- Written by webmin
As we’ve already seen in the cars we’ve so far discussed for the Class of 1986, it was a year that saw quite a few significant brand and model introductions: the Ford Taurus, the Acura line, the Hyundai line, even the Yugo. For this week’s candidate for the Class of 1986, let’s consider another U.S. market introduction from that year, significant in its own way: the Chevrolet Sprint.
I know, you’re all thinking that Dan’s lost his marbles again (or is playing another April Fool’s joke), but I do have a rationale here. Just as the 1986 Excel led the way for Korean cars in the United States, the Chevrolet Sprint led the way for ultra-fuel-efficient cars in the United States, notably the Geo Metro, the darling of that cult of hypermilers and others who seek to squeeze the most out of every last drop of gasoline they put in their tanks. Nowadays, thanks to hybrid technology, further research into aerodynamics and engine management development, we can see the same sort of mileage figures that the Chevrolet Sprint reported, but in larger, roomier and more comfortable cars; back in the mid-1980s, however, GM’s solution to pulling drastically high mileage numbers out of a car was to make it small, make it cheap, and import it from the Japanese.
The Chevrolet Sprint has its basis in the Suzuki Cultus, a front-wheel-drive three- and five-door hatchback introduced for the Japanese market in 1983 with a choice of a 1.0L three-cylinder engine and a 1.3L four-cylinder engine, both carbureted, adding a turbocharged version of the 1.0L engine later on. GM first brought it to the United States in 1985, though just to parts of the West, just in the three-door version, and just with the five-speed manual transmission. (Starting in 1985, they also marketed it in Canada as the Pontiac Firefly and in Australia as the Holden Barina. Interestingly, Suzuki also marketed the Forsa, an export version of the Cultus, in Canada at the same time). For the 1986 model year, they broadened the market to the entire United States, added the five-door version and added the three-speed automatic transmission. GM claimed that the Sprint’s mileage was the best in America at the time: 47 city, 53 highway. Presumably, they took those figures off of the 1.0L non-turbocharged version. Sales figures in the United States – which include the Isuzu-built, Chevrolet-marketed Spectrum, also introduced in 1985 – totaled more than 137,000, thanks in part to its economical price of $5,380 for the base version (for comparison, the Chevette started $5,645, and the cheapest Cavalier could be had for $6,706).
So, with rising gas prices, does the Chevrolet Sprint make sense as a collector car? Would you park one in your garage dedicated just to vehicles from 1986, and drive it on VMCCA tours? Or would you run screaming from one, even if you were being paid to take it?