1986 Chevrolet Cavalier 4-door 2.0 L4 FI from North America


A cheap, bulletproof beater


Gas gauge never worked.

Replaced CV joint driver side, took me 30 minutes.

Manual window cranks were busted on a couple of the doors.

Exhaust heat shield under car began to make an awful racket at idle (didn't do this till after I loaned to a friend).

Passenger window busted out, top of passenger doorframe bent where it closes (I assume this is why the window broke), never bothered fixing it.

Lots of little stuff expected on an older car, didn't affect drivability.

Motor, tranny, brakes, and steering were solid and that's all that mattered.

General Comments:

I got this car from a buddy for $300, he had got it from a tow-yard auction for even less. I was "between cars" and just needed a temporary beater to get to my new job.

For the price I paid, I got my money's worth and then some. The car itself was unimpressive, a stereotypical 80's domestic econobox. Interior was very basic. Nothing special. In fact it was kinda embarrassing to be seen in, made worse by the wealthy suburb I lived in at the time (surrounded by BMW's, Benz's & Jags). The reliability however was something else. And killer gas mileage (no gas gauge but I musta got almost 30mpg easy, never ran out). VERY low running costs, all I did was put gas and oil in the thing when it needed it.

The car was flogged on from Day 1. I beat the heck out of it day in and day out, so did my knucklehead buddies I loaned it to. But never once did it fail me, not even after getting T-boned in a parking lot by a TAHOE doing 20 mph (driver on her cell phone, go figure). Whole driver side got crushed in, but the door still worked and the car didn't even pull to the left! It looked awful after that, and the car wasn't a looker to begin with.

After the accident I drove it like it was stolen, I mean pedal to the floor constantly and I maxed out the speedometer time and time again. My friends hit speedbumps doing 40mph. For a little 2-liter the thing really moved on the highway, and I'd squeezed 6 people inside more than once.

After the body damage and acquiring the '78 Skylark coupe I'd always wanted, the Cavalier became an automotive equivalent of a "punching bag" for me - it's sole purpose was to be driven the way I'd NEVER drive the Skylark, which I babied. The little Chevy took everything I dished out and more. I was young, foolish, and irresponsible and if I had another Cavalier today I'd treat it with a little more respect.

I finally lost it to the cops in the boonies for reckless driving. It still ran like a clock, but to go way back out to their impound yard for a banged-up car when I just got the Buick wasn't worth it, although I'd become kinda attached to it by then. It was probably crushed, I like to think the motor was salvaged and put in another car that needs it, although that's doubtful. However the car lives on, it will always be legendary in my mind as one of the toughest little machines I owned.

I think it would have done 300,000 easy (just not with me driving it).

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 26th September, 2009

26th Sep 2009, 20:07

WOW! This survey kept me on the edge of my chair, kept a smile on my face, and is a MODEL for what other surveys should be... WOW!

18th Oct 2013, 03:43

I also just put up a review for my 1986 Oldsmobile Firenza, which is also a J-body, and had an equally impressive experience with that car a year or 2 later (the dates in these reviews are approximate - I wasn't the model of clarity back then).

1986 Chevrolet Cavalier 2.0L 4 cylinder from North America




Radiator hose had a tiny hole that developed shortly after I bought it. I thought it was the radiator, since the hole was so tiny, so I replaced it, and then found out that it was the hose, so I replaced that, too.

Alternator went out at around 150k. Easy replacement. Not expensive, and I was able to do it myself, easily, and without damage to my knuckles, because there wasn't a serpentine belt like my Pontiac had. YAY!

General Comments:

I bought this car and I was the 3rd owner. I got it for $300. It came with a set of brand new studded snow tires, and a couple other perks. I instantly fell in love when I took it for a test drive.

It had no major mechanical defects (short of being 20 years old), and it had room for friends, groceries, and sub-woofers... All with no blind spots!

It got 27MPG, and that was even with my neglect and laziness, since I didn't get around to an oil change when it needed it.

It was just the standard wagon. No power, no tilt. It had Cruise and A/C, but those didn't work...No bother, since I live in WA, and you don't really need A/C here anyway.

In short: BEST CAR EVER. I'm getting another one. A Rally Sport! Wee! ^_^

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 3rd May, 2008