Posted by William Oliver
The basin Opal front is more attractive.
Coulda been a winner in USA.
It didn’t work with the required 5 mph bumpers as well as this swept-back nose did. Silver isn’t a great color with the 1976-77 grille though, it needs a bright or dark color to contrast with the grille trim that’s painted argent instead of chrome.
The one-year-only ’78 grille was a big improvement imo.
I’m more of a fan of the earlier, four-slot grille(s).
But, yeah, any round-headlight Chevette is better looking that the rectangular versions.
I think I had the best looking Chevette version ever,and that’s not saying much. It was dark, almost charcoal blue square light Chevette “S”.
That’s the one with black wheels with trim rings, black grille and mock GTI red grille surround stripe, and one down the side. I had a first year 5 speed one. It went 85 in 4th, but barely over 80 in 5th. I once raced an MGB on the freeway and got beaten.
There’s nothing like a ‘Vette with a racing stripe.
I worked in the Rental Car business in Orlando in the late eighties. This was the Budget Rent a Car $49.00 a week, unlimited mileage special. We’d park one out front and tell people that reserved that rate “that’s what you have reserved”. It was pretty easy to get them to upgrade to a Shadow/Sundance or a Cavalier. The ones we rented didn’t have power brakes! I’ll never forget the day we were sold out of cars and someone had a $49.00 a week subcompact reservation. The ONLY vehicle on the lot was a E350 15 passenger van. They were not too pleased.
Gee, I wonder why Americans bought Honda Civics when they could have had this.
I remember going car shopping with my parents in the late 70’s for a car for my Mom. Instead of big glossy brochures we were handed a photocopied list of the different Honda models and prices. IIRC the Accord was $4,995 + $ 995 markup. The idea of paying that premium had her end up with a lovely Plymouth Horizon instead. That’s how you ended up in a crapcan like a Chevette. ( Which I’ve owned gag).
In the mid-70s, the Chevette was the cheapest (mostly) American car you could buy. Never mind that the engine was from Brazil – or maybe they were made in the US but a Brazilian design. And there were, at that point, still lots of folks (especially away from the coasts) who would never, ever buy a furrin car.
That’s the only excuse I can think of why these sold in droves, because they truly were heaps.
The old adage, “GM cars continue to run badly when other cars won’t run at all” fits the Chevette to a T (1000). For decades, they were one of the best examples of a true cockroach of the road.
Chevrolet made the multitude of dealers a major selling point. For those in the midlands, even if they liked foreign cars, not having a dealer nearby was a deterrent. The Japanese brands especially weren’t well built out beyond the coasts in 1976.
GM’s vast dealer network was their ace-in-the-hole. I’m sure management figured no competitor (especially a foreign one) would ever be able to counter that. Yeah, your GM product might have been a steaming pile, but at least you could get it fixed (and fixed a lot) at a service department not too far away.
Once the better-built Japanese acquired a nationwide presence, that was all she wrote.
There appears to be nine bowties on the exterior of this Chevette. 🙂
Now you went and made me count them! Gee Thanks! ;o)
I counted 10 total, but ironically, there is NO Chevy Bowtie where you’d expect one – a big honkin’ one in the CENTER of the grille!
Those arrived 1979 and later
Four hubcaps plus the dealer tag AND the aftermarket door lock trims, do seem to skew the numbers. But it’s strange that there isn’t one on the grille or hood.
My family had a ’76 Chevette, and I don’t recall any bowties at all in the interior. “Chevette” script on the steering wheel hub and Chevrolet on the passenger side of dash (whatever happened to the latter location as an make or model ID? It used to be ubiquitous, especially in American cars). Seat belt buckles had GM identification but not Chevy.
My sister had a new 1986 T1000. I had just started driving, so I didn’t have much car driving experience. Even I could tell the manual gearbox was TERRIBLE. I don’t think I’ve ever driven anything that shifted as poorly as that thing. It felt every bit the tarted up 10 year old design that it was.
