In the 1980s, American drivers had more cars available than ever before. Not only were American automotive companies coming out with some incredible options with the Chevrolet Corvette getting a redesign as the Corvette C4, as well as the new third-generation Chevy Camaro and the fox body Mustang reinventing the American muscle car, but it was also an exciting time for American cars.
Unlike previous decades, the 1980s in America were when imports, specifically Japanese imports, started to really compete as top sellers on American roads. Honda and Toyota had huge followings starting in the 80s thanks to their unmatched reliability, economical pricing, and fuel economy that domestic makers struggled to keep up with.
With all of these automotive manufacturers clashing in the 80s, it led to an exciting battle for the top-selling car in the country, and one of these top sellers is an often forgotten car that you probably have never heard of. No, it’s not a reliable Honda Accord, nor is it the unbelievably popular Mustang. It was the Chevy Celebrity.
The Celebrity Starts Hot
The Chevy Celebrity’s name actually has its roots in Oldsmobile, who used the “Celebrity” name as a trim level for their Delta 88 in the 1960s.
The Celebrity was first produced for the 1982 model year and was placed in between the Corsica and the Caprice in the Chevrolet lineup. The Celebrity was viewed as a commuter car for the family who wanted a little bit of luxury in their entry-level cruiser.
The Celebrity came in a variety of body styles including a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and a four-door wagon. While the car’s outward appearance could be seen as plain by today’s standards, it was an exciting car for the 80s. It had a distinguished style that was a bargain at its price point, and while options were low, some surprising options were standard in low-end models, including cruise control.
All of these luxuries gave the Celebrity a hot start with around 100,000 cars sold in each of its first few years, but the best was yet to come.
The Celebrity Gets Even Hotter
By 1984, the Celebrity was one of the top-selling cars in the GM lineup, but it wasn’t finished yet. For the 84 model year, the Chevy Celebrity Eurosport was unveiled. True to its name, the Eurosport was a trim option that aimed to compete with the best sport sedans that Europe had to offer. GM saw the popularity behind the BMW sedans of the 80s and went right for their market.
The Eurosport was mostly a car to get buyers in a GM dealership and not many were produced, but the trim level got overwhelmingly positive reviews.
The Eurosport took an otherwise low-performance commuter car and transformed it into a European-styled competitor. The stock Iron Duke four-cylinder engine found on other Celebrities was replaced by a 2.8L V6, the Eurosport also featured heavy duty suspension and custom-built body panels. All of this positivity and engineering led the Celebrity to an award most automotive manufacturers can only dream of.
The Best-Selling Car Of 1986
With over 400,000 cars sold, the 1986 Chevy Celebrity became the top-selling car in the United States. With this popularity came a facelift and the Celebrity was more streamlined than ever. The Celebrity was not only a great option for any buyer with a wagon, sedan, coupes, and the Eurosport trims available, but the engineers at GM worked heavily with the standard Iron Duke four-cylinder engine to push fuel economy to its limit, receiving an EPA estimated 19 city/29 highway, making the Celebrity a family cruiser capable of low-cost road trips.
The Chevy Celebrity had America’s heart due to its low price, low cost of ownership and small car feel with a large car level of comfort. With technology in all the right places for the 1980s, most families jumped right on board with the Celebrity.
A Quick Decline
It’s hard to imagine the best-selling car in America being dropped after selling almost half a million cars in a single year, but unfortunately, the Celebrity only lasted a few more model years and was discontinued after the 1989 model year. The Celebrity was incredibly successful, but American standards of design and performance were quickly outgrowing the boxy Chevy, leading GM to end updates to the aging Celebrity while shifting their focus to the much anticipated Chevy Lumina.
While the Lumina was successful, it hardly sold half the units the Celebrity sold per year. In its best year, the Lumina sold just over 264,000 cars, which doesn’t even come close to the Celebrity’s historic year of 1986 with over 400,000 units sold that year.
The Celebrity Today
Today, A Chevy Celebrity can be tough to find. While they sold so many units, many of these cars were used as service vehicles, taxis, rental cars, and more. They were used, driven hard, and driven all day. To find a Celebrity that has been saved all these years with low miles would be quite an accomplishment to find.
That being said, most Celebrities can be had for around $1,000 in any condition, with prime examples of the Eurosport trim can go for as much as $10,000 to the right buyer.
The Chevy Celebrity is a piece of American automotive history that many have forgotten about, but the spirit of the Celebrity lives on with automotive engineers everywhere who strive to make a car that fits everyone’s needs. A one-size-fits-all car that can one day reach the sales numbers that the Celebrity achieved in the 1980s.
The Chevrolet Citation, along with the other GM X-body cars, were so terrible, they nearly ruined GM’s reputation.
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