Sweet ‘Vette under $400!

This Hiawassee, Georgia yard find, a Chevrolet Chevette spotted here on eBay, checks all the boxes:  “No Title,” check, “Unknown Year,” check, “Not Running or Parts Car,” check, “As-is,” double-check. Still, if you’re looking for a project car on the cheap, maybe this is your lucky day. With a single click on “Buy It Now,” you can tell your friends you scored a classic ‘Vette for and less than $400.

Awesome patina! Or maybe those are spores, or toxic residue from the government facility over the hill. Nothing says “water ingress” like missing windows and gas cap on a car sitting outside. A gentleman brought one of these to the first autocross event I attended, along with his mid-’70s Corvette, and he drove both ‘Vettes with vigor, though most in attendance preferred the Corvette’s lovely V8 engine sounds.

It appears the last people to ride in this car suffered from a spinal condition called “gangster lean.” One of my high school friends drove a relatively new and shiny Chevette and was known to say things like “I’ll pick you up in the ‘Vette,” and frankly if I owned a running specimen of Chevy’s World Car, I’d use that every chance I could.

Just like Mazda’s Miata, Chevrolet mounted its inline four-cylinder engine longitudinally with most of its weight behind the front axle, and implemented rear-wheel drive to maximize handling prowess. There’s an old saying that “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly,” which means this Chevette should be almost more fun than you can take. I test-drove one of these back in the day, an immaculate dark blue sedan with plaid (or maybe it was houndstooth) upholstery inserts, five-speed, and air-conditioning. It ran smoothly but I remember repeatedly checking that I’d fully released the parking brake because it had all the pickup I would have expected if we were towing a 28′ Airstream. Who’s ready to buy this sweet ‘Vette for a pittance?

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Comments

  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Ha! Fantastic write-up, Todd! Gangster lean.. ha.

    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks Scotty! I couldn’t resist.

      • Mike

        We used to love poking fun at the kids who drove like that back in high school. “I can’t see s*** but I look good!”.

  2. Mallthus

    My first car was one of these. Hooning it on the mountain roads above LA taught me more about driving at the limit than even racing school (that taught me other stuff).

    Since most of the parts on these are crap to begin with, a $400 chassis like this might be the ideal starting point. Strip it out and down before fitting a new drivetrain, an updated suspension, and a more comfortable (and mold free) interior.

  3. Sweet

    Nice vette better than the 63 pos shag windows which sold for 60+ the other day at a measly percentage of price 👍

  4. Michael

    Nice write-up. I laughed at the “gangster” lean reference. My friends Mom bought one of these when I was 14. I would sneak out at night and we would “borrow” the car for a few hours. Her bedroom faced the driveway so we rolled it out. We even covered the brake lights with jackets so she would not see the reflection. One night, we were out for about 1/2 hour and realized we forgot to remove the jackets.
    Yeah, we were geniuses.

  5. John Cole

    Damn – if this were closer, I’d actually go after it!! What a fun little car to bring back!!

  6. Mike R

    Ran when parked? LOL

    • Superdessucke

      Yup, in about 1987 from the looks of this wreck.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      I love the expression “ran when parked”. The same thing could be said about the Titanic! Actually, that’s also a good example of the term “some rust and rot”.

      • C.Jay

        When the car has no redeeming qualities ads say “Ran when parked”.
        It’s sortta like “She looked good at closing time!”

  7. Andre

    No personal experience with these.. But were they really as bad as their reputation? Anybody that I knew with one loved it and it seemed to last them for longer than it should have.

    • mike D

      Andre, really not a HORRIBLE car, as I had an 86, but grossly underpowered not a whole lot of room in the interior a good grocery getter, provided you didn’t use the ” way back” I will say though the cloth interior wore like iron I am an average sized guy, but felt ” cramped” driving it .. and put 3 passengers in it, and it was worse

    • LAB3

      Had one that got me back and forth to work and it was great in the snow, could do OK on the two tracks, easy to work on and got great gas milage.

