COAL: 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier – Green Slug


It seemed like a good idea at the time – a low-mileage, good condition 2-door GM car for $300 – How could you not buy it?  Well…it looked like it had chicken pox when I looked at it – it was artificial-limb beige, and looked like it had a bad case of chicken pox.  The car had random rust blisters all over it – and the lady that owned it scraped the rust off, and dabbed red oxide primer on it.  Oh dear…

Once I bought it and drove it home, Dad and I gave it a more thorough checkout.  I remember that it was exceptionally good underneath (Always a worry in salt-using areas), and it started and ran OK.  I got a lend of a sandblaster, and sandblasted, filled, and primed the spots on the car.  We sanded it down, and I picked a nice dark green metallic for it.  I got a deal on some paint, and my uncle sprayed it.  We let the paint set, and after a day or so, I took the car out…and the paint on the hood, roof, and trunk wrinkled!  Disheartening.  We put it down to his being used to spraying DuPont, and this was C-I-L paint.

Not my car, but similar to it.

It wasn’t anything too special inside either.  I think the interior was beige like the above picture.  When you’d turn the headlights on, the fuel gauge would move back past Empty, and point straight up.  I never could find the cause of that.  The car worked well enough, though.  It started easily, and ran OK.  It was fairly noisy, though.  It had what sounded like a lifter tick when I started driving it, but that didn’t worry me much.  Of more concern though, was the fact that it would stall when turning left with your foot off the gas.  A call to my father’s mechanic solved the mystery:

Image via

The Canadian-market cars were equipped with carburetors in 1983 with their new 2.0 litre engine.  If memory serves something would flex, the drivetrain would shift, and the rubber Early Fuel Evaporation heater/carburetor isolation gasket would flex, and cause a big intake leak.  That was duly replaced, and the car worked well afterwards.  The engine was really the downfall of this car.  Not powerful at all – on minor grades, it’d  downshift into second, and still drop speed.  It was not eager to rev up either.  It developed a tick that sounded like a dead lifter, but ended up being what looked like a mechanical fuel pump but was actually a smog pump that’d worn on its rocker pivot.  I cut that off, and the engine was a bit quieter anyway.

Beautiful PEI National Park, Stanhope, PEI

The car also took me on my first big drive – to meet my parents after my work shifts ended in PEI.  I’d gotten off the evening before, and got up early in the morning to make the first ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island.  The car, although slow, made it there and back with no drama.

It was bugging me having to make a run for every hill in the car, so it was put up for sale, and the hunt was on for a new car.  Do any of you remember the bad old days of having to take a “run” at a hill to get over it at a decent speed?