Sandpiper Survivor: 1977 Chevy Chevette

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The Chevrolet Chevette will never be mistaken for a hot rod or even mildly entertaining driver, but there is some charm in a survivor-grade econobox that has withstood the test of time. Here on eBay is a special edition Chevette known as the Sandpiper, which is made slightly more appealing due to it retaining its factory graphics indicating the limited-edition trim package it came with.

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The Sandpiper amounted to the aforementioned bodyside graphics, special interior trim and paint colors limited to antique white or cream gold. This car is one of about 2,000 ever sold, and sadly, one of the two Sandpiper graphics appears to be missing (see behind the driver’s side front wheel). Still, there are fans of these unique little cars, with a website dedicated to tracking the short-lived model.

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The “reef” seat pattern is still present and accounted for, as is the deluxe door trim – also a feature of the Sandpiper Chevette. The automatic promises leisurely if not downright dangerous acceleration. Still, this interior remains in fine shape, no doubt helped by having less than 100,000 miles since new.

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The 1.6L engine has a good reputation for reliability and fuel economy, so despite not being powerful, it would be easy to live with. Whenever we feature a Chevette, I notice a lot of the commentary ties back to family members or personal ownership of these cars marked by longevity and ease of maintenance, so this one likely has lots of life left. Is the opening bid of $2,500 still too much? Let us know if the comments below.

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Shades of the Datsun B210 “Honeybee!” In case you didn’t know, a depressing car with cute graphics is still a depressing car.

    I suppose you could stuff a SBC in it and make it more enjoyable (in a dangerous way), but I think I’ll give it a miss. Worth more than a rusted-out Porsche 356, but nowhere close to $2500 worth of boring transportation.

  2. Jason Houston

    If there’s anything more stupid than a Chevette hot rod, it’s these ridiculous graphics! Just goes to show, the car flopped and they couldn’t come with ANYTHING to redeem it.

    • PaulG

      So Jason, selling 2.8 million units, and having the best selling small car for 1979 and 80 is a flop…

      Like 1
    • jaygryph

      Wow, they weren’t kidding. You literally never have a single positive thing to say about anything.

      What’s it like, going through life like that?

      Like 1
      • MountainMan

        Yeah, there’s been some of going around on here recently
        Never understood the “I don’t like it so it’s worthless ” mentality

      • Gary

        I sometimes think of Jason as the Male version of Debbie Downer…just sayin’

    • Greg

      I had a ’82 and an ’86. Chevette had a good long run 77-87! Mine were both really reliable, got 30+ mpg, and fun in the winter with RWD. Not bad cars for the time.

  3. Mike R

    Another example of rare not equating to desirable….

  4. fred

    I think it would be fun to own just to be able to tell people you drive a vintage ‘Vette…

    • Charlie

      Yes, I tried that when I was driving a new one, but the joke wasn’t well received. My experience with my 1982 two-tone brown Chevette was that they were anything but dependable. (1) Once, I was driving on the expressway when I heard a “thunk,” and saw the fan belt pulley fly out from under the car, and go rolling off the side of the road, as the car immediately died. I pulled over and was able to recover the lost part, and had the car towed to the shop. Apparently the connecting bolt was defective and it was common for it to shear off. (2) Another time, I was driving on the highway when the car suddenly lost about 90% of its power, while making a roaring noise. I nursed it off the highway and to the side of the road, and popped the hood, to see that something was glowing red hot, which I assumed was not a good sign. After the car was towed to the shop, the problem was diagnosed as a broken pin in the distributor shaft that had suddenly thrown off the timing. (3) The final straw was when I put three guys in the car to go to lunch and the weight caused the rear differential housing to separate and the gears to growl. I emptied them out of the car and it was better, and the dealer just bolted the differential back together, but I think that some gears were damaged and the car never sounded right. I complained to friends and they weren’t sympathetic, saying, “If you only paid for half a car, you should only expect half a car.” I answered that I thought I was paying for a small, slow, less comfortable car, but still expected it to have a decent lifespan. They didn’t see it the same way. I donated it to a charity that was supposed to auction it off, but I think they just left it sitting for a few years. — A coworker gave me a lift to work a couple of times in his Chevette, and the steering was shaking so horribly that I was afraid for my life.

