I know for a fact that I have never driven a Chevette, and I can’t recall even having ever ridden in one either. I have however ridden in the T-car’s transatlantic sibling Opel Kadett as a kid and as a proud European firmly believe the Chevette doesn’t hold a candle to that car but of course have no actual comparative experiences to draw on. Yes, the Chevette was America’s best-selling small car for 1979 as well as 1980 but that doesn’t mean it was particularly good, just cheap and with less baggage than the local competition. Chevettes are mostly all gone nowadays but this one stopped me as it’s rare to see a bumper sticker on the front bumper of a car, so it was worth exploring a bit more.
Well then. Somebody likes their stickers. It’s kind of hard to see the car underneath but that’s okay, with 451,000 of these sold in 1979 alone and a total of 2.8 million units over the Chevette’s 1976-1972 lifespan, everyone is likely familiar with it already. Combine that with another 4.2 million of the other worldwide T-car variants (Opel Kadett, Isuzu Gemini, Pontiac T-1000, Pontiac Acadian amongst a couple of others also named Chevette but different branding) even those from elsewhere will likely find it sort of familiar looking as well.
The Nader/LaDuke (Ralph and Winona) ticket in 2000 was not a winning one, the honors obviously went to George W. Bush although it was a controversial and close finish. No, not close against Nader and LaDuke but rather Al Gore and the whole Florida “hanging chad” fiasco. Nader and LaDuke (the nominees of the Green Party that year) appeared on the ballots of 43 states and the District of Columbia and ended up with 2.7% of the popular vote and zero electoral votes which is more than I would have guessed prior to looking it up.
The owner of this car didn’t seem to have a winning record as far as supporting presidential candidates goes, as far as I can see the oldest is Mondale in ’84 (on the bumper), then Dukakis in ’88, Clinton in ’92 (a winner!), then Nader in 2000, Kerry in 2004 followed by Obama in 2008 (the second winner!) and finally Romney in 2016. I have a feeling a Biden sticker would be adorning this car if it wasn’t here currently. It’s also possible this is a one-owner car, perhaps it wasn’t sold until after the election in late 1979, although my money would be on it having been a Jimmy Carter sticker had there been one.
But enough of that overall misery, let’s get back to the car itself!
I guess I can say that the shape isn’t offensive or objectionable, the front refresh for 1979 helped a lot in that regard, the grille looks purposeful, the bowtie kind of works too (my, how these have grown over the years), and maybe the Air Force blue color isn’t unattractive either.
This car even still wears all four of its hubcaps with the “All Climate Radial” tires measuring in at 155/80-13. These tires were even made in the USA, any idea who sold these? We do get all the climates here in Colorado so perhaps it was a good choice, not that the rear-driven wheels would have been overmatched by the raw power from the engine.
That’s a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder fed by a 2-barrel Holley carburetor producing a whopping 70hp and 82lb-ft of torque when new. At sea level. Somewhat less up here and less as it aged. There was supposedly a “high-output” version available as well, perhaps that was sold in mountain states such as ours but I do not know how to tell the difference. It doesn’t look like anyone has been by to scrounge any parts for their own 1979 Chevette either so far.
Looking inside reveals a fairly spartan interior with a somewhat sporting silver bezel on the instrument cluster and a manual transmission. I didn’t realize they made saddle blanket covers for bucket seats, I thought that was just a pickup truck thing, who knew? The door panels look like that molded GM plastic stuff that wears weird though. There’s also no clock but there are several monthly calendar pads affixed to the dash with the most current dating to 2004 to perhaps give the most ever extremely rough approximation of the time of day.
A four-speed with a push to engage reverse, like an older watercooled VW. The little cubby in front of the shifter is handy, I’m surprised the shifter isn’t just coming out of the floor. No A/C and an AM-only radio for tunes, but compared to the VW Rabbit’s dash, this one is actually fairly contemporary looking.
Round and round she goes, where she’ll stop, nobody knows. Is that 66,518 miles or 166,518? Or maybe even 266,518? I have no idea but I’d wager it’s probably missing an initial “1”. Gotta love the typical GM el cheapo blank gauge at the center bottom and a couple of warning lights up top, no trip odometer either. Visible Phillips screw heads in the instrument panel to hold it on is also something that’s long gone now.
The backseat looks none too comfortable either with more molded plastic side panels. But the rear windows have that nifty pop-out feature that stops being so nifty when your passenger leaves it open and you then have to climb back there to close it after they get out of the car.
I have no idea if there used to be carpeting back here but that’s a ribbed metal panel with a thumb hook. It lays in there a bit on the high side or maybe the low whiplash-special rear seatback just makes the load floor look higher. Interesting though to see a metal panel, nowadays that’d always be plastic or a carpeted board of some sort.
It turns out that it’s very light, I suppose aluminum and the spare tire is below. I don’t think it’s ever seen the light of day but there’s the base plate for a bumper jack (shudder) and room for all kind of things that you want kept away from prying eyes.
Proudly proclaiming its identity on the front fenders, even at this late stage in the game.
You know, I’m kind of warming up to this one. It was clearly a survivor for over four decades which is impressive for around here, as much grief as GM gets, every once in a while they built a good one, and this looks to have been one of them. But I still don’t want to drive one.