I saw this Cutlass Ciera last month, and it presented so nicely I felt compelled to take a picture. It’s really a nice car- clean, straight, and complete. We’ve documented these “Cockroaches of the Road” extensively here at Curbside Classic, but I may have a greater appreciation for them than most.
We’ve all seen Cutlasses, Celebrities, and Centuries in super clean condition after lengthy service. For example, based on a license plate inquiry, this 1995 wagon is 27 years old. At present, the owner takes exceptional care of it but we all know that will NOT last.
Sooner or later, this lovely Ciera wagon will move on. Perhaps it will find itself with a new owner, one not so focused on vehicle maintenance. Perhaps that quality Turbo-Hydramatic 125 will finally give up the ghost, or whichever pushrod motor it uses will drop a valve.
No matter the reason, our ’95 wagon will someday suffer the same fate as this Chevy Celebrity, sent to a self-serve yard for any and all to salvage parts off its worn out carcass.
While a sad end to a nice ride, I really appreciate all the A-body owners who have kept these cars in service for the past thirty years. While someone could use A-body parts to fix other A-bodies, their presence in junkyards really means owners of more interesting cars can salvage critical parts off these time capsule vehicles.
As this Google search indicates, COVID has led to some surprising automotive part shortages. Components once readily available are now either MIA or vaguely promised “sometime in the future.” My solution? All the ’82 to ’96 A-bodies residing in junkyards across the country.
This week I ran an inventory check for five Denver Self-Serve yards. I found twelve different A-bodies, an average of 2.4 cars per yard.
Few other models from the eighties appear with this frequency. Thanks to GM’s robust components, these A-bodies populate salvage yards despite of their advanced age.
“But Dave,” you may say, “How can a crappy old Buick Century four door help me with my cool 1975 Pontiac Firebird?”
Well, if you need an inner door handle for that bad F-body, pretty much ANY ’82-’96 nerdy A-body has what you need.
Folks with a 1977 Olds Starfire can look for an EGR valve in certain model A-bodies, and the part bolts in and performs perfectly.
Folks with fancy nameplates looking for newer parts can also turn to the A-body. If someone needs an Idle Air Control (IAC) for their ’95 Seville, all they need to do is find a 1984 Buick Century 3.0 V-6 at the local yard. Sitting right on top of the intake manifold is the part they need.
Folks with import cars may be able to turn to the A-body as well. In addition to fitting millions of GM products, this MAP sensor fits a 1996 Acura SLX.
While this Throttle Position Sensor mounts into pretty much every Daewoo built between 1999 and 2002.
The A-body is a great source for “universal” parts as well. This Power Window Motor fits many GM models from 1979 to 2004. Given there are 12 donor cars here in Denver, I’m confident you can get one if needed.
Covering older cars, newer cars and imports, this A-body blower motor fits Cadillacs built in the sixties, GMCs built in the nineties, and the ’85 to ’95 Volvo 740 or 760.
As a final example, I offer you this tie rod end. While the A-body ended production in 1996, you can mount this part on your 2005 J-body Sunbird with absolute confidence. If you own a vintage Mopar, it also fits most K-car and P-car variants.
Making this part a fine way to end this presentation. Given there are (almost) no K-cars left in the junkyards, the only hope for their continued service is the Cockroach of the Road, GM’s ’84 to ’96 FWD A-body. Please keep this in mind the next time you see one, and perhaps you too can gaze upon it with increased appreciation.
And, unfortunately, the Truth of Antique Car Collecting is repeated: The honest, dull cars that the majority of buyers drove at the time are parted out to keep yet another high school wet dream on the road, thus giving younger generations the belief that (for example) Pontiac made nothing but GTO’s and Firebird’s.
Very nice reporting of reality.
I have always wanted to own an interchange manual, but now you are the next best thing. The CC effect is alive and well, because on my commute earlier this week I saw a Century sedan in that in-between phase. Clearly not resting in Grandma’s garage but not yet an end-stage parts donor. The young woman driving had put some stickers on the back and was probably enjoying her classic. They are still out there, something that kind of amazes me.
I love oddball parts interchanges among models nobody would ever suspect.
While certainly not a Hollander Interchange at Napa and O-Reilly’s they have access to the buyer’s guide which will tell you all the vehicles that part is used on. So yeah when it is time to go shopping at the wrecking yard it is not a bad idea to see if it is still listed in the aftermarket, then click on that buyer’s guide to see all of the potential donors.
One needn’t own an interchange book any more; now there’s http://www.hollanderparts.com and http://www.car-part.com — search for any part, get all interchange applications.
There’s a Ciera in my subdivision in sorry (but daily driver) shape. It’s got a lot of lazy Bondo work on it covering rust stains. But its owner has nursed it along at least for the last decade, and while it’s ugly, it just keeps going. He’s certainly had it longer than I’ve kept any of my cars.
Great research Dave. Starting my career, I bought a new Dodge Shadow. I parked it beside a friend’s early K-car once. Almost a decade older. And was impressed by the number of parts, and hard points they shared. A big reason parts were so reasonably priced for the Chrysler P-cars.
