Chevrolet-Cavalier 1999
Chevrolet Cavalier
Production 1982-1994
Class Subcompact
Body Style 2-Door Coupe
2-Door Convertible
3-Door Hatchback
4-Door Sedan
5-Door Wagon
Length 173.5" (1982-1987)
174.5" (1988-1994)
Width 66"
Height 52" (coupe, convertible)
54.2" (sedan, wagon)
Wheelbase 101.2"
Weight 2300-2800 lbs
Transmission 4-Speed Manual, FWD
5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
4-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engine 1.8L (110 cid) I4 (1982-1983)
2.0L (122 cid) I4 (1983-1989)
2.2L (134 cid) I4 (1990-1994)
2.8L (173 cid) V6 (1986-1989)
3.1L (191 cid) V6 (1990-1994)
Power 88-140 hp
Similar Buick Skyhawk
Cadillac Cimarron
Oldsmobile Firenza
Pontiac J2000/Sunbird
Platform J

Chevrolet introduced the all-new J-car Cavalier subcompact in April 1981 as an early 1982 model. After GM's previous disastrous experiences with the subcompact Vega and Monza (OK, so the Monza wasn't quite the disaster the Vega was), GM sorely needed to redeem itself in the subcompact car market, and the Cavalier (and its other J-body corporate mates - the Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza and J2000) was the car that GM put their faith in to get them back on the proper track. Even Cadillac got its own J-car clone, the Cimarron, but that's one model that Cadillac is surely hoping is permamently erased from the buying public's memory. The Cavalier would last a total of 24 model years, but would only span 2 generations, undergoing only one redesign in 1995. The Cavalier would be succeeded by the all-new Cobalt in 2005, which was also the Cavalier's final year.

Here's a quick rundown on each generation:

1st Generation (1982-1994)[]

The Cavalier debuts, replacing the departed Monza. It was completely different from its predecessor in that it was a front wheel drive design, much more modern, more space and fuel efficient and much more versatile than the Monza was. The basic structure was quite simple: a unibody design and the suspension consisted of MacPherson struts up front and a simple beam axle in the back on coil springs. Bodystyles consisted of a 3-door hatchback coupe (called Type-10), a 2-door notchback coupe and 4-door sedan, along with a 5-door station wagon. Its sole engine (at first) was an 88 hp 1.8L (110 cid) I4, with either a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission. Needless to say its performance was anything other than sedate, with 0-60 times well past 16 seconds, even more with the automatic. Despite an extended model year, Chevy managed to sell only 58,904 Cavaliers. Perhaps the public wasn't quite sure of what to make of the new Cavalier at first, plus Chevy's other subcompact, the ancient Chevette, was still selling quite well - which might have been another culprit in the Cavalier's inaugural low sales figure.

1983 saw no visual change, but it did have a new engine option, a slighly enlarged 2.0L (121 cid) I4 which was still rated at only 88 hp, but it had more usable torque than the 1.8 - plus a 5-speed manual debuted as an option (Chevrolet's first such transmission on an I4 since the 1976 Cosworth Vega) - the 4-speed was still available on the 1.8, and the 3-speed automatic was available on both engines. There was also a convertible added late in the model year, in which only 627 examples were sold. Despite a sluggish sales start last year, the 1983 Cavalier evidently clicked much better with buyers this year, as sales jumped to a total of 218,587.

1984 Cavaliers got a new nose with a blacked-out eggcrate grille, quad rectangular headlamps and turn signals in the bumper instead of beside the headlights as in last year. Dashboards were all new as well. The Type-10 package was now available on the 2-door notchback and convertible in addition to the 3-door hatchback. The 4-door sedans and 5-door wagons continued on, and the dreadfully slow 1.8L engine was gone - the 2.0L was now the only engine option, again available with either a 5-speed or automatic. Despite the larger Citation and smaller Chevette now falling out of favor with buyers (or perhaps because of), the Cavalier managed to more than double its 1983's sales figures, with 462,611 examples sold, making it the new most popular car in America, and the best in Cavalier's history.

1985 models got a new taillight design and a new 2-spoke steering wheel, but little else changed other than the usual new color shuffling. 1986 models all got the required Center High Mounted Stop Lamp, and this year the big news was the addition of the sporty Cavalier Z24. The Z24 was available on the 2-door notch and 3-door hatch model only, and was shod with 60-series 14" Goodyear Eagle GT tires with alloy wheels, ground effects, and of course the 125 hp 2.8L (173 cid) V6 that was available in other Chevy models such as the Celebrity and Camaro, as well as the departed Citation X-11. Z24s also got a unique digital dashboard, while lesser Cavaliers still used the previous analog dash. Chevrolet marketers fancied the Z24 as the Corvette and Camaro Z28's feisty little kid brother. The Z24 was to have been introduced in 1985, but was delayed a year. The V6 was available with on lesser RS models also (and so-equipped models also got the digital dash), and had either a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic. 432,101 were sold this year, but the Cavalier was knocked down into second place as America's best selling car by its own larger Celebrity brother, which took the top spot this year.

1987s continued without much change - the 2.0L I4 got a slight power boost to 90 hp, and the Z24 could now have a 5-speed manual transmission - the 4-speed was gone. The 3-speed automatic was still available with either engine. Speaking of the Z24, it was now available as a convertible. All other bodystyles continued as before.

