Jewel of the junkyard: 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Convertible

Detroit (and Kenosha) stopped selling new American convertibles after the last 1976 Cadillac Eldorado left the showroom. There was a lot of lamentation and gnashing of teeth about the end of a glorious era of American exceptionalism (keep in mind that the resignation of a president and the fall of Saigon had just happened) . European manufacturers were still offering new convertibles here after 1976, of course, and then Chrysler started selling new ragtops again for the 1982 model year. . but this pause in the availability of new American-made convertibles made those cars special, if not a bit diabolical, for most of the 1980s. GM’s Chevrolet division resumed building Corvette and Camaro convertibles (for 1986 and 1987, respectively), more than a decade after the last 1975 Corvette and Caprice convertibles sold, but the humble Chevy Cavalier convertible beat them both into showrooms. Starting in 1983 and continuing through 2000, Americans and Canadians could buy a brand new open-top Cavalier, and I say the coolest of them all was the 1989 version. Here’s one such car, found in a graveyard in cars between Denver and Cheyenne.

The second generation Cavalier debuted for the 1988 model year, and only the Z24 hot-rod could be used as a convertible.

As far as I can tell, all Chevrolet convertibles sold in the 1980s had all their advanced hardware supplied and installed by the Automotive Specialty Company (also known as American Sunroof Company or American Specialty Cars) in Warren, Michigan. ASC also built Toyota Celica convertibles around this time.

I found what looked like Chevrolet-badged aluminum chessboards inside the car, stamped MADE IN BELGIUM. Did Chevrolet offer Belgian-made metal chess boards as an accessory?

These “chessboards” (which have the correct number of squares for playing chess or checkers) turned out to be the square center caps for the extraordinarily radiant 14″ Z24 aluminum wheels, standard equipment on the convertible. central squares!Naturally, I bought one of these for use in all the chess tournaments I hold in my garage.

The Lesser Cavaliers had a 2.0-liter four-cylinder as base equipment, but the Z24 got the fuel-injected 2.8-liter V6 engine. This one was rated at 125 horsepower when new.

GM made some good engine displacement badges in those days, the best being the 3.1 “Candyland Edition” badges on the early 1990’s Pontiac W25 Sunbird. No unique throttle bodies here, folks!

A surprising number of 1980s Z24 buyers opted for the five-speed manual transmission, although America’s slushboxing was well advanced by this time, but this car has the optional three-speed automatic. . The price: $415, or about $1,015 after inflation.

She appears to have started her career at Lynch Chevrolet in Burlington, Wisconsin.

This car has many options including power windows and locks.

The original buyer almost certainly bought the “Preferred Equipment Group 2” option package, which cost $1,426 ($3,488 in 2022 dollars) and included air conditioning as well as that nice Delco auto-reversing tape deck. with five-band equalizer. Without this radio, how would it have been possible to enjoy the hits of the time?

How much did the whole car cost? The MSRP before options on a 1989 Cavalier Z24 convertible was $16,615, or about $40,650 today. You could buy a new IROC-Z Camaro Coupe for just $14,145 that year, though the IROC-Z Convertible costs $18,945. Keep in mind that the Cavalier was Chevrolet’s least expensive new car on the US market in 1989 (the Suzuki-built Chevy Sprint, the Corolla-based Chevy Nova, and the Isuzu-built Chevrolet Spectrum had become the Geo Metro , Geo Prizm and Geo Spectrum that year, while the Chevette got the ax two years earlier), with the Hoi Polloi Edition Cavalier VL Coupe listing at just $7,375 (just over $18,000 now).

The last owner of this car decided that burning the front wheels until a tire burst would be an appropriate send off for such a capable machine.

Don’t drink or drive, folks. Please. And even if you are not while driving, as a matter of principle, avoid airline brandy bottles.

Only 155,834 miles on the odometer. The body is fairly straight, there is no significant rust, the top is quite nice and the interior is not trashed. There are Z24 aficionados out there, but none of them saved this car before it got here.

It was truly America’s heartbeat. I was driving a British Leyland product daily at the time, so maybe those adverts didn’t sit so well with me.

Just like okra, if it doesn’t burn… it’s not hot. Wait, are you supposed to burn okra?

This ad is for the previous-generation Z24, but the air guitar work (and the unfortunate fashion statement of the bandana around the wrist from the late 1980s) makes it a must-have watch anyway.

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