Not A Fast Car: 1982 Chevrolet Chevette Diesel

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The seller says that this 1982 Chevrolet Chevette diesel with an automatic transmission is “not a fast car.” Speedy or not, it looks like a nice example of a car that would undoubtedly have a crowd around it at almost any car show, especially with the hood open. They have it posted here on craigslist in beautiful Olympia, Washington and they’re asking $6,500. Here is the original listing.

We’ve seen many Chevettes here on Barn Finds over the last decade or so and I think they’re interesting, especially when they have an unusual feature like a diesel engine. Using the EPA numbers of the era (they’ve been adjusted to be more realistic today), Chevy touted 55 mpg for their diesel Chevette and I don’t doubt that some owners got that, or close to it. The seller says that they get 46 mpg.

The Chevette was Chevy’s gift to America for its 200th birthday. Ok maybe not, but they were offered for model years 1976 all the way up until 1987. Ahhh… 1987, the year when Chrysler took over AMC, the movie Platoon won four Academy Awards, the stock market crashed in October, and Al Unser became the oldest driver to win the Indianapolis 500 at a ripe old age of, cough… wheeze… 48. What I wouldn’t give to be 48 again.

This maroon over maroon oil burner looks fantastic from the outside, and being a Pacific Northwest car, it shouldn’t have issues that desert Southwest vehicles have as far as burnt interiors and cracked plastic and rubber parts. The seller is the second owner and they bought it after it had been sitting in a garage for years. The front seats are covered and we don’t get a good view of the back seats, but they appear to be original. There is no AC in this car or in any diesel Chevette as it wasn’t available – GM knew that it would take too much power away from the engine. The big thing inside is that three-speed THM-200 transmission with a console selector. Most of us would want a manual in a car with 51 horsepower.

Speaking of 51 horsepower, this engine is an Isuzu 4FB1, a 1.8-liter SOHC inline-four diesel with 72 lb-ft of torque helping those 51 horses to move this 2,300-pound car to 60 mph in the time it takes to reheat a Sausage McMuffin in the microwave. I mean, from what I hear. That’s 21.7 seconds for those of you who are health food fans. The five-speed manual version cut two seconds off of that time. The seller says that this car runs and drives flawlessly and everything works other than having a burned bulb for the high beam indicator on the dash. I think it would be fun to own, for local car show duty if nothing else, how about you?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Rumpledoorskin

    Picked it up in ’83 on a year end closeout. I’ve been running it flat out since, only stopping for fuel once a week. It is just a bit slow… But I like it.

    Like 21
  2. Vair Nut

    We have a guy here in Central New York that collects these things and that is all he drives. He has over a dozen. His daily driver is a Diesel that he bought brand new in 1984. He only drives in the Spring, Summer, and fall. It has over +250K miles and still wears its original paint that looks pretty good from 50′ away. He said they are easy to maintain and get around town great. He is not on social media, so I will share this information with him. Also, he has a handwritten sign in the rear window that says “NOT FOR SALE.”

    Like 13
  3. nlpnt

    Never knew you could get these with the diesel and auto. I suppose Isuzu would’ve had the setup on hand for their own rwd, trunked small cars, not so much for the US market as for places where a diesel Gemini was the go-to taxi.

    Like 5
    • JustPassinThru

      The Chevette and similar Isuzu Gemini (Buick/Opel on these shores, for a few years) were both variations on the T-car platform, GM’s underwhelming World Car.

      So the Isuzu diesel would have been a near drop-in.

      Remember, too, back then, emissions controls on diesels were minimal. Adapting the Isuzu oiler would have been just a matter of paperwork to the EPA.

      Like 4
  4. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    Yeah, 46 MPG, but diesel costs twice as much as gas, so you do the math.

    Then again, the chick factor might tip the scales.

    Like 20
    • Smokey Smokerson

      Most folks I know running the older VW diesels are not putting diesel fuel in it. Driving behind them smells like a fast food parking lot.

      Like 7
  5. greg v

    Citation hubcaps if I’m not mistaken.

    Like 7
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Good catch, greg!

      Like 2
    • wallyum

      My friend owned one that had the same rims that were on another friends Pontiac Sunbird. He didn’t take it well when we asked him how he liked his 1000 and if that was the trade in value once you drove a new one off the lot.

      Like 3
    • Duaney

      Citations are 14 inch wheels, this Chevette is 13 inch

      Like 2
      • CCFisher

        Citations came standard with 13″ wheels. 14″ wheels were optional in some model years, and were standard on the ’81-85 X-11. My 1980 Citation X-11 had 13s.

        Like 3
  6. Stan

    Isuzu makes some quality diesels. Marine as well.

    Like 9
    • Greg Gustafson

      Oh yeah, well this wasn’t one of them.

      Like 6
      • duaney

        4FB1 is bullet proof, what don’t you like about it?

        Like 3
  7. Roland

    Nostalgia only takes me so far. These cars were awful to drive and awful to drive in. May they rust in peace.