Way back then I knew a rockabilly band that would go to gigs in a T1000, including the stand up bass. They even had a song about it, the “T1000 Boogie”
The third brake lamp makes it an ’86 or ’87. It is very nice and original with the possible exception of the stripe which could have been added by Mr, Wemp and his crew. Probably garage kept since it is a north of the border car.
I never had much experience with these, but I do recall they were quite common back in the day. They had a poor reputation, but I always take that with a grain of salt. The type of people that buy new, cheap cars generally do not take care of them, so a poor reputation is somewhat tainted in my opinion.
Great catch, not many Chevette survivors.
The brake light is an add-on – this is a ’76 or ’77.
Add on 3Rd brakelights were popular in the 80’s on older cars that didn’t come with them originally. Owners usually wired them up wrong so that not only did they act as a 3Rd brake light but they would flash along with the turn signals.
And it’s better integrated than the production ’86-7 one which sat on top of the upper rail of the hatch, above the rear window.
Boy, I missed that one. I forgot they upgraded the trim over the years, I should have at least recalled the different tail lamps. And I now recall the factory third brake lamp looked more add on that this add on.
Thanks for setting me straight.
Am I the only one who thinks this Chevette is as cute as a button? Granted, if I wanted a small, sporty Chevy hatchback from ’76 or ’77, it would probably have been a Vega (over even a Monza), but the Chevette deserves my respect for succeeding in its mission in providing domestic-branded, inexpensive transportation that was mostly reliable, from most accounts I’ve read.
I thought early Chevettes like our ’76 were cute when I was a kid, but my friends set me straight on that and told me it was cute in all the wrong ways.
It looks cute in the same way a skunk looks cute in pictures. Personal experience rather sours the initial impression. For starters, the steering wheel is cocked at an weird angle; no not up or down, but left-to-right. Then we get to the interior. A friend’s new 1975(?) Chevette literally had interior panels -made of cardboard. That car’s most memorable moment for me though when four of us college-age boys got in, and my friend prepared to drive away. Unfortunately, the automatic-transmission car was parked on an upgrade. The car refused to move the weight of four of us forward if it had to deal with a hill at the same time. When it did move it was noisy and rough riding; more of a motorized wheelbarrow experience than a car. A different friend’s Pinto seemed much more refined. I owned a 75 Honda Civic (thanks Mom and Dad!) that made the Chevette seem like something from the 1930’s, with the caveat that the while the Civic was light-years more technologically sophisticated it also seemed like it was built from gum wrapper foil.
My family did test-drive a new Pontiac 1000 (T1000?) when new, and we were underwhelmed – to be clear. But there’s just something “cute” about the way this Chevette looks. To me, anyway.
I totally believe your story. I can’t imagine trying to drive one of these up a grade with four young adults in it.
” A friend’s new 1975(?) Chevette literally had interior panels -made of cardboard.”
that was not out of the ordinary up through the mid-’70s. it was fiber board, not cardboard, though. it’s the reason old-timey Brits still call door trim panels “door cards.”
Door panels weren’t really cardboard, but some kind of fiberboard covered with thin, molded vinyl.
But there ‘was’ a Chevette that even omitted the vinyl covering, and that was the Chevette ‘Scooter’ that not only did not have the vinyl covering on the door panels, but didn’t even come with armrests; there wsd just a door lever, window crank, and a pull strap on a bare, beige piece of fiberboard.
The funny thing is that, like the lightweight Mopar Feather Duster, the Chevette Scooter found popularity among the SBC drag racer set. The Scooter became the de facto replacement for the SBC Vega with tubbed rear wheel wells, wheelie bars, and the like. I’m not even sure the Scooter came with a back seat (it might have been one of those ‘mandatory’ options).
One of my college-era cars was a Scooter, early 80s vintage. It fit my budget, and was better on fuel and more reliable than any of my previous vehicles. It got me around in proletarian style, and even served for a while as a competent pizza and sandwich delivery vehicle, fast off the line at lights, easy to park, easy on gas.