  5. Slim Chance

    They put diesel engines in these through ’86. Retail was over $9,000. (a little under $20,000 today)
    I remember a friend telling me they had one at his dealership. There was a lot of laughter.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Slim. We had a lot of diesels go through our shop. Definitely not power houses but reasonably reliable. Head gaskets, cracked pre combustion chambers but otherwise OK. The cause of the failures was usually the glow plug system malfunctioning and the drivers then opted to use starting fluid (ether) instead of fixing the corroded grounds.

  6. Kevin

    They came out during the gas crisis. These were great for getting around on the cheap. Ran good, but when they start to fall apart. They do so in a grand way. Nice to see a survivor. It is not desirable, but the fact that so few exist in such condition. Very cool. Just not $2500 worth of cool.

  7. Mike H. Mike H.

    They must not weigh much. The seller’s eBay ad said that the only method of shipment is USPS, but that he’ll ship it within (24) hours of receiving payment.

    That seems like a fairly good deal.

  8. DREW V.

    My ex wife’s father had an 85 model with a Diesel in it… I’ve seen glaciers with better acceleration than that thing had, but it was a very dependable and interesting ride… I got a speeding ticket in it one time, for doing 40 in a 26mph zone… LOL… I would love to have that car now, 50+ MPG. Plus when I was trying to teach my ex how to drive a stick, she could n’t take off, killing the engine everytime in what ever vehicle I was trying to teach her in, that Vette, you could leave your foot off the accelerator and pop the clutch, it would lurch forward and then idle on down the road, so finally got her taught using that car…

    And as far as the car being a cheap POS, wasn’t the Ford Falcon, Chec=vy’s Nova etc etc the same??? and they turned out to be in quite high demand by hot rodders and collectors…

  9. Trent Poole

    While I am no fan of The Chevette, they can’t really be called a “flop” given the fact that Chevrolet sold 2,778,201 units (all variants included) during it’s production run. That doesn’t include the Pontiac T1000 version.

  10. Walter Joy

    I was offered one by a family friend. Except it was a Chevette Scooter, which was the stripped model. Luckily they gave it away to a friend who needed it

  11. Dovi65

    Chevette’s weren’t designed to be anything more than what they were; inexpensive, economical transportation. Designed to get you from point “a” to point “b”. A flop? Not in the least. Was it a stellar auto? No. Then again, not much coming out of the American car makers in the mid 70s thru the 1980s was anything to boast about. They were great for a teenage/college driver, retirees, or just as a 2nd car.
    The special ediitons, be it Sandpiper, Woody, or Rallye were just to give an otherwise spartan ride a little more pizazz [show, not “go”]

  12. Chris

    Been a while since I have posted.
    I had a friend, let’s name him Ray.
    Ray had the death touch when it came to cars. His Audi burned to the ground. His New Yorker had bad motor mounts and the engine fell out, literally.
    He had a Dodge Colt, washed away in a flash flood in Arizona.
    My BRAT, he managed to not only get the wrong key into the ignition, but managed to start, and leave the starter engaged, in Teec Nos Pos AZ, and I had to smash the lock cylinder to shut the car off.
    The BMW, Corolla, Firebird Convertible, Nissan Leopard and many more died horrible deaths.
    Then there was the Chevette. He actually drove it 160,000 miles! It may have gone farther, but that pesky lack of oil did the poor thing in.

  13. Howard A Member

    The Chevy Chevette was a good car. It was exactly what we needed back then. It was a rebadged Opel, ( that steering wheel should look familiar to Opel fans). We have to remember, this was 1977. Americans were just starting to adopt small cars, and really didn’t know how to maintain or drive them. Most people had their foot to the floor wondering where the power was. Europeans drove small cars for ever, and probably laughed at us, stupid Americans, this ain’t no Cadillac. I’ve had many 4 cylinder cars and trucks, and I like them. Got great service out of them, but they needed special attention. ( strict oil changes and easy does it were a must for these.) This is a great find, and I didn’t think any survived. I can only think how many Chevette’s are looking down from “car heaven” and saying, “who’s stupid now?”