    Like 8
    • Steve

      They were awful then, and awfuller now.

      Like 6
    • connbackroads

      You nailed it. I owned one of these in my twenties, though this is the first 2-door with a diesel that I’ve ever seen. Only got mid 20’s mpg.

      My dad called it “the little cement mixer”, as the car shook while idling.

      I bought 3 of them for parts–I got really good at swapping the auto trannys after they blew, and flex plates as they failed as well.

      The engine was great, the rest of the car was a POS.

      I still have Chevette diesel parts in the basement . . .

      Like 5
    • duaney

      We see these I hate Chevette comments but where do they come from? According to Car and Driver December 1976, after their 26,000 mile test, they declared the Chevette the best quality car they’d ever tested. I trust Car and Driver much more than the “I hate Chevette commentators.” I drive Chevettes all the time and they’re wonderful, and fun to drive, durable, and great economy.

      Like 10
      • JustPassinThru

        Remember what the old-time auto-enthusiasts’-magazine business model was.

        The company’s PR department supplied the car; and the writer was supposed to praise it. NO MATTER how low it was.

        The Japanese models could be sincerely praised, as well as some German cars of the time. But it was the American cars who needed all the help they could get. Only when the advertising budget of a company was low, or the company itself, circling the bowl, would writers talk smack.

        Ford, for example, got mocked in C/D in 1980 for the Pinto MPG – the Disposable Car, C/D said. A cute photo mockup of a Kmart shopper with a sack full of 1980 Pintos.

        And Studebaker got NO mentions, in 1964-67. It was ignored as if already dead.

        Conversely, David E. Davis got fired, the first time, for mocking the Blaupunkt radio in an Opel model. GM lashed out at Davis (former advertising man for Chevrolet) C/D and the publisher, and Davis was out the door.

        The Chevette was an “acceptable” car for the times. There were worse ones. There were much-better ones. To its credit, the Chevette avoided rust much better than imported cars of the time.

        Like 0
  8. Tim

    Had a company Chevy (Isuzu) pickup with the diesel. And A/C. 5 speed manual. Talk about slow. Drove it through standing water to get to a wellsite, sucked some in the intake and bent a rod. It still ran (badly) but smoked like a bug fogger. Crankcase capacity was ungodly huge. Y’all can keep your diesels. To paraphrase Click and Clack, what is it you like about diesels, the noise or the smell? I hate following them in traffic. To each their own

    Like 5
    • Smokey Smokerson

      Diesel used to be cheaper than gasoline and the fuel mileage was the kicker that was the added bonus. Imagine getting almost 30 mpg on a 1979 Olds 98 Regency Brougham when its gas counterpart was lucky to pull 15 mpg.

      Like 5
    • duaney

      There is an Isuzu Pup Chevy Luv website, and they say that the Pups are so durable, that after the nuclear wipe out of earth, the only living things on earth will be cockroaches and Isuzu Pup diesel trucks. I drive one daily, only have to fill tank every 2 months, and it’s the handiest little truck to go to the lumber yard, or move items, shopping, etc.

      Like 4
  9. Troy

    I forgot that Chevrolet built these Isuzu things until this post. I used to buy the regular ones at abandoned car auctions and sell parts then scrap the rest.

    Like 1
    • TomP

      I’d like to meet the man that pays $6500 for this car. I don’t think he exists.

      Like 6
  10. Zen

    I’ve driven the gas version of these, dangerously underpowered. It took forever to get started in the morning. Probably poor design in the electric in-tank fuel pump. I’ll pass on this paper weight.

    Like 2
  11. Jay E.Member

    You couldn’t give me one of these, yet when I bought a property with one and put it up for sale, I was astonished as to the following these have. I was buried with callers, the car was trailered away and I got many time what I thought it was worth. One week later it rolled back in,all cleaned up and running great, with mag wheels on it to boot The buyer loved it. It was identical to this one, color and all.

    Like 7
  12. Will Fox

    $6500…..Chevy owners always think they hold the world by the balls with what they sell. As if their car is the holy grail, and lines a mile long of buyers clammering to buy what they have. This Chevette can’t get out of it’s own way, which makes it a danger to other drivers who can. And a diesel to boot? Pfft!

    Like 2
    • 433jeff

      I had one was a great car, you could put a lot in the hatchback.

      Once at a gas station some more put 5 gallons of gas in it , in spite of the Diesel only sticker, i told them to take the gas out, he said he couldn’t and i was late for work.

      That isuzu ran so good that day, About 3 months later the timing belt let go, i went to my local parts store he looked it up and said” Oh forget it , its an interference motor” .

      I was scrapping cars paid 25$ for it drove it 6-8 months then junked it for 50-100.

      Simple cheap, probably didn’t have 16 computers and 32 sensors.

      Keep the tbelt changed

      Like 2
  13. Big C

    The Chevy Chevette Diesel. For people that REALLY hate driving. I saw it’s crosstown rival, an Escort diesel, at Carlisle a couple years back. I thought the same thing.