But, as everyone here knows, it was a very cheaply built car, and I grew to envy friends who sprung for Hondas. It had a very basic back seat, a single outside mirror, fragile upholstery over biodegradable foam, NVH to spare, and, because Chevrolet would’t even spring for a glove compartment door, I had to use a book to keep my insurance and registration papers from flying away. At least it gave my passengers the impression that I was literate.
Its saving grace, I think, was its simplicity. No power options, manual transmission, longitudinally mounted engine, pretty easy repairs.
It’s too bad GM never considered a US market Chevette HSR to give the Omni GLH a run for its money. I don’t recall the rest of world T cars being so thoroughly reviled.
And I think that comes down to the fact Opel, Vauxhall and Holden did sporty versions. In fact, the Holden Gemini became quite popular with people who souped up their cars.
The Chevette was marketed as an appliance. So though the platform could support more power (maybe not too much power though — see Isuzu Impulse/Piazza), Chevrolet never thought to try and give the line a halo range-topper. I don’t think the early Rally models with their marginally more powerful 1.6 really count…
I wouldnt say Holden offered a sporty version of the Gemini. There was never a more powerful engine, and up until the ZZ at the end of the model run (this was just a tizzed up sedan with stripes etc) you couldnt even get any Gemini with a tachometer, except in the Gemini Gypsy panel vam, for some reason.
I saw an Isuzu 117 (rectangular headlight gen) driving around Adelaide. Finally caught up with the driver whose husband worked for Holden. They apparently brought 10 into the country for appraisal back in the 1970s but no go.
ZZ/Z: The Sleeper. hehehe
That’s interesting. I didn’t know they were evaluated for this market. If only Holden had made the right decision back on the day.
Imagine a cut price Fiat Dino coupe look alike with much better quality than the Alfa and Fiat sport coupes of the day. We might have even got the twin cam version, but we’ll never know.
Reminds me of a Fiat Dino coupe.
Oh right! My mistake.
The base model Vauxhall version in NZ outsold the horrid Isuzu-Holden version by quite a margin and the Vauxhall version was popular for engine upgrades from the Vauxhall Victor range OHC 1.6 2,0 and 2.3 from the Bedford van, they all go in easily and Vauxhall did the same ex factory in the UK, the Gemini came in one grade only, there was a hot one in Japan but thats where it stayed apart from a couple of private imports
The Rodeo pickup engines fit in the Gemini, seen a few done years ago Isuzu didnt bother though and Holden didnt even try. a stripe kit was it for them
I recall they gave some thought to slipping a 2.8L V6 under the hood, which may have made for a fun rear-drive runabout.
They did more than that, GM’s skunkworks built one and let Car and Driver get behind the wheel and do a writeup. No dice though, wasn’t approved for production. It could’ve been like an E30 without the refinement.
I suspect that if someone like John Delorean was still running Chevrolet, the 2.8L V6 Chevette would have seen production.
But he was long gone by that time, so no hotrod Chevette was built (at least from the factory). A shame because a small V6 Chevette would have been ‘just right’ (at least from a power standpoint).
A Leyland P76 V8 slips under the Vauxhalls hood and theres a Gemini around here with a Rover V8 with a 4/71 blower atop it.
I used Ross Wemp Motors (Toronto suburbs) for service on a GM ride I had in the 80s. I viewed them as a quality dealer with excellent service. I don’t think they are there any more, I think they were bought out by another GM brand. Google shows Leggat GM at or close to their old location.
From the discussion above, the consensus seems to make this Chevette a 1977.
A GF who had a Chevette used a slightly different pronunciation of her car – “Shove-it!”
I had one of these in high school. I always had to park facing downhill, in case I had to roll-start. The wipers quit, so I had one of those long squeegees from a truck stop. I’d have to hang my arm out the window and squeegee while driving in the rain.
Its kinda strange but GM marketed both the Vauxhall and Isuzu-Holden versions here plus some of the American versions arrived somehow, private imports probably but why would you bother
We had an 85. My uncle sold Chevys. I remember my parents test driving a cavalier wagon and my uncle pushing them to that, but they still ordered a Chevette. It was just easier than our 2 door Caprice in a lot of ways. It was a black and silver two tone, 4 door CS trim. Grey interior. Automatic, stereo, air. What a piece of shit.
