Paul’s write-up of the Cimarron provides a perfect opportunity to share this other unique J-body, an original Cavalier Type 10 hatchback. While this car escaped the Cadillac’s Deadly Sin status because it avoided that car’s overambitious market orientation, it wasn’t exactly a winning compact in its early (or later) form and didn’t exactly do wonders for Chevy’s reputation. Based as it was on the adequate-for-1980s-Europe Ascona, it could have been a much better car and, as a three-door fastback, is closest North American buyers got to the five-door liftback which was the most popular overseas configuration.
As we’ve seen, an owner so inclined could swap body panels ahead of the A-pillar to make a Chevy-Opel frankenstein, such was the commonality between the Cavalier and its overseas companion, but equipped as it was with an underachieving 1.8-liter pushrod mill, a ’70s-chic dashboard and soggy suspension, it was clear that Detroit’s efforts to distinguish the North American version of the car resulted in an inferior product. In order to have a proper understanding of the Cimarron, one needs to first learn just how much was lost in translation from the Ascona to the Chevy Cavalier. And while my memories of J-cars are tied in many ways to later 2.8 and 3.1 V6 versions, the sight of this first-series Type 10 hatch really helps drive this latter point home.
That quality makes this the perfect car to drive to a car show where, parked alongside numerous shiny new cars, it was caught by williamrubano’s sharp eye. I have yet to see an original J-car featured alongside the El Caminos, Grand Nationals and Colonnades that form the bulk of usual Malaise-era GM displays and which are well represented in the photographer’s collection of photos from the event. But if one were motivated enough to pull the dent out of the quarter panel and replace the left-front wheel cover, this car is close to being presentable in just such a context. As shocking as it might seem, it’s time for early J-cars to find their place in the car show circuit.