COAL: 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier–The Return of J Love



(Except for the Cavalier in wedding regalia, the pictures in this post were borrowed from Google image search)

This COAL is dedicated to my LOAL (Love of a Lifetime), my wife, Tiffany

As stated in my second COAL,  when I first started driving, I had a thing for J cars. However,  after my third experience, I moved on to other vehicles. I did have some seat time in other J cars owned by family and friends, and while I could see the minor improvements over my early examples, I did not think they were that much of an improvement…been there, done that. That is, until 1995.


1995 was the year that the Cavalier and its surviving sister car, the Sunbird (now renamed Sunfire) received a major makeover. I had the opportunity to have a close look when a friend of mine got one. Compared to my 84 and 85 models, the new Cavalier was the epitome of refinement. Gone was the Cadillac Cimarron styling, which was replaced by the round look shared by the refreshed B bodies which were my dream cars at the time. In addition,the tail lights had hints of the ’95 Camaro as well.


Yes…it was also sold in Japan as a Toyota….enough said. More info here if anyone is interested.


The interiors were modern and contemporary looking; similar to the Camaro as well.  There was a real center console, and like the ’95 Caprice,  rotary switches for the climate control replacing the cheap slider controls of cars past. The seats felt more substantial and less “jump seat like” than my previous Cavaliers. In addition, it had the same safety systems that contemporary high end cars of the day had namely, daytime running lights, dual air bags and anti lock brakes. This was enough to rekindle my love for J cars.



Sure enough, when it came time for my fiance (now my wife) to get a new car, I convinced her to give the Cavalier a try. She purchased her Cavalier shortly before our wedding.  It was a nice metallic blue color, which she loved. Unfortunately, she owned the car for about three months when it sacrificed its life to save hers when an Explorer lost control on the Baltimore Washington Parkway and skidded into her. The Explorer actually flipped over onto its roof.  Very scary! Miraculously, no one was injured, but her beautiful blue Cavalier was totaled!


As soon as the insurance check came, we promptly looked for another; grateful for the safety features that helped keep her from serious harm. The replacement was identical to the original car except for its metallic green color. It was a pretty basic model besides a cassette player, automatic transmission, air conditioning, and a rear window defroster. In fact, this was our last car with manual crank windows and manual door locks. However, to us, it was state of the art. It was our first car with dual air bags and anti lock brakes.

37415089 It had a three speed automatic transmission and the base engine, a 2.2 liter 4 cylinder with 115 horsepower.

Although this was my wife’s primary vehicle, I got to drive it on many occasions. Compared to my previous J cars, the car did not feel underpowered. While there were times that it became obvious that it did not have unlimited power, I felt that I could make full use of the power it did have, unlike my previous J cars which felt and sounded like the warp core would explode like on Captain Kirk’s Enterprise whenever he ordered Scotty to floor it. I also found that it handled better than my old Cavaliers. Gas mileage was OK if not great.


One thing I will never forget is this is the car that we started our married life with.  Here you see our wedding guests “decorating” the car for the occasion.


Here’s a picture of the car after they were done with it. After the wedding reception, we drove it to our honeymoon to begin our life together in Holy Matrimony.

Shortly after our wedding, we decided to move to back to my home state of New Jersey from Maryland. Since we were saving our money for a down payment on a house, we used both my Plymouth Acclaim and the Cavalier as moving vans. Cramming them with our stuff and making multiple trips back and fourth. One time we over filled the Cavalier’s trunk and broke off a plastic connector that prevented the trunk from being opened except by folding down the seat, crawling into the trunk, and triggering the emergency release. What a pain! We repaired it but were annoyed at the cheap plastic that caused such an inconvenient failure. The other thing we discovered was that the seats became very uncomfortable and painful on long trips.


Other than that, the only things we replaced were a battery and tires and a small oil leak which we repaired. It was also with this car that I learned about GM’s “Check Gages (as opposed to Check Gauges)” light which illuminated when fuel ran low or something else was amiss like the car was overheating. Thankfully, the light only came on for us because we were low on gas and not for anything more serious. I still wondered why GM spelled “gages” like this. A quick search of revealed this:

“The spelling variants gauge and gage have existed since the first recorded uses in Middle English, though in American English gage is found exclusively in technical uses.” 


This car, along with my last COAL , helped us begin our married life.  We took this car everywhere…it was our default car whenever we went anywhere as a couple. We moved into the first house we owned with this car. It took us to our job interviews in New Jersey  and when the time came, to the many doctor’s appointments when we decided it was time to start a family. We ended up keeping the car for five years and it was the best J car that I have ever owned. In 2004, we had our first child and we needed something bigger to accommodate car seat, stroller, and other paraphernalia. So eventually, my wife began to use next week’s COAL as the baby hauler. Hint: Another larger Chevy from my past.