Chevrolet was founded in 1911 and put its first car onto the market two years later. In 1918, Chevrolet was acquired by General Motors (GM) and has been operating under the GM umbrella ever since.
There are millions of Chevy cars out on the road – many of which are fantastic. Like any big manufacturer though, Chevy has its fair share of bombs, too. We decided to take a look at the best and worst Chevy cars over the years.
Keep reading to see which Chevy car models were the best they ever made and which ones were the worst.
Best Chevy Cars
2017 Chevy Camaro ZL-1
The Camaro is so good that it features on many of our Chevrolet lists. The latest version of the Camaro (2016 to present) is a big performer that is fun to drive and quite the looker. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Camaro with a ZL-1 version being offered.
While you can’t go wrong with any of the trim levels, we like the 2017 Camaro ZL-1, which has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that produces 640 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque.
It cranks through the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at 125 M.P.H. and did the world famous Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:29:60 which is almost 12 seconds faster than the last-generation ZL-1.
The ZL-1 comes standard with a six-speed manual but a 10-speed automatic is an option.
The ZL-1 shares many parts with the Corvette Z06 but with a starting price of $63,000 it comes in roughly $17,000 under the awarding winning Vette. Bolstered Recaro seats keep you in place as you push the ZL-1 through the corners and a variety of tech features make it a pleasure to drive.
A Heads-Up Display, power seats with memory and a heated steering wheel make this performer comfortable as a daily driver. While we still prefer the 1969 ZL-1 this version is just as much fun while being much easier (and cheaper) to find.
2009 Corvette ZR1
The Corvette is such a staple of the Chevy lineup that it made our list of Chevy cars three times (two good, one bad). The 2009 was part of the sixth generation (C6) Corvette lineup and the ZR1 was the top dog.
There are a number of ZR1s to choose from but we like the 2009. It has a hand-assembled 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that puts out an astounding 638 horsepower. The ZR1 can hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and cranks through the quarter mile in 11.2 seconds at 130 mph. Its top speed is just over 200 mph.
Due to its huge engine the ZR1 also comes with a strengthened transmission, specialized tires, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fiber body panels as well as specialized suspension tuning with adaptive dampers.
The ZR1 was (and still is) beloved by drivers and auto critics alike. A base price of $106,000 made it a pricy ride but if you have the coin, this is the Corvette to own.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
For a more sedate new vehicles from Chevrolet, the modern Malibu is a surprising hit. While it doesn’t have the charisma of the models listed above, if you’re looking for an all ’round new vehicle that ticks almost every box, then you can’t go wrong with the Chevrolet Malibu. It boasts excellent safety scores, it has great reliability, and it’s spacious and family friendly too. The base model fuel economy clocks a decent 36 mpg at highway speeds, and the base model also boasts some unexpected luxury features including a user-friendly infotainment system, and the super cool Teen Driver monitoring system that makes it an ideal new car choice for new and young drivers.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt
2017 saw the introduction of an all-new Chevrolet Bolt to the market, and it was made most welcome. This cool little electric vehicle boasted an excellent drive range of 230 miles, a 90 mile range on a quick 30 minute fast charge, all wrapped up in a practical, fun, and technologically advanced package. While it’s not quite in the same league as the likes of a Tesla, the price point and technology make it a really attractive possibility for those who want to enjoy the fun and thrill of a new-generation electric car but on a more manageable budget. Well, relatively manageable, at least. If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle from General Motors, then the Chevrolet Bolt is one of the best new Chevrolet models fworth considering.
Worst Chevrolet Cars
2011-2013 Chevrolet Cruze
In general, the Chevrolet Cruze is a great car. The more recent incarnations are fine, solid cars that might lack the wow factor but what they lack in excitement, they make up for in practicality. The earlier generations of the Chevrolet Cruze, however, were not so good. Specifically, the 2011 to 2013 models were sub-par. The major problem with this generation of Cruze was the overall unreliability these cars experienced. The list of issues included engine cooling problems, climate control failures, and weak body that led to all kinds of additional issues. Consumer Reports didn’t look upon the Chevy Cruze favorably and even gave it a worse score than the often maligned Chevrolet Sonic of the same era.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
By rights, the Chevrolet Volt should be one of the best Chevy models out there. It was fresh and exciting, and it constantly impressed all who drove them. But then something happened. The design stagnated, and it felt like Chevrolet and General Motors just lost interest in their exciting project. For the 2019 model year, the Chevrolet Volt didn’t stack up well next to the competition, scoring some of the worst scores for reliability in its segment, losing out to the likes of the Toyota Prius Prime, and BMW i3. Consumer Reports gave the car an overall reliability score of 32%,which is miles behind the Prius Prime’s 91% and the BMW i3’s 89%. Drive system issues were noted, a high failure rate of power equipment, and cabin electric problems have been on the rise. Why? Well it seems like Chevrolet have just given up with it, sadly. Early in 2019, it was reported that the Volt will be discontinued – which is a shame, but also a relief in some ways.