The engine blew at 40k miles and my parents parked it in the garage for a couple of years and had it replaced for my 16th birthday. It was my first car for about 2 weeks. Ironically, the same mother who let my 4 year old sister and 6 year old me lay down and look at the stars out the hatch with the seat folded all the time on trips to grandmas now deemed it “unsafe” for her kiddos and gave me her 91 Sunbird that had originally replaced it.
The ‘bark’ of the Chevette was much bigger than the bite. Like a little dog. There was a lot of hoopla in the car magazines for ‘such an important car’, up to…don’t laugh… “may be the most important car in GM’s history…it’s the future…” Puhhhlease!!
When these came out, they were among the slower (of already slow) small cars.
The base 1.4 engine may have been the slowest-accelerating car one could buy.
The base $2999 Scooter came without a back seat and had cardboard door panel–very cheap. The ‘regular’ base 1.4 Chevette was $3200 or $3300 base.
They had a reputation for being cramped, but they were really no worse than the popular Datsun B-210 (and the B-210 hatch rear seat was even less roomy).
I’d say the B-210 makes for an interesting comparison. It was also slow–but it had a smaller 1.4 (1.2?) engine, vs 1.6. Also, Datsun offered a 5-speed–something the (gasoline) Chevette NEVER acquired, thru 1986-87.
The Chevettes were relatively sturdy despite themselves, as others have noted.
Interestingly, a few months after, GM launched the “Buick Opel by Isuzu” in the US. There’s a name for you.
That car came with a 1.8 OHC motor. Also 4-speed only (initially), but by the standards of the day, it was pretty brisk. Not quite a Rabbit, but not slow.
I thought it was a decent looking car, yet even I thought it looked dated…like 1969, not 1976, managing to look “older” than the Opel 1900 it replaced. The front grill was mocked as looking like “Jaws” by Car & Driver
It was a 2-door fastback sedan, so the rear seat was kind of tight.
It was around $3400 if I recall correctly.
Has there ever been a CC on that one? If not, there’s a good candidate.
I’m not positive, but I think one of the more clever touches on the ‘Buick Opel by Isuzu’ was that one of the little fake vents behind the quarter windows was actually the fuel-filler flap. It was sort of a harkening back to the days of the hidden fuel-filler behind the taillight on shoebox Chevys.
By coincidence, my tin worm ravaged ‘74 Datsun B210 hatchback in butterscotch yellow was replaced by a Chevette! (To be fair, said Datsun was purchased cheaply as a 5.5 on the Saunders scale and nursed back to a 4 or 4.5)
Too bad so many Chevettes received so little love an then sold down the pike for cheap. To paraphrase the old real estate saying, a satisfactory Chevette ownership experience was all about “maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!”
My ‘84 Chevette (2-door, 4-speed, power nothing, purchased in ‘86 with 37 K miles) turned out to be an excellent car because it was never left wanting for oil changes or front end lubrication. Additionally, as tires, brakes shocks, etc. wore out, they were replaced with better than OEM equivalents. Those gradual improvements rewarded me with a rather fun to drive car that never left me walking for about 7 years and 100 K additional miles. At trade-in time in 1993, the body was still in excellent condition.
250 mile round trips to visit my hometown every weekend? The occasional trip from Columbus Ohio to Atlanta Georgia? No problem! Highway mileage consistently in the low 30’s? Got it covered!
Had Chevy updated the design with a 5-speed transmission, fuel injection, a tad more power, etc. I would’ve been keenly interested.a
I think I’ve said this here, but I’ll repeat. We had 4 Brazilian Chevettes in the family over several years.
My Dad had a ’78 2 door sedan (with separate trunk), in Rally trim. Same engine (1.4), different paint, several added gauges (in ’78 in Uruguay few cars had a tachometer, a vacuum gauge, a voltimeter, and something else I forget), fog lights, blacked out trim, wider wheels (probably 165) and sport mirrors (including a right hand one…very rare for the time). That car was at home for only 3 years, as it rusted horribly. Mechanically it was very reliable, but then again, we sold it with something like 60.000 km.