  8. JW

    Seller would have to pay me $400 to haul it away.

  9. Bearnik Bedouin

    Didn’t Prince write that hit song, ‘Little Dead Chevette’, back in the 1980s?

    Maybe that’s the rare, Three Mile Island edition of The Little Yank..?

    Great write up, Todd. I’m having quite a chuckle this morning, thanks.

  10. Rod K

    I used to work in a GM dealership when these came out. I don’t want to bash these but personally I don’t like these cars due to the problems they had. To name a few brakes, timing belts, carbs, clutches etc. The brakes were the worst thing they were so bad the early models were difficult to stop. The firewall was so thin it would flex if you pushed the pedal too hard. Tried different style pads but nothing worked well. Fortunately GM got things worked out for newer models.
    In my opinion all the big manufacturers built some poor cars back then. I guess we need to keep in mind these were tough times for them and these were very cheap cars to buy, basically disposable.

    • Superdessucke

      Had an ’80 back in 1991. Light blue 4-door. It burned oil and coolant and would overheat after it went through it. I remember getting so mad once that I pissed in the radiator right in my pizza joint employer’s parking lot. Turned the GM corporate blue engine paint a light powder blue it overheated so often. I don’t know how the little cockroach kept going but it did.

      I traded it for a ’78 Bonneville which wasn’t much better. That also overheated regularly, and got me thrown in jail once after its loud cat back exhaust (i.e. the giant rust hole in the exhaust behind the cat) drew the attention of university police, who then noticed the license plates I switched over from said Chevette without following all of the necessary legal formalities.

      From there i went into an ’80 Datsun 210 with a wrecked front end. Best of the bunch until someone got into it and spilled motor oil on the driver’s seat. Had to deliver pizzas sitting on cardboard after that.

      A very dark time for cars for me. Thanks for the memories!

      • Michael

        You have University Police who notice (somehow) that you switched plates between a Chevette and a Bonneville…then JAILED you?! The U.S.A. is one straaange place. Sorry about the Datsun 210. In Australia it is the 120y I think. Never had one…(shudder.) Some sanctimonious greenies still worship them here.

      • Superdessucke

        Yup. I think it was the loud car coupled with the fact it was 1:30 a.m. I got a little mouthy (i was having a bad year as you can tell) but that was all. I’d had no alcohol or drugs that morning and was not doing anything otherwise illegal. I was on my way to work at UPS actually. 2 am shift.

        I was taken into custody right next to that loud ugly white rusty Bonneville with no hubcaps. Fender skirts long gone. Red and blue flashing lights illuminating the early morning darkness. I might as well have had my shirt off with my face blurred out on and on an episode of Cops. It was extremely undignified. A definite low.

        In the end I got a local ordinance ticket and a fine. I agree it was in over reaction but that’s what our University Police were like then. Nowadays they would just write you a ticket, tell you the fix the license plate situation and let you go.

    • mikeH

      American manufacturers made some terrible cars in the 80s, and GM was the worst. The build quality on these Chevettes defies description.

    • Mike

      I read your comment to my father and he burst out laughing. My grandmother had an 82 Chevette and when we would visit her on Cape Cod when I was a kid he would drive it around town. He said it had the worst brakes of any car he had ever driven and he was always worried about whether or not it would stop. “I’m glad I never had to do emergency braking in that car”. He finally convinced her to buy a brand new 91 Corolla which we kept in the family for 20 years.

    • Miguel

      I always thought about these that if there wasn’t enough room to put the steering column in straight, there was no room for my legs.

  11. Ted Donahue

    Just put a gas cap on it and drive it as is.

  12. Rich

    I say lea vette and sho vette into the woods for mother nature to consume.

  13. Jered

    That’s kind of ironic. Saturday I just brought home a $400 vette. Except mines a 4 speed stingray. 🤔

  14. BarnfindyCollins

    My Mom bought one of these new in ’79 she died 8 months later and it sat for two years at my grandparents house. They ended up giving it to the yard man.