Chevy Aveo – All of them
The Aveo is the epitome of an average car. It’s small, cheaply built and inexpensive to buy. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for with the Aveo. It is sold in more countries than any other offering by GM.
The Aveo started its life as a Daewoo Kalos and is now sold under 11 different names. It was introduced in 2002 and is still produced today although it is now called the Sonic in the United States.
The main issue with the Aveo is its poor build quality. Jalopnik had this to say about the Aveo: “Every Aveo that we’ve driven has had serious build issues. Parts fall off. Seats come apart. Electrical problems are everywhere. Our experience is not unique. Dealer techs and fleet mechanics hate Aveos, and rental companies avoid them like the plague.” Certainly not a ringing endorsement.
On the other hand, they are cheap. You can pick up a used one for a few thousand dollars and even a brand new Sonic starts at only $15K.
Best Chevy SUV
The first Chevy SUV to hit the market was the 1935 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban pictured above. The first Chevy SUV lacked what would be considered basic amenities by today’s standards, but it offered seating for a maximum of eight occupants or could be configured as a delivery van. As an added bonus, buyers could opt for side-hinged rear panel doors or a rear tailgate with a lift window. Today, you can buy a Chevy SUV with every imaginable tech, safety, and comfort feature..if a GM engineer can dream it, you can have it equipped on a Chevy SUV.
Chevrolet has built many SUVs since the 1935 Carryall Suburban. With so many Chevy SUV models, there are bound to be a few that have risen to become the cream of the crop and others that have been the worst imaginable mistakes. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know which Chevy SUV falls into which category. That brings us to today’s list of the best and worst Chevy SUVs.
While building our list, we considered power, ride quality, towing, passenger capacity, and dependability. To confirm our numbers for power output, passenger capacity, and towing, we searched the Chevrolet website, JD Power and Associates, and KBB.com. As for ride quality and dependability, we looked to owner reviews, Consumer Reports, and time spent with ASE certified mechanics.
Being firm believers in delivering the good news before the bad, we are starting our list with the best Chevy SUVs. They are not listed in any particular order, so you will have to ride along to the end to find out which is the absolute best Chevy SUV in our opinion.
Why not start with the granddaddy of the Chevy SUV family? The Chevy Suburban has been in constant production since the 1935 model year and has been very popular across North America. The Suburban has morphed many times, but has always remained a large, truck-based SUV capable of carrying eight or more passengers, towing a large load, and going off-road whenever you really needed it to.
As the SUV-crazed North American market has switched its focus toward smaller crossover SUVs, the Suburban has remained large and bold. Crossovers may offer car-like maneuverability and fuel efficiency, but they lack the adventurous spirit of a tough, truck-based SUV. The Chevrolet Suburban has an overall length of nearly 17 feet, so there is plenty of legroom for eight or nine passengers. The tough, body-on-frame construction allows it to have an 8,300 lb towing capacity and all-terrain mobility when it is equipped with 4WD. Even the 2WD version is able to tackle some off-road obstacles with vigor. Currently, power comes from a 5.3L V8 that produces 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. The engine is always mated to a six-speed automatic. RWD with a locking rear diff is standard, but 4WD with a single-speed transfer case is optional with all trim levels. If you step up to the Max Trailering and Z71 Off-Road packages, a two-speed transfer case becomes available.
The biggest knock on the Chevy Suburban is its ride quality. This is a truck-based Chevy SUV, so it rides like a Chevy truck. Trucks offer a poorer ride than sedans. The ride really isn’t bad, it’s just worse than that of a car. The less-than-stellar ride quality is overridden by the Suburban’s decades of dependability. It is not uncommon to find older Suburbans being used as daily drivers with more than 250,000 miles on the odometer.
The GMC SUV alternative to the Suburban is the GMC Yukon XL. Some owners say that the Yukon offers a smoother ride. That may just be a subjective opinion since these SUVs are built on the same basic platform.
The Tahoe is another truck-based Chevy SUV. The Tahoe is very similar to the Suburban in size and capacity. Despite their similarity, many owners and reviewers believe that the Tahoe offers a better overall ride quality than the Suburban and there is a slight price differential to be considered.
