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5 Interesting Facts About the Chevrolet Cavalier

Updated December 5, 2014

The Chevrolet Cavalier was a car that had both fans and detractors during its 23-year existence. Few cars throughout history have inspired such opinions and yet stayed in production for so long, unless you count the Citroen 2CV, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Jeep, the Chevrolet Suburban … well, perhaps the Cavalier was more on the “nondescript” side. The Cavalier was known to blow head gaskets from the time it was introduced to replace the Monza in 1982, and by the time it was replaced by the Cobalt in 2005, it had become so ugly in its quest to keep pace with small Japanese imports that the whole of the automotive world simply shunned the little car. However, there might just be a thing or two you don’t know about the Cavalier.

1. The Chevrolet Cavalier is a favorite vehicle of inexpensive car racing circuits nationwide. Thanks to its V6 engine in early models and available five-speed manual transmission, early Chevrolet Z-24 Cavaliers can be gutted of their excess weight relatively easily for competitive racing. Races like the 24 Hours of Lemons and the Chumpcar World Series are ideal for the inexpensive, easy to replace, and sometimes dependable Cavaliers models of the 1980s and 1990s. That cars suspected of cheating can be summarily bought by race officials for a fixed $500 price tag and then crushed, if the purchaser so wishes, is of no concern to race drivers of these mini-thoroughbreds. All they need to do to resurrect their little machine is go to the nearest junkyard and buy another. At current scrap value prices, that amounts to about $75.

2. Over the course of its existence, the Cavalier was offered in practically every body style ever made. From 1982 until 2005, the Chevrolet Cavalier suffered from one of the most intense identity crises in automotive history and was offered in more body styles than just the two- or four-door. It was also offered in a hatchback version, as a convertible, and as a station wagon. One wonders why GM never thought to mount knobby tires on the Cavalier and market it as an alternative to the Subaru Outback.

3. The most horsepower produced by the Cavalier maxed out at 190. In 1995, the Chevrolet Cavalier with the 2.3-liter, dual-overhead camshaft engine was rated at just 150 horsepower. The 1996 through 2005 version, however, produced the exact same power using a slightly larger 2.4-liter engine and was available in a Z-24 performance option that added an intercooled Eaton supercharger to the mix. The resulting horsepower was boosted to 190.

4. The Chevrolet Cavalier served as a platform vehicle for nearly every other GM make. Between 1982 and 2005, the Chevrolet Cavalier was rebadged and appointed with different “luxury” or “performance” equipment so that it could be sold as a Pontiac Sunbird, Pontiac Sunfire, Vauxhall Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, Buick Skyhawk, and even the short-lived Cadillac Cimarron. Perhaps the pinnacle of this brand extension was a cooperative venture that produced a Toyota Cavalier for the Japanese market between 1995 and 2005.

5. The Chevrolet Cavalier consistently performed poorly in government safety tests. The Chevrolet Cavalier never improved its driver or passenger-side impact crash test ratings during its 23-year run. While a dubious honor in itself, it should be said that the Cavalier’s crash test ratings were relatively positive. Front, rear, and roll-over crash tests were all relatively average across the board, meaning if someone was going to hit the side of any of the models, you’d better pull the hand brake quickly and hope for a head-on collision. It would be easy to continue lashing the Cavalier and the board of directors that oversaw the unrelenting and painful rebirth of the nameplate year after year, decade after decade, but as I watch the car I learned to drive in quietly relegated to the final dignity of the crusher, I think of the good times and hope that the great spark plug in the sky grants that my little Cavalier will see life again, perhaps as a trim piece on a Corvette. A car with so much spirit deserves that much, at least.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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