The cars we loved.
The Cavalier was introduced in late 1981 as a 82 model. It replaced the Monza and later filled the gap left from the Chevette and Citatation in Chevy’s lineup. Many would laugh now if they knew that the Cavalier was GM’s ideal of an import fighter, not just Japanese imports, but cars like BMW’s 325 and Audi’s 4000. The Type 10 model with it’s V6 engine, looked impressive on paper. But in reality with it’s solid rear axle and pushrod engines, it never really turned out to be the BMW killer they’d hoped. Instead, the Cavalier became the darling of the first time buyer. Myself included. My first new car was a 91 VL coupe, tarted up to resemble the attractive RS version of the era. It handled well, got good gas mileage and had an loud bass heavy stereo (before that became a obnoxious trend). The Cavalier sold well against the Ford Escort, it’s main completion, mostly because it catered to Americans ideal of a more upmarket car. That meant a car with a proper trunk as opposed to the Escort’s hatchback.
Although there were many variations offered at first, as the car went through styling changes over the years fewer models were offered. A coupe, convertible and sedan were the final versions. Around 1995, the Z24 Cavalier made the switch from the 3.1 liter V6 to GM’s scruffy Quad four DOHC for a gain of 10hp to 150. Smoother variations of the engine were used after that, but the Cavalier never went back to V6 power. Other versions made due with various 2 liter engines rated just under 100hp.
In the Cavalier’s third and final generation GM’s Ecotec 140hp DOHC engine was used. It was the most refined of all the engines ever used in the Cavalier (and Sunfire), but not enough to compete with much smoother and more refined offerings from Honda, Toyota and Nissan. For a few years towards the end of it’s life cycle, a Z24 was offered in sedan form. GM even had a deal with Toyota to sell Cavaliers in Japan as Toyota Cavaliers. They were build at the Lordstown OH plant and fitted with right hand drive and had other minor differences that made them suitable for the Japanese market. The Cavalier was discontinued in 2005 and replaced by the better engineered, but uglier Cobalt.