Spring is in full bloom, and on Sunday it was time to celebrate the warmth and sun with another trek to Skinner Butte. I always pull out my camera as I approach the summit, because inevitably there will be something to shoot. And once again, I’m not disappointed; a fine Chevy Celebrity (never mind the Sunfire). Maybe we should petition the city to change its name to CC Butte.
We haven’t done a lot of Celebrity-ing around here for a while; it was exactly two years ago that it had its CC here, by Tom Klockau. It’s been rather under-represented, considering how many Olds and Buick A-Bodies of this generation we’ve indulged in.
Of course, the Celebrity wasn’t built seemingly forever like the Century and Cutlass Ciera. 1990 was the Celebrity’s final year, while the Buick and Olds fleet queens were made all the way through 1996, an unbelievably long run by Big Three standards; maybe even a record of sorts.
I’m not an expert on divining the years of these cars, but I do know it’s from the latter part of it run, given the 2.8 MPFI badge, composite head lights, and the interior, which looks a bit different from the early ones. Doesn’t that bring back happy memories of being given a Celebrity at a rental counter? That distinctive roarty exhaust sound, totally out of character, and that inimitable feel of the front subframe moving slightly sideways under hard acceleration? Or at least feeling like it did? Sweet memories indeed.
I’ve always regarded the GM A-bodies as probably the finest mundane (aka, white bread on four wheels) automobiles to ever come out of the US. Reliable, reasonably economical, comfortable and having windows you can actually see out of. The two Buick Century’s I’ve owned always gave me a good feeling towards Buick . . . . to the point that one’s on my short list for this summer’s car shopping.
See out of and (coupes aside) *roll down in back*!
That being worth mentioning since both the A/G bodies they replaced and the Chrysler minivans that were the A wagons’ chief competitor featured fixed rear glass.
I agree. Decent cars, especially when they got the steering rack issue fixed (changed a lot of them!) But, like that cute, fun, $2 whore, would not be seen in public with one…
My Mom had an ’84 wagon with the 2.8 V6…Not a bad car. Extremely space efficient…even had a third seat. The engine only put out 112 hp but had a cool growl. It had the 3 speed automatic with a lockup torque converter. I remember when the car would hit about 35 mph it would go into lockup. Almost felt like 4th gear. If you accelerated gently once it was in lock up the car would shudder. A bit firmer acceleration would smooth things out switching back to fluid drive. The worst part of the car were the brakes. On slippery roads, even just wet, hard braking locked up the rear brakes and the lightweight rear end could come around pretty quickly…actually a dangerous situation.
I don’t know about the Chevy version, but the Buick Century I had had a hard metal spot in the seatback about 1/3 of the way from the bottom. Otherwise it was comfortable.
Great find. Hardly any of these left out here in Rustopia, and those that do still roll are very rough. This one looks pretty fresh.
Always thought the Celebrity’s dashboard was weird.
That reminds me, my Spring Break (first week of April) would be a great time to get started on some COALs.
You bring up a good point Paul. Where have all the Celebrities(and the Pontiac 6000) gone? The roads used to be thick with them and then one day it seemed they disappeared. The only ones I see are beat up or rusty. I know that GM sold more Celebrities then Century and Cieras each year they were made but while you can look down a long road and see at least one Buick or Oldsmobile A-Body, there are no Pontiac or Chevy A-bodies to be had. Is it a case where demographics come into play? Could the reason more Cieras and Centurys are around be that OAP(Old Age Pensioners) mostly bought them and took care of them while the Chevy and Pontiac A-Bodies were bought by younger folks that only saw them as a stop gap car?
Could the Buick and Olds A-Body be made with better rust proofing? That featured Celebrity is in good shape for the years it has been around. The dash is in great shape with no sign of the GM Mark Of Excellence(aka a big crack on the dash)
I have a theory about this, and it boils down to this: The Celebrities and 6000s are in the same place the early Centurys and Cieras are. You hardly see those anymore, either!
“Where have all the Celebrities(and the Pontiac 6000) gone?”
Well, age got them. The last Celeb’ sedan was built in 1989, and wagon in 1990. Pontiac 6000’s died in 1990, also. Buick and Olds A’s lasted until 1996, and dealers were kicking and screaming when GM killed the platform.
So, the extra 6-7 model years sure makes a difference, plus the Ciera was Olds’ #1 car in the early 90’s.
I dunno, but I kind of want to find a 86-87 6000-STE again. I’d like to find an AWD model but the rounded back glass doesn’t mesh well with the flat rear and full width taillights to me.
All the 6ks I’ve seen have been beat utterly into the ground here lately, and I miss my 86 STE as it was a fun toss able car, and was decently quick with the fuelie 2.8- it just needed a 4th gear badly. I think a blown 3800 dropped into it would turn it into a screamer.