The Chevrolet Tahoe is a reminder that the ”utility” in Sport Utility Vehicle can still be paramount. It has the ability to carry up to nine passengers, measures in at 17 feet, and has a max towing capacity of 8,600 lbs(4WD versions top out at 8,400 lbs). Power is provided by the same 5.3L found in the Suburban and output remains at 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. Again, the engine is always mated to a six-speed automatic. When you have a formula that works, why change it? As you can see from the numbers for towing, the Tahoe offers 300 lbs more capacity with its Max Trailering package than a similarly equipped Suburban. On top of having a cavernous interior and tremendous towing capacity, the Tahoe can be equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, forward collision warning with low-speed automatic braking, a vibrating safety-alert driver seat, automatic high beams, lane keeping assist, and power-adjustable pedals, to name a few. In an age where the crossover is trying to take over the SUV world, the Tahoe and Suburban are holding the line for truck-based SUVs.
The GMC Yukon(not the Yukon XL) is the GMC SUV alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe. Again, detractors say the Yukon offers an improved ride quality when compared to the Chevy Tahoe. It also offers a noticeable price bump over every Chevy SUV.
The Chevrolet Traverse was introduced for the 2009 model year and sold side-by-side with the last models of the Chevrolet Trailblazer before replacing it entirely the following year. Considered a full-sized Chevy SUV during its first generation, the Traverse was reclassified as a mid-size starting with the 2018 model year.
The Traverse offers three rows of seating and all of the amenities that you would expect from a top tier SUV. The second generation models have shed nearly 400 lbs while gaining power, passenger space, and technology. Second-gen models have two engine options. The first is a turbocharged 2.0L I4 that is capable of 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The turbo four is only available in the sport-themed RS trim level. The standard powerplant is a 3.6L V6 that provides 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired exclusively to a nine-speed automatic gearbox for added durability and fuel economy.
The second-gen Chevy Traverse has added a luxury top trim, added 3 inches of legroom for the second row, and expanded the legroom in the third row of seating compared to the first-gen models. The added space allows this Chevy SUV to have more passenger room than you will find in a similar model year Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander. The only way to find more passenger legroom is to move up to a full-size Chevy SUV like the Suburban or Tahoe. Topping off the added legroom is 98.5 cubic feet of cargo space to carry all of your family’s gear. The first-gen Chevy Traverse had a single detraction: its fuel economy. That has been addressed by shedding weight and adding the nine-speed gearbox.
The GMC SUV twin to the Chevrolet Traverse is the GMC Acadia. The Acadia is a tad smaller, is more expensive, and has eliminated its third row of seating.
The Chevrolet Equinox was first introduced for the 2005 model year as a mid-size Chevy SUV. The Equinox was an immediate success and by 2016 was outselling every other GM product except the Chevy Silverado. While that sounds great, sales of the Equinox began to lag behind those of its main competitors from Honda, Ford, and Toyota by the end of 2016. In response, the Equinox was redesigned and became a compact crossover SUV starting with the 2018 model year.
The latest models of the Chevy Equinox are lighter and feature an array of turbocharged four-cylinder engines to address the performance issues pointed out by owners and reviewers of first-gen units with four-cylinder engines. The base engine is a 1.5L turbo four that is rated for 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Next up is an optional 2.0L turbo four capable of 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It is paired to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Rounding out the engine options is a very fuel-efficient 1.6L turbodiesel that offers 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The turbodiesel is paired to a six-speed automatic and is rated for an amazing 40 mpg on the highway. Though downsized, the Equinox still offers copious leg and headroom. Additionally, the standard features have been upgraded to include a rearview camera, Chevy’s Teen Driver reporting feature, a parking camera system, as well as lane departure warning and intervention.
The redesign to a smaller CUV footprint has improved the Equinox’s already excellent ride quality and driving experience. The improvements should allow the Equinox to build on its reputation for long-term dependability as well. The GMC SUV cousin of the Equinox is the GMC Terrain. Like the Equinox, the Terrain has been downsized but comes with the irrefutable cons of a slightly smaller cargo area than some rivals and much higher pricing.
Technically, the Avalanche is not a Chevy SUV, but a four-door pickup truck. Despite the technicality, the Avalanche offers all of the features you could want from an SUV and throws in a short pickup bed.
Built between the 2001 and 2013 model years, the Avalanche can seat up to six passengers and is based on the same platform as a similar year Suburban. With the interesting ”midgate” feature, the rear seats can be lowered so you have an 8 foot long load area. The Avalanche offers an SUV-like ride quality rather than the more bouncy experience of a pickup. That ride quality is complemented by a towing capacity of 8,100 pounds. Power for the most recent models comes from a 5.3L V8 producing 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Over its 13-year production run, the Avalanche built a reputation for toughness and durability. Additionally, it is quite nimble off-road. Having been discontinued after the 2013 model year, the Avalanche can be a budget-friendly used Chevy SUV for your family.