Now that the ancient Chevette was mercifully retired in 1987, the 1988 Cavalier was now Chevrolet's smallest domestically-built car, and underwent its first major restyle since its introduction. Cavaliers got all-new sheetmetal which consisted of a new nose with a body-colored horizontal grille and composite headlamps. The 2-door coupe got a sleek new tail treatment with a semi-fastback rear roofline (largely emulating the design of GM's European Opel/Vauxhall's subcompact line). Taillights were all new and larger on all but the wagons, which retained the same rear look as before. The 3-door hatch model was no more. The interior was updated with a new dashboard design as well. All drivetrain choices carried over. Z24s continued, and they all now had 2-tone paint treatments, new alloy rims, and twin hood blisters. 1989 models carried on virtually untouched after last year's makeover.

Now that the Buick and Oldsmobile J-cars were gone after 1989 (the Cadillac's was gone after 1988), the Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird were now the 2 remaining survivors. There were a few detail changes to 1990 Cavaliers. First off, the 2.0L I4 gave way to a new 110 hp 2.2L (134 cid) I4, and the Z24's 2.8L V6 gave way to the new 140 hp 3.1L (191 cid) V6. Both engines were available with a 5-speed manual, and the Z24 now had an optional 4-speed automatic (the I4 still had a 3-speed unit). The Z24 convertible was dropped (temporarily), and all models received shoulder-mounted seat belts for the rear seats. In 1991, all models got a new front clip that eliminated the grille with a slightly canted-back body-colored panel. Base models were now known as VL (value leader) models, RS models were now the mid-grade, and the Z24 was still the top-of-the-line. Dashboards were all new, and now all models shared the same dash - no more digital units. Z24s could now have a single paint color, and all convertibles were now RS models. The Z24 convertible was reinstated for 1992, and anti-lock brakes were standard on all models - those were about the only noteworthy changes. 1993 models stood pretty much still, but 1994 I4 models got another 10 hp boost to 120 in 1994 and all models gained power door locks as standard. Even though the 1st gen Cavalier was finally in its last year, it still managed to sell a grand total of 254,426 examples - not bad for a 13-year-old design.

Main Competitors[]

2nd Generation (1995-2005)[]

Chevrolet Cavalier
Production 1995-2005
Class Subcompact
Body Style 2-Door Coupe
2-Door Convertible
4-Door Sedan
Length 180.9"
Width 68.7"
Height 53"
Wheelbase 104.1"
Weight 2500-2800 lbs
Transmission 5-Speed Manual, FWD
4-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engine 2.2L (134 cid) I4
2.4L (138 cid) I4
Power 120-150 hp
Similar Pontiac Sunfire
Platform J

The second Cavalier was wider and rode on a longer 104.1-inch wheelbase than the car it replaced, and was a bit longer overall. It was also roomier on the inside and far sleeker on the outside. But at its core it was very much the same car as before; still a simple front driver built around a simple unibody incorporating a MacPherson strut front suspension and a solid rear axle on coil springs in the back. The nose was still grille-less, and the 5-door wagon, convertible and V6 engine were now gone - a 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan would be the only bodystyles, although a convertible would return a year later. The previous 120 hp 2.2L I4 carried over from the previous generation and was the base engine in base LS models. The Z24 continued, but its sole engine was now an enlarged 150 hp DOHC 2.3L (138 cid) "Quad 4", and this was also optional on the LS. Z24s now had P205/55R16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires. A 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic could be had with any engine. Dual airbags were now standard. 151,669 Cavaliers were sold in 1995.

Not many changes in 1996 other than standard Daytime Running Lamps and the convertible returning after a year's hiatus, available as either an LS or Z24. In 1996 the previous 2.3L "Quad 4" was replaced by the 2.4L. 1997s were pretty much a carryover as well, and the only real change in 1998 was that the LS convertible was dropped - all convertibles were now Z24s. Except for limited production of a "bi-fuel" Cavalier that ran on either gasoline or compressed natural gas, little changed for the line during 1999 either. 2000 models got a new updated dashboard with all-new sound systems, and the Z24 got a larger, more aggressive rear spoiler. The convertible would be gone for good in 2001, and for 2002, the base 2.2 and 2.4 I4 would be redesigned to GM's all-new Ecotec design, which changed the 2.2 from an OHV to an OHC design. Horsepower remained 120 on the 2.2, but the "Quad four" 2.4 would be dropped and replaced by the 140hp 2.2 DOHC Ecotec engine. A revised nose with a small horizontally-slatted grille and a new taillight panel that stretched all the way across the rear of the car were minor changes for 2003, and the Z24 would bid its final adieu this year - there were now base, LS and LS Sport (a quasi-replacement for the Z24). A "Sport Appearance Package" that looked just like the old Z24 was available on 2- and 4-door models was an addition for 2004, and could have either the 2.2 or 2.4 engine with either transmission. The "bi-fuel" option was quietly dropped for 2005 - that was about it for the Cavalier's swan song year, most of which were now relegated to fleet sales.

The Cavalier would be replaced by the Cobalt, which was introduced in 2005.

Main Competitors[]


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