Picked up my 1st gen cavalier - First Generation Forum

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Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Sunday, June 03, 2018 8:56 AM
Well I finally found me a 1st generation Cavalier. I learned how to drive on an 84 CS wagon, and used that to get to and from work until I bought my first car. I went to a car show in August and saw a 1983 there and it made me want one. I let the feeling pass but got to thinking about it again, and did something about it. Looked at a trashy 84 sedan, missed out on a pair of 87 sedans, and forgot to call a guy about an 86 sedan. I saw the ad on Craigslist for the 87 sedan and jumped on it. Towed the car home from Maryland last night.

The car is a 1987 Cavalier base model, and when I say base I mean BASE. No a/c, cruise, tilt, wiper delay, full wheel hubcaps, passenger mirror, manual driver mirror, and has the analog AM radio. The car was a 1 owner car with only 116k. Only rust was a crease on the fender, and quarter sized spot on the driver door. Underneath is flawless, besides a rusted out muffler. Typical 80s paint issues on the hood, edge of decklid, and one spot on the roof.

Inside it needs some TLC, including new carpet, driver seat, and headliner. Those are simple enough. Well, finding a driver seat might be difficult but we'll see.

The car was owned by the stereotypical old lady, who kept it in a garage all the time, and didn't drive it too often. Even came with original warranty book and other books. Also had maintenance receipts. Tires will need done due to age. Two are no less than 4 years old and the other two are nine years old.

I'd post pictures but can't figure how.

Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Monday, June 04, 2018 1:18 PM
congrats on the find.

a seat will be easy...finding a "correct" seat might be difficult.

many GM cars will work, even 3rd gen seats will fit, but you have to use the original seat tracks.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 5:45 PM
Wayne Schiff wrote:

congrats on the find.

a seat will be easy...finding a "correct" seat might be difficult.

many GM cars will work, even 3rd gen seats will fit, but you have to use the original seat tracks.


Thanks, I'm not too worried about the seat at the moment. I was going to take the car to get new tires installed and noticed it wouldn't accelerate above 35 very well. Kept miss firing so I pulled the plug wires and checked spark. It's there but weak. Blue and orange, instead of the bright blue it would be if all was well. The coils tested well, and the wires say "delco-packard" on them. The spark plugs also had the font on them from before 1994, and beyond worn out probably .060" gap, so they are probably original. I have already installed new spark plugs, and have new AC Delco plug wires and a Delphi ignition module set to be delivered tomorrow. It should run much better with the new parts.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Thursday, June 07, 2018 8:35 AM
Yep - sounds like you have the coil-pack blues. At least they are cheap if not especially easy to get to . Why GM decided it was a good idea to place the packs underneath the intake man. will always be a mystery. Even the early Distributor fired OHV engines had the coils buried underneath the intake too.

It has been my experience playing around over the years with these cars to expect about 3 years to get most of the bugs worked out and repairs made before you can relax and enjoy some easy miles. Body and rust are the big issues - everything else can be worked out with time and money = chicken soup.... Take yout time and enjoy the progress. You just might luck out somewhere down the road and find a well appointed model you can get all the better parts out of and put in your base sedan.. I myself have added tilt steering and powers seats along the way. Managed to get some leather Cimirron Seats for the wagon and swapped in Firenza seats in the Sunbird. It is kinda fun starting out base and moving up! I ripped out the A/C in mine because I wanted great cooling and airflow across the radiators - so at least you can appreciate having that advantage up front. A cool engine is a happy one!

The possibilities are endless with the old machines. Most parts are cheap and easy to replace - especially compared to the new stuff out there. And remember if it isn't on there it can't possibly break!! No Air Bags, Antilock Breaks, Cam Phasors, Inteference Engines,Traction Control, Tire Pressure Monitors, Anti-theft Systems and NO Limp Mode to kick in out of nowhere and ruin your day!!.......that's a lot of stuff you don't have to ever worry about breaking down and laying you up!

Welcome to the forum and hope you enjoy your journey withyour J!!


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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Saturday, June 09, 2018 9:21 PM
Thanks, so far I am. It's not the 84 wagon my Dad owned but I like it. I did find the module was shot on the car, and a new one fixed it right up. Add some new plugs and wires for good measure, as well as a new fuel filter and it's good to go. I drove it to my Dad's house today and showed the car to him and he was impressed how clean it was. The paint is dull and flaking in areas like most GMs of that era, and interior needs a little work but other than that a good car.

I did today get a radio from a local salvage yard for $20. Cassette with 5 equalizer. Found out it came from a 1986-87 Cadillac. Unfortunately I need to run the 12 volt power lead to the radio, since the old AM analog radio didn't have that option. That will happen tomorrow some time.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 7:39 PM
Well the radio I got was bad, and I blew out the muffler the rest of the way. The bottom literally blew out lol. I got a new muffler but then found the pipe was also rotted at the end. Bought a new pipe and installed it. While I had the car in the air I removed the wheels and greasy the brakes were. So it will be new shoes, wheel cylinders, and hardware. According to the receipts I have the brakes were adjusted in 2007 but don't see where they were replaced. Fronts, yes. Rears, no. With 117k on the clock they had to have been changed. At least that explains why I had issues stopping the other day.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 6:20 PM
Always good to know others are fixing these cars with the purpose of driving them. I bought a blue Sedan in Texas two years ago and it mostly sat in my garage. I wasn't confident it'd make the trip home so I told the owners if they could drive it to my city I'd by it.