@Tommy T, in theory the parts to change an A-body to supercharged 3800 power wouldn’t be hard to come by. A few Buick Century’s left the factory with 3800 power and the 3300 which was a de-stroked 3800 was dropped into quite a few Cieras. So the motor mounts shouldn’t be a problem. Question would be, would it fit under the hood, and would the transmissions that would bolt up be strong enough if the transmission that matched the motor couldn’t be used?
Back in the mid-Nineties I worked in an auto shop and one of the other guysworking on a customers ’83 Buick Century with the 3.0 dropped the TPS transfer pin down the intake while doing a TPS change. The tech was all ready to pull the head to get the offending piece and was arranging things with the customer when the boss said “No, don’t do that. We’ll drive it and shoot the piece out the exhaust!”
So after the boss bought an ’83 Buick Century with a ruined engine off a customer he decided he wanted to hot rod it with a fuelie 3800 out of something like a LeSabre or Park Avenue. I tried to stay away from the project as much as possible since the boss could be a bit dangerous to be around (go figure, right?) but I do recall the mechanical swap was pretty straight forward, though the original trans could not be used, the modifications to the donor wiring harness took longer. Still it only took a couple weeks or so. The car was fun as hell with the chassis histrionics under acceleration being truly worthy of Buick (go watch some GN’s or Stage 1 GS’s drag launch and you’ll understand). In time the car became the shop parts runner and more than a few customers used it as a loaner. I can only imagine that created some life stories for them!
I don’t think the headlights are composite. My memory is of a sealed beam-like one piece assembly that was also used on the Impala of the day. I replaced one for my Father to the tune of $220, which almost brought on my first MCI. The whole car only cost $1000. But, as usual, this may be another false memory. That happens a lot these days. Hard to believe these are mostly gone from the roads after being so omnipresent for so many years.
That Celebrity has composite headlights. Though unlike a lot of the cars of that day(such as Taurus etc) they were made of glass and not plastic
My 2.8 station wagon was “my” first car. Handed down to me by my parents, it already had a leaky head gasket. If you kept it moving, it might not stall, but if you stopped, good luck getting it started again for a while. So I rolled through a stop sign at 30 (actually, I have no idea how fast I was going. it could have been 5mph), like any 16 year old would…..
This one was a 1988. It had the rear seat option and I can remember hours spent riding backwards and watching the world unfold.
This is a nice specimen. Interesting bucket seat, floor shift combo too. I always found these to be good-looking cars, particularly the triple taillights and molded in rear spoiler “look”.
Jim Grey: the dashboard is a little odd but I like the square gauge layout — it sort of goes with the boxy themed taillights & other touches. A few of these had a rare rectangular digital tach that mounted in place of the PRND21 window normally located between the steering column & rectangular speedometer.
The glove box pull-out drawer is a little awkward to manipulate from the driver’s seat though.
Awful brakes aside, I still like these. Clean, comfortable, efficient packaging, with just enough flair on the back to give it some personality. I also liked the Eurosport trims, even if they were more than a bit pretentious. I still see A-bodies in wagon form around and marvel at how spacious they are compared to a typical modern CUV.
I even like the blocky GM interior. Well, I like looking at it.
My first car. So many memories. Loved that velour bench seat up front – I could (and did) seat 6 comfortably in the car. The 5-digit odometer had long since turned over (maybe more than once?). Truly a great car for a 16-year-old who didn’t know any better. Someday I’ll buy & restore a Eurosport, or maybe even an elusive Celebrity VR. My blog write-up on the Celeb is here: http://drivetofive.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/friday-flashback-my-1986-chevy-celebrity/
Nice blog, it would make for a great COAL here.
My Mom had an 87 2.5L sedan in Lt. Rosewood [wierd pinkish color] that she bought in 1989 with only 6400 miles.
Other than an initial electronic module problem that stalled the car in the wet, it was dead reliable. She had it until 2001 when she could no longer drive. She sold it to a friend of mine for $1000 and less than 24000 miles! He had it for 3 years until he resold it for the same price he paid! It still looked decent after 17 years!
Worst automobile name ever.
Growing up in Ohio in the 80s our governor was Dick Celeste. My Dad’s smarta$$ friends would often ask him how he liked his Chevy Celeste. They thought they were hilarious. (eye roll)
I would love a Eurosport wagon in black! Had an opportunity to buy a nice survivor a few years back but passed. Still regret that decision.
I still have the window sticker to my old ’82 that I got off my sis-in-law’s grandpa…
Here’s the car itself
…and the extremely clean interior (minus headliner and the woodgrain strip on the steering wheel)
NIce car. The earliest ones are all but extinct. How strange that GM still coded the U58 stereo and UE8 digital clock options separate despite both being housed in the non-ETR radio case.
