As a car company, Chevrolet has had a long and varied history. Once America’s darling that made the best-selling cars and trucks, Chevrolet got into financial trouble at the end of the 70s, mostly due to the oil embargo. Of course, all of the Detroit Three were in trouble at the time, and the GM-owned Chevy was no different.
Not to say that Chevrolet does not churn out a profit, but it may need to work harder to achieve its glory days of the 60s. While it has made many a long-lasting and reliable vehicle, it did spurt out a few misses in between. Here go five Chevy cars you could not destroy with a missile and five that nearly brought Chevy to its knees…
10 Gone With The Wind: Chevrolet Vega
Named after Vega, the brightest star in the Lyra constellation, the Chevy Vega did shine brightly in its introduction year of 1971. It seemed like a blessing and got a car of the year award as well – till all hell broke loose. It was prone to overheating, rusting and burned oil like no other.
The engine seemed to have a million problems, and it was more common to see a Vega smoking under the hood, than not. It is said that after a point, most junkyards would flat out refuse to take in a Vega because they already had a stockpile they needed to destroy. The only bright side being, they stopped production in 1977, with the Vega being only six-years-old at the time.
9 Stood Tall And Proud: Chevrolet Chevelle SS396
The Chevrolet Chevelle was introduced in 1964 and remained a popular and powerful nameplate till its run ended in 1977, It was then replaced by the smaller but savvier Malibu. To combat the ever-growing popularity of muscle car competitors, Chevelle sported a snazzier design in 66 and 67.
The engine options were upgraded to a 5.3-liter or a 4.6-liter V8, each ponying up 310 and 220 horses. The 1966 SS396 model ruled the roost, with a 6.5-liter V8 good for 375 horses. This took the Chevelle 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, despite that heavy body. And so the Chevelle nameplate remains a favored one with Chevy fans.
8 Gone With The Wind: Chevrolet Corvair
Much like its rear-engined competition, the Ford Pinto and Volkswagen Beetle, the rear-engined Corvair too tried to stake its market share. And sales seemed good with over 220,000 examples selling in 1965 alone. Then came in Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe at any Speed” which belittled the swing-axle of the car, and dubbed it prone to flips and crashes. By 1965, sales were down to 109,000.
In 1968, only 15,000 of these cars were made. Later it was said that the Corvair was no unsafer than any other rear-engined swing-axle car, much like the Beetle itself. However, the damage was long done, and the Corvair exit the market in 1969.
7 Stood Tall And Proud: Chevrolet Camaro
Other than a few misses like the Iron Duke Camaro with literally no more power than a passenger car, the Camaro has withstood the test of time. Initial production lasted from 1966 to 2002 for four generations. Then launched as a concept car, the Camaro rose like a phoenix in 2009 and turned into the fifth generation.
Now in its sixth generation, the Camaro may not be a bestseller, but has its loyal base of fans. One of the greatest Camaros would be the 2010 Camaro ZL1 – that came with the 6.2-liter V8 Corvette power mill, that gave it a whopping 580 horses. The 2020 Camaro is no less tough, and the market for this seems steady as a rock.
6 Gone With The Wind: Chevrolet Chevette
By 1977, the temperamental Vega was out. To replace it, Chevrolet brought in the Chevette. Only, they shouldn’t have. And we aren’t demurring about this. The Chevette was riddled with old tech and came rear-wheel-driven at a time Japan was flooding the US with fun front-wheel-drives.
So the Chevette was cheap, and in the oil-stricken and emission-tough times of the 70s, it gave people an economical option to go for. Plus there were those who boasted about having a “Vette”. Sadly, at 52 horses, this Vette was no match for the original and somehow plodded along until 1987 until Chevrolet finally decided to take it off the roster.
5 Stood Tall And Proud: The Corvette
The Vette and we mean the Corvette, still stands tall and proud, spanning more than 60 years and seven design generations. Called the Vette, and sometimes also the Stingray – this is the ultimate sports cum muscle car dream of an American. The engine has moved from front to mid in recent times, and displacement sizes keep going up and down depending on horsepower, emissions and need for power.
Named so because a Corvette means a small battleship, this is one nimble car. Its unofficial horsepower does go as high as 560 and everyone seems to have their favorite model in any case – but they do make them like tanks.
4 Gone With The Wind: Chevrolet Uplander
Despite the rather cheery nameplate that tries to convey an all-terrain capability of this vehicle, the Uplander mostly made its buyers feel down in the dumps. Introduced in 2005, the Uplander vamoosed in 2009 – but it was a long four years. A stretched-out minivan at a time Honda and Nissan's vans had begun to rule the market, the Uplander found few takers in through its short lifespan.
It had replaced the Venture and the Astro, but could not compete because of ugly looks, weak and plasticky interiors, and those SUV-like dimensions with low power. The engine rattled and the steering was too loose for comfort as well. The Uplander was not built to last.
3 Stood Tall And Proud: Chevrolet Bolt
Compared to the other models on the list, the Chevy Bolt is an infant – since it was introduced only in 2017. But this cool EV is churning up big monies for Chevy, with its range of 230 miles on a single full charge, or 90 miles on a 30-minute fast charge. While it may be a small car and not in Tesla’s league when it comes to speed or luxury, the Bolt makes practical sense as an EV.
It’s small and nifty to drive, is pretty affordable for anyone wanting to do the environment a good turn and makes sense for traffic-congested cities that also have a parking deficit. In October 2017, it outsold Tesla EVs as well, though sales have been a bit down since then. That said; it is the car of the moment and meant to last.
2 Gone With The Wind: Chevrolet Citation
One of the most recalled Chevy cars ever, the 1980 Chevrolet Citation was recalled nine times in its debut year. Bad fuel lines, faulty brakes and engine issues notwithstanding, the Citation managed to sell well initially. But that was before people realized how unreliable and poorly made the car was.
Many called it an unbalanced wooden crate on wheels, and sudden application of brakes could and did lock the rear wheels – causing the car to violently stop and crash. From the 810,000 plus models sold in 1980, sales dwindled to a mere 62,000 in 1985 – wisely, Chevrolet withdrew the Citation lest it tarnished Chevy’s name.
1 Stood Tall And Proud: Chevrolet Silverado
Introduced in 1999, the Chevrolet Silverado may have slipped from its number two bestselling truck to number three, but it is still hanging there. While the number one spot firmly remains with Ford’s F-Series since 1977, the RAM has unseated the Silverado from the number two slot.
That said, the Silverado is one hardy truck, even though the 2015 model took some heat on suspension, body integrity, and reliability issues. With the all-new 2020 models, Chevy will be trying its best to regain its second position and assure its buyers that the Silverado is as reliable as it can be, with almost 12 million already on the road.