    • Barzini

      Very true, Howard. I knew people who owned Chevettes back when they were new and they were better quality than most Amercian cars at that time. (My only issue with them was using Vette in the brand name.)

  14. Rick

    Chevettes were throw-away cars, I bought a used ’77 in about ’85 for $250, it ran but had a miss, drove it anyway for about 6 months, miss got worse, ttook the motor apart and one of the lobes was worn off the cam, thought I’d just replace the cam and be fine, but it couldn’t be replaced, seems that the cam was fit into a piece of machined aluminum w/o your typical bearings, anyhow think I sold it for $100 to a guy that was gonna put another motor in it, ended up sitting at his mom’s house for at least 10 years and then I moved away, could still be there. Anyhow like the presentation of today’s BF Feature car in ebay, i.e. photos w/ masking tape on the chrome, and then after photos of the mismatched obviously bomb can touch-up, couldndt help noticed there’s still not even one bid

  15. Passion for muscle cars

    I paid $400 for a nice solid 85 or 86 Chevette in 1994, (less than ten years old) so $2500 for one now seems crazy. I drove it daily for about 6 months and it needed something fixed on a weekly basis, but always cheap enough and easy enough to work on that I kept it on the road and learned a lot doing so. Once the snowball effect of repairs kick in they go fast, but kids need cheap transportation and they were good on gas so made sense at the time. Wide open in 5th gear and running good on the highway you could creep up to 87mph with the 65hp motor, on a good day!

  16. Dutch 1960

    Hot Rod magazine did a series a long time ago, about putting big block Cadillac engines and drivetrains in these.

  17. Cassidy

    My wife really like these little guys when they first came out, thankfully, we didn’t have the money to buy one. She finally got her little car “fix” when she bought an ’06 Mini; only a million times better than a ‘vette.

  18. Mark

    Flop, just read an article in Hemmings tonight about Chevettes, GM sold 7 million of these across the planet in 12yrs. Flop, I don’t think so.

  19. Charles H.

    Here’s one that was for sale a while back……427 cu. Big Block sleeper!

    Like 1
    • Anthony

      I would seriously consider finding one a slipping a LS in it.

      Like 1
  20. Kevin

    I saw one at a car show with a 427 and another with a 455 or a SB 350

  21. Mark E

    This is one of the original designs with the distinctive front end & tail lights you don’t see often. Also if you must collect one, the Sandpiper is probably the rarest variant. I bought a Chevette new in 1976 and it ran perfectly for me all the time I had it with the exception of the one time it would not start without starter fluid. I suppose that could have been due to the -36F temperature that morning though…

    And as for you engine swappers I saw a Chevette at a car show with a supercharged V6 in it. A very comfortable fit and it was almost certain to be 3-4x the power of the original!

  22. John

    My wife and I had two of them. One was a 76 Rally 1.6, the other a 77 plain two door. Both were 4 speeds. They came along at a time that we were buying our first house and having our daughter. We were poor. But, our little Chevettes got us through it and for five years they returned total economy, reliability, and a bit of fun. They got 30 to 35 mpg, they never broke, and with winter tires they got around very well. We grew to love those little cars. They never pretended to be anything but good little cars. Kinda refreshing. I’d buy a good 4 speed in a heartbeat.

  23. brakeservo

    Like a Yugo, I don’t know why anyone ever bought one of these new when you could have bought a used real car for less money but people don’t think and go ahead and spend thousands and thousands of dollars which they lose on depreciation just to save hundreds on gasoline. I never could understand that . . . and by the way I’ve owned two of these in my lifetime – one loaded with every single option available, the other a stripped Pontiac T-1000 version. And no, I didn’t buy either one new.

  24. Rob

    For what they were intended for, the Chevette was a good car. Of the ones I worked on, most were in for scheduled maintenance, tires and brakes. If I were to restore one, I would install a modern driveline (Ecotech with manual transmission) to make it a fun to drive and reliable car.

  25. josh h

    I had owned two well-used Chevettes, and really, they were quite reliable….even with my very minimal maintenance and hard driving. I wouldn’t mind having another for nostalgia sake.