There is no GMC SUV alternative to the Chevrolet Avalanche. A GMC Sierra Crew Cab comes close, but does not offer the superior ride of the Avalanche and can be significantly more expensive.
The name Chevrolet Blazer is a bit of a catchall. It includes the full-size K5 Blazer and the mid-size S-10 Blazer. Let’s have a look at both with one caveat…both are much older models and must be viewed from that perspective.
First up is the Chevrolet K5 Blazer built between 1969 and 1999. The oldest models are collectible today, so we will concentrate on the last generation of the Blazer. The last gen was equipped with any one of six engines. The most noteworthy are a 5.7L V8 and a 6.2L diesel V8. The 5.7L is capable of 210 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. The 6.2L diesel is much rarer, but is capable of 135 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The K5 Blazer is more of a truck than it is a Chevy SUV by current standards. It is great for off-road use and is quite often equipped to plow snow in northern climates. The best feature the K5 has to offer is its incredible long-term durability.
The S-10 Blazer is based on the Chevy S-10 pick-up truck. The S-10 Blazer capped its 23-year production run during the 2005 model year. The last units could be powered by a four-popper, but your best option is to find one powered by the optional 4.3L V6. The six produces 190 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. Where the S-10 Blazer excels is in its handling and ride; both are exceptional for city driving. Perhaps the best aspects of this Chevy SUV are that the latest models are easy to find, inexpensive, hard-to-kill, and easy to repair yourself.
2018 Chevrolet Express Cargo Van
Ok, so it’s not an SUV or a truck, but the Chevrolet Cargo van deserves to be added to the list. The Chevrolet Express Cargo van is one of the most iconic and underrated vehicles in the Chevy line up. It has remained relatively unchanged for the past 15 years and for good reason: if a design works, stick with it. It might not boast some features that it rivals champion, like standing room in the cargo bay that you’d find consistent with the Ford Transit, Nissan NV and Ram ProMaster, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in practicality. If you buy it in the Chevrolet Express Passenger (City Express like) configuration, you can seat up to 15 passengers. Or, you can tow up to 10,000 pounds. And it comes in two wheelbase options, with the choice of a rather potent 6 liter V8 engine. It’s not up there with the sports cars, but this beauty is one of the best Chevrolet cars ever made.
Worst Chevy SUVs
Every automaker builds bad vehicles along with their solid models – it’s inevitable. That is not to say that any particular model listed below is dangerous or a total waste of money, but other Chevy SUV options are better. As hard as it may be to believe, it is our opinion that these models are a poorer choice than the decades-old options of the K5 and S-10 Blazer.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer was introduced for the 2002 model year. This mid-size Chevy SUV was discontinued after the 2009 model year, mainly because it offered bottom-of-class ride quality. If you are willing to look past that, it can be a viable used SUV for families that need plenty of space, but have a budget to stick to.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer was a popular choice among SUV shoppers throughout its seven-year production run. Its ride quality suffered because it is a truck-based SUV and very little was done to soften that. The ride quality could be forgiven if the Trailblazer added beefy towing capacity or off-road capability. It did not. Edmunds.com said best: ”The Chevrolet TrailBlazer lags behind other traditional midsize SUVs and newer crossover designs due to its aging platform and disappointing performance in key areas.” Fortunately, Chevrolet addressed these issues with the Trailblazer’s replacement, the Chevrolet Traverse.
The latest models of the Trailblazer are powered by a standard 4.2L I6 that produces 285 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant is mated to a lackluster four-speed automatic. The only other engine choice is a 6.0L V8 available in the SS trim only. That engine is exciting, thrusting out 390 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The SS has an optional AWD system that maximizes street performance and can jump from zero to 60 in under 6 seconds. Max towing is just 6,800 lbs and a standard equipped Trailblazer only gets 14 mpg city and 20 mpg on the highway.
The GMC Envoy is the twin model to this Chevy SUV. The GMC Envoy suffers from the same handling and ride quality issues as the Trailblazer, but throws a cheap feeling interior into the mix.
The most compact Chevy SUV is the Chevrolet Trax. Labeled as a subcompact crossover SUV, the Trax is based on the Gamma II platform that underpins the Chevrolet Aveo. The Chevrolet Trax is a great SUV for those buyers looking for an affordable CUV that is easy to drive and park while still offering plenty of tech and safety features. If you want power and an outstanding ride, this is not the CUV for you.
The usual powerplant is a 1.4L turbocharged I4, but several engine options are available. The Trax offers decent fuel economy and plenty of legroom for four. Standard equipment includes automatic headlights, full power accessories, air-conditioning, the Chevrolet MyLink interface, and a rearview camera. As you add packages, LED daytime running lights and taillights, remote start, heated outside mirrors, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors, and forward collision and lane departure warning systems become available. As an added bonus, the Trax is more budget friendly than some of its competitors like the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3.