    • AF

      Nice depressing story

  15. Drew V.

    Everyone always downs these cars but you have to remember, these were,like the Volkswagen Beetle, designed for the masses. A cheap means of getting you from point a topoint B, without costing a weeks pay for gas in an era of escalating Petroleum product prices… Ex girlfriend had one,a nasty golden brown color,had a slush box tranny,accelerated like a a steam roller going up hill on wet grass…She wanted it to look better so took it to Econo paint and got it painted White for $100 got some factory Vega rallye rims for $10 from local salvage yard and put limo black tint on the rear windows and hatch… Car was damn near indestructible… Got totaled when she was rear ended by a dually Chevy 1-ton. Wadded the gas tank up like a piece of aluminum foil… If it had been a Pinto we would have been toasted… My ex-wifes Dad had an 85 vette with a 1.8L Isuzu Diesel in it… Another near invincible car that got 50 MPG…

  16. Dovi65

    It would be a fun project to bring back from the dead! Tho $150 is about all the money. I’m looking for a simple little beater like a Chevette, or Pinto

  17. P Wentzell

    I have a fondness for these (and other unloved cars). A friend in school was given his mom’s 4 door Chevettte, his dad being tired of constantly fixing his son’s Triumph Spitfire (once fixed, his dad sold the Spit, the new owner lent it to his roommate, roommate was driving to Savannah, Georgia, the Spit caught fire and burned to the ground). We had plenty ‘o fun in the Chevette. THIS ONE, however, I’m sure the owner would take less (like haul it away) but think of the fun you could have! I especially like the dead leaves on the front seat. Nice touch.

  18. King Brude

    Preferred the Vauxhall Chevette version of these GM cars growing up, with its (what I thought as a kid) futuristic snoop. Only years later did I work out where the Chevette name derived from, having never heard of or seen a Chevy at the time… suppose Vauvette doesn’t sound so good…

  19. ACZ

    This thing has been on eBay forever.

  20. Rich Tague

    Let it go, let it go let it go Just another SHI-Vette!!!!!

  21. Steve A.

    Friend of mine had one of these and actually BEAT on it for at least 3 years before it gave up the ghost! LOL
    Not bad considering that he picked it up for $150!
    Personally, I would have worn a full faced helmet with a dark visor so nobody would know it was me driving it!!!

  22. bowmade

    Demo Derby Car! Bunch of friends and late nights with beer, mosquitos, half empty spray paint cans/leftover house paint, and music almost loud enough to p!ss off the neighbors. Good Times!!!

  23. PatrickM

    I would have to collect hazardous duty pay in order to get close to this one. No way.

  24. Joseph Wayne Haddock

    I’ve had about 6 of these. Toughest likes car I’ve ever owned.

  25. Rube Goldberg Member

    These were good cars, for what they were intended. Not sure who made the motor, but it was a freakin’ Opel Kadett underneath. We shouldn’t laugh too hard, when gas gets expensive again, and it will, history has shown, these types of cars will make a comeback.( think Geo Metro) This particular has done it’s job, and time to be “re-purposed”. As far as a parts car, I doubt anybody is restoring one anyway. And for the record, I had always heard it called the ” Deetroit Lean”. ( and it wouldn’t be in a car like this, fo sho.)

  26. Roberto F Neris

    Chevette’s are gaining in popularity because most old cars especially Camaro’s, Nova’s, even Vega’s and Corvair’s are getting or have gotten very expensive. If you want a simple entry level collectable car that you can fix and restore for peanuts then buy a Chevette! I have 28 of them! When I drive mine I get more attention and thumbs up then when I drive my red Z06! Go to TheChevetteCollector.com and you can see my other cars and FB group with lot’s of Chevette enthusiasts who love and appreciate these little cars.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      I had a feeling there would be someone like you, that would have a substantial number of just about any car made. I bet someone has a collection of Buick Isuzu Opels somewhere. Chevette’s were good, not great cars, I’m not sure I’d have 28 of them, but it’s great to see your passion, whatever it may be. I think you may have just found #29.