Thanks for posting the window sticker. Interesting stuff. Since the car was built in Framingham, there’s likely a build sheet or two hidden in the car somewhere.
I, unfortunately, sold the car in 2006…it was starting to slip mechanically. It had low mileage for it’s age, but it had sat for a while before I got to it, which took it’s toll on the braking, charging and a few other systems. At the time, I didn’t have the funds for a full-on restore, it was simply cheaper to just get a new car, and my sol asked me to sell the car before he passed, if I were going to sell it, (she was close to her gpa) and so I did. I did keep the documentation to it, though, and I did run across a build sheet-tho for the life of me, I can’t remember where it is.
It was replaced with a 1992 Grand Prix SE with the B4U gfx and wheel kit. All show and not much go, but it was as reliable as the sunrise, and I thought it was purty-aside from the obligatory missing front air dam, someone butchered the stereo wiring-installing a cheap aftermarket head unit (wish they would have kept it stock so I could use the steering wheel controls)-and a few paint chips.
The Grand Prix. This one was oddly optioned, too. Almost all the bells and whistles available on the SE-but no rear defrost. Both door handles broke off while I owned it (stupid design element), so I kept a RAM module (computer memory stick) on my keychain to pop the latch. Cheapest security system money could buy lol.
Oh, and I replaced the stock stereo with a digital deck from an ’88 coupe with bad timing gears I picked up for $40, grabbed a few parts off of, and junked for $60. the stock deck had a blown channel and I didn’t know how to solder at the time, tho I did keep it.
…the interior was in relatively good condition, anyway (aside from the black tape on the armrest)…
The Chevrolet Celebrity along with its Corporate Twin Cousins were actually heavily based from the problem plagued Chevrolet Citation chassis but a much improved version of that platform along with the Front and Rear Chassis Inserts accounting to the Celebrity’s body being a foot longer than the same one that the Citation was using. The Celebrity actually was only about 4″ shorter than the 1981-83 Malibu the car it was actually planning to replace which eventually had after GM felt comfortable enough in trusting the Celebrity would be a significantly better built car than its inferior kin the trouble prone Citation. Had GM only waited to replace the Nova in 1981 instead of 1980 to iron out the potential kinks from its Citation replacement then the Citation would have been a really potentially competitive import fighter alongside the smaller Cavalier and larger Celebrity and giving GM a 1-3 punch over its competitors.
Looking at the last generation Focus next to the Celebrity you really notice that it was a small “mid size” car by today’s standards. I was in the Navy during the 80’s (actually all the way through 2007) and we had Celebrity wagon as our duty vehicle.
Funny, I’ve been in both and recall the Celebrity being quite a bit roomier than the Focus. But when I looked up the specs the interior numbers are pretty close. Maybe it’s the console or floorpan shape of the Focus that makes it seem so much smaller.
The one thing that will always stick out in my mind from my Celebrity ownership will be: SPACE UTILIZATION. That car had some of the best utilization of the sub 100 cubic foot interior of any midsize I’ve been in. I’ll be driving midsized cars this spring while car shopping and I’ll have to see if any of them use the space they were given as well.
There some folks who customized Celebrity into 2-door Nomad style wagon and even a “Celeb-mino”
The website “Autos of Interest” posted some illustrations from a old issue of Motor Trend from 1982 who predicted a coming but never saw the light of the day, 2-door Celebrity wagon http://autosofinterest.com/2012/08/27/old-news-more-motor-trend-speculation/
I have seen them. They looked like stretched Chevy Vega Kammback Wagons with a Chevy Cavalier front end.
Consumer’s Guide used a couple of neat metaphors for these cars, calling the A-body an X-car in a tailored suit and stating that the Eurosport gilded a very middle-class lily. It’s still a handsome car.
That metaphor could apply as well to Chrysler M-body who’s a F-body in a tailored suit and to a latter extent, to the “Aero-bird” gen of the Ford Thunderbird as well as the Mercury Cougar and Lincoln Mark VII who was a Fairmont Fox-body in a tailored suit. 😉
Check out that Shitfire! Occasionally you will see a 2003-2005 Pontiac Sunfire sedan that has been grey market imported to the U.S from Canada.
That Focus is fairly pathetic as well as somewhat ugly and the 3rd face lift of an already dated car, good thing Ford got their act together with the current Focus.
Even in Portland the land of Curbside Classics I never see Celebrities or Citations, but I do see Centuries and Cutlass Cierras.
That particular ‘Fire is a 2000-2002 version.