So, why is the Trax in our section of the worst Chevy SUVs? Horrible ride quality, a cramped interior, and sketchy reliability. Yes, there is legroom for four, but elbows and heads are not so comfortable. The Trax has only been in production since the 2013 model year, so GM may address the initial quality issues before long-term dependability becomes a major issue.
As with the Chevrolet Avalanche, there is no direct GMC SUV cousin to the Chevrolet Trax.
The Chevrolet Captiva was sold as a fleet vehicle only when it was new but is available as a used model to the general public. Because the Captiva is a fleet purpose model, it is not very well appointed and the ride quality is subpar. Those may be common aspects of fleet models, but for everyday use, they make for a poor SUV choice.
Having noted its downsides early on, one positive is that this Chevy SUV is one of the most budget-friendly options on the market. It is great that the price tag is low, but the Captiva is ”cheap” in every way. Tech and comfort options are minimal, interior quality is laughable, and the ride is more like a go-kart than an SUV. At best, a Chevrolet Captiva can be equipped with parking sensors, heated seats, automatic climate control, Bluetooth compatibility, stability control, remote start, and traction control. The Captiva isn’t even particularly fuel-efficient or inexpensive to insure. It has fuel economy numbers of 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. There are full-size sedans that offer better. Thankfully, GM does not build a GMC SUV equivalent to the Chevrolet Captiva.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
Whoa, how can the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD be on the list? It’s one of the most fhighly rated pickups trucks, right? Generally yes, but this particular model isn’t one of the best Chevy trucks ever made. Compared with other Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD models, the 2015 models have clocked up a fair few complaints and bad reviews, and what’s more, websites like Consumer Reports have noted that it is much worse in terms of reliability than other model years. The main problems being cited include really bad suspension issues, overall body integrity – which leads to a noisy cabin and a myriad of leaks – and power equipment failures. While the Silverado is generally held in high-esteem, give the 2015 and 2016 model years a miss if possible. Similarly, the 2011 and 2012 models also get a bit of a bad review, with brake and fuel system issues being reported as common problems. If you need a Silverado, it’s worth investing in one of the newer models, because they are truly indestructible in comparison. If you’re up for something else, try an Chevrolet Colorado instead or a new Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD.
The Best Chevy SUV To Buy?
In our opinion, the best Chevy SUV to buy is the Chevrolet Equinox, whether new or used. The Equinox offers class-leading leg and headroom in both of its generations. The first generation features an optional 3.6L V6 that produces 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque while offering 24 mpg on the highway. After the redesign, the 2.0L turbo four and the 1.6L turbodiesel offer excellent fuel economy. Every negative aspect of the first-gen Equinox has been addressed during the redesign and the Chevy Equinox now offers a very comfortable sedan-like ride.
The Absolute Worst Chevy SUV To Buy?
In our honest car buying opinion, the absolute worst Chevy SUV to buy is the Chevrolet Captiva. We did not mince words above when we listed all of the reasons to avoid buying a Captiva, so why rehash them?
Best Chevy Classics
Here are just a few of the best vehicles Chevy put out on the road – they’re not as recent as the rest, but that doesn’t stop them from being great vehicles. Check out some of the best Chevy cars ever made.
While not technically a “car”, this SUV is one of Chevrolets biggest hits. It has been in production since 1935 and has been a major seller for Chevy. While it has undergone a variety of different updates and changes over the years (it’s in its 11th generation) its main purpose has always stayed the same. The Suburban is a large SUV that can haul eight or more passengers on or off road while also towing a major load.
The current Suburban measures a little over 18 feet long so hauling 8 or 9 passengers is not a problem. In addition, it has a towing capacity of 8,300 pounds so you don’t have to leave the boat at home. The latest version of the Suburban has a 5.3L V8 under the hood that puts out 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque.
While not known for the most comfortable ride in the world, its longevity is legendary. It is not uncommon to find older Suburbans still on the job with over 250,000 on them.
While the older ones are pretty cool looking, we recommend something from the latest generation (2015 to now) as they have all of the latest bells and whistles. Pricing starts around the $50K mark but can spiral upwards when adding packages and accessories.
1969 Chevy Camaro ZL-1
The Camaro is one of most iconic Chevy cars ever produced and has had a long run in the Chevy lineup. Introduced in 1967, the Camaro was Chevy’s response to the Ford Mustang and it quickly became a big seller, moving 220,906 units in its first year.
Over the years the Camaro has dropped in and out of production but ultimately survived and is now in its sixth generation. While there are a number of Camaros that could easily make this list, we like the 1969 ZL-1 the most.
