Some are sorely missed, others we hope to never see again.
Chevrolet is undoubtedly one of America’s most iconic motor manufacturers. Alongside Ford, there are few who have grown to the same heights, who sell the same volumes, and who are capable of producing a product portfolio spanning as many sectors as the bowtie brand.
But when you’re the crown jewel in the GM dynasty, and when you have as long a history as Chevy does, there are bound to be a few models that slip through the cracks along the way – cars that, with time, are simply forgotten. Sometimes, they’re justified in being forgotten, sometimes it’s a tragedy when they are, and other times, there are cars a manufacturer wishes we’d forget. Well, here are 10 Chevrolets either forgotten or that should be…
Before Chevrolet expanded its model line-up to reach all sides of the motoring spectrum, most of its models shared a common platform (GM B Platform). Occasionally, one-hit-wonders were produced and it was easy enough. One such model was the Chevrolet Yeoman – released in 1958 – a station wagon available in 2 and 4 door variants. Named after medieval yeomen – assistants of the era used for hard labor – the Yeoman was Chevy’s entry-level wagon, built to work.
The interior was fully washable thanks to vinyl upholstery, rubber floor mats, and a linoleum covered cargo bay. Power came from either a 3.9-liter straight-six or a 4.6-liter V8 initially, with a 5.7-liter Turbo Thrust big block V8 added later on. The Yeoman has largely been forgotten, though it’s still highly sought after by aficionados. The 2-door wagon, cheaper by $54 when launched, is now the rarer and more collectible variant.
While the Chevrolet Lumina has been sold for the last decade and a half as an Australian export muscle car under the Chevy brand, before that, the Lumina was a US-spec sedan and coupe sold from 1990-2001 in 2 generations. While the Lumina itself might not have been forgotten, the Z34 Coupe performance edition has been by many.
It debuted in 1991, a front-wheel-drive coupe powered by a 3.4-liter LQ1 V6 developing 210 horsepower in manual trim, with the automatic developing 10 hp fewer. It featured an FE3 sports suspension package, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, dual exhausts, and an aggressive body kit. But the Lumina Z34 was short-lived, and by 1995 it was dead, the Z34 badge gracing the Monte Carlo instead.
While not forgotten, Chevrolet sure wishes we’d all forget it ever made the Corvair. Dubbed one of the worst cars ever made, the compact car was the first and only American-designed, mass-produced passenger car to use a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. It survived two generations; the second of which was beautiful to look at, but the swing axle suspension among other things made handling erratic and prone to snap oversteer.
The handling issues resulted in more than 100 lawsuits relating to crashes involving the Corvair, which was touted as “the leading candidate for the un-safest-car title.” That’s not a reputation you want in the car business.
Chevrolet suffered several problems with the Vega, due to quality concerns arising from how rapidly the cars were produced. It became a nightmare for the firm and in 1975 it unveiled the Vega-based Monza as a sporty Mustang II competitor and, more importantly, because the Vega nameplate was becoming poisonous to the brand.
When it launched, the Monza was a good looking sporty coupe, powered by a range of inline-four, V6, and V8 engines. But just five years down the line, times had changed and the rear-drive coupe was dated and lagged behind the raft of front-drive Japanese imports. It disappeared after 1980, and soon thereafter from the memories of Americans.
Replacing the aged Nova, the Chevrolet Citation was 20 inches shorter and 800 pounds lighter. It was a huge leap forward into the front-wheel-drive territory Chevrolet was looking to conquer, and it looked to be a massive success. But like many products from this era, poor build quality made them severely unreliable straight from the factory; couple that with severe torque steer and the tendency for the rear brakes to lock up without warning, and the Citation was quickly developing a bad reputation.
Most issues were ironed out with the Citation II, but bridges were already burnt, and by 1985, after a million had been sold, Chevy canned the Citation entirely. Chances are, most of them have disintegrated by now, so good luck trying to find one.
In the early 1980s, Japanese compacts were flooding the US market. GM needed to combat this and developed the M Platform to underpin a series of compact, front-wheel drive vehicles. The platform was fully developed, but GM bean-counters couldn’t find a way to make it justifiable, so GM gave the platform to Suzuki in return for a 5% stake in the Japanese company and a version of the M-based car to sell in the US.
The Chevy Sprint was that car – designed by Chevrolet themselves – and was sold from 1984 to 1988. The historic predecessor to today’s Chevrolet Spark, not many remember the sprint, though the Geo that replaced it is remembered fondly by many.
During the 1960s, the radical rear-engined Corvair spawned a range of different vehicles all based upon the same platform. There were coupes, wagons, vans, and this, the Corvair Greenbrier Rampside – a pick-up with a tremendously awkward load bay owing to the rear-mounted engine impeding load space. There was a traditional rear tailgate, but there was also a side gate that doubled up as a ramp that was used frequently due to the midsection's larger load area.
They were popular as work trucks, but the rest of the truck-buying public never bought in, preferring regular trucks from the likes of Ford. Just 20,000 Rampsides were sold, making them one of the rarest Chevrolets built in the 1960s.
Ever heard of the Chevrolet Corsica? Probably not; because it was designed and built as a car that wasn’t even supposed to be sold to the general public. Launched in 1987, the Corsica was sold initially to only rental companies and fleets. A year later it hit dealerships and became the second best-selling car in the United States, and saw some success in Europe too. But Chevrolet barely updated it throughout its lifespan, and by the time it ended production in 1996, it was the same car that had launched nine years earlier.
Like most rental cars, they were used up and then crushed, leaving very few of them around today. The Corsica was proof that sometimes even the blandest of vehicles can become sales successes – even if they’re forgotten the very next day.
Unlike the Lumina Z34 higher up on this list, the Lumina APV was the furthest thing from sporty. To combat the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager/Chrysler Town & Country, Chevrolet launched the Lumina APV in 1989 along with its Oldsmobile and Pontiac siblings. The Lumina APV was odd-looking and featured rust-proof plastic body panels, seating for seven, and a power sliding door. However, the engines were notoriously uneconomical and offered sluggish performance, and the futuristic looks didn’t appeal to many buyers in the minivan segment. The far more orthodox Chevrolet Venture replaced the Lumina APV (All Purpose Vehicle) and would be far more successful, relegating the Lumina APV to the back of a dusty shelf in the minds of many.
Isuzu and Giorgetto Giugiaro had a long-standing relationship up until the mid-80s when GM went and ruined that for the Japanese brand. Giugiaro had designed a compact car for Isuzu on the economy-focused R-Platform, but Isuzu approached GM for input resulting in the rather boring machine you see below. Giugiaro was so upset they denied all involvement with the production for several years. Brought into America as the Chevrolet Spectrum, the compact hatch and sedan were actually rather fun to drive. A 70hp 1.5-liter motor was standard, although a turbo version offered 110hp. Notably, though, it missed out on the 125hp 1.6-liter engine the Isuzu version offered. The Spectrum survived until 1990 – though sold as a Geo in its last two years – until it was replaced by a rebadged Honda.
Though fun to drive, its boring looks cemented it as a forgettable car, something that could’ve been entirely different if Giugiaro’s design wishes had been followed. It also probably would’ve been more appealing if it lived up to the TV commercial…