1981, 1982, 1983 Chevrolet Chevette

1981 Chevrolet Chevette
Chevrolet built more than 360,000 Chevettes in 1981.

The 1981 Chevrolet Chevette was little changed and looking pretty long in the tooth -- yet it sold as well as ever. This was undoubtedly due more to the bow tie on its grille and the low price on its window sticker than to any technical or styling achievements.

Again offered in base three-door and five-door hatchbacks and the stripped-down three-door Scooter, Chevette added diesel-engined versions at midyear. The diesel displaced 111-cubic-inch versus 98 for the gas engine, but output was a paltry 51 horsepower.

Since acceleration was none too spirited with the 70-horsepower gas engine, diesel-powered Chevettes required tremendous patience on the part of their owners. Along with the diesel came a newly optional 5-speed manual transmission, which was available on gas-engine cars as well.

By 1982, the Chevette was desperately in need of updates that were not forthcoming, and its sales figures bore that out. From a heady 433,000 in 1981, output fell to 233,000 for 1982 -- though that still led Chevy's growing fleet of models.

Nevertheless, the drop in sales signaled that the Chevette was falling out of favor with small-car buyers, who were increasingly gravitating toward front-wheel-drive models -- most notably the new Ford Escort, which replaced the Chevette this year as the number-one-selling car in America.

Chevy's subcompact was a virtual rerun for 1983, though buyers opting for the new $95 Sport exterior decor package enjoyed a huge appearance transformation (at least by Chevette standards) in the form of black-finish moldings set off by red accent stripes and decals.

In an effort to rekindle sales, most prices either stayed the same or dropped, but it didn't help; production sank some 27 percent to 169,565 -- the worst performance since 1977.

1982 Chevrolet Chevette
In 1982, Chevy introduced a five-door hatchback Chevette.

1981 Chevrolet Chevette Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Chevette

1,945-2,063

$4,695-$5,394

433,600

1982 Chevrolet Chevette Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Chevette

1,959-2,064

$4,997-$6,727

232,808

1983 Chevrolet Chevette Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Chevette

2,029-2,148

$4,997-$6,683

169,565

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