Only 69 of these exotic beauties were sold, mainly because dropping in the ZL-1 engine added a significant amount to the price tag. The aluminum 427-cubic-inch (7.0L) V-8 was rated at 435 horsepower but could be tuned to produce over 500 horsepower.
This engine was not originally intended for street use, mainly being used for Can-Am racing and track running in the Corvette. In the Camaro, the ZL-1 could run through the quarter mile in the 11-second range.
Fred Gibb, who owned the high-performance Gibb Chevrolet dealership, was responsible for dreaming up the ZL-1. In order to get Chevrolet to produce the vehicles, he had to commit to ordering 50 of these speed demons. Unfortunately, he was only able to sell 13, the rest being returned to the factory or shuffled to other dealers.
The high price probably limited demand. Back in 1969, the sticker price on this bad boy was $7,500, which equates to just under $51,000 nowadays. If you managed to scrape the scratch together and hung on to it until now, though, you would be sitting on a gold mine. In 2008, a ZL-1 sold for $848,000 at Mecum Indy.
While most of us cannot afford a ZL-1, if you have the budget, put one of these in your garage – you won’t regret it.
1963 Chevy Corvette Stingray Coupe
Like the Camaro, the Corvette has a long history in the Chevy lineup and is considered by many to be the best Chevy car ever produced. The ‘Vette was originally designed as a concept car for GM Motorama in 1953. It was so popular that GM decided to put it into production.
Named after a type of small maneuverable warship, the Corvette has now been through seven generations. While there are plenty of great Corvettes to choose from, we decided on the 1963 version.
This is not the most powerful Corvette ever produced but is widely considered to be the most beautiful. The 1963 version was the first year of the second generation and its lovely fenders, tail and shark mouth front end made it an instant classic. This was also the first Corvette with a fixed roof, fastback design, and absolutely iconic split rear window.
Under the hood, the ‘Vette had a 327 cubic-inch V-8 that that put out 250 horsepower but buyers could upgrade to engines that pushed the horsepower up to 340. At the top of heap sat the “L84” Rochester fuel-injected powerplant that cranked out 360 horses.
It was also possible to opt for the optional Z06 package which stiffened the suspension, tightened up the ratios in the four-speed manual gearbox, and added bigger drum brakes as well as an unusually large 36.5-gallon fuel tank. Leather seating, air conditioning, and an AM/FM radio were also optional equipment.
The 1963 Corvette was new on a number of different levels. It had an all-new chassis as well as independent suspension, which put the Corvette in the same league as the Shelby Cobra.
We like this year the best because it really is the most beautiful iteration of the Corvette produced. While still a great performer, it’s not the quickest ‘Vette ever made, but we consider it one of the most beautiful cars to ever roll off Chevy’s production line. A total of 21,513 ‘Vettes were built that year, and pricing started at a mere $4,037.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
When many people think of a classic American car, this is the vehicle that springs to mind. The Bel Air was manufactured from 1950 all the way up to 1975 in the United States (and 1981 in Canada) but it’s the 1957 model that we (and many car enthusiasts) love the most. The Bel Air went through eight generations and the 1957 falls into the second generation, which was only produced from 1955 to 1957.
The second generation of the Bel Air, which was launched in 1955, has a design that is often referred to as the “shoebox” design due to its streamlined rear fenders. This design, along with the small block V-8 under the hood made it a popular drag racing option and in many cases, it dominated the circuit.
In the 1957 Bel Air, there were a few options when it came to what was under the hood. A 235.5 cubic inch inline 6-cylinder put out 140 horsepower, a 265 cubic inch V8 “Turbo-Fire” cranked the horsepower up to 162 while the “Super Turbo-Fire” V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor topped out at 220 horsepower.
The Bel Air was the top of the line model and offered a variety of options to up the luxury factor. Air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows, and seats were all optional equipment.
A few of the more unique offerings included an “Autronic eye” which bolted onto the dashboard and dimmed the headlights when it detected oncoming traffic. An electric shaver that attached to the dashboard was also available in the event you had to clean up on your way to a big meeting.
The ’57 Chevy is one of the best Chevy cars ever made and an absolute icon thanks to its styling and the fact that the second generation of Bel Airs introduced the Chevy small-block V-8 that would become a legend on its own.
1968 Chevy El Camino SS 396
Is it a car, is it a truck? We don’t know and we don’t care, we just love it. Like the rest of the vehicles on this best/worst Chevy cars list, there are a number of different years we could choose from but we went with the ’68 SS for a few different reasons.
This is the first year of the third generation of the El Camino so it was all-new. This was also the only year that the SS was a stand-alone model and it was the debut year for the Turbo-Jet 396 engine, the largest engine to be dropped in the El Camino at this point.
