We featured the predecessor to General Motors’ J-body last week in the Pontiac Sunbird, which was replaced by the J-body J2000 in 1982. But the Cavalier was always the star of the J-body show; the one everyone thought to buy.
Today we feature an immaculate wagon from Cavalier’s second generation.
Alongside many other J-body things, the Cavalier debuted with two, three, or four doors in 1982. Body styles ran the gamut, and the front-drive Cavalier easily replaced the Monza in the hearts and minds of American consumers.
Of course, it was no surprise that after several years of sales success, General Motors introduced a second-generation J-body Cavalier. With the same 101-inch wheelbase as its predecessor, the new Cavalier was around five inches longer and equipped with more powerful engines than before.
The three-door hatchback body style was gone, replaced by coupes and convertibles with two doors, and a four-door sedan and wagon. The Cavalier’s convertible option was short-lived though. GM brass anticipated competition with the more expensive and upcoming Beretta convertible, so they canceled the Cavalier convertible after 1989. But the Beretta convertible idea was scrapped just before production, so Cavalier proceeded with fixed roofs until its next generation. The Beretta convertible appeared as an Indy 500 pace car, by the way.
Power was provided by some not very exciting four cylinders in displacements of 2.0 or 2.2 liters, alongside V6 power in 2.8- and 3.1-liter varieties. The 3.1 became an optional extra in 1990 and replaced the 2.8. Transmissions on offer were two: a five-speed manual or a three-speed auto. The automatic was standard equipment on sedan and wagon Cavaliers.
The initial increase in size was a half-step forward for Cavalier. Model years 1988 to 1990 were 178.6 inches long in sedan form. A refresh in 1991 came with a new length: 182.3 inches. The 1990 to 1994 Cavaliers were the longest ever offered. Styling was updated with a new fascia and bumpers, an updated interior, and a grille-free nose like a Taurus.
For the remainder of the second-gen Cavalier’s life, GM fiddled around with trim options here and there and added features like ABS and an optional CD player. Base engines were also improved and gained multi-point fuel injection in 1992.
1995 brought the successful third-generation Cavalier along and deleted wagon optionality. The third Cavalier remained on sale through the 2005 model year before it was mercifully killed in favor of the Cobalt. They sold a lot of third-gen Cavaliers, probably 20 billion or something.
Today’s Rare Ride is a white over blue wagon in very basic specification. The only optional extra would appear to be air conditioning. There are 27,000 miles on the odometer, and an enterprising dealer in the bustling metropolis of Grand Rapids asks $17,900.