It made it. Too bad it had some nasty piston slap And transmission had a cracked bell housing after that was removed.

Finally saved enough to swap motor/transmission and even after a few quirks, it's my daily driver. 200 miles a week.

These cars seem to last forever if you maintain them and don't run them into the ground. Parts are ironically easier for me to find now than they were 10 years ago.

I hope you get a lot of life and use out of yours!


1985 Chevrolet Cavalier Sedan
2.0L I4 TBI OHV
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Friday, June 29, 2018 11:08 AM
Just curious John?

Where did you source your donor drivetrain from? The '85/'86 engines are pretty much unique with their iron heads & stainless manifold. '84's had different emissions and cast manifold while I think '87 and up went with an aluminum head and distributorless ignition. Our old stuff isn't easy to find nowadays....especially in good running condition.



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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Tuesday, July 03, 2018 4:32 AM
I ordered mine from LKQ. However a recent search showed none in stock. Car-Part.Com always seems to have a few nearby most people.

However, it's a gamble buying a used motor since there's no way of know why the car was there in the first place.

Unfortunately last night I figured out why mine was. I found a physical damage to the top of the #1 cylinder. It's still running and has good compression... But days are numbered. I haven't had any luck find any local (Houston) with a decent reputation to rebuild either...

As far as the cost, the engine and transmission were $850 combined, including shipping.


1985 Chevrolet Cavalier Sedan
2.0L I4 TBI OHV
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 9:23 AM
Thanks! The car drives so much nicer with new tires, and of course rubber vacuum lines keep splitting but that's to be expected of a rubber hose dated 12/15/86. At 79 cents a foot I'm ok with that. Rebuilt brakes, exhaust, and tires the car does good. I installed a passenger mirror I got off eBay so I have better visibility. I will get a matching driver mirror but I'm OK with mismatched mirrors for now. I like driving this car but wish it had a/c. That'll happen eventually.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 9:27 AM
The aluminum head and distributorless ignition threw me for a loop compared to the style on my Dad's '84 wagon. I tell you what the car is rather peppy for a 31 year old 4 cylinder with less than 100 HP. Starts right up and goes pretty well. And I'm getting about 29 MPG, which shocked me. Needs a new catalytic convertor possibly- slight scent. And more than likely a new O2 sensor being the old one is almost 32 yrs old.

Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 9:42 AM

Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 10:12 AM
Trying to figure out how to post pictures but not having the greatest of luck. Oh well that'll come later. I was going to patch the foam and fabric on the driver seat but found the seat frame itself is damaged, so I will be getting another seat. There is a 94 in a salvage yard near me so will grab that seat. Won't be a match or perfect but at least I can be more comfortable. I figure I will take apart the original seat and hopefully can find an older unit to rebuild the bottom seat eventually. The driver seat back is in great shape so we'll see what happens. Worse case I will have a driver seat with different color bottom. Best case I have a match. Beggars can't be choosers, and striking out all around for a seat other than the '94 seat.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 12:45 PM
You are doing the same things we all have done - picking up what you can find for now - then can work on being a bit more picky later on. Nothing wrong with that. Use what works for now. You never know what will pop up down the road.

I am going through this same scenario myself right now with a '91 Cutlass Ciera I'm tinkering on for a nice winter beater. Picked it up from a co-worker for just $500 and in need of TLC. These cars came out right at the same time as the J-Bodies and parts cars have dried up as well. It has a Wine Interior - so wouldn't ya know that some good parts I've picked up happened to be blue - so the blue got spray painted matt black. I actually had an easier time doing a tune up on this car with its 3300 V-6 than I did fighting the 94 Cavalier with its 2.2L four - Best way to get to those darn coil packs is to jack the car up and crawl under on the Cavaliers.

I have honestly been collecting bits and pieces for the Wagon and Pontiac for at least 11 years or more.

It's all part of the journey - and sure keeps life interesting


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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 1:25 PM
It sure does. The seat I got from the 94 isn't perfect but much better than what is in the car currently. I also got the driver door seal since mine is shot, and a wiper delay motor assembly. Total cost of $57 for all parts. The wiper motor has been installed and works but I've got to pull the wiper arms to adjust the positioning, but they needed to come off anyway since I need to pull the cowl to repaint due to flaking paint.