The El Camino was produced from 1959–60 and then again from 1964–1987. It was originally designed to compete against the Ford Ranchero and it quickly outsold the less stylish Ranchero by almost two to one.
The 1968 SS was offered with a variety of engine options but it’s the 396 Turbo-Jet that we like best. This engine was available in three different versions with horsepower ratings starting at 325, scaled to 350, and topped out at 375 horsepower, which is the version we would choose. As the SS was a standalone model in 1968 and it has a unique VIN, so if the VIN number doesn’t end in an eight, you are dealing with a fake.
This version of the El Camino was a major hit and sales climbed 20 percent in 1968 to 41,791 units, which was a new high for the El Camino.
Worst Chevrolet Classic Models
Chevy has built some real stinkers over the years and following are five of the worst Chevy (one is technically a GM product) cars ever built.
The EV1 was only produced for three years and has the honor of making a number of different “worst cars ever made” lists. To true believers, though, it was a car ahead of its time and its discontinuation was a mistake.
The EV1 was the first mass-produced electric vehicle and was built between 1996 and 1999 after GM received very favorable reviews for a 1990 electric concept car. Around this time the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed a mandate that required the seven major automakers to produce and sell zero-emissions vehicles if they wanted to continue to sell their vehicles in California, making it the perfect time to introduce the EV1.
The EV1 was only available through limited lease only agreements to select residents in Los Angeles, California, Phoenix and Tucson. The EV1 could not be purchased, and lessees had to have their vehicle serviced at designated Saturn dealerships.
While the EV1 was well-received by drivers and even automotive critics, GM felt that electric cars would eventually prove unprofitable. In addition, the major automakers had banded together and sued CARB, weakening the mandate and letting them produce super-low emission hybrids and natural gas cars instead of all-electric vehicles. This put the final nail in the coffin of the EV1.
As of 2002, a total of 1,117 EV1s had been built but GM decided to cancel the program, repossess and destroy all of the EV1s out on the road. This was met with resistance from EV1 owners but in the end, GM repossessed and scrapped all of them. A number were sent to museums, but as of today, the EV1 is actually one of the rarest and most difficult (basically impossible) Chevy cars to find.
The Trailblazer was only in production for seven years, being introduced in 2002 and discontinued (in the U.S. at least) in 2009. It was widely panned due to its extremely poor ride quality.
Its rough ride was mainly due to the fact that it was built on a truck frame and Chevy made little effort to improve the ride quality. While the Trailblazer did manage to win a few awards, including the North American Truck of the Year award in 2002, critics and consumers had few nice things to say about it.
A 273 hp all-aluminum 4.2 L “Atlas” LL8 inline-six engine came standard while a 302 hp aluminum small-block 5.3 L V8 with Active Fuel Management was optional. Unfortunately, a less than impressive towing capacity left the Trailblazer struggling to keep up with the competition.
Currently, the Trailblazer is not in production in the U.S market but it is sold in Southeast Asia and other countries. Chevy has not ruled out bringing it back to the United States.
While we dislike all of them, if you need a cheap family hauler, you may want to consider a Trailblazer.
1979 Chevrolet Corvette
The third generation of the Corvette (C3) was a long run, it was produced from 1968 to 1982 and while it is widely considered one of the worst generations, the 1979 Vette stands out when it comes to the worst Chevy cars ever built.
Chevy’s engineers were focused on the next generation and let the 1979 Vette continue on without any upgrades or changes. There were no special editions offered in ’79 and the two engine options were less than impressive.
The L48 engine put out a wimpy 195 horsepower while the optional L82 cranked it up to a still unimpressive 225 horsepower.
The interior was just as bad with an AM/FM radio as standard equipment and little else being offered as an option. The C3 was widely considered overpriced and an underperformer when compared to rivals such as the Mazda RX-7, Porsche 924 and the Datsun 280ZX.
Surprisingly, it was a big seller, in fact it was the best selling Corvette of all time. Pricing started at $10,220 and a total of 53,807 units went out the door, a record that still stands.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the worst Vettes ever made and you should avoid it like the plague.
The Vega managed to snag the number five spot on Edmunds list of 100 Worst Cars of All Time, so you know it had to be pretty bad. The Vega is widely considered to be one of the worst Chevy cars ever made, despite its initial popularity with consumers. The Vega is so hated we couldn’t even pick a year – avoid them all.
Chevrolet did not directly design the Vega; instead, a corporate GM team pieced together the Vega and pushed it into production in only two years. The Vega was sold between 1970 and 1977.
