Crucial Cars: Chevy Cavalier

Chevrolet Cavalier pictureFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, Street Talk takes on one of the truly unsung heroes of the tuner scene. Promise you won’t laugh, because we’re talking about the Chevy Cavalier.

To driving enthusiasts of a certain age, the Chevrolet Cavalier inevitably brings to mind the movie Swingers, wherein Jon Favreau’s character has the following exchange with a smoking hot model:

Model: “What kind of car do you drive?”

JF: “Uh, Cavalier.”

Model: [disdainful silence]

JF: “It’s red. I have a red…it’s a red Cavalier.”

Naturally, he doesn’t get the girl, and that’s largely how the Cavalier is viewed by the masses today — as a failure.

But if you’re into the tuner scene, you might be amused by the idea of tricking out a Cavalier to within an inch of its life. It’s certainly unexpected, and it’s bound to be relatively affordable, too. Could be a fun project, right? Let’s explore some of the possibilities.

Chevy Cavalier 1 pictureSupercharge It

The Cavalier’s successor, the Cobalt, came in a sporty SS trim level with a supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine cranking out 205 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph took about 7 seconds, and there was a lot of midrange passing power on the road.

The final-generation Cavalier’s humble 2.2-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder, on the other hand, most certainly did not have a supercharger.

But if only Favreau’s character had known the possibilities. Turns out you can grab the Eaton M62 supercharger off a Cobalt SS (or just buy a GM supercharger kit separately, supplies permitting) and bolt it right onto the 2.2-liter Cavalier motor. Give it a custom tune and you’ll be pushing 230 horses, easy peasy. That’s a lot of power in a lightweight sedan, and it just might be enough to convince you that a tuned Cavalier is worth the trouble.

Slam It

One of the Cavalier’s best qualities is that Chevy made about a billion of them, so there are a lot of owners out there who might want to add something extra to their rides. Predictably, the aftermarket has responded with a wide range of products, including plenty of lowering springs that’ll drop your Cavalier as far as you want to go.

You can go the eBay route, of course, but they call it “fleaBay” for a reason — there’s a lot of questionable stuff for sale up there. Here at Street Talk, we’re partial to established brands like Tokico, Eibach and Koni. If you opt for a known commodity, chances are you won’t be disappointed. In any case, dropped Cavaliers can look pretty mean, and Chevy’s simple suspension design means you can probably do most or all of the work yourself.

Lambo-Door It

If you haven’t looked into scissor-style Lambo doors before, you might be surprised by how simple they are to install. You actually get to keep your original doors; the difference lies in the hinges and gas shocks that take the place of the factory hinges. Just imagine how differently Swingers might have gone if that red Cavalier had Lambo doors that popped up on cue. A supercharged, slammed and Lambo’d Cavalier would be a real sight to see.

Of course, there are plenty of other visual enhancements on the market, including spoilers, aero kits, graphics kits, you name it. And we haven’t even talked about interior tweaks like metal pedals, custom shift knobs and racing seats. If you buy a used Cavalier, you’ll likely get a sweet deal on it, so with any luck there’ll be enough cash left over to fund some sweet mods.

Chevy Cavalier 2 pictureCavalier Attitude

Do you push a Cavalier with a little flavor? Any tips for our friends out there who might want to do the same? Let’s get a conversation started in the comments.

Editor’s note: Hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best in savings and selection—to keep your Chevy (or most anything else) running right. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Comments

  1. I have tuned a stock ecotec south boost to make 405whp. They can surprise people.

  2. Biff Pow says:

    I have a Cavalier, a 1987 Z24 to be exact. It beats riding a Huffy everywhere.

  3. Terral Gower says:

    Hi, I’m looking for a good used (4l-60-e) transmission 1994…..let me know if anyone has one and how much you need for it . Thanks alot

  4. Definitely one of the most underrated cars on the road to this day, I’ve had my share of Jbodys (around 13) And haven’t had any sort of mechanical issues besides one headgasket in an old worn out 1996. Besides that, If you can find a cavalier/sunfire for next to no body rust it’s well worth the time and money. These were build back before electronic throttles/stearing and fancy touch screens.
    The simple mechanics make these cars extremely easy to maintain on your own. And not only that, But you can sometimes find yourself a full running and driving parts car for 100-200$!

  5. I love my 03 cavalier the ecotec have alot more power than the older models an really love driving it

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