My brother had an ’80 2 door sedan, generally very similar to the one my Dad had, but it had had a front end collision by its former owner, relatively well repared for the time (when the hood, for example, would not be replaced but reshaped, etc). That one was kept for only 3 years, just to get a new car and not because of any problem.
Finally, the best one was owned by my other brother, a ’92 2 door sedan. Even having a then 20 year old design, this was so much better, from cloth upholstery instead of plain vinyl, to a 1.6 in place of the 1.4 with much better power, to a 5 speed (that was good for highway driving, but the box itself was much smoother on the older cars). That one was used for about 5 years and netted about 150.000 km. It never went back for warranty work, and gave no problems at all after warrant either. Uncomfortable, yes. Slow, yes. Reliable, as death and taxes.
As a PS, one of my brothers was without a car many years later, and got a then 25 year old Chevette 2 door from a friend of my Mom’s, who had retired and neither needed nor wanted to go on driving. The car had only 40.000 km at the time but had been well cared for and always garaged. He paid 1500 U$S for it. The car drove nice for its age, needed a new differential and little more. Some crook stole it a year later. I would have held on to that car, which was a CC by that time.
Something that may interest somebody is that the earlier Brazilian Chevettes had the bow tie everywhere, and the Chevette script on a couple of places. But nobody would the word “CHEVROLET” appear. It was only used on the Opala larger cars or trucks. The brand decal would only appear about 1984.
How about a dissenting point of view?
In the early 1980’s my brother needed a reliable used car for not too much money.
In the middle row a a local used car lot, we found a blue 1976 (?) 4 door Chevette, 4 speed manual, power steering, with a still perfectly working, freezing c-c-cold air conditioner. (SO very desirable in perpetually Hot & Humid New Orleans!)
I think the A/C compressor had as much power as the engine did. My brother jokingly said he bought it just for the A/C.
If you rowed the gearbox correctly it was not THAT slow; certainly quicker than a Powerglide Vega or automatic Ford Escort. The HVAC and power steering was typically GM excellent, never needed any Freon added to the A/C. It was indeed kinda-sorta noisy; but an aftermarket radio and speakers helped to mitigate the din.
An “on sale” set of Sears & Roebuck/Michelin radial tires helped it’s handling and wet weather driving abilities immensely.
It gave him dull but reliable yeoman service for over two years.
He traded it in on a shinny “lemon yellow” Fiat 131 that proved to be a huge mistake.
Like the craptacular Mustang II, time has somewhat mitigated the awfulness of the Chevette. For the times, the Chevette was actually not that bad. Somewhere I remember it being written that it was the American Lada, or maybe Trabant. It was the most basic of transportation, and when stuff did break or fall off, a roll of duct tape and some bailing wire would usually get you back on the road. And with no power and RWD, I can certainly see snowbelt teenagers having quite a bit of fun sliding one around in the snow.
If that one still has a floor I’d buy it. Rather miss my Chevettes (I had a ’79 and an ’82.) So damn easy to work on. I think the only time I dragged one home was when a timing belt went…and I had it running again a few hours later. I do love a non-interference engine. Both mine with manuals and no A/C. Dad had one with automatic and A/C – I did not enjoy driving that one as much but as noted above that A/C was meat-locker cold.
Chevettes. That takes me back.
The LUV and the Chevette “T-car” each had the same optional Diesel. You guys think the gas engine was gutless?
Best thing about the Diesel is that you could get a “Horn Delete” option. The whole world could hear the knockety-clatter two blocks away; the horn was entirely superfluous.
When on-board computers became a thing, the Chevette got the most retarded system GM ever produced–the “Min-T” on board computer. As in, “Minimum T-body”. If there was a problem, the computer would turn on the “Check Engine” light; but you had to drive to a GM dealer RIGHT THEN, and LEAVE THE ENGINE RUNNING while you jacked-up a Service Advisor to get someone to “read the codes”. If you shut the engine off…the computer memory was erased. Good luck finding intermittent faults.
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