Chevy Enthusiast via Hooniverse: The 1982 Chevette the GM dropped a V6 into.

Some of you may or may not know that I write a monthly column for Chevy Enthusiast Magazine, titled Weird and Wonderful Bowties. It is quite unlike any other column you may read in a magazine, but not unlike this blog. You see, I don’t like writing about all the usual suspects that might be covered in a Chevy Magazine. Rather, I uncover some unusual model, or interesting personality, and devote 1,000 words to it. And for this week, I want to introduce the Hoons at the Hooniverse some of the hidden Chevrolet and Chevy related discoveries. First up; The Chevy Engineered V6 Chevette.

The Chevrolet division of GM was undergoing a monumental change during the Regan era, engineering new game changing vehicles to meet the Government imposed fuel efficiency, safety, and pollution control mandates. By 1982, Chevrolet replaced some of their best models in terms of reliability and longevity, with some of their worst products ever. The rear wheel drive Chevrolet Nova was replaced with the front wheel drive Citation. The second generation Camaro, introduced in the spring of 1970, turned into the third generation Camaro, with a 4 Cylinder Engine as standard equipment. The Chevrolet Monza, a derivative of the unloved Vega, was put to pasture with the introduction of the Cavalier. OK, so the last example was actually an improvement, but you catch my drift. Other models were also scheduled for replacement like the Corvette, and the Malibu. However, one car held on for an astonishing 11 years, becoming the best seller for the division for 1979 and 1980, and that was the Chevy Chevette.

So why am I writing about a car that was ancient when it was introduced in 1976, and with such ergonomic missteps as misaligned steering columns, a cramped interior with miserable workmanship, and wheezing power-trains that couldn’t get out of their own way? Well, you see, I’m not. These cars were dreadful, except for one, and that’s where this story begins. It was the dark ages for performance cars, and deep within the bowels of Chevrolet’s Product Promotion Engineering Division (aka the Bow Tie Brigade), a performance oriented Chevette was created. It was relatively simple, as all the parts they needed were readily available, and bolted right into place. And it would have been astonishing if it went into production.

The secret to the enhanced Chevette is the transplant of the relatively new 60-degree V6 that was available on the S-10 pickup, and was also offered in the new 1982 F-body (Camaro, Trans Am). Two different transmissions were tried, including the Warnet Super T10 manual four speed from the Corvette, as well as a 700R4 Turbohydramatic. They stuck with the Chevette rear end, but could have swapped an S-10 unit to handle the power. A cowl induction hood, and a set of Gotti 14 inch Alloys were the only clues that this was anything but an ordinary Chevette.

When Hot Rod Magazine did a feature on this fire breathing Chevette, it was equipped with the automatic. The car weighed 2260 pounds, and it would do 15-second quarter mile times consistently. The real eye opener to the test crew was the fact that this car performed better than the new Z/28, Trans Am, or the Turbo Buick Regal, yet had more cargo room. The Corvette also gave up a set of front seats for the engineering study, providing a comfortable driving experience, while getting almost 23 MPG in combined track/city/highway driving. The transplant only added 140 pounds, which is really nothing compared to today’s porkier cars. Projected price of the V-6 Chevette? Around $6,500.

So why wasn’t the V-6 Chevette produced? The Chevette was in its seventh year of production, and GM was loath to spend any additional funds on a car with limited profit potential. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy Mandate also came into play, since the base 4 and the available Diesel would make up for the more profitable V-8’s within the Chevrolet stable. And then there is the fact that this little car offered more performance than the Z/28, and close to the current (1982) Corvette, more than likely killed any chance for production. The Question is this: Would you have bought one? Leave your comments below.
Image Source:; July 1982 Edition of Hot Rod Magazine.
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  1. Tanshanomi Avatar

    No, because I was 19 at the time and barely able to afford my $1500 BSA 500 single. I had to be content driving my dad's 6-cylinder '72 Malibu.
    Would I have wanted one? Oh, heck yea.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    I'm a Ford guy, so the answer would be No.
    However, I wonder if this would have done much for GM's image in the decades to come? Maybe not this alone, but if GM had taken a bit more of a performance strategy would they have fared better in the onslaught from across the Pacific?
    I don't think it would have changed much. Most people at the time were more concerned with fuel economy and, considering the economic situation at the time, price. However, it is an interesting thought experiment.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    GM engineering just loved doing strange things with Chevettes. I'm pretty sure that the first Saturn drive-trains were tested in a fleet of Chevettes. I think Rousch or some outside firm actually built the test vehicles.
    In reality a V-6 Chevette would have been along the same lines as a Cosworth Vega. A powerful engine in a light car, but still poorly designed and built.

  4. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    My mom had one when I was a kid (an '84), and it was a big part of my life. In fact, nearly everywhere I went for almost 10 years was in that red 4 door Chevette. I went to school from elementary all the way up into high school in it. My mom took me to my first date – At the mall! How '80s is that? – in that car. We drove that car nearly across the country as we moved over the years, from Maryland, to Tennessee, to Colorado, to Texas in it. I learned to drive in that car. It almost became my first car, something I was looking forward to, when it started having mechanical issues in '93 and parts were about as easy to find as hen's teeth. My mom decided to trade it in on a '93 Grand Am, and that was the end of my relationship with the little uncool car that could. I must admit to looking for one from time to time, just to see if they're available cheap enough to justify (to my wife) buying one. I'd love a diesel with a stick, but to find one at all would be a hell of a task.

