Rare Rides: A 1986 Pontiac 1000 – Preserved Performance
The Rare Rides series has previously featured many Pontiacs, and today’s hatchback is our ninth to wear the Red Arrow badge. It’s also the smallest Pontiac we’ve ever featured.
It’s not a Chevette, but it is the Chevette’s sporty Driving Excitement cousin!
By the mid-Seventies, it was time for General Motors to shake up its smallest H-body entry-level cars, the subcompact Chevrolet Vega and Pontiac Astre. Vega first went on sale in 1971, with the Astre following for 1973. Both Vega and Astre continued through the 1977 model year, though their replacement in the T-body based Chevette bowed in 1976.
Worth a mention, GM had other subcompact offerings that utilized the rear-drive H-body. Four of them, to be exact: Chevrolet Monza, Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk, and the Oldsmobile Starfire. But those four designs were newer than Vega or Astre, and lived on through the 1980 model year before their consolidation and replacement by front-drive J-body options.
The new T-body was a new type of platform for GM. Designed as a base for subcompact cars globally, the T was spread to many brands, and produced in seven different factories. Versions of the T-body were used abroad on the Isuzu Gemini, Daewoo Maepsy, Vauxhall Chevette, and Opel Kadett. Other mixed badge reworks included brands like Holden, Bedford, Grumett, and GMC. A slightly successful world car, General Motors shifted over 7 million T-based vehicles.
A direct result of the oil crisis of 1973, development of the Chevette began that same year. Efficiency, smaller vehicles, and foreign competition meant GM needed something all-new. Launched in fall 1975 as a ’76 model, Chevette was immediately successful. It had a few years on its own in the US, as the Pontiac T1000 did not debut until 1981. Canadians, however, immediately received both the Chevette and a Pontiac version called Acadian.
Initially the Chevette was available only in three-door guise. The three-door rode on a 95.3-inch wheelbase, and was on its own until the five-door debuted in 1978. The two additional doors brought two more inches of wheelbase to Chevette. The larger version proved instantly more popular, and accounted for over half of model sales in 1978.
Available power started with either a 1.4- or 1.6-liter inline-fours, which produced between 53 and 60 horsepower. By 1978, the 1.4 was dropped, with a high-output version of the 1.6 added for more power. 1981 brought the additional availability of an unpopular 1.8-liter Isuzu diesel engine, which was only available with a five-speed manual. Other transmissions included a four-speed manual (pre-81), and three-speed automatic.
There was a slight visual refresh for 1978 that reworked the front clip, as well as a more substantial visual rework in 1983. Changes for ’83 brought Chevette’s appearance in line with what most people picture when they read the word Chevette.
After the introduction of the Pontiac T1000 in 1981, minor trim updates and modernization changes occurred alongside the Chevette. Mostly, the changes were visual tweaks to refresh an aging economy car, but trims were gradually deleted during the last few years of Chevette production. The T1000 became 1000 for 1984 onward. One of the last updates for either model was the addition of a CHMSL in 1986.
Chevette and 1000 production ended in December 1986, allowing for a 1987 model year of the waning subcompact. The American replacement for the Chevette was the quota-restricted Chevrolet Spectrum for roughly two years. It was quickly rebranded as the Geo Spectrum and supplemented by the new Metro in 1989.
Today’s Rare Ride is in near-perfect condition, minus one rear fender dent. For sale in the rust-free locale of Houston, it asks $4,900.