With an engine that had already been used for years in other cars, little or no interior luxuries and styling that changed Vauxhall’s cars forever we felt it was time for a look back at the mighty Vauxhall Chevette.
At the time of it’s launch in 1975 the Chevette was built to challenge the MK2 Ford Escort which certainly had a strong grip on the smaller car market but also the Austin Allegro too. The first Opel Kadett, which eventually became the Astra, was being sold in mainland Europe and the General Motors company owned both Open and Vauxhall. It was only a matter of time before the Kadett appeared in the UK and became a challenger to the Chevette itself. Other cars at the time included the Volkswagen Polo in its first iteration, the wedge shaped Triumph TR7 and the silky smooth Jaguar XJS.
The Chevette came in saloon, estate and hatchback versions, this certainly gave people a lot of choice if they wanted to get hold of this fresh looking car. The styling, now referred to as “drop nose” actually went on to be the format for Vauxhall cars for years afterwards. At the time is was somewhat of a revolution and as with all revolutions; no everyone liked it. The car itself was built on a General Motors basic platform that was used in a number of cars but Vauxhall actually custom built the hatchback section and that too went on to see use in a number of other models. Without knowing it at the time the little Chevette was fast becoming somewhat of a template car for the future.
Although the styling was new the Chevettes power unit certainly was not. It used the same 1256cc or 1.2 litre, engine that had already been used for years in the original Vauxhall Viva. This sadly meant it was a little under powered compared to other cars at the time. The Chevette’s saving grace, however, was that it weighed under 900kg so it managed to feel just peppy enough to avoid it being a total disaster. In terms of stats it could even just about keep up with some of the slower cars of today with a 0-60 time of 15.5 seconds It might then get a bit left behind after that as its top speed was a rather poultry 88mph. In terms of handling the Chevette was widely hailed as a very positive drive and a car that handled well, this was partly due to its low weight but also good design.
Inside the Chevettte you could be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled across all the weight saving measures. To say it was sparse would be an understatement, by today’s standards it was like being put in solitary confinement, but even at the time it was not really up to scratch. There was a strong use of the colour orange in the most models and the basic seats had no headrests. If you were looking for toys then you would be somewhat disappointed, you did however get manual window winders to play with and don’t forget the AM/FM radio for entertainment.
At the time the Chevette looked cool, it handled well and had an old but well proven engine. It lasted from 1975 to 1984, and this was long after it should have been put to pasture because the first Vauxhall Astras actually came out while the Chevette was still being sold, this was mainly due to the fact people liked it and Vauxhall couldn’t bring themselves to stop making it. That alone is testament to the Chevette being a success, not many manufacturers would launch a replacement and carry on selling the old one because people liked it so much!
If you really want one you can still find one for sale now and you could even get a clean one for around the £4000-5000 mark. That is not bad for what is fast becoming a bit of a classic, it wont make for a very speedy experience, or a particularly comfy one, but the Chevette is a cool car and you don’t see many about any more.