86 Celebrity wagon, 2.5 L TBI Iron Duke. White w. wood grain & burgundy velour interior.
First car my wife & I bought together in 1994. $1,500.
Aside from a leaking P/S rack soon after purchase, just about the best used car ever. Daily driver until about ’04 when the tin worm defeated the metal fuel lines & the top of the fuel tank.
I liked the A-bodies, and the Celebrity was no exception. Just make mine a later one with fuel injection and that roarty exhaust. We had them at work, and they served well, especially the ex-rental 1985 car. You could see out of them, I thought they drove nice, and looked good, too. GM did OK with these.
Gee, I had the Celebrity exactly as in the photos! Even the same colour: medium grey metallic paint and grey interior. My father bought it for me from his company’s fleet after its two-year tour of duty expired.
While it wasn’t the most reliable car ever, it has taken me to many places in the United States and Canada. The car was most ideal for the road trips because it was easiest to repair as compared to the German cars that my parents had and because the parts were cheaper and easier to obtain, even in the remote rural area. I had well-equipped toolbox in the trunk so I could repair the car on the spot wherever and whenever I wanted. That included the special wrench extension that allowed me to change spark plugs in the back of the V6 motor.
For some reasons beyond me, the seatback was angled too far back, and the seats were too uncomfortable. I found a workaround by swapping the L-bracklets, which effectively solved the problem. I hated those type of seat belts that came ‘loose’, requiring a quick pull the shoulder belt to tighten up. I solved the problem by removing one part from the winding mechanism.
Because I travelled a lot on the rural highways, I retrofitted the quad headlamps with Hella H4 and H1, containing 100w/130w H4 and 100w H1 bulbs. Of course, I had to reinforce the electrical wiring for the extra oompah. What a huge difference at night! Not to mention, pissing the road hogs off the left lanes.
I added the side turn signal repeaters because the tiny bulbs in the front side running markers didn’t do good job, signalling other drivers of my intention to change lanes. No more close calls…
Two persistent issues I experienced was the frequent leaking of freon from the compressor and dog bone motor mount disintegrating quicker than the design perimeter. Not to mention the sagging headliner that peeled itself off the ceiling.
General Motors didn’t include my car in its recall campaign to repaint the horizontial delamination of paint so my car had that ‘cancer’. Many shops quoted more than $1.000 to strip the paint to the bare metal before repainting. That was more than the worth of my car.
After 250.000 miles on the original motor and gearbox, the gasket just lost it and allowed the antifreeze to mingle with the oil somewhere in the motor. The consequence was split-pea soup everywhere, seizing the motor. I sold it to the junkyard for $70.
Most boring car ever!!! The Chevy was the plainest mist boring a body. I especially dislike the Eurosport version with orange emblems and dash. Sorry as the Malibu was this was worse except for the back windows.
What do you mean never mind the Sunfire?
At the one company I worked for, we had a fleet of cars we could use on company business. All of our Celebritys looked like this one. We also had the previous generation ones with the 2.8 V6, but those were problematic. Most of the later ones had the 2.5L FI motor, which was a much better driver than the earlier carbureted ones. However, a few of these had the 2.8 or 3.1 FI motors (I think they were 3.1’s) and those were very zippy compared to the first gen V6 cars.
Solid and sturdy for the most part. Not my cup of tea, but I’ve come to appreciate them in recent years. I’d like to have an early Eurosport with the Citation X-11 aluminum wheels on it (1985). But I’d want a much later variant of the V6, preferably the 3.5 or 3.9 that has some REAL power…
My friend had a ’87 Celebrity that he bought new & had it for about 5 years. It was built in Framingham, MA. He loves to drive & it racked up plenty of miles. I remember that one of the doors fell off it before he got rid of it. I remember that there were a lot of MA state agency cars that were Celebrities around that time. You don’t see too many of them around here anymore.
I see there’s lots of love for the Celebrity here with all the comments.
I’ve owned 2 myself, an 87 Eurosport with the 6 cyl in it and an 89 with a 6 cyl in it. Loved the 87 Eurosport the most since it had the beefed up suspension and brakes on it, plus it had the bucket seats up front with the center console. What I loved the most was the sleeper effect. People didn’t expect these cars to have much guts in them, but you step on that gas, that 1 second lag and BAM! That car took off. Romp on it in the corners and it handled almost like a sports car. That 1 second lag from stomping on the gas was the only thing that annoyed me about the Celebrity cars. Unfortunately I do not have either anymore 🙁 would like to get another 87-89 Eurosport though, or, the Eurosport VR(not likely to ever find one though). BTW, you can find a healthy population of Celebrity cars in the NW. If you don’t know what the VR looks like, here’s a little site dedicated to it: http://www.eurosportvr.com/