  27. Mike R.

    Everybody beet on these cars. Later ones had the “Iron duke ” engine. Almost indestructible push rod cast iron, easy to work on. Had to unbolt the steering column just to change the starter.

    • Roberto F Neris

      Mike your mistaken my friend. Chevette’s never came with the Iron Duke, they were available with 1.4, 1.6 gas and 1.8 Diesel engines. I have 28 of them from 76-87.

  28. W9BAG

    Gobs and gobs of comments regarding fond memories of the Chevette. But, at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, this is a crusher. Why did you waist your time on writing an article for it ? It’s was designed to be a disposable car, such as the Cavalier. Drive it, maintain it as best you can, and when it coughs it’s last breath, it’s done. Off to the crusher, where you might get enough money for a keg of beer.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      While I agree with some of your post, it’s not a waste of time if it generates even one memory,( looks like over 40 so far) and someone like Roberto(above) comes along with a slew of these, and obviously likes them, sending this to the crusher would be a shame. With people collecting just about anything today, sending any vintage car, even the lowly Chevette ( sorry Roberto, just making a point) to the crusher, is unacceptable. While this car will probably never see the road again, I bet there’s a bunch of parts that can be used, never to be produced again.
      Now, if someone were to ask $9,000 dollars for this, that is the real crime.

  29. Detroit Iron

    Loved this car. Had a 77 silver Rally 1.6 with a 4 spd. Put 14″ rims from a Chevy Monza and 2-tracked the car to the local nude beach. Drove to Fla from Mich St. U with four guys (2 were football players) and never let me down. Rusted like a SOB, had to have many patches welded into floorpan, crossmembers, seat mounts. and yeah, I did use that “wanna drive in my ‘vette”? It only worked ONCE!

  30. Roberto F. Neris

    I think you guys are missing the point, Chevette’s were never designed to be race cars or fast cars, they were designed to be inexpensive point a to b transportation that were simple to fix, good on gas that anyone could afford and came out after the disastrous Vega of which I have one with only 36k miles as well. During the gas crunch of the early 70’s…GM needed a small economical car to compete with the imports….The Chevette was a sales success and in every other country except ours it is a sought after collector car, don’t believe me? Do some google research regarding Chevette’s in Rally Racing in the UK and look up some Brazilian Chevette’s you will be surprised at what you find. “Buy a Chevette it will drive you happy” was the slogan. If you ever owned one they grow on you and the simplicity of the design as well as the reliability, my first car was a Chevette and yes it was slow but being 16 and delivering Pizza it never let me down and I was not kind to it, after adding a header, larger exhaust, weber carb, advancing the timing and some other tweaks you will find it is quite peppy and fun to drive with excellent handling, brakes can be easily improved with off the shelf GM parts, remember it can be a lot more fun driving a slow car fast then driving a fast car slow lol!

    If you look at the pic of my Red 84 Chevette daily driver sitting in front of my 2005 APS Twin Turbo Pontiac GTO, you will be surprised to learn that I prefer driving the the Chevette and believe it or not is more of an attention getter every where I go.

    Like 1
  31. Stang1968

    I sold my ’84 Chevette CS in 1999 for $400. I paid $100 for it, put a new timing belt in it, new radials, and visited the junkyard for a few cosmetic items. Broke even. It was a gutless car, but being RWD with a standard transmission, it made for some fun driving in the snow.

  32. Ben T. Spanner

    Timex-Rolex. Chevette-Corvette. If you can’t tell the difference, why pay the difference. I can and I would. This is a collector’s car, bring a shovel and a broom and collect all of the peices.

    Jay Smart reviews freshly junked cars on youtube and they are all in better shape and more desirable than this.

  33. David Ulrey

    I’ve driven several of these. I always thought that the angle of the steering column was weird and yes they didn’t have much power but if they weren’t an automatic I actually enjoy them. They had an odd charm to them. Here where I live there’s a reasonably decent little 4 door survivor running around. It’s all over the place.

  34. Shane Williams

    My first car was a black 1979 chevette, I loved that car.

    Like 1

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