Rare Diesel: 1982 Chevrolet Chevette

If you were searching for a new small Chevrolet in 1982, your choices were either the all-new front-wheel-drive Cavalier or the more conventional rear-wheel-drive Chevette, a model that debuted six years earlier. Both cars were based on global platforms, the Cavalier being a J-Body and the Chevette being a T-Body, but only one of them was available in the States as a diesel. Fuel-efficient diesel engines were an answer to gas crisis of the late ‘70s, and as a result offered on many cars available to Americans at the time. Listed here on eBay in Durand, Michigan, this 1982 Chevrolet Chevette is equipped with the optional diesel engine that was available from 1981 through 1986. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Larry D for the tip!

Despite living in Michigan, the body of this Chevette appears to be in good shape and is described by the seller as “clean and solid” with 97,600 miles on the clock. It wears its original gold paint and stripes, both of which are faded from age. There are some dings on the body but nothing too serious. The floor pan and shock towers are said to be “rock solid” so it’s possible that this car is either not originally from the Midwest or was never driven in the winter. The 13-inch wheels wear full hubcaps like the ones also offered on the Citation, and the rear pair of tires are new Kumhos. The only clue from the factory that this isn’t a common gasoline burning Chevette is the small DIESEL badge above the license plate.

The interior is in nice condition with the only noticeable flaws being one crack on the dashboard and ripped seam in the vinyl of the driver’s seat. The black dash contrasts nicely with the light brown interior. The two-spoke steering wheel and the faux aluminum dash cluster surround coupled with the manual shifter give this car an almost sporty look on the inside. The “DIESEL FUEL ONLY” warning in the fuel gauge reminds the driver not to put gasoline in the tank. Air conditioning was not available on diesel models so be prepared to sweat it out in the summertime.

Under the hood sits a 1.8-liter Isuzu diesel engine that makes 51 horsepower and 72 foot-pounds of torque, and is said by the owner to be good for around 45 miles per gallon. The seller also states that it has a new timing belt and new water pump and has no oil or coolant leaks. The GM stickers are said to still be visible on both the oil pan and the front coil springs. A new Interstate battery has also been fitted as has a block heater, both of which should improve cold weather starting. As with all diesel Chevettes, power is delivered through a 5-speed manual Borg-Warner T5 transmission, though this one will need a new clutch.

With fewer than two days of bidding left to go, this diesel Chevette has an opening bid of $4,000 with no bids cast. With few surviving diesel Chevettes out there it’s hard to say what one is worth, but it seems like this one could be a tough sell, especially since it requires a clutch to be roadworthy. How does this Chevette compare to other diesel subcompacts of the era?


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  1. Driveinstile Member

    0 to 60 in 19.2 seconds. 1/4 mile 21.6 (at least it broke 60 by the end of the 1/4 mile lol) But if taken care of, those Isuzu diesels run forever.

    Like 15
    • nlpnt

      I was going to say “0-60 in 5 to 7 business days” but close enough.

      Like 30
    • Sam61

      How about a paper dragrace between the subject, MB 240d and a Volvo 240? Who would win?

      Like 3
      • Scott C Williams

        Father Time would win.

        I suspect that an automatic 240D would be the last place finisher.

        Like 7
      • jwzg

        @Scott, you just won the Interwebz with that comment.

        Like 1
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        How about a more realistic drag race:
        This against the early 80’s diesel Rabbit that my father insisted on driving back in the day.

        Probably a dead heat for the slowest thing on the road.

        Like 3
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    Well…….at least it’s not an automatic.

    Like 14
    • Mike

      The only think shocking about this car is that it’s NOT an automatic.

      Like 8
      • Sam61

        At least its not a pinto

        Like 6
    • donald lindeman

      We had a four door diesel Chevette with a five speed and factory air. I also had an Isuzu pu with a larger push rod diesel. The Chevette had a single overhead cam with about 80 cu” the truck had about 110 cu”. Anyway We didn’t want or need two stick shift cars. So I went to the local pick a part and bought an automatic transmission and installed it into the chevette. So one they came with ac and automatic. The car went back to a metal recicling yard also in my neighborhood in Sun Valley ca 91352

      Like 2
  3. Gary

    Nice little cars for the day, but not this engine.

    Like 11
    • Steve R

      That’s funny you mustn’t have owned or driven one. Chevettes were junk, me and my sister split time driving one in high school. It quickly taught you the value of saving money in order to upgrade to a better car, which we did, in the form of a mid-70’s Toyota Corolla.