  5. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    Anyway, to answer the question posed by UDMan regarding would I have purchased a V6 Chevette, the answer is no. Not at seven years of age, as I was in 1982, but at 34 I damn sure would now.

  6. TurboBrick Avatar

    This would have been a very American interpretation of the Volkswagen GTi, I wonder how the stats would compare against eachother. What was the asking price for a Rabbit back then?

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Looks like a GTI was going for $7,990.

      1. TurboBrick Avatar

        That would make the 'vette pretty competitive at $6500, you'd be left with cash to burn on a nice set of big 14" wheels, body kit , some window louvers and a Tommy Tutone cassette.

  7. Maymar Avatar

    I absolutely would've contemplated buying one, but I kind of like the regular Chevette. Then again, at this point, I'd rather drop in the engine from a Miata and go to town on the suspension.

    1. Stephen Landon Avatar
      Stephen Landon

      Miata motor (If you are referring to a 1.6 or 1.8) isn’t that great of a choice honestly. A k-swap or a nissan turbo motor might be a better choice. I own a Miata, I love my Miata, but the BP motor only makes sense in a certain range of possible power vs cost ranges. If you are already doing a swap, I would swap in a better powertrain. MZR maybe though…

  8. CptSevere Avatar

    In 1982 I was in the Army, in Italy. I possibly could have ordered one through the PX, if they were available, but I was quite happy with the beater '65 Malibu SS I was spanking all over Northern Italy at the time. However, a V6 Chevette would have suited the area much better than the Malibu. The car sucked in the Alps, with that stupid Powerglide.

  9. Tripl3fast Avatar

    I love hearing about bat shit crazy cars that never made it. The hood is awesome. The wheels are great. It's fast. Oh well, its spirit lives on with the …… the …. uh umm…. anyone? Chevy? Bueller…. Bueller…..

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Cobalt SS

  10. KVHnik Avatar

    Let's see….1982? I was already deep into my VW/Audi affliction and was driving a '79 Rabbit Diesel (it having replaced a lemon-of-an-Audi '73 100LS). But it definitely would have been an interesting option. As Turbobrick says, it's a wonderful American interpretation of the hot hatch.

  11. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

    I thought the Chevette did later come with the 3.1L V6? Or was this the citation?
    There's a pretty cute girl who drives a terrible looking maroon Citation/Chevette. It's in good shape, but a god awfully ugly car. If a girl happily rocks out in that thing, she must be cool.

  12. Tomsk Avatar

    As I was two years away from being born, probably not.
    The hot ticket, in my mind would be to drape a Chevette body over a Solstice GXP/Sky Redline skeleton.

  13. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    I think GM sobered up and came to the conclusion that no matter how much motor you put in it the Chevette would still be a dog. And a cheap little dog that would eat the lunch of all your more profitable big dogs. No surprise it never made it to production.
    Nice find, UDman. And if GM could do it in the 70s, then anybody can do it again now.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      It sure wouldn't take much. How hard is it to find an S10 to dissect? Hell, if you're gonna go that far, find a Buick 3.8 V6 and use it instead. You'd have a friggin' grenade.

  14. Steve Avatar

    I had an 81 Chevette Scooter. Paid cash for it during my college years. It was very spartan inside, but ugly?!? – not by a long shot – especailly when you compared it to a buddy of mine who bought a Datsun B210 for almost 50 percent more than I paid for the Chevette. I drove that car 165,000 miles with a repair list of two things: A clutch at about 125,000 miles that cost $98.00 installed and a heater core that I installed in about 20 minutes for a cost of $27.00 brand new! When I sold that car in 1990 it owed me absolutely nothing! …and I still like the looks of the car today. PS…I drive a brand spanking new C6 'Vert in Jetstream Blue today and still loving my GM cars. Cramped inside ? Yea, but so was the Datsun B210…and every other comprable car.

  15. Shawn Avatar

    I have a 1976 chevette with a buick 3.8 v6, T-50 5 speed and monza 10 bolt rearend. Fast and fun as heck!! Car Rosser

  16. Tornado Avatar

    Bought a new 1987 Chevette in Dec. 1986, and still have it. 208,000 one owner miles! Would have bought a V-6 Chevette in a "Heartbeat."

  17. DARTHmE Avatar

    we actually built one of these in a reinds moms car after the 4 cyl died. it was one of the scariest things i ever. i dont know how he had it se up but it was a stick and it was FAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Seth Avatar

    I'm building one now. 2.8 EFI from a camaro, 5 speed from a S-10 and a rear axel with disk from a Blazer.

  19. kevin Avatar

    Any one remember the Car Craft of Popular Hotrodding when the jammed a Cadillac 500 into a Chevette?

  20. Nate Avatar

    Does anyone know whether the 2.3-litre and 2-litre Cosworth Vega engines fit inside the Chevrolet Chevette?
    Issues with the Vega engine notwithstanding it seems strange such an idea was not considered given what Vauxhall and Opel were doing with the Vauxhall Chevette 2.3 HS (later HSR) and Opel Kadett C 1.9 (later 2-litre) GT/E.

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