Classic Chevy Cars: Chevelle and Chevette

Instantly recognizable by the signature bow tie, Chevy has been manufacturing iconic cars for generations, a few of which are now considered classics.

Take, for example, the Chevy Chevelle, a classic car sought after by enthusiasts. Or the Chevette, not necessarily a collector’s dream, but a car that represented the best in consumer-driven, affordable Chevy reliability.

But the cars at your local Lexington, KY used cars dealer doesn’t need to be an old-school Chevy for you to enjoy the very best that the brand has to offer. As an ever-evolving automaker, there are plenty of options for purchasing a used or certified pre-owned Chevy car.

In order to better appreciate the current generation of Chevy cars, take a look at a couple which helped set the pace.

The Chevy Chevelle: A Muscular First Generation

Introduced in 1964, the first generation of Chevy Chevelles were designed to give the Ford Fairlane a run for its money. And they did.

Based off the 1955-57 Chevy models, the Chevelles came in four body styles: the two door coupes and convertibles, and four-door sedans and station wagons.

But the most exciting Chevelle from this first generation was released in 1964 in the form of the Chevelle SS, a muscle car that initially came equipped with a four-barrel V8 engine generating 220 horsepower. Later that year, Chevy bumped up the Chevelle to a larger V8, able to get between 250 and 300 horsepower.

True muscle arrived in 1965 when Chevy delighted enthusiasts with a 327 V8 engine, backed by 350 horses.

At the end of that year, Chevy released a limited edition Z-16 outfitted with a 396 Turbo-Jet V8, of which only 200 were produced, the whereabouts of a scant seventy-five are known today. This is one of the most sought after and beloved classic Chevys around.

1967 marked a banner year for Chevy as the brand introduced the Camaro to the world and the Chevelles moved into their second generation, officially launching in 1968.

The Super Cars of the Second Generation, 1968-1972 Moving into its second generation, the 1969 model year proved the most noteworthy as the Chevelle was ranked, “America’s most popular mid-size car.”

Also interesting, it was during this second generation that Don Yenko, a retired racecar driver started modifying the Chevelle’s into his very own line of Yenko Super Cars. With only a limited number produced, Yenko’s Super Cars usually return approximately $2.2 million in bids at classic car auctions.

The Total Redesign of the Third Generation, 1973-1977

Of the three generations, the third and final Chevelle generation consisted of a near-total makeover for the Chevelle, thanks in part to more stringent federal regulations, regarding automotive safety.

For instance, tighter federal safety requirements on rollovers made the hardtop models disappear. Although not a popular decision because hardtops had been a part of the American automotive scene for ages, the third generation of Chevelles still managed to do well, particularly the Monte Carlo coupe.

Ultimately, despite special packages like the Laguna, the Chevy Chevelle was discontinued in 1978 at which time Chevy opted to re-badge its lineup with the familiar and trusted “Malibu” name.

The Malibu, while most certainly popular then, has proven that it can withstand the test of time. Current Malibus are celebrated for their cutting-edge technology, safety, and reliability and are an outstanding used car to consider.

The Chevy Chevette: Chevy’s Original Bestselling Compact

The entry-level, rear-wheel drive, Chevette was Chevy’s smallest car ever produced, and the Chevy Vega’s replacement.

Design on the Chevette actually began three years ahead of its release, thanks to the 1973 oil crisis. Smaller cars were becoming increasingly popular as a more affordable option and consumers needed a way to manage soaring gas prices, while still getting around.

First released in 1976, the Chevette was originally a two-door and later a four-door hatchback with 1.4 or 1.6-liter engines, able to produce between 53-60 horsepower, eventually reaching the maximum number of horses at 74. The earliest models were priced around $3,000. Twelve years later, by the time the Chevette was discontinued, pricing had only jumped to approximately $5,000.

Three primary packages: the Rally, Woody, and the super-economical Scooter, were released and updated throughout the Chevette’s 1976-1987 model years, with the 1979 and 1980 model years making the Chevette the best-selling small car in America.

The Rally came equipped with the 1.6-liter engine, generating 60 horsepower, the most powerful of the three Chevette packages, as one might expect from a car badged “Rally.”

The Woody, as its name implies, was covered in imitation wood siding and could be considered the mid-level model of the three, while the Scooter was the base model. And by base, we mean bare bones.

Consider this, in addition to an overall absence of chrome, (even the bumpers were just painted) the Scooter didn’t even have arm rests on the doors. It had pull straps instead and the doors themselves were actually made of fiberboard.

In 1979, Consumer Guide reported that the Chevette returned, “an honest 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway,” which partly explains the popularity and impressive sales for that model year. No need to mess with a winning formula, Chevy left the 1980 Chevettes relatively unchanged, with the exception of rear fascia upgrades, including wrap around taillights with single-colored turn signals.

A diesel-powered 1.8-liter Isuzu engine was added to the Chevette in 1981, and although this increased the car’s fuel economy to an estimated 42 highway miles per gallon, it didn’t do much to spice up its sluggish speeds, leaving it wheezing along at 51 horsepower.

While the gasoline-powered Chevette engines were clocked making zero to miles per hour in thirteen seconds, it took 21.2 seconds for the diesel to do the same.

Classic Performance vs. Bestselling Affordability

Dwindling sales caused Chevy to pull production on the Chevette in 1987. Unlike the Chevelle, which was replaced or rebranded as a Malibu, the Chevette wasn’t officially replaced by another bowtie.

Although it was at one time such a best-selling car for Chevy, and came at a time when Americans most needed something extra-affordable from the small-car segment, the Chevette was necessarily very basic and Chevy never really invested in making it anything more than that. Competition from equally affordable, but more fully-loaded imports contributed to the Chevette’s dismal sales figures.

That said, you can still find used Chevettes today. However, given this brief history between these two Chevy models, if you want to own a classic car, you’ll want to scout a Chevelle. But, if you need Chevy reliability at an affordable, pre-owned price, you can do better than the Chevette and might want to consider the Malibu.

Whatever your driving needs, whether you’re a collector or just a lover of all things Chevy, trust our team to help you find your ideal used car.