    Like 2
  14. Greg Gustafson

    Not a fast (or quick) car is an understatement; jog if you’re only going a few blocks, you’ll get there quicker.

    Like 2
  15. CarbobMember

    In 1983 I had an automatic gasser bestowed upon me as a company car. Slow is an understatement. I used to joke that it had two speeds: on and off! I can only imagine how painfully slow a non-turbo diesel would be. Not only was the Chevette a slug but the brakes weren’t so great either. Really easy to lock up. Another weird feature was that the steering column was at a slight angle instead of directly in front of you. At least mine was. And to top it all off the wheezy engine was not fond of starting in sub freezing weather. And this was a new vehicle. The next year I got upgraded to a Dodge Omni. And it really was a significant improvement in my driving experience. BTW, I have owned diesel vehicles for over twenty years. All German; VWs and Mercedes. Absolutely love them.

    Like 4
    • Big C

      They all had the wheel and pedals at an angle. Another incredible achievement by General Motors. Our #1 automaker. Sheesh..

      Like 0
  16. Jack

    I bought a 1982 new with the diesel and the 5 speed. Ran just fine around town and always over 40 mpg

    Like 2
    • Kevin

      I had an 81 2 door gas, with the crappy weak turbo 200 trans. Which I ended up having to replace, it was an average car, no gas gauge function, no speedometer, needed choke for carburetor, I just kept a curved screw to hold butterfly open on carb, got 20 mpg, city or highway, managed to get 2 years use for about $300 bucks around the early nineties, ah the good old days.

      Like 0
  17. Kirk M Stankiewicz

    Imagine having one of those in High School and fighting off the girls!

    Like 2
    • CarbuzzardMember

      At least you know the girls won’t be going out with you because of your car. On the other hand, girls won’t be going out with you because of your car. But then…you’ll have a car.

      Like 2
  18. BrianT BrianTMember

    Put a turbo in it. It wouldn’t be quite as slow.

    Like 0
  19. Gary Beard

    I owned a grey ’83 diesel Chevette with 5-speed transmission. Fun to drive and fast enough for me. Easy to start even on the coldest days. I’m a Ford man but I loved my Chevette. Easy on fuel. Back in the 90’s when I owned my Chevette, diesel was cheap. I used farm fuel that was cheaper yet.

    Like 2
  20. HCMember

    That’s just damn sad man. She is clean but diesel is more expensive than gas these days. Had some friends whose Mom had a gas version just like this one in the day and we nicknamed it eggbrakes cause it smelled so bad when you stopped it.

    Like 1
  21. Kevin Griffith

    I bought a Deisel Chevette new in 1982. Mine hade a 4-speed manual. The fuel mileage was whatever your average speed was. If I drove down the freeway at 55mph, I got 55 mpg. If I was stuck in traffic and averaged only 35mph, I would get only 35mpg. But at the time I was driving 60 miles one way to work and it saved me a ton of money. Wish I still had it!

    Like 0
  22. jwaltb

    My niece had a new Chevette back in the day- not a diesel. She had a bumper sticker that read “Thank you for not laughing at this car”
    ‘Nuff said.

    Like 0
  23. Brett Lee Lundy

    Who remembers the Ford Ranger diesel from this time frame? I had 1 with the Mitsubishi diesel the year before they were the Isuzu. pulled a 24′ pontoon with it and drove it for 300K before we traded it in for a new Taurus. only draw back was no AC but a great truck that i absolutely beat on and drove the crap out of while getting mid 50’s MPG. only ever saw 3 of these and the dealer I bought from had 2, 1of each engine.

    Like 0
    • TomP

      I had a 1984 Nissan Sentra diesel, I bought it in 1987 for $200; a very reliable car..

      Like 0
    • Gary Beard

      I had a dark blue 1986 Ford Ranger turbo diesel with 5 speed transmission. It had AC, the long bed with a Leer topper and ran great. Would start no matter how cold it was. The 2.3L turbo diesel was more powerful than the 2.3L gas at that time. It was heavier than the gas Rangers but very easy on fuel. It had traction lock rear end and very fancy blue interior. I wish I still had it.

      Like 0
  24. HCMember

    I learned to drive first on a tractor, and then a car so I have smelled all the diesel that I care to from a tractor, and dont want to smell it from my car. Especially from an underpowered automatic with no AC.

    Like 1
  25. Robt

    I can’t speak about the diesel engine, but my brother-in-law got a 4 or 5 spd chevette back in the day for my big sister. It wasn’t bad at all. I heard a few horror stories, but as I driver I never experienced any. And with the stick you could use what the motor had to offer.
    Being a kid brother I got to borrow it a bit, around town and on the highway. Ok. highway speeds could be a tad scary at times, but that never slowed me down.

    Like 0
  26. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    Great comments, folks! The craigslist ad is gone, which one of you rascals snagged this baby?

    Like 0

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