The Chevrolet division of GM was undergoing a monumental change during the Regan era, engineering new game changing vehicles to meet the Government imposed fuel efficiency, safety, and pollution control mandates. By 1982, Chevrolet replaced some of their best models in terms of reliability and longevity, with some of their worst products ever. The rear wheel drive Chevrolet Nova was replaced with the front wheel drive Citation. The second generation Camaro, introduced in the spring of 1970, turned into the third generation Camaro, with a 4 Cylinder Engine as standard equipment. The Chevrolet Monza, a derivative of the unloved Vega, was put to pasture with the introduction of the Cavalier. OK, so the last example was actually an improvement, but you catch my drift. Other models were also scheduled for replacement like the Corvette, and the Malibu. However, one car held on for an astonishing 11 years, becoming the best seller for the division for 1979 and 1980, and that was the Chevy Chevette.
So why am I writing about a car that was ancient when it was introduced in 1976, and with such ergonomic missteps as misaligned steering columns, a cramped interior with miserable workmanship, and wheezing power-trains that couldn’t get out of their own way? Well, you see, I’m not. These cars were dreadful, except for one, and that’s where this story begins. It was the dark ages for performance cars, and deep within the bowels of Chevrolet’s Product Promotion Engineering Division (aka the Bow Tie Brigade), a performance oriented Chevette was created. It was relatively simple, as all the parts they needed were readily available, and bolted right into place. And it would have been astonishing if it went into production.
The secret to the enhanced Chevette is the transplant of the relatively new 60-degree V6 that was available on the S-10 pickup, and was also offered in the new 1982 F-body (Camaro, Trans Am). Two different transmissions were tried, including the Warnet Super T10 manual four speed from the Corvette, as well as a 700R4 Turbohydramatic. They stuck with the Chevette rear end, but could have swapped an S-10 unit to handle the power. A cowl induction hood, and a set of Gotti 14 inch Alloys were the only clues that this was anything but an ordinary Chevette.
When Hot Rod Magazine did a feature on this fire breathing Chevette, it was equipped with the automatic. The car weighed 2260 pounds, and it would do 15-second quarter mile times consistently. The real eye opener to the test crew was the fact that this car performed better than the new Z/28, Trans Am, or the Turbo Buick Regal, yet had more cargo room. The Corvette also gave up a set of front seats for the engineering study, providing a comfortable driving experience, while getting almost 23 MPG in combined track/city/highway driving. The transplant only added 140 pounds, which is really nothing compared to today’s porkier cars. Projected price of the V-6 Chevette? Around $6,500.
So why wasn’t the V-6 Chevette produced? The Chevette was in its seventh year of production, and GM was loath to spend any additional funds on a car with limited profit potential. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy Mandate also came into play, since the base 4 and the available Diesel would make up for the more profitable V-8’s within the Chevrolet stable. And then there is the fact that this little car offered more performance than the Z/28, and close to the current (1982) Corvette, more than likely killed any chance for production.
The Question is this: Would you have bought one? Leave your comments below.
Image Source: www.dieselchevette.com; July 1982 Edition of Hot Rod Magazine.