Let’s keep the GM Week orgy going just a wee bit longer. Yesterday, during a quick bike ride downtown to the City Building Permit Center, what do I spot but a very clean Olds Firenza. Actually, it’s not my first, but I never got to the other one–maybe another day. Anyway, after shooting the rear view I noticed a Mom and her two babies inside, so a full set of shots was not in the cards. But she did, somewhat grudgingly, tell me a bit about the Firenza and allowed me one more shot.
I did say grudgingly, right? Turns out she bought the Firenza (with 88,000 miles on the odo) from the original owners just a month ago. Good catch! Another pampered old(s)lady-mobile comes out of the garage to join the fleet of daily driver Curbside Classics here. Good thing, because others are dropping out. Keep scouring those old folks’ garages!
Sorry, this is a ‘J-Car’, there never were any ‘nice ones’ at all…
Well strictly speaking “nicest” doesn’t necessarily mean that nice!
Sadly the “rocket” is missing off the non-grille.
Needs a chrome luggage rack and white walls to complete the look… 😛
Nice, wish it was a coupe or a hatch. Those are getting harder to find.
Tell me about it. I’ve had my eyes peeled for a hatch for years now, but no luck.
This spooky clean 83 Type-10 was for sale a couple of years ago, I passed, I shoudn’t have…..
When I first met my wife in 1992, she was driving an ’87 Cavalier hatchback that looked very similar to the one in Carmine’s photo, but with different front-end styling. I inherited it in 1995 when we bought a new car (she got the new car, I got her old one, and my ’85 Plymouth Turismo was turned over to the dealer in exchange for $100 in trade-in value). Even back then, you didn’t see a lot of Cavalier hatchbacks running around. 1987 was the last year they were built.
We got rid of it in ’96 when it needed a head gasket job and we decided it wasn’t worth fixing, especially in light of the fact that my parents had an ’87 Plymouth Sundance they were willing to give me for free. I sold the Cavalier to a mechanic I knew for $175, with the price purely an attempt to recoup some of the value of the relatively new tires it was wearing. He apparently did the head gasket job himself (this wasn’t the same mechanic I had consulted with initially on the cost of fixing it) and sold it, as I used to see an elderly woman driving it around for a few years after that.
Sent it to the crusher. Don’t remind anyone how perfectly awful these vehicles were
Refined, no, but people are a bit too harsh on the J’s. The Cavalier didn’t earn the cockroach of the road nickname for nothing. Simple, cheap, fairly tough, and when it broke(its a machine with moving parts, not a block of granite) fixable by the owner or even the most half-ass mechanic.
Whenever I was out driving with my Dad and we would come across a well-kept older car he would alway say “Son it doesn’t matter what kind of car it is, if it’s clean it’s going to catch your eye”.
This Firenza certainly falls into that category. Wouldn’t have given it a second look new but it sure stands out today, in a good way. Great find!
Your dad sure had a point there. When people see a clean old car, they think “classic,” but when the same car gets a little dirty or gets one dent too many, suddenly it’s an “old beater.”
I just got me one of these! an 86 with 70,700-something miles on it! Much like the one in the photo–was very well-kept, super clean inside and out. The chrome piece along the driver’s side is missing and the headline is loose inside, there’s a tiny-tiny little bit of rust–barely any, not even noticeable, and that’s pretty impossible to find in Michigan even if you’re buying a 10-year old car, let alone a 26 year old car. I simply need a dependable car and had very little money to spend–wasn’t looking for a vintage/classic car, but I really think I’m going to like driving this. When I initially saw the ad, I thought it would be like a “grandma” car, and kind of boring, but I was wrong. I definitely think she’s got some character. Yay!
The Verano is a modern day Skyhawk and Firenza, and I liked all of them.
Is it just me, or is Firenza one of the stupidest car names ever. Fire-enza with not enough vowels? Or Fir-enza, like an Italianesque take on a pine tree? Neither makes any sense. I think I would prefer one of the bland alpha-numerics like XR4Ti. Why not one of the old ones, this would have made a great Jetstar. Or not.