      Steve R

      Like 15
      • Gary

        Not every car needs to be a rally racer. It did what it needed to do, get you where you wanted to go in an economical and reactively comfortable way. Yes, I drove one for a while, only stopped when a drunk driving idiot crushed it while it sat on a curb by my local grocer. I wish more people thought less about the image and performance of their cars and more about being a responsible driver and citizen.

        Like 21
      • man ' war

        I owned and drove one for 6 years to work. I even drove it out of state once or twice. It was a 76 Chevette with manual transmission. I even drove it in winter though the defroster was not as good at defrosting the entire window. The problems I encountered were having to have the brakes replaced upon purchasing it, and getting the carb refurbished. I got rid of it when the carb gave me issues again after 5 years free years of driving issue free driving; of course, it only had about 30k when I bought it which helped out.

        Like 2
  4. Kevin

    No love for this one…sad was thinking of bidding

    Like 2
  5. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Probably not a bad idea to wear the safety glasses when driving a 39 year old Chevy Chevette diesel. Just sayin’

    Like 7
    • Dave

      Safety glasses and face masks (they’re hanging from the shifter). You can’t be too careful.

  6. Raymond

    Gas ones were terribly slow, can’t imagine a diesel….scary…

    Like 3
    • Blyndgesser

      The gas version didn’t have that much more power, and had less torque. The diesel might not be noticeably slower.

      Like 3
      • JB

        WOW! What a find! Wonder if I could trade my 70 4 speed Cuda’ for this turd! Yet another reason folks don’t subscribe to “barn finds”!

    • Big_Fun Member

      Motor Trend ran an article with a Chevette Diesel and Caprice Diesel. The quote I remember is ” the Chevette *lost* speed going downhill”…

  7. Chunk

    As a Californian, a hot-rodder, and a pervert I am intrigued by the notion of buying this smog-exempt cockroach of a car and swapping in the motor from a a VW TDi – 175 horsepower and 300 lb/ft of diesel fury would be HILARIOUS.

    Like 16
    • Skorzeny

      Hot Rod did a story MANY moons ago on a V-6 swap on a gas Chevette using factory part numbers for the parts needed. Your idea might take a little more work Chunk, but I kinda like it! I know they weren’t much of a car, but I have a soft spot for them…

      Like 7
    • James

      Absolutely! Go for an ALH with a tune and call it a day. I recently picked up a Jetta Wagon with a stage IV tune in it. Still needs some upgrades (intercooler, exhaust) but is just a HOOT to drive (5 speed manual of course).

      Like 1
  8. Luki

    Buy it. You can get some dates when word gets out that you bought a Vette.

    Like 11
    • Blyndgesser

      Yeah, but they’ll all be bald guys in their sixties.

      Like 5
      • Edward M Pate

        As a bald guy in my 60’s I resent that! LOL

        Like 3
    • George Morrison

      That’s Sheeee-vette

      Like 1
  9. amos

    looks like there’s a block heater installed, so i don’t think it wasn’t driven in the winter. bring a magnet.

    Like 3
  10. oilngas

    I’m surprised the tail lights aren’t broken

    Like 3
  11. Jonathan Green

    There is something perverse about this. My kid has been begging for a car with a stick. No one else has one of these. At $2,000.00 I’d buy it just because it is a piece of history. Or at least a piece of something…

    Like 5
    • bill tebbutt

      It is, indeed, a piece of *something*. Long ago, ex-wife’s first new car (her parents bought it for her as a graduation present, Dad was the accountant at a Chevy dealership).

      A totally forgettable car, even brand new. Awful, terrible to drive. Still get the shakes thinking of if….


      Like 2
  12. Howard A Member

    Chevettes, basically an Opel Kadett, were good cars. We didn’t see many diesels in the north for obvious reasons, diesels don’t like cold, but the gas jobs, people put a ton of miles on, until rust took over. It’s kind of a conundrum, diesels can accrue hundreds of thousands of miles, if in a highway setting, but make lousy city motors, and not many bought a Chevette for it’s highway attributes. The gas job, diesel owners found out, was much better suited. Shame, the Chevette seemed to live in the shadow of the Vega, probably held back sales, I thought they were good cars, and had a following for people like my old man, that didn’t trust FWD.

    Like 5
  13. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I hope whoever buys this enjoys it. I remember when this was on the market. I was too young at the time to drive, but I remember how hideous I found the car at the time. I found later Chevettes more attractive than earlier Chevettes.

    Like 1
  14. S

    I never knew they offered a diesel in a Chevette. $4000? That would be a hard sell even if it didn’t need a clutch. Good luck finding a buyer. I’m surprised one of these was still around.

