The General sold something like six million Chevrolet Cavaliers during the car’s nearly-quarter-century production run and (if you add on the sales of its J-Body brethren, in North America as well as all the corners of GM’s far-flung global empire) could be seen as one of the most successful vehicles in General Motors history. The final American Cavaliers rolled off the assembly line in 2005, so I still find plenty of these cars while traipsing through junkyards; it takes a very special Cavalier to merit inclusion in the Junkyard Gem Pantheon. Here’s such a car: the final model year for the Cavalier convertible, the second-to-last year for the iconic Z24 package, and it has the high-coolness-quotient Quad 4 engine under the hood.
Everyone likes convertibles, but not many car buyers feel willing to live with one year-round. This top looks a bit ratty, but has held up pretty well under the harsh Colorado sun.
The dual-overhead-cam, 2.4-liter Quad 4 (technically, GM didn’t use the Quad 4 name on the 2.4, but everybody else does today) generated 150 horsepower in this application. The tougher Ecotec replaced this engine for the final years of the J-Body.
A Getrag 5-speed manual transmission came as standard equipment on the 2000 Cavalier Z24, but just about every buyer paid extra for the four-speed automatic. Few used-car shoppers want to deal with three pedals these days, so the slushbox probably preserved the value of this car long enough to buy it a few extra years before this fate.
The Cavalier managed to hang on until the 2005 model year and even (with Toyota badges) developed a small but devoted following in Japan. The name got revived in China a few years ago, but that car— a Chevy Cruze cousin— isn’t related to the good old J-Body.
GM wasn’t pouring tremendous resources into marketing the Cavalier by the year 2000, so ads such as this one pushed now-mundane features such as keyless entry.
Let’s go back to the heyday of serious Cavalier Z24 marketing, with this hallucinatory commercial from 1986. That brutish-sounding engine was a 2.8-liter V6 that made 135 horsepower.