Chevrolet Cavalier

The Chevrolet Cavalier was introduced for 1982 and, as you'll learn in this article, proved that U.S. automakers could build a contemporary small car to compete with the imports on the road and beat many of them in the showroom.

The Cavalier debuted as part of the General Motors J-car family. It was the first basic design to be shared by all five GM divisions -- a good thing for all of them except Cadillac.

The 1982 Chevy Cavalier CL 4-door-sedan, part of the 1982 Chevy Cavalier line.
The 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier lineup included this stolid CL
4-door Sedan. See more pictures of classic cars.

Trying to make the sound but unspectacular J-car into the luxury Cadillac Cimarron proved an image-tarnishing stretch and a classic lesson in tampering with brand identity. This compact front-wheel-drive layout suited the Chevrolet Cavalier perfectly, however.

The four-cylinder engine design was dated upon its introduction, but the rest of the car was right on, with snappy styling, four different body styles, room for four, and low base prices.

Sales were strong from the beginning, and the four-cylinder was soon modernized. A convertible was added for 1983, and V-6 Z24 models injected some good performance for 1985.

The Chevrolet Cavalier soon became Chevy's best-selling car, and the redesigned second-generation Chevrolet Cavalier, which bowed for 1995, continued that standing.

Snappy convertible and Z24 models appealed to those looking for style and fun on a budget, but the secret to success for the Chevrolet Cavalier was that it was at its core, honest, basic transportation. It was a formula that helped the nameplate survive all the way into the 21st century.

The 1996 Chevy Cavalier Z24 Coupe, part of the 1996 Chevy Cavalier line.
The Chevrolet Cavalier eventually offered some fairly sporty choices,
including convertibles and this 1996 Cavalier Z24 coupe.

For more picture-packed articles about Chevys and other great cars, see:
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  • Consumer Guide Automotive: Here's your source for news, reviews, prices, fuel-economy and safety information on today's cars, minivans, SUVs, and pickups.
  • Consumer Guide Used Car Search: In the market for a used Chevy or virtually any other pre-owned vehicle? Check out these reports, which include safety recalls and trouble spots.
  • How Chevrolet Works: Get the inside story of one of America's greatest automotive marques in this lavishly illustrated history of Chevrolet, beginning with its founding in 1911.