
    and here for the European one
    http://vauxpedia.net/vauxhall-t-car—chevette-part-1
    (warning they’re big pages and take a while to load)

    Like 2
  12. jokacz

    My mother had one of these back in the 70’s I think. She gave me a call one day because her car wouldn’t start. I looked under the hood and what appeared to be all the front mounted accessories had fallen off the front of the engine. It was towed away and traded in for a Monte Carlo with a 400 cubic inch engine. SMH

    Like 2
  13. Kevin

    Nicest One Left? Ahhh,no. Never nice.

    Like 3
  14. nlpnt

    Too bad you BF doesn’t do a “we drive our listings” thing, I’d like to see a comparison test between this and the ’83 Civic also up today.

    Like 3
  15. Turbo

    These were actually solidly build little cars. My brother ran into a building head on in the winter driving a 79 green version of this car (road curved around the building, he didn’t) and it held up amazingly well. Pulled out the fenders, replaced the hood, replaced lights, and he was able to drive it a few more years.

    Like 4
  16. JT

    In high school (late 70s) I had a neon, lime green Chevette. It was a surprise purchase from my Father. There was another girl who also had the exact same color. We would park next to each other whenever we could. I didn’t think anyone would knowingly buy a car in that color. Drove it all through high school and threw it away as soon as I graduated.

    Like 1
  17. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking car. I remember when these were sold. I was way too young to drive at the time. I find the 1980 and later Chevettes way more attractive than those sold before 1980.

    Like 1
  18. Pete Phillips

    No thanks, not even if it had 2 original miles.

    Like 4
  19. Matt

    Really neat car, but I’m not buying the ‘just pulled from Grandma’s bit.” The entire rear bumper filler is missing and looks like it was trimmed just below the license plate area. Granted, this plastic filler piece could deteriorate simply from time, but it certainly takes away from the factory correctness of this supposed (no way) 26k mile example. I agree with the above observations about the driver’s door panel, especially the arm rest. That’s not a 26k mile armrest. And the carpet looks extra worn for the stated mileage. Not to nitpick it to infinity, because it’s really fun to see!

    Like 1
  20. Joe

    These cars never got 30 to 40 MPG with the gas engine. The EPA numbers were so inflated that they were a joke. Here is what Car and Driver got in real world driving with a 4 speed. performance. The poor acceleration is accompanied by less-than-stunning fuel economy—our test car achieved 27.5 mpg in the urban section of the Car and Driver mileage cycle, 29 mpg on the highway. A similar 1600cc, four-speed Chevette without air conditioning bettered these figures by 1 mpg, which puts it ahead of a Toyota Corolla but behind the Honda Civic, Datsun B-210, and Rabbit.

    Like 2
  21. G Lo

    For the record, and I speak from experience, there was never a nice Chevette, though I have seen some cool work done out of the UK to turn a few into rally cars (Retropower comes immediately to mind).

    These were seriously and perhaps even dangerously underpowered (no WAY did these things have 70hp-probably closer to the very low 50s), and if you don’t like the automatic, the 4 speed manual wasn’t much better. I could get about 16k miles out of a throw-out bearing before laying on my back in the gravel driveway to change it out. At least the transmission was small and pretty light, but still. Took forever to warm up in the winter, and was entirely too warm in the summer. Only in The People’s Republic of Ohio do you see this kind of “barn find” mockery, as if it’s some hidden gem finally brought out to the delight and astonishment of all. This thing should be towed by it’s front bumper, with the parking brake set, behind a tow truck until there’s nothing but the bumper left, ala the old lady in that Clint Eastwood and Clyde movie. Of course I am saying this somewhat tongue in cheek.

    Like 3
    • Tom

      A friends mom had one of these, a blue 4 door with a 4 speed, AC and believe it or not, a Positraction rear end. Like every other car we got our hands on, we had to see what it would do. He would pull onto the gravel shoulder, floor it, dump the clutch and steer it back onto the blacktop. That usually resulted in about three feet of pizza cutter thin black marks. With the AC on zero to sixty could be measured in minutes. He beat that thing like it owed him money and I have to admit it held up to the abuse. His mom had no idea what that poor little car went through!

      Like 3
  22. Karl

    I had girlfriend in college that had one of these it had wood grain stickers to try to fancy it up. The first time I rode in it I couldn’t believe how small it was both inside and out! Extremely cheap everything inside and out. I am pretty sure my lawn mower had bigger tires on it. Oh was it hard to keep my thoughts to myself on this one!!

