(by savageatl) Atlanta does not boast the variety of aged cars that Eugene does; blame it on emissions or profligacy. People say in Savannah, people ask you what you want to eat; in New Orleans, they ask you what you want to drink; in Atlanta, they ask you what kind of car you have. There are very few vehicles running around which are older than 20 years old. The ones that are still around are largely ’90-93 Accords and then some of the GM RWD cars like Caprices and Cutlasses.
Behold, then, a real rarity; the 1985 (does not have a third brake light) Chevrolet Sprint, next to my Caravan, which deserves its own COAL and a very rare first generation Sunbird.
This brave little toaster has survived THIRTY ONE YEARS of driving, hence the “brave.” It survived Chernobyl, Reagan’s second administration, the fall of the Wall, the Rodney King riots, the O.J. Verdict, things that happened in 1996-2001 ish when I was busy, September 11, several Gulf wars, and then everything that happened from 2001 to . . . 2016 when I was busy again. Madonna was relevant. Michael Jackson had a nose. People made phone calls from pay phones and hated to talk to machines. Straight men used lots of hairspray, makeup, and wore tights for rock music. This car was made when the Islamic terrorists were the HEROES in a Tom Clancy book. People still thought in the year 2000 we would be flying to the moon, if we hadn’t all been blown up by nuclear war.
Who, in 1985, would have chosen this brave little toaster to pilot for THIRTY ONE YEARS? Assuming its first owner wasn’t Hertz or Avis, who thought, I intend to drive something for that long, and rather than pick something like a Caprice, Dodge Minivan, or Cutlass Ciera/Supreme, I pick . . . this tinkertoy?
In 1985, the Sprint (née Suzuki Cultus) went out the door for around $5,300. It weighed about 1600 pounds and went from 0-60 in about 15 seconds. It achieved 44/53 mileage, in old, inflated EPA numbers according to the Interwebs. It came with a 993 cc 3 cylinder carbureted engine, and if that wasn’t enough, there was a Turbo Sprint, packing 73 hp. This was intended to be an improvement over the Chevette. GM had decided that it could not replace the Chevette with anything in its own product lines at a price that it could sell the car for. In addition, GM probably decided that the market for mini cars was highly dependent on the price of gasoline and GM would be better off outsourcing production rather than tooling up a plant and developing a car and domestic supply chain for a car with highly unpredictable and fickle demand.
The dirty little secret is that it costs GM almost as much to develop, engineer, source, and manufacture a little car like this as it does something like a Caprice, but no one will pay Caprice money for this brave little toaster, so in many ways it made sense for GM to outsource this to a company which specialised in small, high quality, high efficiency cars, and let GM go back to screwing things up royally for the rest of the ‘80’s, and ‘90’s, and ‘00’s, until we are where we are now.
Whoever bought this Brave Little Toaster back in 1985 picked it over a slew of frugal to purchase and run brethren; the aforementioned Chevette; Renault Alliances and Encores, the Toyota Tercel, Nissan Sentra, a very base Civic, a Colt/Mirage, a very base Omnirizon, or a very base Escort. The Hyundai and Yugo were yet to appear. This has a couple of things in common with the Chevette; it is unreasonably slow and, unlike something like an Omnirizon, Escort, Sentra, or Civic, no amount of spending on options would really get you a better version of it. An Escort, Sentra, Civic, or Omnirizon could be significantly upgraded with power steering, a better engine, cloth seats, air conditioning, and radio to be a fairly plush little car (at a high cost of course). This is not plush; it is a humble, frugal, purposeful appliance, hence the toaster sobriquet; also, it is toaster shaped. Unlike my mom’s ’86 Sentra, it doesn’t appear to be a hair shirt version which constantly reminds you of a better version which could have been purchased for a few bucks more. I do think anything that had a Japanese Nameplate in the ’80’s went for list price if not more due to voluntary import restrictions and demand factors; as recently as ’05 I was told by a Honda dealer, “We don’t discount Hondas.” So the Brave Little Toaster may have had something of a price edge over its foreign nameplate competition.
If I had been in the $6,000 range in 1985, I probably would have still gone with a new car because of our bad luck with a succession of awful used cars. I probably would have figures oud how to swing the payment for a more expensive car, like a Cutlass Supreme or a Ciera or something. If I really only had $6,000 and had to choose a new car, I probably would have gone with the Omnirizon, which had been around since ’78 and were pretty solid cars by then, especially with the 2.2 liter engine. 0-60 in a reasonable amount of time, although not as thrifty on gas, and much roomier with four doors (no, a hatchback is NOT a door) and available with cloth seats. I am very likely to have chosen the Encore also, because I have a Thing for French Cars.
However, there are no more Omnirizons around in Atlanta, and no more Encores ANYWHERE, so the owner of this Brave Little Toaster has been vindicated. May it continue brave for thirty one more years.