General Motors' Chevrolet Cavalier and similar Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Pontiacs and even a Cadillac(!) were supposed to thwart off the threat of imports.
The Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 is the girl you never noticed in high school who got a lot of attention after high school by partying hard and dressing provocatively. She sure got the attention she was after, all right. That attention also got her pregnant, marrried, divorced (at least twice) and has her holed up in a trailer park. She's also in denial about her love of the sauce. That rugged livin' has left deep footprints on her face. Or fenders and rims as is the case of our charmingly beat up '88 Z24. Oh, how I once loved you, 1988 Cavalier Z24.
When Chevrolet rolled out the Cavalier in 1981 (for the 1982 model year) it made me depressed. I finally came of driving age and this, THIS is what I get to drive? Sorry. I'll pass. Undersized, under styled and underpowered the homely little front wheel drive, four cylinder golf cart was as far removed from anything that I wanted to drive as a Cadillac limo would make practical transportation in a third world nation. Although it sold like hot cocoa to Eskimos I wanted nothing to do with the frumpy little car. Feh. Go away little frump mobile. Go away.
If an engine was ever a miracle worker it was the 60 degree V6 engine GM came out with in 1980. Add port fuel injection and you had a pretty good runner.
A couple of years after it came out GM offered an available heart transplant in the form of a V-6 engine with fuel injection. Suddenly the dumpy little librarian got some mad skills. Seriously, this engine was a giant killer! Add some fiberglass cladding, stripes, a stiffer suspension and some snazzy wheels and she really got my attention. Call her something that reminds me of something dear to my heart, "Z24" and this car got on on my tough to get on list of cars I'd own. Remember that scene at the end of Grease when Sandy comes out all decked out with the skin tight pants, big hair and lipstick? Mr. Zucco, your Cavalier, sir! Funny, Grease 2 was not the further adventures of Danny and Sandy so we'll never know if they lived happily ever after. Me thinks not.
When we were young. This was a sharp car.
With 125 horses and weighing only about 2500 pounds the Z24, relative to other cars of the day, could really boogie. The firmer suspension gave the car a modicum of handling prowess and a bit of snarl in the exhaust said to the the world, "Hey boys, I'm sporty!" I was in love and love transends reason. Hoo boy does it ever.
Fuel injected V6, a drop top, sports suspension and look! Even a luggage rack. Love. Is blind.
I thought so highly of the Z24 that when the future Mrs. was looking for her first brand new car I gently steered her towards one. She liked the size of it and the price was right. I dug it for the snarling, now 140 horsepower V-6 with "multi port fuel injection", cladding, sharp rims and handling package. Sweet, right? Well, about four months into our marriage I got a promotion to mornings at the radio station I was working at and along with the promo came a sizable raise. First thing I did was ditch the Cavalier. Reason? Well, everything that made me want it turned me off. Word to the wise; be careful what you wish for.
Despite numerous design flaws that left me feeling the car was a complete bimbo we didn't have single problem with it
The sporty ride and handling above the base model came at a cost and that was ride quality. This was back in the day, mind you, when the two were mutually exclusive. The "Z" rode like a farm wagon on square, steel wheels. Ouch. I can still hear my silent scream of, "oh noooo, small pot hole! Brace for impact!" when I drove it. What was at first fun and sporty turned out to be exhausting and irritating. Visibility out of the car was bad because you sit low. You feel like you're constantly looking up and out like you're sitting in a bathtub. What's worse, the "big" V-6 was mated only to a three speed automatic and with some aggressive gearing fuel economy was a middling 22-23 mpg. No great for a car of its size. Torque steer was also laughably bad. That's were the steering wheel wants to go in one direction while the car goes in another when you hit the gas. Instead of enjoying the acceleration provided by the meaty V-6 I found myself gently feathering the overly touchy gas pedal to avoid jerking the wheel. Not to mention saving a little gas here and there. This cool looking car could do nothing right except look cool. People don't ditch a car because they don't like the way it looks. They get rid of them because they don't like the way it drives. I referred to the Z24 as, "The Bimbo".
The memory of what I thought it was going to be is still stronger than what it ultimately was.
Still, through it all, I look at this vintage of Cavalier Z24 with great fondness because it reminds of a great time in my life. If this particular car had the correct rims, a better top and a for sale sign on her I might have been tempted to call if for nothing else, as is the awesome hookup power of Facebook with old friends, to drive down memory lane. Quickly though I would come to the conclusion that some things never change and recall all the reasons why I got rid of it without thinking twice. She liked to party and by the looks of THIS wreck she's still partying like it's 1988. After all these years of doing that it's caught up to her.