    Like 3
  23. DeeBee

    Leave it to Chevy to take a perfectly respectable Opel and turn it into an abomination like the Chevette (or, Leavette)

    Like 2
  24. Robert

    my wife had a pea-green ’79 4-speed …….. and no, you can’t put a set of Z28 valve covers on it. Nor, a good looking set of side pipes. As Pop-Eye The Sailor Man said, “I yam’ what I yam’……… Dang !!!! I didn’t try putting a little spinach in the tank.

  25. Johnny

    Dad had a 1979 green -2 door with the 4 speed. About ever three days we,d have to work on it. It wasn,t a great mpg var either. It was so cheap made. It DID NOT have a head gasket on it. We thought maybe someone forgot to put it on and asked the parts guy for one. He even told us they DID NOT have head gaskets. We replaced alot of parts on it. It was all the time missing. Then we hooked up a clear gas line filter and the next morning before starting it. We looked at the filter. It was dry. So we got a new fuel filter to put on and stopped at this gas station. This car dealer got to talking to my dad about tradeing.Said he had a nice 81 Chrysler New Port. He drove across the street and dad traded and told him about the fuel pump. He told dad to take it back and get his money.They weren,t putting it on. Another guy bought the Chevett and about a week later.His wife got mad at him and took a bat and knocked all the windows out of it. I was real happy dad got rid of it. Troubles with it all the time.

  26. JCA

    Absolute turd of a car. Dangerously slow, poor MPG for its class, noisy engine and terrible interior. I wouldn’t spend $5k then or now. Does anyone really want to drive this? Or is it just for nostalgia sake…Find a similar year 4 spd Rabbit with fuel injection, that’s similar but 10x the car

    Like 3
  27. Larry Malmstead

    Run in to a guy at car shows who has a nice corvette but brings his chevette to the show because it gets a lot more attention and smiles.

    Like 1
  28. ward1790

    Had a 79 bought in 80. Sure it was slow but with the 4 spd and HD it was ok to drive. Not as fun as my 75 Opel Manta that it was kinda related to but acceptable for it’s time. It was my work truck for many projects, could haul a lot of 2x4s with passenger seat removed!

  29. Daniel

    We had the last year Pontiac Acadian 5 speed manual. It was a fun car.

  30. david r

    Take it from someone who has owned two?! chevettes , these cars are DOGS. Take your 5k and buy a ten year newer Lexus, you’ll have a real car.

    Like 2
  31. robert lewis

    worked on them at a service-station,real popular for pizza-wagons,used to call them “Sh#tvettes”

  32. sw2cam

    Will you look at all the comments about a Chevette none the less.These cars were everywhere you looked right up to the last day of production. I even had a 1984 4 door CS version. It was a refrigerator white 5 speed with A/C, Yes A/C is a must in Phoenix even in a refrigerator white Chevette. My Wife took it over because suddenly her new 1984 Impala wagon was to BIG.She wanted that 84 wagon because it was so much smaller than her 1976 Impala wagon. I bought the thing to go back and forth to work and it was great at doing that. With my white one in the hands of my Wife I had to go buy myself another. Next up was a light grey Chevette CS 5 speed with A/C. I think it had every option cept for an autotrans. It was a real hotrod with Dual Sport Mirrors, AM/FM, black wheels and trim rings. It was so cool it couldn’t be over looked. Ok so that part is a down right lie, but was an outstanding piece of base transportation. I drove mine till it was run over by a Ford Excursion in 2004.

    Like 1
  33. Karl

    I just wanted to say THANKS to the last 10 posts you guys all said what I wanted to but didn’t! Very true and we’ll put comments.

  34. Al S

    she didn’t want a Blazer like Steve’s?

  35. Dangerous Dan

    We had a GSA Staff Chevette (1980) for our Field Rep. She hated it. One day on a field visit, she had the Cat. Converter blow up on her. When the GSA motor pool guy came to get it, he said they always blew around 15,000MI Jean told the manager that she would NEVER drive one again. As her Husband was a car dealer she drove a new Chrysler. The paid her per mile after that.

  36. David Miraglia

    Boring ,dull, but collectible. Or a cheap daily driver.

  37. Ace Barker

    Anvil Like Durability ….And a resistance to rust, made these great cars!

  38. MDW66

    A mechanic freind of mine called Chevettes ‘The Roach’ as in never die! My mom had a 1978 4door when I was a kid. Drove it on dates with my girlfreind (she lived on a gravel road so no way was I driving my Black 75 Monte Carlo!) and with the back seat folded down…well there was adequate room! Still with my high school sweetie (not the Chevette) after almost 40 years.