  15. Mark P

    Back in the 70’s a buddy’s father sold Chevrolets. He called one day and said come over, I have my father’s demo car, a Vette, we’ll take it for a ride. I get there and it’s a Chevette. He got a laugh, me, not so much.

  16. Daniel Blancher

    I remember them back in the day of wrenching. They were what they were
    50 mpg in some cases

  17. Des

    I owned a 1981 Chevette Diesel that I bought from a parts runner for $150 back in the early 90’s. Zero to 60 in around 35 minutes going downhill with a tail wind, but the 46 MPG for my broke ass was pretty cool. I went to a salvage yard and bought 13 inch rally wheels off an old 70’s Monza that had 60 series tires mounted on them. Slowed the car down, but made it look cool. Ran it for 4 years in the Northeast and sold it for $500 when it turned 379K miles. Owned 2 other gas job Ch’Vettes also. Never paid more than $200 for any of them. Tons of fun drifting in parking lots in the winter. Can’t find good ones anymore for a cheap price… Just like my old 1980 BRAT… Extinct.

    Like 3
  18. AnthonyD

    When I was a salesman back then, folks would come in wanting to trade these in after only a couple of years! They always hoped we wouldn’t lift up the carpet on the driver’s side…. ’cause more often than not you could see the pavement.

    Like 1
  19. Howie Mueler

    Wow!! What a chick magnet!!

    Like 3
  20. charlie Member

    The only thing slower was a diesel VW Rabbit, but they did come with A/C which you turned off going uphill. I did an 8 hour trip in the hills of Vermont and NH when it was new (which they call mountains), temp in the 90’s, surprised I did not wear out the A/C switch. But my Audi Q5’s A/C quit here in CA with temps in the low hundreds, uphill and down, on a 10 hour trip at age 3, so things are not necessarily better.

    Like 1
  21. DaveK

    I owned a 83 Scooter which was basic beyond basic. No a/c, so got a sunroof put in. Car carried me through college and then some. Think back to how many you ever saw broken down on the side of the road. Not many. Slow, heck yeah, try one going up the side of a mountain and semi’s are passing you. LOL. I’d love to have that car back. Only had to put gas in it about once a month.

    Like 2
  22. Jack

    These were not bad cars. I owned three of them in the day and they were all reliable. One was a diesel and it was great.

    Like 3
  23. Steve Clinton

    2 reasons why it’s garnered no bids in 6.5 days:

    1. It’s a Chevette
    2. It’s a diesel.

    Like 1
  24. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    Back in the day; nothing worse than driving on a two lane road, trying to get somewhere – and stuck behind a Chevette going 40mph. In later years it was replaced by a PT Cruiser. Same problem.

    Like 2
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      For me, it is the beige colored Camry or Corolla that will cut in front of you and then go below the speed limit. Or at least here in New England, any non-WRX Subaru.

      Like 2
  25. NHDave

    Motor Trend wrote a retrospective earlier this year (with a pretty good historical overview of the Chevette’s gestation and production run):


    The subhead on the article is humorous and quite sharp: “The significance of Chevy’s infamous crap-can is lost in its utter wretchedness.”

    Like 1
  26. charlie Member

    The worst, 5 years ago, were the smug Prius drivers, in the left lane, on a trip from Boston to south of Providence on Easter Sunday, on I-95, limit 65, me going a sedate 70, I passed 24 Prius and was only passed by one.

    The Tesla drivers, on the other hand, tend to go faster than I do, maybe becasue their engergy, at the moment, is very cheap, or they are show offs cut from a different cloth than the eco-nuts Prius guys.

    And 50 years ago it was the VW bug that held up traffic on two lane mountain roads – most of them are gone but well maintained, or restored, VW buses abound here in the Sierra, pokey slow, unless they have had a Subaru transplant in which case they move right along.

  27. Luki

    Based on the content and quantity of comments this thing has elicited I have some serious reservations about the sanity of the general membership of this group.

    Like 2
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Now that’s the right attitude right there! We are an interesting bunch here.

  28. JB

    WOW! What a find! Wonder if I could trade my 70 4 speed Cuda’ for this turd! Yet another reason folks don’t subscribe to “barn finds”!

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Buh Bye – LMAO at all the complainers who would waste their precious time looking at cars they have nothing but disdain for, and then commenting about them.

      That’s a successful site in my book.

      As Howard Stern says: “I have as many fans that tune in that hate me as love me”.

      Like 2

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