Despite the eventual hatred that would surround the Vega, it sold very well during the first few years. In 1971 the Vega racked up 277,700 units sold and eventually hit 452,886 during the 1974 model year.
Unfortunately, the lack of engineers involved in the design and a desire to keep costs low led to numerous problems with the Vega. Extremely thin sheet metal and shoddy primer coverage led to rust issues. The Vega quickly earned a reputation as a rust bucket, and in many cases, the fenders had to be replaced due to rust after only one or two winter seasons.
In addition, the aluminum block engine had a subpar cooling system, which led to overheating and performance issues. Vegas were notorious for burning oil as well as damaged head gaskets and completely destroyed engines.
As Vegas started falling apart their popularity plunged and Chevy discontinued them. Since most of them rusted out on the road, finding a Vega is actually a pretty tough chore. Our advice, even if you find one, leave it alone.
Chevrolet apparently didn’t learn its lesson with the Vega as the Chevette appeared in 1976 and is widely panned as one of the worst Chevy cars ever built. It was underpowered, loaded with shoddy components and filled with cheap materials.
The Chevette was introduced in 1976 and stayed in production until 1987. Only one generation of the Chevette existed and upgrades were pretty minimal from year to year which is why we didn’t pick a specific year – like the Vega, they are all bad.
The Chevette was rushed into production in an attempt to compete with Japanese imports and to fill the need for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles thanks to the fuel crisis at the time.
In many ways, the Chevette was outdated as soon as it appeared. It was built on GM’s “T” platform, was rear-wheel drive and seriously underpowered with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which only put out 53 horsepower. An optional 1.6-liter put the horsepower up to 70.
The interior and ride were also less than impressive, with shiny plastic filling the cabin. A rough ride, lack of power, and poor suspension eventually sunk the Chevette, and a design that made the frequently faulty starter motor extremely difficult to remove made it unpopular with mechanics as well. Like the Vega, the Chevette was also partial to rusting and its engine failed on a much too regular basis.
Despite all of this, the Chevette was pretty popular with buyers. Chevy sold roughly 2.8 million units over its twelve-year run and in 1979 and 1980, the Chevette was the best-selling small car in the U.S.
While we feel you should avoid all model years, if for some crazy reason you are in the market for a Chevette, stick to the later years.
The Chevy Citation was just another example of Chevy’s problem with the compact car market. Much like the Vega and the Chevette, the Citation was fairly popular with consumers until a wide variety of quality issues cropped up. The Citation hit the market in 1980 and was produced for only five years before being mothballed.
The Citation was Chevy’s first attempt at a front-wheel-drive car and the introduction of the X-body for the GM group. It had a transverse 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which put out 90 horsepower. A 2.8-liter V6 engine that made 115 horsepower was also available.
A sporty X-11 version was eventually introduced which included an updated suspension, body accents, striping on the side of the car and a V-6 as standard.
The initial reaction to the Citation was positive with Motor Trend naming it the Car of the Year and 800,000 units flying off dealer lots. It later turned out that Chevy gave car magazine reviewers Citations that were specially modified to correct the heavy torque steering issues that plagued the Citation throughout its history. Once they drove actual production vehicles, reviews changed.
The problems started pretty quickly with quality issues that left a horrid taste in consumer’s mouths. Trim fell off, rear brakes tended to lock up, transmissions were noisy and prone to failure and apparently, Chevrolet had still not addressed the rusting issue.
Recalls were rampant and the Citation still reigns as one of the most recalled cars in history according to U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Chevy tried to address the poor reputation of the Citation by renaming it the Citation II in 1984 before discontinuing the entire line in 1985.
1923 Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled
This vehicle is a dip into the past but it is one of the worst Chevy cars ever built with almost every single one of the 500 produced being recalled and destroyed.
The 1923 Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled was a car that was designed to be completely air-cooled. It allowed Chevy to dump the radiator, which was heavy, expensive, and often required repairs.
Charles F. Kettering, who was the head engineer at Delco Electronics, designed the air-cooled engine and it was dropped into an existing body style, the Superior B. While the air-cooled engine, which incorporated a cast iron engine with copper U-shaped fins that were welded to the engine looked good on paper, it proved to be a disaster out on the road.
The engine shaved 215 pounds off the weight of the car and managed to put out a mind-blowing 22 horsepower. The Copper-Cooled engine added about $200 to the price of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, the cooling system that Kettering designed worked well under high speeds but could not keep the engine cool at low speeds, idle, or when traffic was stop and go. Overheating led to detonation issues and a major power drop when the engine was hot due to warping cylinders.
Chevrolet only managed to sell 100 of these disasters to actual customers and eventually recalled all of them and destroyed them. Only two survived – one is in the Henry Ford Museum and the other in the National Automobile Museum.