  26. Jody

    Jeff, thanks for the write up on the Sandpiper and giving my little Sandpiper site a plug! I happened into the Chevette world through my wife. She had a Sandpiper back in high school and I being the sentimental one thought it would be nice to find another one for her since her sister smashed the one she had. It took 10 years to locate one! The one currently on ebay I’ve known about since August. Not sure why you say it doesn’t have both Sandpiper graphics… they are there. This one is in pretty good shape overall. The interior is very nice. The mechanics are the same as any other Chevette so parts abound. This summer another one sold for around $4000 to a collector in New York. There is a market out there for Chevettes. Hate them or love them, your choice. I find them fun to drive and that’s all that matters.

  27. Ian Brender

    In the UK they were called the Vauxhall Chevette but re-named “Shove-it ” because that is what you did every time it broke down.

  28. Ian Brender

    You could always have this HSR Chevette for £25,000 $45,000 approx

  29. turretman1st

    I purchased one new in 76 it averaged 60miles to the gal on a trip from va. to co.
    and back
    had an 86 desiel it did not like starting fluid learned my lesson.

  30. Mike

    The High School I went to the local Chevy Dealer allowed the drives Education class to use 4 of these little cars, and I would always get to drive the one with a 4 speed, because nobody else in my group knew how to drive a manual!!!!!
    My Wife’s Step-dad had one when we first started dating, and drove it 80 miles a day to work, and it would get about 30 – 40 miles per gallon. I always liked the little cars, always wanted one, but never did get one.

  31. Tom Hall

    Just about drove one through the back wall of the shop while putting it on the rack for the mechanic. Told the mechanic he better check the brakes. He said there’s nothing to check -‘none of these _______ have any brakes’.

    Some may have an emotional attachment to these and I get that, but I had a plain jane Volkswagen Rabbit of the same vintage – the Rabbit was a much, much better car. – starting with the brakes :)

    • Kevin

      Proud owner and present weekly driver of a tan 1982 Pontiac version called the T-1000. Good car, has 191,000 miles and runs strong.

      Sandpiper is a good deal if it runs good and passes inspections.

      And yes, the non-boosted, non-vented disc brakes stink.

  32. Benjamin

    Both my parents had Chevettes and it is the car I took my driving test in back in ’77. They were so easy to drive I took my test four days after getting my learner’s permit and passed. They are artifacts of the era when gasoline jumped to 60+ cents per gallon and OPEC wasn’t making it any easier to come by. GM’s answer to the VW Rabbit and all the other econoboxes filling the streets. Very simple transportation and as pointed out other comments, when the weather was right a blast with rear wheel drive.

  33. John b

    Interesting note: the yellow PA plate on the back is one we quit using back in ’83.

  34. Charles H.

    Both the Sandpiper Graphics are there, they are located on the front part of the rear quarter panels, not on the rear part of the front quarters.

  35. Chris

    We got ’em here in Aus, as the Holden Gemini Sandpiper. Same grahics, same wheel trims, although this one has aftermarket wheels. I’ve owed a couple of Geminis, fun little cars.

  36. ToniM

    Twice in college when friends loaned me their cars, they were 4 speed Chevettes. I barely know how to drive a manual but I managed to get where I needed to go in them both times. Even returned them with the clutch and transmission still working! They were pretty forgiving little creatures.

  37. Ed Parker

    Just wanted to let everyone know they are worth what ever the next guy is will to pay for them. I have turned down $20,000.00 for my V8 one my dad bought new.

  38. Mel Alba

    Many of nay-sayers have given the Chevette a bad tag but you can say that there are not many survivors left as its not every day you see one going down the highway…Not a collectors dream by any stretch but i love mine and ask any owner of one now and they would be sure to tell you that it garners peoples attention and they will offer you a story of some experience they had with one..i had many offers for mine and turned down every one of them..seems they wanted to drop a small block in it.. keeping it bone stock and leaving it what it is will keep it a survivor in true form and one day earn the respect of collectors..until then i will enjoy it…

  39. Todd A Harris

    Had a Chevette “Apache” it was a great economy car back in the days. Loved that little car!!!!

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