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1987 Chevrolet Cavalier RS Wagon
Like a Rock

This was my GM J-body car.

We bought it new in 1987 for $8999, which was a darn good deal for a car back then, especially since the dealer was trying to convince us to buy a Cavalier Sedan for $13000. It's quite a brick, been through a couple of ditches at highway speeds, rear-ended by a cargo truck, had the right rear door torn off, both mirrors torn off, things of that sort (without frame damage, we replaced those items of course, all of that happened before the car belonged to me). The car has taken a lot without any complaint - driven miles on busted radiator hoses and such. The interior room is incredible for a car that size, because it's efficient and boxy. In fact, they've rounded out the Audi Allroad so much that most of the interior dimensions are smaller than my car.

Other than the "daily beater", I rallyed it at the St. Louis Region SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) RallyCross on the 23rd of November, 2002. It was my first auto/rally cross event ever, and I had a blast. You can download (2.1MB Windows Media Player r9) the video clip of my first run. Thanks to Chris Hammond for doing the picture and video for this event.

Photos that P. Cline took:

On the 17th of December, 2002, a 2001 Passat cut out in front of me while making a left turn on Forsyth Blvd, totalling the car. I know at least the radiator was spilling out coolant, and the front right side is so banged in the wheels won't move. That's the end of this car, I think. But the rest of this page is about what it was when I had it.

Engine: 2.0L I4 EFI, 90 bhp, 109 lb-ft of torque (gotta love American 4-cylinder blocks). It's transverse-mounted and powers the front wheels. Everything is stock so far.

Transmission: 3-speed automatic - First gear will do 45 mph, and second will do 70.


    Curb Weight: 2500 pounds (and very durable for such a weight - a nice feature of 80s cars)
    Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
    Track - Front: 55.6 inches
    Track - Rear: 55.2 inches
    Length: 177.9 inches
    Width: 66.3 inches
    Height: 54.2 inches
    Headroom - Front: 38.3 inches
    Headroom - Rear: 38.8 inches
    Legroom - Front: 42.2 inches
    Legroom - Rear: 33.7 inches
    Hip room - Front: 48.9 inches
    Hip room - Rear: 49 inches
    Shoulder room - Front: 53.7 inches
    Shoulder room - Rear: 53.7 inches
    Turning Diameter: 34.3 feet (very awesome stat - In comparison, the Audi TT has a 34.2-foot turning diameter, but has a half foot shorter wheelbase. The Subaru WRX has a 35.4-foot turning radius, and a 2-inch shorter wheelbase. I can assure you this car was a pleasure to do U-turns in.)

Stock Features: (quite nice for $8999 in 1987)

    - power locks
    - power steering
    - folding rear seat
    - front bucket seats (surprisingly good, in fact)
    - an AM/FM radio with 4 speakers (front on dash, rears on hatch)
    - air conditioning
    - cruise control
    - dual side mirrors (significant on a cheap 80s car)
    - rear defroster
    - 13-inch alloy wheels (quite nice for the price, and look and work a lot better than the steel ones with wheelcovers)

Service performed on it since I've had the car:

    - March, 2000 - Water pump hose replaced
    - November, 2000 - Exhaust pipe and muffler replaced
    - December, 2000 - Starter, front brake pads, front tyres replaced
    - June, 2001 - Catalytic converter replaced
    - September, 2001 - (all of the following have been needed to be done for a while, and I've limped around with them about to go, and it was starting to get risky) Water pump, serpantine belt, brake lines, engine mounts, cylinder head gaskets replaced (found out that the gaskets I had on there had a defect on it, causing the oil leak I've been having for a couple years!), and had the radiator and brake system flushed. Tyres were also rotated.
    - October, 2001 - replaced a tyre with a used Michelin
    - January, 2002 - front wheel bearings replaced
    - April, 2002 - Distributor cap and plug wires replaced
    - May, 2002 - Engine coils replaced. Gaskets for the engine computer were also cleaned and replaced.
    - September, 2002 - replaced all 4 tyres with Bridgestone Potenza RE900's @ 165402 miles (size 185/70 13)
    - October, 2002 - replaced the EGR and PCV valves, brake system flushed
    - December, 2002 - replaced spark plug #3, discovered plug #2 is frozen

    Last Oil Change: 22nd of November, 2002 at 168782.7 miles with Havoline Fully Synthetic 5W-30 motor oil. Speaking of the odometer, they didn't anticipate that these cars would make it to 100k miles, so the odometer only goes up to 99999.9, so it's looped around already once.

Hatch - This is what a wagon is all about. A car the size of a Civic yet holds as much as many entry-level SUVs. The nice 80s boxy styling ensures that all space is put to good use.

With the back seats down, I have moved all sorts of stuff, like couches, lawn mowers, mattresses, and construction markers. Moving stuff for college is also great, as I have moved many things at one time in it (it just seems to swallow box after box). I helped a friend of mine who has a Honda Accord coupe move, and my car outswallowed hers 2:1, mostly because boot trunks can be really inefficient in the way they load large boxes.

Spoiler - A slightly subtle but cool detail on such a cheap car is the spoiler. A spoiler on a wagon! It's really subtle and blends in with the rest of the way the body looks. Cool!

Bucket seats - The car came stock with some really nice bucket seats up front that look fairly good considering how much and how long they've been used, and how the car was only garaged for the first 7 years.

Cupholder and mirror - I replaced my broken clip-on cupholder with one that anchors on the inside of the door via the window on March 2002. I also stuck on a wide-angle mirror since the stock side mirrors are so small giving me an uncomfortably large blind spot.

Brake light - An obvious design flaw in this car is the brake light. Over the years, it's gotten so hot that it's melted the plastic above it, creating the hole you see, allowing the bugs to fly in and die there, and also creating a nice white beam of light on my hatch window whenever I brake, and it's very obvious at night. It's a nice indicator of when my brake light is on, as it's easily seen in the rear-view mirror.

Escort Passport 4800 - An X, K, Ka, and Laser band radar detector with night, silent, and city modes.

FM transmitter and 4-way adapter - The Radio Shack FM transmitter is a mini-radio station that transmits on an FM radio frequency so I can plug it into my CD player, laptop, MP3 player, or whatever, and tune my stock FM radio to the right frequency and listen to my own music. The 4-way adapter for the car power sockets is useful for powering both the radar detector and 110V inverter at the same time, with plenty of room for future expansion.

CD player and inverter - My portable Panasonic CD player with 40-second anti-skip and programmable tracks has made a home in my car, attached to an FM transmitter, allowing me to play CDs through the stock FM radio, and I've had it since March 2000. I got a 110V AC inverter at Bridgestone in December, 2001 to plug in chargers for things (cell phones, laptops, batteries).

Mirrors - Even though the car was cheap, GM thankfully wasn't too cheap to put a right-side mirror on the car. But I did have to put in the clip-on vanity mirror myself.

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