  39. Wooky

    I had an ’80 Chevette, it had the 4 speed and it was difficult to keep clutch cables in it, always had to have a spare with me. It wasn’t speedy but got me where I was going. It was “bought for me” while I was in Germany (boy did I miss my SS 454 ElCamino I had when I left). When cold / warming up the ‘Vette wouldn’t even do 40 mph. It served it’s purpose until I sold it

  40. Joe

    Chevy Chevette did not have a posi traction rear end, standard or as a option. With the lack of power and to keep costs down it was not offered.

  41. vintagehotrods

    The Chevette was a good looking car because the GM stylists were the best. but it suffered from corporate rot in every other area, especially engineering. Thomas Murphy and the infamous Roger Smith, one of the worst automotive CEO’s ever, presided over the loss of 11% of GM’s markets share during this era. They were both bean counters that knew nothing about cars they made and the GM organization, which is why they presided over the decline of GM. Sad!

  42. John F Brush

    I has a fire engine red ’82 Scooter which was the most bare bones version you could buy. Loved that car. Put 150k on it and it was still in good shape when I finally had to trade for something bigger. Shouldn’t have done that. Would have donated it to this kind of a museum.

  43. KKW

    From vega to chevette. Now there’s some evolution for ya. Lol!

  44. JoeNYWF64

    JCA, i would not buy or even be SEEN in a NEW entry level car, if you PAID me! Why?
    Try finding ANY of these things the Chevette(not the best example back then – much more choices in earlier years) had, but new “entry level” cars don’t have

    TWO doors (4 doors are NOT kewl!!! & are NOT for young single people! Picture Milner, Falfa or even the Toad driving a 4 door in “Amer Graf” – they’d be alone all evening cruising).
    Color keyed interior. Try finding all blue TODAY.
    & 14! different exterior colors to choose from !
    http://www.xr793.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/1980-Chevrolet-Chevette.pdf
    2 tone paint if you want – & kewl STEEL racing mirrors.
    Excellent visibility all around.
    Real protective bumpers.
    REAR wheel drive.
    HIGH profile tires that protect the STEEL wheels from pothole damage – i seen several new cars with dumb LOW profile flat tires & huge bent alum rims on the cross bronx “express”way – ha ha.
    Manual steering.
    HVAC controls & radio that can be operated WITHOUT taking your eyes off the road! – have you noticed how many modern vehicles are being driven into buildings? – never happened back then!
    NEVER yellowing/scratching/clouding $8 GLASS SEALED headlites that can be replaced by a 12 yr old!
    FULL door glass styling – mirror(s) mounted where they should be – to the DOOR!
    No cheap black exterior plastic that will fade.
    No clearcoat paint to peel that looks as bad as acne.
    No blend-door motors with plastic gears to break in the air ducts.
    Full size spare.
    EZ to work on – espec w/o a/c.

    • JCA

      Yeah…well, ponder this…what’s one of the most, if not THE most popular car for the young millennial Brad of today? Which is evidenced by the fact that it holds the award for the car with the most speeding tickets written against its drivers this year? It’s the Subaru WRX…which only comes in a 4 door. AWD, quick and easily modded for impressive and cheap performance for a young bro light on cash. So, no one cares or even wants a 2 door car anymore. Times have changed. And I can say from my own experience, I leased the cheapest base model 5 spd Jetta a few years ago. Wasn’t even $200/month with $0 down, sign and drive. Cash would have been around $16k same as the Chevette inflation adjusted. Probably half the true cost of the Chevette with high interest rates. That base model Jetta had everything, power windows, doors, cruise, keyless entry, Bluetooth, flat bottom sport steering wheel with controls for the touch screen stereo and cruise. It had a 1.4T direct injection turbo engine that pulled hard like a turbo sports car should and couldn’t less than 34 MPG even though I drove it like I stole it, or leased it lol. Happily cruised at 80 mph all day long on reg octane fuel too. FWD but no torque steer at all, plowing or anything like FWD of the 80’s. I love classic cars and own a few but when it comes to daily driving, it’s a different story. This Chevette is a white elephant. Would be ok as a $1000 beater but $5k, makes no sense to me. But if you like it, collect it…

  45. genemak1

    Based on the GM T-car sold around the world. Chevy USA brought an Opel Kadett City over from Europe, tore it apart, replaced the German designed motor with an anemic OHC Brazilian design and sourced wheezer. Cheapened and ‘Americanized’ the interior, bumpers, lighting etc. Softened the ride. The result, a modified but certainly not improved vehicle. Not GM’s best showing!

  46. Freddie

    I have an 82 two door that I bought new. Payments were $178 a month. I have it for about three years and totaled it. Such a small car I’m surprised that I survived a major car accident at over 50 miles an hour hitting two carsAnd sliding into a telephone pole. Praise God I was alive.

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