I have a 1980 Pinto and get comments every time I drive that car. Didn't think I would get comments with this car like that but sure enough people come up and tell me they are surprised of the condition, then go on how they had one like it. But that's why I got it... To relive my younger days. Now I'm not old by any means but last time I drove a Cavalier it was about 12 years old, opposed to almost 32. It's a good car so far, and enjoying the journey. I'll be taking the car to my body guy to get a quote on the hood, roof, and deck lid repaint. He's done amazing on blending paint, so trust he can do a great job.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Saturday, July 07, 2018 9:06 PM
Finally saw the attachments button on the side and able to add a couple pics. Once I resize the others I can post more.
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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Saturday, July 07, 2018 9:07 PM
more
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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Saturday, July 07, 2018 9:09 PM
Engine and interior.
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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Saturday, July 07, 2018 9:15 PM
Orlen Brown wrote:

Best way to get to those darn coil packs is to jack the car up and crawl under on the Cavaliers.

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Funny you mentioned that. The module was bad on my car when I got it. Had low speed power but cut out really bad at higher speeds. And the only way I could get to the module was to have it on stands while I got to it underneath. Not as nice as the early 2.0 with the distributor in an easy to get to spot. Could do the tune up on my Dad's wagon on the street with no issue.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Sunday, July 08, 2018 7:45 AM
Very clean ride
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Sunday, July 08, 2018 12:38 PM
Thanks. I was told by my friend it looks better in person so Iím not sure heís wrong. One thing at a time and itíll be better than ever.

Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Monday, July 09, 2018 7:44 AM
What a nice - sweet old Sedan! 4 doors are just convienient and trunks keep people's eyes to themselves. The Pontiac I have is a Coupe and I do enjoy it - but the Sedans and Wagons are just plain handy for running around and doing errands. I imagine you have the same thing going on with your Pinto. Car makers did made a home run when they started making Sedans with fold down rear seats!

Yours is clean and looks like it has a whole lot of potential. I Love to see a photo of your Pinto - I have many a fond memory of enjoying those and Mustang II's back in my 20's. Stupid easy to work on and reliable as old faithful. One of the reasons I picked the old '86 Ranger I have is because it had that good ole 2.3L Pinto engine in it but now with Port F.I.. It is really unusual to see a Port Injected engine with a Distributor - but this Truck is set up that way. I remember the older Pintos had the rubber boot for the windshield and I could pop one of those out with a couple for screwdrivers (no cracks)in about 15 minutes on a hot sunny day. Sadly if I remember , Ford glued the windshiled in on the last 2 years of the Pintos. .....,good memories


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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Monday, July 09, 2018 10:26 AM
Thanks I appreciate it. I would have preferred a wagon but for a car that clean for the price I paid Iím a happy camper. I enjoy driving it except when hot since it only has crank windows and a bad headliner that drops stuff all over. I have a few repairs to make such as the catalytic converter and o2 sensor but itís got plenty of pep. The Pinto is a lot of fun and get plenty of comments so I enjoy it but itís in rough shape since it wasnít cared for like the cavalier was. I got pics of it but got to resize them since they are too big lol. I did also find a radio on eBay. Hopefully the cassette works. The aftermarket Sony I installed is not th greatest and I prefer oem.
Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 5:50 AM
Orlen Brown wrote:

What a nice - sweet old Sedan! 4 doors are just convienient and trunks keep people's eyes to themselves. The Pontiac I have is a Coupe and I do enjoy it - but the Sedans and Wagons are just plain handy for running around and doing errands. I imagine you have the same thing going on with your Pinto. Car makers did made a home run when they started making Sedans with fold down rear seats!

Yours is clean and looks like it has a whole lot of potential. I Love to see a photo of your Pinto - I have many a fond memory of enjoying those and Mustang II's back in my 20's. Stupid easy to work on and reliable as old faithful. One of the reasons I picked the old '86 Ranger I have is because it had that good ole 2.3L Pinto engine in it but now with Port F.I.. It is really unusual to see a Port Injected engine with a Distributor - but this Truck is set up that way. I remember the older Pintos had the rubber boot for the windshield and I could pop one of those out with a couple for screwdrivers (no cracks)in about 15 minutes on a hot sunny day. Sadly if I remember , Ford glued the windshiled in on the last 2 years of the Pintos. .....,good memories


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Hereís a picture of the Pinto. Was at a car show last year.
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Re: Picked up my 1st gen cavalier
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 7:19 AM
Yeah Matt - I LIKE that!!

Got the dual sport mirrors and looks like you are running 14's wheels with old Tempo wheel covers. I ran some 14's myself back in the day when no one else did - Hahaa....now everyone runs wide and low so it isn't fun anymore.

There was a lot of items on the '79-'80 that didn't inerchange with the earlier models - Most notably the front fenders, grill & bunpers. If I remember they changed the electrics some too so that the voltage regulator and alternator didn't swap either. That was a PIA back in the day when I had all kids of pre- '79 cars and spares. Nowadays it is just a pleasure to see any of them. Like I said - Sure does bring back a lot of fond memories!! I sure do appreciate the trip back - lots of smiles!!

Just simple - easy to maintain transportation. If it broke down you had a darn good idea what was wrong and it wouldn't take much to get it going again. Not even a Check Engine Light to ruin your day


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