We return to our countdown of the all-time best cars ever. We’re now in the Top Ten so we’ll slow the pace and increase the tension! In at number nine, a car everyone rented, drove, saw, bought or sold in the 80s…
Throughout the 70s more and more Americans noticed the allure of European cars like the sharply-styled BMW 5-series and peerless Mercedes W-123 series. GM fought back with the Chevrolet Celebrity. And it worked. Using the flexible architecture of the renowned GM A-body (made in this case by Fisher Bodies), the Celebrity provided a compact but spacious vehicle which turned heads and won customers. The Celebrity was an important car for Chevrolet as it had to at least draw more customers than the outgoing Malibu. It is important to
note that the A-body used by both the Malibu and Celebrity was front-wheel drive and not to be confused with the G-body, (rear wheel drive) known as the A-body until 1982.
Chevrolet’s take on the European sports saloon needed a range of powerful engines. Unlike the smaller and more costly 3-series BMW, for example, the Celebrity had a standard 2.5 litre four-cylinder engine. For little more, a 2.8 V6 could be had and eventually even a 4.3 litre V6 diesel was made available. While BMW and Mercedes were asking a lot of extra money for their automatic transmissions, Chevrolet’s floor-mounted or column mounted automatic was a no-cost option though a five-speed manual Getrag box could be ordered (until 1986).
Perhaps to make a point, Chevrolet offered a tuned variant of the Celebrity, the distinguished and famous Eurosport. The Eurosport came as an estate car and had 14” steel wheels, blacked out trim, a black steering wheel and special F41 suspension to cope with the performance of the engines (the same as standard Celebrities).
Inside the car buyers found smart black and red trim and unique badges to complete the impression of sporting ability. The Eurosport did not come with the larger wheel bolt pattern on the wheel hub. It was, in fact the same one used on the standard models (100 mm). Only vehicles equipped with the heavy-duty vented brakes had the larger bolt pattern.
Customers flocked to the car, validating GM’s reckoning that European style married to American quality would be a good bet. From 1982 to 1986 the Celebrity claimed the title of America’s best-selling car. Part of this success lay in panoply of body styles: coupe, saloon and estate. Alas the handsome coupe departed the showrooms in 1988.
[Dec 18: 12.29 pm. Image of 1987 Celebrity wagon added in response to comments]