And yet it graces one of the UK’s iconic vehicles…the Vauxhall Firenza 2300 “DroopSnoot” which, tweaked by Blydenstein Racing and in the hands of one Gerry Marshall, was one very successful race car.
Thanks for that. For my own edification, I keep a list of car model names that were used by different manufacturers. Firenza was not on my list.
Firenza is a slight corruption of the Italian name for Florence (Firenze is the proper spelling).
I also keep another list of cars that were named after places. I get to add it there too!
How about Starfire Firenza then? The name of the sporty option package on the H-car preceding this one.
Ahh, the bad old days…
Sounds better than “Venza”. Looks better too.
Must be shadows…she looks like she has a beard…
Carmine, I will give you the “cockroach” descriptor.
When I pulled my ’89 Caprice off the road for six months to replace the wretched Olds 307 (sorry Dan, try one in a 4,200lb. car with 2.93 gears!) with a 350TPI, I spent $200 for an ’86 Cavalier wagon our 4-year-old son called “The Putt-Putt”. It got us around for those months without any major repairs that I can recall. When the Caprice was sorted out (every engine swap requires some sorting out!) we gave the Cavalier to a neighbor who needed wheels and they drove it for several months until the fuel pump died.
The steering was tighter than any “A” body I’d driven and the car got us from point A to point B for several months.
Definitely got our $200 out of it.
But again, in the grand scheme of things…HAD they been built the way Toyota was building cars in that same time period…the way GM built most of their cars until 1971(compared to the competition of that day)…they’d have never gone bankrupt because they’d have maintained a far greater percentage of their market share.
307V8 was great till 55mph then forget it…
For an 80s B-body give me a Chevy engine with fuel injection…
That poor woman in the driver’s seat looks miserable.
This post isn’t about the J-cars being great, it’s about a rare iteration of the platform surviving. And it looks like one of the nicer J-cars. Did it come with a turbo or was that reserved for the Skyhawk and Sunbird/J2000?
I dont think Olds had a turbo version, or even a hotter engine. Though there was a Firenza GT.
No, Olds DID have the Z24 clone, Firenza GT with 2.8 V6, by 1985 or 86.
It was one of the few first gen J bodies I actually would have liked to own.
With the V6, never seen it, must have been so obscure. I had to look it up.
I was never a fan of the Firenza iteration of these, but DID like the original J2000 hatchback though, in red no less.
But in the end, I’ve ridden in Cav’s, they were decent, if unexceptional cars for the day, they have certainly earned the nickname of “cockroach of the road” for nothing.
Still, when I spot a decent one still being driven, I will notice.
No, you did make the right decision…
What saddens me about this (and other older cars that have survived this long) is that because it was bought cheaply it will most likely be treated like a cheap old car and will be destroyed in no time.
Why so many people choose to go through life like that, having no pride of ownership and such is beyond me.
A real pity…
I know what you mean. This old lady not far from me had a gorgeous 80K mile maroon ’84 Regal coupe with maroon bucket seat/console interior and 3.8V6. She eventually put a for sale sign in it: asking price $1800. I really didn’t have a valid reason to purchase it despite the fact that it was a good deal.
Some “person” bought it…they worked at the nearby McDonalds. Not one month went by and the whole rear of the car was caved in: buckled over the wheelwells. Every time I went through the drive-through it made me sick to look at it. About six months later, I saw it was sitting in the McDriver’s front yard with the front end smashed. It still looked driveable but ugh… Two weeks later it was at the scrapyard — I got a few pieces of the console off it before it got crushed. The 3.8 engine & seats in the car were intact and still looked like they were in excellent shape.
Such a waste. That lady had it no-telling-how-many years & the next owner destroyed it in less than one year.
When I was a freshman in college, in the fall of 1988, I had a friend named Tom — who I had also gone to high school with; we were both commuters — who bought a ’76 Dodge Dart sedan in good shape off of an old lady. This was in the northeast; there were still a lot of ’76s on the road, but they were definitely considered old enough to be a teenager’s car; I was driving a ’78 Bucik Century at the time. I remember that Tom’s Dart had no radio, so he used to carry a boombox with him in the car, running it off batteries. He bought the car well after the school year started, as I remember a point where he didn’t have a car and was bumming rides off people to get around.