Ah, the noble A-body. I didn’t realize how many parts they share, not just with their fellow GM stablemates but with other makes as well. And even here in Ontario it’s not unusual to see a Ciera or Century still on the road and in decent shape. Sounds like they’ll be on the road and providing spares for a long time yet.
Dad bought a new Ciera in 1983, it was a perfect car. Perfectly assembled, with decent quality materials. It was trouble free, needed nothing except tires, the only car he owned with such a fine track record.
With rose colored glasses I went looking for the best Ciera I could find, about 5 years ago. I was surprised at how small and lightweight they seem to me now. Modern cars have substantial unit body structures, visible in hefty door sills. The A body lacks these although I don’t recall the car feeling especially flimsy.
I passed on the Ciera when a 2000 Volvo s70 fell into my lap. In dimensions and appearance, it’s astonishingly similar to the A body, introduced 18 years earlier, but more rigid and refined, a super-A- body, so to speak.
One note on that EGR valve, yes there were billions of cars that used that same body both GM and other brands, but they are all calibrated for the application, so just because it bolts on does not mean that it will work perfectly. All those things that look like washers in the picture are actually calibrated orifices, that make that aftermarket valve replace a dozen or more OE part numbers. The original units that orifice was part of the unit and even if you find an aftermarket unit the bag of orifices and the chart to pick the right one for your application is long gone.
I agree there are many caveats attached to all of these examples. My intention was to demonstrate the scope of commonality not create any kind of reference document.
I also appreciate those A-body owners who have kept their rather mundane cars in service for the several decades.
There’s a family near me that still owns an ’89 Celebrity – several years ago, it appears the car was passed on to their adult daughter. I still see the car visiting here occasionally, it has New York tags and still appears to be a good condition. But each time I see it, I suspect it’s the last.
That’s a great looking Olds wagon. Hopefully it has grown old and interesting enough for someone to continue to take care of it. They don’t make domestic longroofs like that any more.
Love these cars. Just thinking this AM how I wouldn’t mind dailying one of these again in Buick guise. White over blue please.
Parts finding can be fascinating and frustrating, I own two oddballs and nothing is common to either, however I have discovered Nissans of the 2000-2010 era share aircon hardware with Renaults and consequently Citroens, other electrical component likely interchange too but so far the only really serious failure to proceed on that car turned out to be a loose wire out of all the other possibilities it was the simple fix that worked, never mind all the various fault warnings on the screen.
By contrast I have a large cache of parts for my Superminx that came with it both used and NOS and every time I search through it I find more stuff I didnt know about,
A body GM Ive rarely even seen one, and Im over locally available GM cars that pieces of it might fit.
The best junkyard interchange I ever did was salvaging an idle air control off a Hyundai Sonata and mounting it on a Mitsubishi Eclipse.
It was a $500 part from the factory. The Salvage part was about 35 bucks.
My personal best was the EBTCM unit for my mom’s 2001 Aurora. It had to be the specific part with all 3 options-standard ABS, optional traction control, plus further optional StabiliTrak/Precision Control-which was common to post-97 H/G/K-Bodies. GM wanted (at the time – 5 years ago or so) $1200 plus programming. They are a commin failure, with brake fluid leaking internally and killing the electronics. After checking about 15 possibilities in the yards (they either had the wrong part still there, or a blank spot where the mega-expensive one had been scavenged), I found a newly arrived Bonneville GXP with the part in place. I grabbed it, and at the checkout window, the clerk asked what it was. I said it was a brake controller from a Bonneville, and he made up a price – $25. $100 for one hour of installation labor including Tech II programming at her mechanic, and it is still working perfectly today. I feel like less than 10% of the new price is a fantastic savings.
I found this Century back in March; my guess is that it died on the side of the road given the tag sticking out of the driver door. I stopped because I never see the pre-1989 models any longer, with the 6-window design. This one is a 1986-88 (did not check the VIN to obtain the exact year).
I am wondering how long my 1998 Nissan Frontier will soldier on. It’s been super reliable and has low miles for its age, only 104K. It was valued at $1097 for tax purposes by my home county this year, but no doubt it would sell for a lot more (not selling it though).
That wagon photo’s curiously robust.
I took it in a rainy overcast day, which are the perfect photographic conditions to hide many sins. But yes it was in beautiful condition, it looked about 2 years old.
I’m led to believe that fan belts from some Nuffield tractors were identical to the one used by Rolls Royce, at fraction of the price.
GM interchangabilty is great. I needed a brake pedal pad for my ’69 Skylark. One from a WB Statesman fitted exactly. Upper control arm and rear suspension bushes? HQ-WB Holden ones fit.
Dad had a rose colored Cutlass Ciera with a very nice interior. The car was stollen out of the driveway and found several days later sans the engine.
I guess the Iron Duke was compatible with a Celebrity, Century, or 6000.😄😄😄