Just after Christmas break, I spotted a battered later-period Dart or Valiant sedan sitting by itself in a campus parking lot just off the road I was driving on. I thought to myself, “That car looks a lot like Tom’s car”. As I approached, I realized that it WAS Tom’s car — in fact, Tom was sitting in the driver’s seat. I pulled up next to him, greeted him, and asked, “What happened to your car?” I think there were multiple incidents involved; I remember something about a “stupid lady” causing one accident, something about sliding off a road down a slope in the snow, and something about a not entirely successful attempt to tow the car back onto the road following the last incident, using a pickup truck, in which a tree also came into play. I recall saying something to the effect of, “You realize that the old lady preserved this car for 12 years, and you’ve trashed it over the course of one Christmas break?”…
I was never a huge fan of this generation of J body, but there are some I’d like to have/preserve. We’ll see what the future brings…
A close friend of mine bought a 1984 Buick Skylark 4 door brand new back then, compared to my POS 1980 Mercury Capri, the car was well built and drove well. Looking at these cars now, I kind of dig the rectilinear interior styling that was all the rage in those 80’s GM cars; no one else seemed to do it better. With the amorphous shapes and Voltron-Transformers-inspired interiors and dashes we have today, these seem absolutely stunningly simple and clean. OTOH, cars had a lot less “stuff” in them, then.
I personally think that familiarity breeds contempt, and that these cars get smacked unfairly when there was a whole raft of equally bad or worse stuff on the roads. That the others have all disappeared and these remain to catch our fury is not quite right.
I’m not going to say for a moment that things like the “morning sickness” power steering and the locking rear brake issues that were common on these J bodies is something that should be forgotten. I had a 1983 Trans Am that fell apart on me (although I was a young man and frankly abused the car a great deal), and to this day still have mixed feelings when seeing a 3rd Gen F body. I have the same issues when I see a Fox body Mustang or Capri on the road, for that matter, also.
I’m just glad to see one of these things again. Like Richard said, though, it IS a shame that this car won’t go to a person who will preserve it. It will be used up a like a McDonald’s wrapper and then discarded. Our loss.
Like any other artifact of a previous generation, a few of these will be preserved. I am reminded that there’s an active community of slide rule collectors.
I totally agree with everyone who has commented on survivor cars getting sold to people who will use them and not preserve them. Sometimes I’ll spot a car from the 70’s or 80’s that looks kind of beat down and I wonder how it managed to survive longer than most of it’s peers but still not appear well taken care of. I think it must be this Old-Lady-Sold-It syndrome!
I don’t know what you could do about it. I take good care of my cars and when I sell them, I know the next owner may not treat it with the respect I do. Everyone is responsible to the Gods of Carma for how they maintain their own vehicles. I can’t do anything about how someone else treats their car.
There ought to be a law.
“So sir, you bought this mint-condition 1986 Town Car and trashed it in short order. As punishment, you must drive this Zap Xebra for eight to ten years…”
The driver of this being ‘in a hurry’ sounds like they will trash their ‘bargain car’ in no time.
But also, dry rot of rubber and old gas in the tank usually is why some ‘old lady cars’ don’t last long after being put back on road. The body and interior may get preserved, but moving drivetrain parts that sit and sit, dry out or get flat spots.
Three months ago, the holy grail of J-bodies just fell into my lap, and I can truly say I missed having my Firenza “S” hatchback. Mechanically illiterate people are sure quick to knock vehicles, as most of them were probably the reason the car turned out to be a piece of crap. After 165 vehicles, since 1979, I found a 35 mpg, 35 year old Cavalier convertible. I get more thumbs up in it than in my Firenza hatch, ’75 V8 Monza Towne Coupe, or any of my Chevelles, or ’66 GTO. The car is in incredible condition, all stock except for the Fiero GT wheels and huge tires.
One of only 627 ever built. How many left in this condition remains to be seen. Bash them all you want, you will NEVER see another one of these in person. If you do, post a picture of it, I’d love to see it.